Monday, April 8, 2013

Buried with Christ in Baptism, Raised to Walk in Newness of Life


There are these moments in life when you are so changed that you know there is never any going back.  Many of these moments for me were knowing that I was “ruined” for Jesus; I had tasted life with Him and I could never again be satisfied without Him – at times I’ve tried, but everything is dull, pointless, and lacking luster without Him.

It’s been coming to a head for quite a while, and I’ve thought I was already there, but this week, a change happened in my heart that can never be undone. 

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made you free, and do not be entangled again by a yoke or bondage.” –Galations 5:1

Do you know what kind of bondage Paul is talking about in this passage?  Religious and legalistic bondage, and friends, I was bound.  I had all these rules and rituals, and even though I had a relationship with Jesus I couldn’t seem to measure up and do the “right” thing.  I felt guilty all the time and would try to hide from God because I didn’t want to try and I felt guilty for failing.  And then when I did feel strong enough to do the right thing, I felt like I needed to preach at everyone else because I didn’t want them to make me fall backward.  Sometimes I would isolate myself because there was no one perfect enough to measure up to this standard I had set for myself.  I was exhausted.  I felt defeated. I was wrong.

Thankfully, God has placed people in my life that know Him and serve Him and are able to accept others right where they are…they somehow walk in truth without having to talk about it all the time.  For years I have been observing, trying to figure out what it was that was different.  How could they be around other “sinners” without stumbling?  How did they have so much freedom and life and joy and still follow the Bible?

I was so wrong about what life with Christ looks like.  I was so wrong about how to approach righteousness.  I was so wrong about how to reach the world.  How could I know our God and be so wrong?  I don’t know, but thankfully He broke through to my heart and He has set me free, there has been a transformation and friends, I think I might be baptized again!

Life in Christ is all freedom, and when you walk with Christ you ebb and flow as He does.  If you chose to do something or not to do something it is out of complete confidence in the betterment of your life, not out of some “duty”.  And even better, when you walk with Him, He will literally change your desires to line up with His, and you can walk in peace and confidence. 

My friend, who has spent the last week in Greece, learning and being a voice for those in human trafficking, shared this quote in her blog about the trip.

“Preach the gospel always!  When necessary, use words.”

I looked up this quote and it is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.  I thought about my friend, who most definitely lives out this quote.  She is characterized by her generosity and service.  And there are many people that are nice and help others, but a time or two God has opened the doors for us to have conversations, and I realized the spiritual depth that she has as well.  But she lives out her faith, and loves on people so that they want to know what is different about her, and I love that. 

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for this hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect.” -1Peter 3:15

God just rocked my heart this week, that I have the freedom to do anything – He has given it to me, and I choose Him!  In Him I have freedom, and I want to love on others.  I want to live out the love and joy that life in Christ offers, not preach about condemnation if you don’t measure up.  We can never measure up, but thankfully Jesus died on the cross to atone for our sins, and God raised Him to life for victory over our sinful nature, and when we accept Him we receive the Holy Spirit – a spirit of power and wisdom that produces kindness and strength and gentleness and patience and we are literally changed from the inside out to become who we were meant to be – He transforms us into His likeness. 

I just want to shout it from the rooftops – God is so good, and I am free! 

Monday, April 1, 2013

R-E-S-P-E-C-T


R-E-S-P-E-C-T 

Respect is a funny thing.  It seems like everyone expects it’s given to them, even demand that they deserve respect, but hardly anyone seems to be giving it out.  Some people think it’s earned, some people think it is an entitlement by position, and some people think it’s out dated.  This word has been so battered and abused; respect is so foreign to our modern American culture.  Would we even recognize it right before our eyes?

Definitions of Respect:

1. esteem: a feeling or attitude of admiration and deference toward somebody or something

2. state of being admired: the state of being admired deferentially

3. thoughtfulness: consideration or thoughtfulness (pay due attention; avoid violating something)

4. regards: polite greetings offered to somebody

 

I think respect has much to do with what we honor and value.  

The Bible has this to say about it…

 

Ephesians 5

The Message (MSG)

Relationships

21 Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.

22-24 Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

25-28 Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.

29-33 No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.

Ephesians 6

The Message (MSG)

6 1-3 Children, do what your parents tell you. This is only right. “Honor your father and mother” is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it, namely, “so you will live well and have a long life.”

4 Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.

5-8 Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave or free.

9 Masters, it’s the same with you. No abuse, please, and no threats. You and your servants are both under the same Master in heaven. He makes no distinction between you and them.

 

The way I see it – when you are in a “position” or “title” of authority – like a parent, a boss, a pastor, a mentor, political leader, etc – your job is to humbly lead recognizing that you are accountable to God.  If you demand respect from those “below” you, you may seem to get it, but God is not pleased.  When you are in authority or esteem, work to be worthy of respect, not to get it, but to please the God who openly rewards the pure hearted.

 

When you are in the lower ranks – children, grunts, entry-level employee, group attendee, average citizen – it’s easy to be frustrated with those who are in charge that just really don’t seem worthy of respect. 

Romans 13:1 says, “ Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.

It really doesn’t matter what you think of the person – if you are living to please God you choose to respect the authority and position of the person because you want to please God, and you trust that He openly rewards those who obey Him with pure hearts.  And the Bible says that you reap what you sow – someday, you will also be in a position of authority, and when you have sown in humility and proper respect, you will also reap in such.

 

When you spend your life demanding that others earn your respect before you give it to them and demanding that others respect you because of your position, you’ll often find that respect eludes you.  But if you will live in such a way to be worthy of respect and respecting others to please God’s heart, I think you’ll find that this bring a harvest of respect and honor back in your lap.