Posted in Faith

Selflessness and what it means for all

Ugh…I’m so done with this…

A nose that is blocked by swollen nasal passages with only mouth-breathing as an option, an incessant cough that sounds like the Jake brake on a diesel truck, and an urgent rushing to the bathroom due to the side effects of the cold medicine that is NOT providing relief or results.

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And it’s no one else in the house that is driving me up a wall with these symptoms…it’s ME!  My voice has taken on a low, James Earl Jones-type inflection that I’m not used to, and just this morning on a work phone call, I had to convince the recipient that it was me!!

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Forgive my brief complaint, but I’ve never been down this long. Typically, I determine my main symptoms, listen to my body and rest, drink plenty of fluids, take OTC meds and move on about my day.  But since January, after completing our corporate fasting at church, my body hasn’t been the same.  I thought I knocked it out by using NyQuil and Vicks on my feet with socks, four weeks ago, but this came back! Since the beginning of 2016, I’ve probably been able to breathe through both nostrils seven days total.  I know it’s not the end of the world, but I would give anything to smell ANYTHING!

So, with plenty of time to take a respite on the couch, I’ve had my “morning” quiet time (which is now 2pm or later EST due to being a vampire for job-related reasons) and as I was catching up on an online Bible study, reading Scripture began to turn my complaining into praise.  I fell on 1 Corinthians 13, which many of us lovingly call, “The Love Chapter” because it defines characteristics of love.

I’d love to be able to say that I could insert my name into the chapter and say how loving, patient, kind, etc. I am, but I’d only be fooling myself.  There are times in my life that I can recall the exact opposite.  I may have let my emotions take over and responded erratically to a situation, or assumed something about someone before I had a chance to know them, or put an expectation on someone that once they didn’t meet, I knew I could call them out.  That’s not even half of what I know I’m capable of.

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The truth of this passage is that love is many things that we cannot do on our own.  Our nature has a way of putting ourselves first in all things (we call this SELFISHness), but the gift of God is that He is able to equip us to put others first.  Being others-centered is a way of becoming like Jesus.  Jesus didn’t focus on Himself during his entire 33 years on Earth!  Sadly, I can’t even go a day!

Selflessness is proof of Jesus being present in our lives.  By putting others first, we are showing that we know others have value, and they should be served.  There’s no scale where we balance out the actions of another to see if they deserve to be treated kindly, we just do it.  Now knowing that love is of God, and knowing that to know love means to show love, consider the following:

1 John 4:8 states, “Anyone who does not love, does not know God, because God is love.”

Hit you in the gut a bit?  Here, the apostle John is urging those who are reading his words (followers of Jesus, the church) to love.  He begins verse seven with, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and anyone that loves is born of God, and knows God.”

To know God is to know love, and to know love means we realize the value of it and our need for it, receive it from God and give it away to others.  God never gives us something to keep for ourselves.  Now the lesson in this verse is that if we withhold love to others, we are not loving God.  If we aren’t loving others, we aren’t loving at all, and we can’t possibly know the Lord if we’re not loving like Him.

Let me explain it out even further.  To know God is to know who He is and what He has done.  God, in His great mercy, sent His Son to Earth to model His characteristics: patience with those who needed it, words of life for those who were dead, compassion toward those society had rejected, etc.  Jesus manifested God in the flesh.

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And we as believers who also live in flesh, have a responsibility to exhibit the same.  Why?  Because Jesus died for our sins and rose to defeat them. That’s why.  Plain and simple.  The hurt you dispel to others hurts God just as much as the hurt you receive from others.  Both hurt. Both offend. Both stunt growth. Stop the cycle.  Give the offense to God, trust He will work it out, and move on with your life.  If you’re holding onto things from the past, you’re not moving forward and there is much life to be lived.  It begins with taking the focus off of ourselves and putting it on Jesus, who deserves all praise for what He has done so we could be reconciled to God.

