Submission: How to Want To Do It

Has your husband ever done something that just dropped you to your knees? You know, that submissive position–but in a good way?

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We often bristle at the word “submission.” It makes us feel beneath someone else, second rate and spineless. But I wonder if God’s command for submission should have a whole different feeling, flavor, context and evoke a different physical reaction …

So I ask again: Has your husband, or anyone, ever done something that just dropped you to your knees?

Maybe he knocked 15 things off the “please, honey do list,” or you came home from a long day and he’d vacuumed the house and done laundry. Maybe, on the way home from work he picked up your favorite coffee. Maybe, he dumped the cat litter pan even though that’s “your” job. Maybe he did something 1000 times better, but often, for me, it’s something relatively small but shows that he knows me, my desires, my heart and my needs.

When Patrick turns off the alarm on a Saturday morning, rolls over and pulls me into him, I’m suddenly awash with a gooey feeling like, “I’ll do anything you want–ever!” Or, if he pours me a beer and suggests we sit on the back porch in the evening and listen to a thunder storm, I’m struck with an almost primal-deep desire to do something for him in return, something he loves and longs for. Suddenly, I want to make his favorite dinner, or offer to not give him grief if he wants to play a video game for five hours.

His kindness toward me evokes a response of submissive love, gratitude and a desire to serve him. For a moment, I’m not huffy at all about doing what he wants, about seeking out his desires or preferring him to myself (Philippians 2)–about submitting to him. 

And, I wonder if that’s really how we are supposed to submit to God?

I was reading Psalm 45 this morning. It’s a riveting love song. Truthfully, it can be applied to Christ and the church, to the relationship between Jesus and me. Listen to verses 10-11:

“Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house. Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.”

I heard the Father say to me: Imagine one day being loved like you’ve always wanted. Imagine that everything you’ve ever hoped your husband would do for you, every word you longed for him to say or expression of affection is granted–liberally. That’s what it will be like when you walk with me face-to-face. Indeed, I love you that much now, but your human eyes and heart don’t have the capacity to experience it. Just wait … 

Imagine indeed. What kind of response would that kind of love evoke in me?

And there I think is the key to submission to the Heavenly Father, trusting His goodness and His (often difficult) will, embracing His purpose for our lives and serving Him at cost to ourselves. Did you catch it?

The key to embracing God’s purpose for our lives and serving Him at cost to ourselves is understanding what He has actually done for us … for you … for me. 

Unfortunately, that’s where we fall short. That’s another hurdle that our human minds can barely, if at all, clear: what Christ has done for us. The essence of the Gospel. Admittedly, on a daily basis, I glimpse only shadows of the very truth I have staked all my eternity on–the selfless act of Jesus Christ on the cross and three days later, the powerful act of Almighty God erupting from a tomb.

I don’t know the secret of keeping the Gospel always before my face, but I do know it’s the key to igniting that irrational love response that says, “God, I’ll do anything you want!”

What do you do to keep the truth of the Gospel always before your eyes?

On another note, a wonderful novel based on this passage of Scripture was written by a friend of mine and edited by yours truly! Check it out:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B016AYQV9S?keywords=the+king+will+desire+tomko&qid=1444491137&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

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Love–A Vain Pursuit?

“Write out 1 Corinthians 13 and insert your own name every time it says ‘love’.”

The instructions are scrawled across the top of a sheet of notebook paper in my journal. I don’t remember who gave them to me, but the point was obviously to impress upon me (and those in the Bible study or sermon with me) the stringent requirements of Christ-like love.

It’s disheartening isn’t it? Do you wonder what is the point of even trying?

For starters, I know that I haven’t always been patient or kind; I’ve certainly been selfish, and will be again. I’ve been rude before and looked out for my own interest. I’ve given up, refused to shoulder someone’s burden and I’ve felt hopeless. My guilt over failures to be perfectly loving is assuaged somewhat when I realize that every single human being out there is routinely unloving. We’ve all been on the receiving end, too, which then starts the vicious cycle of being easily angered or recording wrongs.

