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

Misunderstood

Have you ever tried to convey a message from your heart, only to have your words mistaken for something entirely different from your original intent? It can be extremely frustrating. Many times, the recipient doesn’t know the tone and may have preconceived ideas for the message, therefore any words used can get twisted and cause pain. I’ve spent a lot of my time trying to explain myself, only to have my words misconstrued and the intent lost.

For example, I had wronged two people in the past with hurtful words, and after prayerful consideration and wanting to bridge the gap, I attempted to make things right by apologizing. My attempts at having a face-to-face apology went to the wayside as neither party was willing to meet, so I used email as my choice of communication. I wanted to handle the situation in a Christlike manner, but it backfired in my face. My words of apology were laughed at, only to have both people use my words against me, and make themselves out to be the victims of hateful speech.

So now what? How do I correct this kind of wrong? How do I deal with the rejection when I’m trying to do the right thing? I want to be understood, yet neither party is allowing me the time or the space to make things right. What do believers do in these types of instances? What if the recipient doesn’t allow me to apologize? What then?

Matthew 5:22-24 helped to answer my question. It was also quite surprising that in my NIV translation, the heading for this passage is MURDER. Wow, I didn’t physically hurt anyone, right? They were just words. But as I read on, the beginning of this passage in Matthew states how we have been told that murder brings about judgement. God, however, says even anger against a brother brings judgement. Whoa…back up the train…just anger? Same as murder? Yikes! This is a lot to comprehend.

Whether or not the offense was brought on by someone else and my response was retaliation, or if I was the one to provoke a situation, the purpose behind going to the one you’ve offended, is to be reconciled to God. The offender has committed an offense by their words, and in order to be reconciled to God, they must take care of business, so to speak, with the person they’ve created distance between, so that there is nothing separating you from God.

You may be reading this and saying, “That’s great, Grace, but we don’t have to do burnt offerings to be acceptable to God anymore. Jesus did His work on the cross and we’re good now.”

I say, “Nay.”

I think this passage is a reminder that God knows us best. First Samuel 16:7 states that man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the inside of our hearts, and if we think we can just run into His presence with our good intentions while hurting those around us, we’re sadly mistaken. Believers represent our risen Lord and we need to walk in the Spirit.

Social media has increased our routes of communication. It’s so easy to put emotions and feelings into words and throw them out into the world wide web. But what do you do when they hurt people? What do you do when you’re slandered and you feel the need to defend yourself? Should we retaliate, or turn the other cheek? This, being a Christian blog, hopes to show you the obvious. That cheek should be readily available.

Something else I’ve learned from the passage in Matthew is that the act of approaching and seeking forgiveness from the person you’ve offended should be done in private and the reason being is to keep both parties from creating more animosity and hurt. When offenses are gossiped about and spread to others, it creates judgement in the hearts of people who are only hearing one side. By addressing an offense between just the two of you, you can control the situation and come to a safe and responsible conclusion that breeds acceptance and love.

What, though, do you do when the parties don’t want to hear the apology and aren’t ready to receive? You pray. You continue to talk with your Heavenly Father, knowing your heart is in the right place, that you are remorseful and ready to change the behavior that caused the offense in the first place, and ask for His intervention in the matter. He sees all. He knows our hearts, remember?

My words of advice to others (and especially myself) is that if you don’t have anything nice to say (even if it’s not spoken), keep it to yourself. Ask God to make you aware of your thoughts and words. If you are consistently speaking horribly of others, your heart needs to be re-evaluated. Deal with the root of your anger. Why are you attacking others with words? What can you do differently to not speak harshly of others? And do you gossip so that others will agree with you? Why do you need public affirmation? How can you deal with an offense differently in the future?

We’re all prone to sin. We were conceived in it and unfortunately in this life, cannot escape it. But God does promise us restoration, and He loves submissive hearts that turn to Him for guidance and are truly repentant. Pray that He will restore the relationship. If it takes time, wait for it, and continue to let God change you from the inside out. Being reconciled to God means that we aren’t allowing anything to stand in the way of our relationship with Christ. It means we are aware of our sin, are addressing it, and have taken the proper steps to continue to walk in His Spirit. We can’t always please people, but we can be aware of our offenses that separate us from God, and that’s not a place we should want to be.

Ask for forgiveness from God when you’ve dealt with some situations in a manner that doesn’t represent His Son well, and ask for solutions to your heartache. God is constantly at work in us, when we accept Him, and He is willing and able to show us our sin and is even more delighted when we turn from it to mirror the life of His Son. Know that your attempts are not futile, but that God sees the steps you’ve taken. Whether or not the other party forgives right away, you have been obedient and it doesn’t go unnoticed.

I will not be discouraged, and I will be more cognizant of the way I treat others in thought, word and deed. Where I am wrong, I pray God continues to work in me, so that I can better represent His Son who loves me and forgives me. Please pray for my heart to continue to be changed through Christ. Rejection hurts, but who knows that better than Jesus?