Staying in a position of selfishness means that I am constantly questioning why things are happening to me, or thinking for some reason that they shouldn’t happen to me. That is illogical in a world of selfish people. You will be hurt. You will be offended. You will be shamed, picked on, bullied, etc.

The key to combatting the “me syndrome” is knowing your own value, which resides in WHO GOD IS. He is perfect in every way. He made you, you are HIS and you are loved by Him. Hold onto that truth, and live that out. Choose to let go of that which desires to imprison you, love people where they are because you want to be loved the same, and choose to focus on things that are of importance.

So much is temporary here, but what really matters is our response to the goodness of God, and His compassion toward us. Do we believe He is who He said He was, and are we living our lives aligned with His plans for us? Are we living surrendered to His purposes? How do you know?

Let’s say your day gets interrupted by someone who doesn’t know God and they treat you in a way you don’t want to be treated. Do you condemn them, or love them? Because they don’t know God, stop and consider that you may be in their lives because you will help them learn who He is. If they don’t know God, they can’t love like Him. But we can. The responsibility to love will always be on our shoulders. And it’s not a hard thing to do when you realize what He has done in love for you. It gets easier to pass it on, because love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. No longer when you’re hurt or wronged will you be holding onto it, and rehashing it over and over. You’ll let it go quickly to God for His forgiveness, and choose to love. It is entirely possible with God.

I want to love like Jesus loves.  My heart has lived on Earth for 36 years and I have endured much, but also not as much in comparison to other people.  I have endured what God allowed in my life, or the consequences of choices I made apart from Him.  But through grace, and His forgiveness, I don’t have to hold onto the past or the hurt people have caused me.  I believe that putting others first, especially those who have hurt or wronged me, can be a stepping stone in their life to see grace in ways they don’t expect.  And who gets the glory there?  God!  Putting others first will always be Christlike.

The weather outside has turned to rain, and it is getting colder as some snow is on the way.  My husband, went to the back bedroom, threw on a shirt, jeans and some shoes, and left!  I assumed my coughing had done him in!  Surely, he couldn’t take it anymore!!

But alas, I was wrong.  Instead, my handsome groom dropped off the following:

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This, to me, is a picture of selflessness.

I haven’t been verbally complaining of my ailments (although I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if my coughing would cease either), but just the fact that he would go out of his way to do something that makes me feel better, means he put me first.  This is love.  This is doing something for someone else because it benefits them, and the blessing from God for being obedient is now my husband’s.  He gets it.  And should he come down with something that is just as  relentless, I will do exactly the same.

Now having taken my Mucinex, my praise is even better!! I am incredibly thankful for the love that God has poured over me and allowed me to receive, despite my heart that needs His tender care and Scripture soaked wrapping.  I am thankful for an opportunity to share these truths with others via the internet.  And I am thankful that this sinus infection is maintainable and temporary.  I want to remember the lozenges that were brought to me in a time of need, so I can do the same when an opportunity arises.

Dear reader, I pray that any hurts you carry, may be dropped at the foot of the cross for the sake of being free. Realize Jesus’s love for you just as you are, and that you can have a relationship with Him today by just accepting that He is the Messiah and He loved you enough to die for you so you could be with Him forever. Our lives are fleeting, but they matter to the Lord. He created us for His glory, and loving on each other for His sake brings Him much glory. Will you choose to be less selfish today, so someone can see Jesus in you? If so, I just may share some of my lozenges with you. 😉

Posted in Faith

Newness- the ultimate gift of Christ

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to share a smidge of my testimony at our church’s women’s breakfast.  Every woman who showed up, I have encountered at some point in my seven-year time frame of attending.  Some of them were acquaintances, and some have become dearly loved soul sisters.  All of them I consider to be friends.