Face it, love is simply, humanly, impossible.

Now, before you assume that I’ve lowered the bar and I’m willing to walk away sighing, “Nobody’s perfect,” recall Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:48, “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

We also know, from Philippians 4:13, that we can do all things through Christ. So, somehow, someway, this loving thing—in all of its nuances is possible.

I am sure that whoever gave me those instructions to replace the word, “love” with my own name, had the best of intentions. However, I think they were categorically wrong. My name, your name, doesn’t belong there. God’s does.

1 John 4:8 says, “ … God is love.”

Try rewriting the Love Chapter now:

“God is patient and kind. God is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Your Father does not demand His own way. He is not irritable, and keeps no record of being wronged. God does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Jesus never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

Now, not only do we have a more accurate rendering of this chapter, but we also have a clear view of how God’s grace really works, how on earth He could sacrifice His Son, why in the world He cared about humanity instead of just wiping out the whole, wretched lot of us. Now we know why He can say that all of our sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west. We see how Jesus stayed on the cross. We understand how Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, won every verbal spar with the religious rulers of His day.

It is His nature.

Love is not your nature. It is not my nature. That is why 1 Corinthians 13 is not a to do list for us. It is a list of God’s characteristics and His behavior toward us. Here is what we are supposed to do with love:

“Pursue love … “ 1 Corinthians 14:1

“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:14

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Romans 13:14

God does not command, nor expect us to conjure up loving behavior and attitudes. Rather, we are to pursue love—in other words, replacing the word love with God—pursue God. We are to clothe ourselves with Christ and with love. As we close in on love; when we are clothed in it and experience the warm, gentleness of God’s love soothing our own souls, we become miraculously able to display love as well.

We are indeed called to be perfect and to love, but not as our human selves—as our Heavenly Father. The closer we are to Him, like a natural child spending time with his parents, we assume His character.

How are you doing in your own efforts to love others? What might happen if you refocus your energy on pursuing God (love) rather than good behavior?

Drop the Golden Rule!

Throw out the Golden Rule!

Yep, I mean it. God doesn’t want you to love your neighbor as yourself.

Now, before you run off and start pulling your sister’s hair, stealing your friend’s clothes or yelling at your parents, consider the fact that Jesus wants you to do so much more.

In Mark 12:29-31, a rich, young man approached Jesus and asked Him what was God’s most important commandment. Jesus answered him straight from the Ten Commandments:

 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.’”

It’s true, God did say that. But the rules changed when Jesus came to earth to pay for our sins by His death and resurrection.

In fact, later in Jesus’ ministry, only days before He went to the cross, He sat in an upstairs room for one last special meal with His disciples. There, He shared His heart. He told them that He had a new commandment for them.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

(John 13:34-35)

Under the old commandment, in order to love your neighbor properly, you had to really love yourself. You’ve probably even heard someone say, “You can’t love others until you love yourself.”

There are many times in our lives when we don’t really love ourselves. We can be upset with ourselves for a little while, or perhaps even struggle with depression. Sometimes, we even hate ourselves. When that happens, how are we supposed to obey God and love others?

This is where it gets really good! In the new commandment Jesus gave us, we are told to love others as God loves us. That sounds even harder! But the truth is, in order to love this way we have to learn, understand and believe how much God loves US!

The next time someone tells you, “You have to love yourself before you can love others,” tell them, “No, in order to love myself or others, I have to know how much God loves me!”

The way Jesus wants us to love forces us to stop looking at ourselves and instead to look at Him. As we receive His love for us, then we are able to be obedient and love others. At the same time, we will find peace and joy in who we are because we know how much God loves us!

Why I NEEDED My Anorexia

rural-decay-1429230-mI needed my eating disorder.

Shocked? Good.

Now stoke the flames of confusion for a minute because I’m not going to answer that question right away.

