It all began in 2008. Somewhere…perhaps in a Bible study or a sermon…Romans 12:1-2 floated into my heart like an autumn leaf twirling to the ground. It was not an unfamiliar pair of verses, but neither were they sealed into my memory….yet.
Before long, these verses began popping up everywhere. In a sermon, in whatever Bible study I was doing, devotionals, on the radio…flitter, I fully expected to walk into a bathroom stall somewhere and find them scrawled on the wall. Seriously, it was comical how God was using repetition to force me to pay attention to these verses. The more I heard them, the more I realized that there was a message, a life message, in them for me.
In the eight years since, I have tucked these verses deeply into my heart and made them into an almost daily prayer for my life. I believe they are the key that opens the door to the authentic Christian life. Let’s start with verse 1.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (ESV)
As we think about authentic Christianity, about being a stand-out Christian in a world that tells us to shut-up, what possible help could this verse be? Sacrifice? Holy? It all sounds very antiquated, doesn’t it?
Paul is doing a little bit of what I like to call ‘guilt trippin’ his brethren. He is saying something like this: “Look at what God has done for you. How in the world could you not give your all for Him? It really is what you should do.”
One thing that is important for us to understand is the context in which Paul wrote Romans. In that day there was a prevalent philosophy that said that the soul or spirit was inherently good, while the body was inherently evil. Because the body was considered to be evil and would die eventually, it didn’t matter what you did with or to your body. Your soul/spirit was what mattered. For this reason, many people participated in immorality, believing that as long as their heart/spirit was right, they were good. There was a huge disconnect between the body and the spirit. Might sound a bit like today, huh?
So, back to how this verse impacted me. One day while I was exercising I was deeply impressed by the Holy Spirit to begin praying this verse back to God. So I did.
Lord, I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice. I am yours. Change me. Use me. Make me into whatever you desire.
Now, this is not a prayer to be prayed flippantly, because sacrifices in the Old Testament did not remain alive. So, what I was saying to God is take whatever does not please you and crucify it, kill it, so that all that remains is holy and acceptable to you.
Vance Havner once said that the problem with living sacrifices is that they tend to crawl off the altar. This required an intentional, deliberate act of my will. I had to be willing open the doors of my heart completely to the Holy Spirit, holding nothing back….NOTHING BACK! I had to be willing to allow Him to clean out impure thoughts and selfish desires. I had to be serious about crawling up on that altar and allowing my flesh to be crucified so Jesus could live through me. What Jesus has done in my heart since I began praying this prayer is stunning. He has given me an intense desire to be more and more like Him.
Authentic Christianity requires that we give God the ultimate sacrifice of self….body, mind, and spirit. The world needs to see Christ-followers who are walking out holy lives because they have offered their bodies as living sacrifices for the cause of Christ.
MEDITATION MOMENT: What would you need to do in order to make Romans 12:1 a reality in your life? What is hindering you from offering your body as a living sacrifice? I would love to pray for you in this regard. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at email@example.com.
Have you heard about Journibles? They are a series of beautiful books that offer space for you to write out that specific book of the Bible. I love my Romans Journible. I scribed the entire book of Romans in it. The Word comes alive even more when you write it out. Here is my Amazon affiliate link to the Romans Journible. Order your copy today and begin writing out the book of Romans.
Linking this week with:
In the waning days of 2014, I experienced great losses. The particulars of what and how and why of the losses are not as germane to our time together today as the effects upon my soul. Like tidal waves, one loss piled upon another until I could barely breath or function. For months there were times I felt such despair that I prayed for Jesus to take me home. Never in my entire life have I experienced such suffering and pain. Not physical pain, although I was certain that my heart had been ripped to shreds and would never recover. The pain and suffering were emotional and mental. Two years later, my heart aches at the thought of it and tears still come easily, even though much healing has taken place.
No one seeks out suffering, yet everyone experiences it. There is not a soul on planet earth who has not endured some kind of suffering, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual. Are we ever prepared for it? Is there even a way to prepare for suffering? Do we set our children up for failure and despair by not preparing them for suffering?
Even though I experienced intense suffering of the heart, there were some things that I knew to be true; things that I held onto with everything within me. It was those thing that kept my faith from being ‘greatly shaken’. I would love to share those with you today and next week.
The first thought is one that we hear pretty often in the Christian world, but it really is true.
