Have you ever watched a sea gull? When in flight he powerfully lifts himself higher and higher with every flap of his wings until he is higher than any other gull. Then, he gracefully circles down to the earth. The gull seems to be all about performing and excelling.
What happens, though, when Mr. Gull gets into a flock of gulls? It is not a pretty sight. There are territorial fights over food that cause feathers to fly everywhere. The word ‘share’ is not in the gull’s vocabulary. Philip Yancey said that ‘they are so fiercely competitive and jealous that if you tie a red ribbon around the leg of one gull, making him stand out, you sentence him to execution. The others in his flock will furiously attack him with claws and beaks, hammering through feathers and flesh to draw blood. They’ll continue until he lies flattened in a bloody heap.”
By contrast, consider a flock of geese. You’ve seen them flying in a V-formation, honking all the way to wherever they are going. Scientists know that geese fly faster in that V-formation. The lead goose is the one doing all the work, flying against the wind. It is because of this that there is a regular swapping of positions among the geese in the V which allows the flock to fly long distances without stopping to rest. Everyone shares in the tough job.
The geese with the easiest jobs are those in the back…the last one on each end of the V. It has been observed that the stronger geese allow the weaker and older of the flock to stay in these lighter-work positions. All that honking may even be a way for the geese to encourage one another to keep flying.
If a goose becomes too sick or weak to fly, she is not abandoned. A healthy goose will stay on the ground with the sick or weak one until she is ready to fly again. While gulls are individualistic and territorial, geese are concerned about the flock as a whole, as well as their individual goose-friends.
Into this story we insert today’s verse in our Authentic Christianity study. Check out Romans 12:10.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
The kind of love that is being spoken of in this verse is the love of a friend or a family member, rather than romantic love. As Christians we are to be tenderly affectionate toward other Christians. We are to seek the good of our Christian brothers and sisters, rather than maligning them and dishonoring them. The apostle Paul echoed this admonition in Philippians 2:3 when he told the believers in Philippi to consider others better than themselves.
I will just tell you that the last part of Romans 12:10 is hugely convicting to me. HUGELY! I fail miserably at showing honor to other people. Oh sure, I honor my parents and those who are older than me. But, I sometimes get a big old ‘F’ when it comes to honoring those who seem to be making poor life choices or are different than me. This should remind us of Romans 12:3 where we are told to ‘not think more highly of ourselves than we ought’. If we take this verse seriously, we will show real appreciation, respect, and care for others. We will put their welfare before our own, and we will be Jesus-with-skin-on to them.
So, friend, are you a gull or a goose?
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On Monday I shared with you the beginning of my journey toward speaking words of grace rather than negative words. If you did not catch that post, you really, really need to go HERE and read it because today’s post will not make sense without the the Monday post. So, head on over and read it and I’ll be waiting right here.
This has not been an easy journey because I have come to realize how often negative, critical, grumbling words fill my mouth. As a woman in ministry, I am embarrassed to have to tell you that I have failed in this area time and time again. This is basic Christianity 101, yet here I am in the Holy Spirit’s remedial class. BUT, I’m thankful that He is patient and loving with me, and that He is giving me opportunities to change.
So, on Monday I shared about how prayer and Scripture memorization were key to my journey. Today, I want to share with you how I utilized the process of accountability in my efforts.
Remember my two friends who were the unfortunate recipients of my negative words at lunch that day? Well, the Holy Spirit instructed me to ask them if they would be willing to be my accountability partners in my journey. Here is the email that I sent to my precious friends.
The Holy Spirit has troubled my spirit deeply over my actions and words yesterday. I have asked for forgiveness from Him and you, and I know that I have received it. Yet, I feel there is an action that He is prompting me to take and I am coming to you for help.
I have a question for you. And please know, up front, that it is perfectly okay if you need to say no – I promise! I’m looking for some accountability *just* for the month of March in regard to making ’the words of my mouth acceptable to God’ (Psalm 19:14).