Remember game days in high school? On the day of a big basketball or football game, the halls buzzed with fervency. It was the only day in most public high schools that anyone wore a uniform. Football players wore ties and button-downs. Cheerleaders wore their skimpy skirts all day long.

The night before, Coach had informed them of the dress code. Following those rules gave each member of the team or squad a sense of identity and belonging.

That’s why I needed my eating disorder.

One of the most obvious ways that anorexia manifested itself in me, was a long list of self-imposed rules.

I must never run less than I did before.
I must never workout for less than 90 minutes.
I must never have more than X fat grams in a day.
I must eat only X calories.
I must never eat restaurant food.
I must never let people see me eat. 

That last one was a biggie and in effect was the king of rules. By rigidly keeping that rule, I set myself apart from everyone else. My private list of do’s and dont’s gave me shape in this world, carved out my unique niche and proclaimed to everyone that I was not just one of the crowd.

Growing up in a godly home, I was told “you’re special”. I’d made paper snowflakes in Vacation BibleSchool and memorized cute songs about how no two snowflakes or people are alike. “God so loved the world,” was part of my earliest vocabulary. But I needed so much more than John 3:16. For me, the critical turning point from self-starvation to life was coming to not only pay lip service to my individuality, but to internalize that truth.

It doesn’t always help me to believe that God loves the world, because I don’t want to be lost on the globe. I don’t want to be one of the crowd. I need a God who counts hairs (Luke 12:7), I need a God who calls one single Chaldean out of the masses (Genesis 12:1), I need a God who selected 12 uneducated men to be his best friends, I need a God who knows my name (Isaiah 43:1). I don’t only want to only be loved. I want to be seen!

I needed to believe that I am special, unique and exceptional outside of my tightly structured cage of rules, that I wouldn’t disappear when I relinquished the disorder I called my own.

I love the story of Hagar, a little, despised, slave mother who had been thrown out by her jealous mistress. And as she lay panting in the desert, watching her only son wither away, God found her. God did a miracle that day. He provided for Hagar and her son. But after, she didn’t rejoice so much in that He loved her, she rejoiced that God had seen her. (Genesis 16:13)

That’s the a God I needed. That’s the God who found me. That’s why I don’t need an eating disorder anymore. I am seen!

Just the Appetizer…

business-graphics-1428656-mFriends, bear with me–allow me to share a bit more borrowed wisdom. This piece by Desiring God ministries speaks precisely to some of our current conversation about dealing with unknowns, finances and even idolatry. I would love to hear your thoughts!

“Because of what the Bible warns about wealth, Christians quickly become some of the most vigilant about their incomes, investments, and donations — and that is a good and right trend as a whole.

 

Perhaps a love of money has less to do with its presence or absence, and more to do with its hold in our hearts. Maybe it has less to do with whether we have more or less money, and more to do with whether our thoughts, conversations, and budgets are excessively focused on it.

 

As an illustration, the same warning can be applied to people “stewarding their bodies” by being obsessive about counting calories and running miles. How easy it is to take “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19), and make the place for worship (your body) the prize of worship (your god). The body becomes god and God is forgotten.”

These are only delicious morsels of the full article my Marshall Segal. Please, go devour the whole thing!

 

How Much Do You Love Me?

This post is a follow-on, or closely related to this one from last week. I hope you’ll take the time to read both 🙂
Looking past your stated beliefs, what do your actions indicate you really understand about God’s love for you?

Have you ever asked someone, “How much do you love me?”

What did they say?

What did you want them to say?

What if Jesus asked you, “How much do you love me? Do you love me more than these?”

Such an uncomfortable situation happened to Jesus’ disciple, Simon Peter, shortly after Christ rose from the dead. Even though Christ had risen and appeared to the disciples on several occasions, Peter was having a hard time dealing with his own denial of Christ before the crucifixion. How could he ever prove his love for Jesus after that? How could he call himself a true follower of Christ?