LIFE IS HARD, BUT GOD IS GOOD
We do our children a huge disservice by not preparing them for the inevitable suffering they will experience. Whether it is another child at school making fun of them or the loss of a special grandparent early in the child’s life, we must prepare kids for the fact that life is hard. Flitter, we must prepare ourselves for that fact.
In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.”
So, what do we do with that? Trouble does not come to us because God is vengeful or sadistic. The fact is that we live in a fallen world and because of it hard and painful things happen. We don’t need to walk around like Eeyore always bemoaning the misery of life or blaming our troubles on other people, although sometimes they are a result of other people’s actions or words. We do, however, need to have a proper perspective on life.
My Daddy developed polio at the age of 16. The doctors told him he would never walk again. He overcame those predictions and walked, with the aid of crutches and a full leg brace, for the rest of his life. Life was not easy for him. He could not do many of things that young men do. He could not run, play sports, ride a motorcycle, or even walk normally. Yet, he knew that God had spared him from death for a reason, and while certain parts of his life would be hard, God was good to him. He became a successful businessman, married my mom and had two daughters. Sure there were times when he would physically fall, but he always got back up and went on. He had a proper perspective on suffering that kept him from losing his faith or feeling sorry for himself.
Throughout my 2014 ordeal, I always knew that God was good and that He was with me. The faith muscles that I had developed over the course of the years of my walking with Jesus gave me a solid foundation on which to abide even when so much of my world was shaken.
Christ followers can be assured that nothing, absolutely nothing, happens to them that has not been sifted through the will and purpose of God’s divine knowledge. Yes, life can be hard, but God is good and He will never allow anything to happen to us that is not part of His ultimate good for us. I liken this to a parent taking their sick child to the physician. The sickness is miserable and painful, both for the child to experience and the parent to watch. The physician diagnoses the problem and suggests an injection of antibiotics.
Queue up the hysterics! Crying, flailing about, screaming. Anything to avoid the injection.
Yet, the physician and the parent both know that the injection is what will restore good health. It may require bringing in back-up to help hold the child still, but the injection is given and health is restored.
So it is with our good God. Sometimes when He allows pain and suffering in our lives to accomplish His will for us, He knows there is no other way to bring about what is for our good. In those times, we must remember that life is hard, but God is good.
Next week we will consider two other very important lessons we must learn in order to properly walk through suffering. For now, would you share your thoughts on suffering? What are some lessons you have learned during suffering seasons?
Dr. Charles Stanley has written some excellent books on the topic of suffering. I’m giving you my Amazon Affiliate link for one of them so you can check it out if you feel led.
I am married to my dentist. Several years ago, at a regular check-up, my dentist-husband looked at my x-rays and declared that one of my back teeth had a tiny crack in it. This news did not bring great rejoicing in my heart. I knew what it meant. The word crown became very real to me, and it was not the kind of crown that a queen would wear.
I scheduled an appointment with him for a few days later. On the appointed day, I came into the office, sat down in his chair, and submitted myself to the skillful hand of my husband. He took his drill and ground down the offending tooth to make space for a crown…a porcelain tooth that would be cemented onto the remains of my previous tooth. He measured, checked the color match, and created an impression of that area so the new crown would match and fit perfectly. Before I left the office, he fabricated a temporary crown and placed a bit of cement in the spot to hold the temporary crown in place until my permanent one was created by the dental lab.
My temporary crown looked like a real crown, and in fact, would serve several purposes: it was a place holder to keep the teeth on either side from moving; it protected the remains of the original tooth that was cracked; and it would allow me to chew on that side if I stayed away from hard or crunchy foods. But, the truth of the matter is that it was not the real thing and would never be the real thing. The key to a healthy, functioning tooth would be to go back to the dentist’s office in a couple of weeks and have the permanent porcelain crown placed in my mouth.
In the 2014 Religious Landscape Study performed by the Pew Research Center, the percentage of adults who describe themselves as ‘christian’ decreased dramatically from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. A Gallup poll published in late 2015 showed that 75% of Americans identified with a Christian religion. As I consider these statistics, I find it nearly impossible to square the fact that 70% of Americans identify as Christians, yet the recent presidential election was the most hateful and vitriolic in America’s history. Blistering, viscious words were hurled from voters of all stripes, including those who call themselves Christians. There is a huge disconnect, people!
A good and right question to ask ourselves is whether our talk and our walk match up. The apostle James said that the Christians of his day were using their mouths to bless and to curse people, much like the Christians of our day. James likely shook his finger at his contemporaries and said, “This should not be.”