Consistently over the course of my 52 years my mouth has gotten me in trouble….not speaking the truth IN LOVE, speaking when I should not, saying things that are not kind, etc. Yesterday was evidence that I am in great need of a work of the Holy Spirit in this area. My plan is to be diligent in prayer about this and really seek God’s help in controlling my tongue every day. I recognize that my words are a choice and I must choose to not let my tongue be out of control.
I believe that if I can be focused in prayer and effort for the month of March, then controlling my words will become a habit that I can more easily continue. This is where I am asking for your help, if the Lord leads you. Would you maybe be willing to receive a very short email or text from me each morning for the month of March where I can tell you if I was successful the previous day? And if I wasn’t, I can tell you why I don’t think I was. A few sentences, max…I promise not to waste your time in this. Again, if you do not feel led or feel like you can do this, I completely understand. Thank you for considering it.
Both of my friends said “YES”. And so beginning on March 2nd , I ‘reported in’ every morning with my success, or lack thereof, in my efforts to eliminate negative-speak from my life. It is incredible what accountability will do for an effort like this. I knew that I had to report in, and I hated like everything to have to report failure, so I was much more aware of my words throughout the day. Oh, there were a few days where the report was less than stellar, but there were also many wonderfully successful days. In fact, the successful days outnumbered the failure days by a lot.
I learned that in life there are times when negative words must be spoken simply because of circumstances, but they can be spoken without anger and hurt as their fuel. (You must be thinking, what a moron!! She didn’t know that?) I also became much more aware of my thoughts and where negativity was creeping in BEFORE those thoughts became words.
I am happy to report that speaking grace-filled words, or just keeping my mouth shut completely, happens far more often than speaking negative words these days. I still have moments when I slip and speak a negative word, but the Holy Spirit convicts me immediately and I confess my sin. I will likely be a work in progress for a while on this issue, but I’m so thankful that God took me down this path.
Once again today I want to ask you about your words….to your husband or wife….about your husband or wife? About your children…your co-workers…those with whom you attend church….the homeless person on the street….anyone and everyone.
What kind of words do you speak?
Are they anger- or hurt-driven words, or are they words of grace and care?
On Friday I will be back here with a gift for you and some insight from my recent character issues survey. I will also have a challenge for you, so I hope you will join me here. Please go HERE to watch the Friday video post and download your GIFT.
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The year was 2007 and God had just confirmed the call to ministry that He had placed on my heart. With a mixture of excitement and trepidation, I shared that confirmation experience with those closest to me. I received great encouragement from everyone…..except one. One person looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You will just make it all about you.”
Whoosh! I felt like a 50-gallon barrel of iced water had been poured on my spirit. I was crushed and I might have shed a few tears. What in the world was I supposed to do with that bomb?
I had to journey quite a few miles down the ministry road to realize that those words would serve as warning flags to my heart. You see, I can be very prideful and all about Leah. In fact, it is my nature to be prideful and self-serving.
What? You, too?
When my ears heard those words from my loved one, my heart immediately recoiled from the thought of making ministry all about me. With everything in me, I wanted ministry to be about Jesus. In and of myself, I have nothing worthwhile to offer. BUT, because of Jesus and the transforming work He has done in my heart and life, He can minister through me to touch heart and lives, if I will put Leah aside and let Him shine.
Today as we continue our examination of a true believer in Jesus, we come to Romans 12:3 and it is a doozy of a verse. Here it is:
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (ESV)
Let me set the scene. Paul has just told the Roman church, in verses 1 and 2, that they must offer back to Jesus their very lives and bodies, AND they must say no to the world’s standards while taking on the standards and life of Christ. Verses 4-8 will be all about the various gifts that Jesus gives His followers for the purpose of encouraging and serving the body of Christ. Smack in the middle we find Romans 12:3.