Discouraged, he turned to his friends and announced, “I’m going fishing.” The wording here in the Greek indicates that Peter was resigning himself to the life of a fisherman, disqualifying himself as a fisher of men.

After a catch-less night, Jesus appeared on the shore, miraculously filled their nets with fish and called Peter and his friends to the beach for breakfast. There He posed the question, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?”

There are several ways we can interpret the word “these”, but I think Jesus was referring to the fish, or Peter’s occupation as a fisherman.

Put another way, “Simon, do you love me, will you choose me, over fishing?”

Peter responded to Jesus, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.”

What is your “these”? What in your life is competing for the love that only Jesus deserves?

John 21:15-16

How Do I Love Thee?

“Peter, do you love me more than anything, do you choose me over everything?”

“Yes Lord, of course you’re my best friend.”

“But Peter, do you love me more than anything and choose me over everything?”

“Yes Lord, I think the world of you.”

“Peter, do you really like me?”

That’s a paraphrase of the last conversation Jesus had with His once bold disciple, Peter. Repeatedly, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him using the word, “agape”. This Greek word refers to perfect love, like God has for us. But Peter hesitated, unsure if he was capable of agape love. So he responded to Jesus using the word “phileo”, the Greek word for the love of a close friendship.

Peter was having a crisis of faith. Just a month earlier he had told Jesus that he loved Him enough to die for Him. Then, everything had gone wrong. Not only had Peter been unable to save His Lord from crucifixion, he lost control of his emotions and actions and denied that he even knew Jesus.

How could he be sure that he really loved Jesus now? How could Jesus love him?

Finally, Peter burst out, “Lord you know all things, you know that I love you!”

The Bible tells us that we love God because He first loved us. Jesus also commanded us to love others as He loves us. God knows us completely. He knows and loves us even when we doubt Him and even when we aren’t sure if our faith is real.

Jesus accepted Peter’s words and said, “Feed my sheep.” With this instruction, He gave Peter the responsibility of accepting that love and sharing it with others.

Do you believe God has agape love for you? Are you sharing it?

first published at http://www.swagga4christ.com

The Conclusion of It All

Just a few brief thoughts this morning. Do you have any idea what the term “Maundy” Thursday means? I didn’t! So allow me to share my new found knowledge:

Most scholars agree that the English word Maundy in that name for the day is derived through Middle English and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”, the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of
John 13:34 (paraphrased from Wikipedia)

Jesus’ words there have been pooling in my mind all week, also the following words, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)

Think of it! Today is the very day (some 2000 years ago) that we recognize Jesus telling His disciples the secret to evangelizing the world; the secret to complete obedience to Jesus Christ, the secret to all God wants from you.

It is love for one another. Look again. Jesus single commandment to His disciples: Love as I have loved you.

Also, it is in that love that the world will recognize us as His! It is in that love we find our own identity. 

I want to share one short devotional that I wrote recently for http://www.swagga4christ.com, as well as three songs that bring me to my knees. 

 

 

 

 

Short Devo: The End

“I finished the laundry!” My husband said.

“Now you can rest because there’s nothing left that you have to do!”

I cast a glance at the stack of clothes on the top of the washer. They weren’t folded the way I fold them. The didn’t look like they do when I’m finished doing laundry. I sighed. There was no way I could rest, the laundry needed a little more work.

John 13:1 says, “…having loved his own which were in the world, [Jesus] loved them to the end.”

When Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished,” John 19:30.

The words “end” and “finished” have the same root word in the Greek: telos. Telos means: that by which a thing is finished, it’s purpose.

Jesus loved us to the finish. His love for us, shown by His death and resurrection, put to an end all of our works to please God or to earn His forgiveness. All the payment for sin that God required were finished by Jesus.

Think how it would hurt my husband’s feelings if I refused to accept his gift of doing the laundry for me and decided I could do it better myself. It is the same way with Jesus. When we think that we can or must do more to please God, we are actually saying that Jesus didn’t do a good enough job paying for our sins.

You only have to believe in Jesus. All the work is finished!