Friday, January 18, 2013

The beauty of the gospel is that it frees us from us.

I had a friend of mine tell me (with love) this week, "You're self-centered."

It was one of those moments where I didn't really know what to say or do, so in my awkward nature, I sheepishly laughed, trying to take it in. After about 10 seconds, I knew he was entirely right. And I hate that.

I fear people. If we're honest, we all do to some extent. I don't like speaking up in group settings because I'm afraid my words will be condescended or mocked, that people will think I'm either crazy, stupid, or both. Left to myself and without my mind held captive to Christ, I slip into this me, me, me pit of "what do they think about me?", "are they talking about me?", "how will this affect how they view me?", "do they take me seriously?" It's all about me.

It's this sick cycle of self-centerdness and pride- and sometimes that pride takes the form of self-deprecation. I hate that this is true, but this so often takes place among believers, in the homes, lives, and churches of followers of Christ. Every human has this deep desire within them to be valued, acknowledged, and found worthy. Instead of running to the Lord for that fulfillment, we look to humanity- to the praise and acknowledgement of man. I think about how they think about me, I wander what I can get from something they said, I focus on my feelings in regards to them, etc etc.

C.S. Lewis said once, "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less."

Bam.

"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor."
 Romans 12:9-10
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 2:3-4

What does that really look like? To outdo one another in showing honor? To look to the interests of others, not yourself? To considers others as more important?

  • It means there is no fear in man. The way people view you doesn't alter or change you. It shouldn't affect your mood or change how you treat them. Your day isn't ruined because someone doesn't agree with you or belittles something you say. You're so grounded, firm, and confidant in who you are in Lord, that other peoples opinions or feelings toward you doesn't change your outlook on life. Proverbs 31:25 "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come."
  • It means we stop thinking about ourselves. Christ came to serve, and not be served. If anyone deserved to be noticed and praised and served, it was Christ...the King of Kings. But He came to us in humble humanity. We are called to live as He lived. So, we stop thinking about ourselves. We stop fearing what people will think about what we said, and we speak up in times when we're called to love, encourage, or share truth. We are people who are led and guided by the Holy Spirit, not ourselves. If we're having a rough day, we don't mope around- instead we look for those who are weary and love them and share the hope of Christ with them. We don't dress to impress or strive to be funny so people like us; we walk confidently in who Christ made us to be and desire to be His light to a lost world, serving and loving others, not seeking to be served and loved.
  • It means we count others as more important that ourselves. It's doing a lot less talking and a lot more listening. It's looking at life (time, money, resources) as gifts on loan to us from the Lord, to be used for His Kingdom. So, we don't spend time selfishly. We don't spend money selfishly. If we see a brother or sister in need, we serve them and love them.

This list could go on and on. I say all those things because that's what I'm striving or praying for, because it doesn't come naturally to me. Left to myself, I'm so sinful. I'm a Peter in that when my eyes aren't on the cross, I fail and I fail miserably. Oh, for the grace of God!

The incredible thing about the gospel is that it frees us from us. It frees us to stop thinking about ourselves and think about the great story we have been called into. It frees us from self-centerdness, from pride, from selfishness. It frees us from ourselves and invites us into joy, hope, love, freedom, forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation, light... When we stand before the throne of God, there is no room for any "me".

Praise God for friends who love me enough to point out my sin.
Praise God that He is patient and loving, caring and forgiving.
Praise God that He won't give us on me- He loves me for me, not for the future me.
Praise God for forgiveness and renewal.

"May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints of light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
Colossians 1:11-14 


Thursday, January 3, 2013

He made my Valley of Achor a door of hope.

 2013.

Anytime a new year comes around I can't help but meditate and think on the year that just ended. I think it's good and wise for anyone to do that. Tuesday night, I sat and journaled for an hour, just remembering and recording the memories, heartaches, joys, laughter, changes, tears- and thanking God for each of those. Side note, it never ceases to amaze me how the Lord can take the broken and make it beautiful, create beauty among ashes, bring dancing among sorrow, laughter amidst weeping. He makes all things new!

This morning the Lord brought Lamentations 3:22-25 to mind.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I will hope in Him." The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him."

As I read it, it hit me how deeply and intimately I believed it. The love, care, and provision of the LORD stirs my heart in ways nothing else ever can or will. But, I haven't gotten there without pain. Hosea 6:1 says, "Come, let us return to the LORD; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up."

The Lord has done just that with me. He's taken me to places in life I never dreamed of or even wanted, and He's said no to the dreams I do have and the things I have wanted; and He's still good. And His plan is better. This morning after I read Lamentations I sat just thinking about the way the Lord has molded and strengthened my heart and love for Him. He brought me to Hosea 2:14-15:

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

Here, the LORD is speaking of His mercy to Israel, [and believers as a whole] in our continual whoring out and leaving the Lord for idolatry. This so easily translates to my heart and how He's led me and drawn me to Himself.

I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. - anytime the wilderness is mentioned in scripture, it's correlated with wandering, loss, confusion, waiting, pain, struggle. Over the past 5 1/2 years since graduating college and just trying to figure out life, the Lord has brought me many times into the wilderness. But, never once has He ever left me alone. He's brought me there and He's hasn't stopped the pain. He hasn't removed the heartache and He hasn't ended the tears. He's brought me there and it's hurt. Yet, despite that...His love has prevailed. He has spoken tenderly to me. The word "tender" has brought tears to my eyes. It implies this gentle, intimate care. That's the care of my Father towards me, His daughter. The daughter that He adopted, that He chose, that He brought into His family, that He likes, that He enjoys, that He delights in. For my sanctification and for my good, and in His forever love for me, He's allured me and brought me into the wilderness.

There I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. - This to me is beautiful. In Joshua 7 a man named Achan sinned against the Lord, causing the defeat of Israel. Israel stoned him and killed him and God turned from them in anger. They named that place "Valley of Achor"- a place of trouble and death. The significance of Hosea in this is so wonderful. He makes our Valleys of Achor doors of hope. He brings life to death. He's done that for me. What once paralyzed me with fear and seemed irrevocably terrifying, He's made a doorway of hope. This is healing. I truly am NEVER alone, ever. And, I can have confidence in this life because of Him. As the old hymn says- On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. And like David said in  Psalm 16:8 - "I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken."

And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. - When the Israelites first came out of Egypt, it was a time of great rejoicing. They were rescued and they were freed from a reign of tyranny. Yes, grumbling set in shortly after, but in that first pivotal moment, it was pure joy and thankfulness. This reminds me of Psalm 51:12: "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit." It's this aspect of remembrance. Like in the book of Deuteronomy- remember. remember. remember where the Lord has brought you. Remember what He saved you from. Remember that He is good. Remember that He loves you. Remember that He hasn't forgotten you. Remember that He is sovereign. Remember that He alone fulfills. Remember. 


So, that's what I want to do.
As I begin 2013, I want to remember. I want to dwell on His faithfulness and remember His goodness. I want to rest in what is true. He's allured me and brought me to the wilderness, and it's there that He has spoken so tenderly to me. He's taken my fears and my valleys and made them doorways to everlasting and eternal hope and joy. In that, I can remember. In that, I can dwell securely. There is no other place I'd rather be.

Happy 2013. 

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3:17