Here is my very loose paraphrase of verse 3: Do not get on your high-horse! Remember Whose you are and Who has called you. You did not get these gifts…you do not offer yourself….you do not have the mind of Christ…because of anything you have done. It is all Jesus. Don’t get too big for your britches!
Y’all, pride should be conspicuously absent from the life of a Christian. We should never lose sight of who we were before Jesus saved us. We should never forget that without Him we would be in the ditch of horrendous sin in two minutes flat. We must never underestimate the depravity of which we are capable if we do not keep our eyes focused on Jesus. I must never….!
Paul tells us that it is absolutely imperative that we judge ourselves soberly and rightly, not thinking more highly of ourselves than we should. Seems to me that Paul is using a metaphor that suggests one must be careful not to be intoxicated on themselves. Let’s not become egoholics, friends!
May I close today with a quote from John Calvin that I believe is an astute reminder to seek humility for our hearts?
For so blindly do we all rush in the direction of self-love that everyone thinks he has a good reason for exalting himself and despising all others in comparison….There is no other remedy than to pluck up by the roots those most obnoxious pests, self-love and love of victory….This the doctrine of Scripture does. For it teaches us to remember that the endowments which God has bestowed upon us are not our own, but His free gifts, and those who plume themselves upon them betray their ingratitude. (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2:10)
(I had to look up the word ‘plume’…it is a verb that means pride or congratulate.)
Every day my prayers include a plea for God to show me any pride in my heart. Let me tell you, friend, that is a prayer that God will answer, AND the answer may not always be jolly and glad. He has shown me some big uglies that have resided in my heart over the years, but He has always given me what I need to get rid of them. I am NOT saying it has always been fun, however. Satan wants us to stay mired down in pride. But, it has always been for my good. I want to challenge you to begin praying that same prayer. I promise if you do it will transform your Christian walk. Pinky swear!
Tell me what you are thinking? What have these Authentic posts planted in your heart thus far? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I scribed the entire book of Romans in my Journible a few years ago. It was a wonderfully enriching experience to write the ancient words on a page in your own handwriting. I encourage you to get your own Journible and try it.
I don’t mind telling you that I feel like we are in a sad, sorry mess in America today. I have not lost hope, but rather, I see the landscape for what it is….a disaster looking for a place to happen. And happen it will, if America does not hit her knees in repentance for the atrocities that we have perpetrated on what was once the most blessed nation on earth.
• God and the Bible were expunged from the classroom in the 70s
• 21% of all pregnancies end in abortion (operationrescue.org)
• Not quite half of all marriages in the US end in divorce (CDC statistics)
• The US Supreme Court arrogantly ‘re-defined’ marriage to include homosexual unions
• Obamacare has driven us further down the path toward socialized medicine
• The church has vilified and demonized those with whom they disagree, rather than showing the love of Jesus to them
• We sit on an $18 trillion budget deficit (try that with your personal budget!)
• Our borders are as porous as a sieve, allowing our enemies free entry
• Many of the current crop of presidential contenders are terrifying
• Millions of young adults have walked away from the church
Where is hope to be found?
May I share with you how hope seeps into the crevices of my heart on a daily basis? I find my hope in God’s Word. Drink deeply from them, friends.
Psalm 83:18 ~ ……..you alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.
God is still ruling and reigning over all the earth. Just because we fail to acknowledge His sovereignty and supremacy does not mean that He has ceased to rule and reign. He is still on His throne turning the pages of the Kingdom calendar exactly on schedule.
Daniel 2:20-22 ~ Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.
Throughout the ages God has used rulers, kings, and presidents for His sovereign purposes. God’s hand is ever present in government, even when our leaders do not follow God. This has been my only comfort over the past eight years in American government. Enough said.
Isaiah 40:21-31 (a lengthy, but oh-so-good passage)
Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; Who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when He blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
To whom then will you compare Me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these?
He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of His might, and because He is strong in power not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to Him who has no might He increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
God is not surprised by the state of the world around us. He is not wringing His holy hands over it. Yes, He is saddened by it, but He is not hopeless over it. Neither should we be.