I agree! It should not be, but if I examine my life and heart, I find that I am guilty of sometimes walking out a type of Christianity that looks nothing like the life of Jesus. And Lord, have mercy, our world does need to see authentic Christianity. Am I a Christian who stands out as a Christ follower in a world that seeks, more and more, to shut us up? When unbelievers view my life, do they see things that draw them to Jesus or push them away?
A good question to ask right here is this: how do I know what a real-deal, stand-out Christian should look like?
What should the authentic Christian say?
How should they live?
What actions should they engage in?
Over the next several Wednesdays we are going to delve into the profile of a true Christian, a stand-out Christian, and see if our lives measure up to the profile of a true believer in Jesus Christ. I hope you will join me.
MEDITATION MOMENT: Has there been a person or people in your life who lived out the definition of a true Christian? Would you share a bit about them in the comments?
Dr. Adrian Rogers wrote a marvelous little book about the things that every Christian should know. It is packed full of practical advice and plenty of Scripture to encourage your walk with Jesus. You may click on my Amazon affiliate link to check it out and purchase, should you feel led.
A few years ago I hopped on the OneWord365 bandwagon. I did not join lightly, however, but with great anticipation and much prayer. Beginning in early November I would seek the heart of the Lord about a word that might be my guiding word from Him for the upcoming year. I tried very hard not to suggest a word to Him, because I knew that He knew what the coming year would hold and I did not. Some years my Word came quickly, while others took more prayer and pondering to capture.
Here are my Words for the past few years:
2012 – Trust
2013 – Jesus
2014 – God gave me 2 words – Loss and Others
2015 – Renew
2016 – Rest
Each time, God gave me a word straight from His heart that would challenge and bless my heart. None, however, were more challenging and required more of me than my 2016 word ‘rest’. During the course of the year I have posted several times about what God has taught me through focusing on ‘rest’. I imagine those lessons are not complete just because the calendar will soon say ‘2017’.
May I recap a bit of what God taught me, just so I can have it all in one place for future reference?
- God knows best and He will not ask me to do anything for which He does not have purpose
- I can bend my knee to what God asks of me, or He can break my legs (figuratively, or maybe literally) to get me to where He desires me to be
- My unwillingness to cease my activity (mental, physical, blogging, etc) shouted with a megaphone that I did not trust God
- God knew I needed to learn to embrace physical rest for the good of my body and mind
- I am physically and emotionally stronger now because of my times of rest
- He was calling me not only to physical rest, but also to a blogging rest, which I desperately needed. Before I bent my knee to a blogging break, I was to the point of walking away from writing completely
- God is willing to renew my strength, but I must do it on His terms, not mine
- When I FINALLY ceased striving and embraced rest, He met me in such tender, beautiful ways that I would have, otherwise, missed
- As part of this year of rest, I have learned, and am still learning, to lean into Sabbath (One of the tools God gave me to help with this was Shelly Miller’s wonderful book, Rhythms of Rest. I’ve linked to it at the bottom of this post via my Amazon Affiliate link. I promise, it is money well spent.)
So, here we are, and I have been seeking hard after my word for 2017. I knew there was the possibility that there might be a continuation of the focus on rest for the upcoming year, and if that had been the case, I would have embraced it. I will not forget the lessons of ‘rest’ and will continue to carve out times and seasons of rest.
I believe, however, that the Lord has given me a new OneWord365 for 2017. As with each of my words, I walk into 2017 not knowing how the Lord will use it in my life, but trusting His sovereignty and wisdom. I am trying to not even speculate how this word will impact me, because God is a God of creativity and surprises.
My heart’s desire is to lean into my OneWord365 for 2017 and embrace the lessons God has for me in it. My OneWord 365 for 2017 is:
Friends, if God has given you a Word for 2017, I would love for you to share it. Leave me a comment sharing your OneWord365 for 2017. Thanks for stopping in.
“What were you thinking, you dummy?”
“What a stupid thing to say!”
“You will never be good enough to be her friend!”
“You are too fat/ugly/loud/pimply.”
My guess is that you have spoken, or at least thought, some of these things toward yourself. Right?
We all know how words can hurt other people, but sometimes we forget the power of words that we speak silently to ourselves. Our thoughts have power over us…over our happiness and our joy. This is a lesson that I am learning at 52 years old.