Before the breakfast, as women often do, we stood around talking.  The dynamic, however was beautiful.  Instead of just certain clusters of chatty Cathys with some oddballs hanging out, there were intimate groups of two or three women talking, and then gradually one woman would step out of that small group and encounter another woman and start another two- or three-person cluster.  Each conversation was deep and personal, and as another woman came through the door, she was greeted with hugs, laughter and “so glad you’re here!”  It was beautiful that not one woman would be left standing awkwardly.  We all sensed the need to be greeted and hugged and whoever saw it first, just jumped to meet the need.  

Can I just say that I see Jesus in those moments?  Are we not all waiting for that greeting when we will be hugged by our Father, and our tears will be wiped away?  What a gift in our humanness, to do that for each other now, while we wait… 

Our focus verse for the breakfast was 2 Corinthians 5:17: 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

 

This Scripture verse spoke to my heart in an intense way when I was coming back to my faith in Jesus at age 27.  Leaving my first husband and being alone for the first time in my life scared me immensely and I did much to NOT BE ALONE.  And more than anything, my shame and sin covered me so thickly.  I got to a point of thinking I wasn’t redeemable, wasn’t lovable, and wasn’t worthy of anything, let alone anyone.  

Reading and rereading our focus verse brought back so many memories from my first apartment, and my fallen nature, that I cried fresh tears of thankfulness to God.  And I was asked to share some of those memories with my dear, precious sisters on Saturday.

We gathered at our tables with our breakfast and coffee, snuggled in and put our focus on our leader.  She lovingly mentioned that I had offered to share part of my story with the group, about being a new creation.  And before I began, a dear friend of mine said that she would like to say some words about me.  The picture on the front of our bookmarks were of a closed tulip.  ImageThis woman said that when she first met me, she saw me as this tulip, protective and closed. But as she got to know me, she also was present through some healing that God had been doing in my life, and saw that as I continued to surrender to Christ, that He was changing me into a much more open person, and my guard was coming down.  

I was completely blessed by her words.  

In the past when I have been asked to do something out of my comfort zone, Satan loves to get me anxious and nervous, and each time I have to talk myself off the ledge, stating that I know who I am in Christ, that I was asked to do A, B, or C because God will make me capable, and that somewhere throughout my day, someone will be blessed by what I have to say.  

Saturday morning was no different.  My armpits were on overdrive as I was anticipating my introduction.  Ugh…how I wish those parts of our body weren’t glands…

And yet, as my dear friend spoke, I felt God melting me, reminding me, showing me that I had indeed progressed imperfectly (thanks Lysa Terkeurst) closer to my Lord in obedience.  Another of my girlfriends said that she had seen the same things with me, that I was protective, and quiet, but I have changed.  And my guard came down.  

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A beautiful part of that morning was that sharing my story came so naturally.  Though I felt myself fumbling over some of the timing and details, I shared when I had left my ex-husband and went through some darkness and how I answered Christ’s call on my life by surrendering myself to Him and giving up the parts of me that I knew just kept repeating failure after failure.  I saw tears in the eyes of my friends.  Sorrow tears as they walked through some of my past pain, and joy tears when I proclaimed that I was new, that I no longer was defined by old Grace.  

There is such joy in redemption.  We just celebrated the resurrection of our Lord a week ago Sunday.  But the benefits of His life, death and resurrection are limitless to all of us now.  They don’t stop on a random Sunday when we shout ALLELUIA…we are taught through Scripture that, “The steadfast love of the Lord NEVER CEASES, His mercies are new EVERY MORNING” (Lamentations 3:22-23).  And it is because of the LOVE of God, that we can even have HOPE in our hearts.  

Failures turn to victories…struggles become stepping stones…and GOD’S GRACE MAKES ALL OF US NEW!  Let’s appreciate the tulips (or any flowers for that matter) that remind us of a time that we were different, closed, protective, and embrace the SONlight of Jesus, who opens our petals and brings life to the parts of us that have died, not to be alive as the old parts, but as the new creations He is making us!