Let us ‘fix our eyes on Jesus’ and not the state of the world.
Let us set our hearts on God and call out to Him for mercy.
Let us have renewed hope that He does all things well.
Seek His heart and stay faithful to the last word you heard from Him.
He is still on the throne!
Now, let’s engage. Speak truth and encouragement in the comments section. Remember, each time you comment you are entered for February Engage Giveaway!
DOUBT. Truth be told, DOUBT is a different way of saying unbelief.
There is no ICD-9 code for it in medicine, yet it is the disease that afflicts each one of us from time to time. Even the saintly-est of us are beset with it on occasion.
Sarah experienced DOUBT ~~ that she would bear a son at the spry age of 90.
Moses was full of DOUBT ~~ that he could speak before Pharaoh, and then lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
John the Baptist expressed DOUBT ~~ that Jesus was really the One sent from God.
Paul admitted to DOUBT ~~ that he and his companions would survive on one occasion.
The Jewish Christians being addressed in the book of Hebrews DOUBTED ~~ whether they had done the right thing by leaving Judaism and following Jesus.
When times are tough and one’s heart is in turmoil, DOUBT can creep in and overtake. I know this one. I have lived it. Satan capitalizes on those troubled times, and plants a seed of DOUBT in the heart of a Jesus lover. Left untreated, DOUBT is fatal to faith. That is why it is of utmost importance for you and me to run straight to the Great Physician and let Him treat our unbelief.
DOUBT. Unbelief. They require strong medicine….heavenly chemotherapy, if you will. It takes an infusion of hope and peace and grace to kill DOUBT.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:2-3 (NIV)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (NIV)
The Holy Spirit has the cure for the DOUBT and unbelief that Satan tries to plant in our hearts. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, remember that He knows our heart, and ask Him to replace our DOUBT with faith. Let’s do this thing, friend!
Linking up today at Five Minute Friday with Kate Motaung and a delightful group of writers.
I blew it!
I messed up. Oh, it was not a big thing, but enough to make me feel like a failure. In life. In my marriage. In my faith.
I failed to have a servant heart.
I failed to love my husband well and serve him.
I was prideful and self-serving.
I thought speaking my mind on a matter would make me feel better…would make right something that I perceived as a wrong toward me. It did not. And I felt terrible about it afterward.
I am never more like Satan than when I allow pride to creep in and convince me that I am all that and a bag of chips; when I allow selfishness to engulf me.
We all blow it from time to time.
We all mess up. It may not be a big thing, but then again…it might. In life. In our relationships. In our faith.
You want to hear some good news, friend?
God is not surprised at our stumbles. Nor is He disgusted by them. When you and I have a heart that longs to please God; when we have a will and a desire to walk in His way, God is pleased even with our stumbles.
So, hear this friend….deep into the recesses of your heart…hear this:
You are not defined by your stumbles.
You are NOT DEFINED by your stumbles, any more than a 1-year-old baby is defined by its stumbling efforts to learn to walk. You may feel that your stumbles define you, but that is a lie from Satan. Do not believe it.
If you are a blood-bought follower of Jesus Christ, you are His precious treasure, His beautiful one, and His beloved. You are not your stumbles.
Would you take a moment, wherever you are, to repeat aloud with me:
I AM NOT DEFINED BY MY STUMBLES.
I AM DEFINED BY WHO I AM IN JESUS CHRIST!
Say it again:
I AM NOT DEFINED BY MY STUMBLES.
I AM DEFINED BY WHO I AM IN JESUS CHRIST!
Say it until you believe it. If you have to go outside and shout it over and over until the neighbors think you have lost your ever-lovin’ mind, then go shout.
If the will to walk is there, God is pleased even with our stumbles. Believe it!
If you needed to hear this today, I would love hear from you so I can pray for you. Leave me a comment or email me at email@example.com.
Linking up this week with Jennifer Lee for #TellHisStory.