My basic personality is one of perfectionism. I’ve never been very good at offering myself grace when I mess up. I am much more apt to offer YOU grace for your mistakes than I am to offer myself that same grace. AND, the beating that I give myself mentally is ruthless at times.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14 ESV) emphasis, mine
For so many years I knew this verse and quoted it, but always my mind went to the ‘words of my mouth’ part of it. Probably because my mouth has gotten me in more than a few spots of trouble over these 52 years. I always assumed my mouth was where I needed to focus my clean-up efforts.
Sure, I need to sanctify my mouth, but my mind, my thoughts….oh heavenly days!! Those needed some significant attention.
My thoughts of myself often were negative. My thoughts of others were, as well. Very often I fell victim to the victim mentality when someone else would hurt me. In those moments, I would begin rehearsing that hurt over and over in my mind until…..oh poor, pitiful me. So-and-so hurt me and stole my happiness. Ugh, how ugly is that!
Do you do that too? Come on, be honest, now! How often do your thoughts, the meditations of your heart, lean toward the negative? Probably more often than you are ready to admit.
Are the meditations of your heart acceptable in the sight of Jesus?
Friend, I am finding that as I take every negative thought captive…every single negative thought…..and submit it to this test: Is this thought true and pure and acceptable in the sight of Jesus, that many of my thoughts and meditations need a bit of refining fire applied to them.
It is then that the Spirit prompts me to cease thinking that thought and replace it with Scripture or a thought that is pure and holy. It might simply be to repeat the name of Jesus a few times.
Today, as your mentor, I am putting my arm around your shoulder and asking you to commit to taking your thoughts captive. Ask the Holy Spirit to heighten your awareness of negative thoughts that creep into your mind for the next 48 hours. Once He does, take them captive and replace them with thoughts that are pure and holy and true. I promise that you will be amazed at the difference in your joy and happiness as you begin to purify your thoughts with the help of the Spirit of Christ.
Okay, who is with me on this? Who is willing to take my challenge? Let’s do this thing!
Today I want to share a bit of what God is doing in my own heart in hopes that it will resonate in your heart. I am only sharing ‘a bit’ because I’m pretty sure that God is nowhere near finished with this particular work in my heart, so there will probably be more sharing in the weeks and months to come.
If you have walked with Jesus more than a pair of days, you might just have experienced something similar to what is going on in my heart. I feel like periodically God does an assessment of my heart, very much like a homeowner looks at their home. He opens doors and cabinets. He pushes back stuff and junk. He swings doors back and forth to see if they squeak. He wipes away the cobwebs so He can get a clear view of the rafters.
Once He has assessed the situation, He begins moving in the demolition equipment. Suddenly, a renovation of the entire east wing of my heart is underway, and it feels like the jackhammers and crowbars are going full speed. Just as with a home renovation, there is dust and shaking and pulling down. Things need to go in order for light and truth to take up residence. AND IT IS PAINFUL!
THAT is where I am currently.
There are two tools that God is using in my heart reno. Two verses of Scripture. Let me share them with you.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14 (ESV)
And the second one:
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)
Y’all, God has shown me very clearly that the meditations of my heart…my thoughts…are not always acceptable to Him. Ouch!!!
Let me show you how this might work in my life. Let’s say that my husband or a co-worker does something that irritates me. It would not have to be a big something, but maybe something small and insignificant in the whole scheme of things. Instead of either A) addressing it with the person, or B) letting it go, I choose, instead, to replay it in my mind a bazillion times. And each time I do, the offense grows larger and larger. This causes me to become the ‘victim’ of their offense. Over time, these offenses build up and my heart begins to become bitter toward the person.
I have the power to STOP these thoughts from taking me into Bitter-land. God is doing a renovation on my heart and showing me that I can, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, take those thoughts captive and replace them with thoughts that are pure and holy and true and right. The kicker is…..will I do it? Will I choose righteousness over bitterness? Will I arrest my STINKIN’ THINKIN’ and put it in jail? The choice is entirely up to me. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I am learning to be aware of my STINKIN’ THINKIN’ and take it captive.
What about you? When is the last time God did a renovation on your heart? It is only when we are willing to allow Him free access to all the doors and cabinets that He is able to do His work of holiness. While the process is painful, it is GOOD and FREEING. I encourage you to allow Him to do His work.
I’d love to hear how God is working in your life to conform you more and more to the image of Jesus.
Until next time, friends.