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.
Hello, y’all! In case you are just now tuning in with me on Wednesdays, I am offering a series that the Lord laid on my heart late in 2016. It is called Authentic: Being a Stand-Out Christian in a Shut-Up World. What does authentic Christianity really look like? I truly believe this is one of the most important series the Lord has ever given me the privilege to write.
Is an authentic Christian one who always has a smile on her face and never seems to be shaken by problems?
Is a real Christian one who is in church every Sunday and whose children never fight?
While any of those things might be true of an authentic believer, they are not the things that characterize authentic Christianity. Our Wednesday journeys will take us deep into the book of Romans, to the twelfth chapter to glimpse of ‘mug shot’ of a stand-out Christian.
Here are links to the first two posts in the series:
Authentic: Being A Stand-Out Christian in a Shut-Up World
Authentic: What Are You Willing to Sacrifice?
Last week we considered the idea that a true follower of Jesus is willing to offer everything they are to Him. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for you and me, and that means we must be willing to offer our entire self, our living-breathing-walking-around body, back to Him. Oh it sounds nice and churchy, but sister (or brother), it is about as easy as jumping to the moon when we try to do it in our own efforts. We may succeed for a time, but eventually we crawl off that altar of sacrifice and decide it is just too hard, unless we allow the Holy Spirit to do it through us. Offering ourselves to Jesus for Him to fill and use CAN be done, and when we do it we reap amazing rewards and benefits.
Once we have offered up our bodies on the altar, what then? Let’s take a look at Romans 12:2. I have to say that I am partial to the NIV rendering of this verse. Check it!
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
I shared with you last week how God harassed me with Romans 12:1 a few years ago. Well, verse two was also included. As I meditated on these verses in those days, it became very apparent to me that one thing was for sure….I had a choice in whether or not I CON-formed to what world wanted me to look like. Conforming to the world’s ways happens with little effort. Our human-ness does it naturally. Satan makes sure of that. What is tougher is making a choice to be TRANS-formed into the likeness of Christ. To be honest, there is only one way that will happen, and that is by allowing our minds to be renewed.
Renewing our minds is a bit like wallpaper. In 1996, Greg and I purchased our first home together. It was a lovely ranch in a northern suburb of Atlanta and we were tickled pink to get it. What we were not so tickled about was the wallpaper in the house. To use the word ‘hideous’ to describe the wallpaper would be kind. The master bedroom was floor to ceiling huge burgundy and green floral print…circa late 80s. It made me dizzy to walk into the room. If that were not painful enough, the kitchen and breakfast room had another pink/burgundy/green floral paper that extended from the chair-railing to the vaulted ceiling, about 20 feet high. Needless to say, job number 1 was to do something about that hot mess of wallpaper in those rooms.
The world plasters its wallpaper all over our minds through television, books, movies, music, and the influence of others. We take it in and soon our thoughts and actions are no different than the world. When we seek to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, we must tear off the world’s wallpaper and replace it with something new that will transform us. What we MUST replace it with is GOD’S WORD. Scripture is the only thing that will transform us into the likeness of Christ. Just as we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, we must also offer our minds up for transformation.
In those days when God was planting Romans 12:1-2 deeply in my heart, I would throw my arms wide open and tell Him that I was His…body, mind, and spirit. I would spend time each day in the Scriptures because I desired to be more like Jesus. I wanted to please Him and be obedient to Him. It did not happen overnight, and the offering of myself to Him is something I still do daily. So is the immersing of my mind in Scripture.
I want to challenge you, dear reader, to take these two verses very, very seriously. IF you are serious about looking like Jesus to a lost world, would you commit to praying these verses back to God with me? Let me offer a prayer for you to use.
Dear God, I thank you that you do not just save me and leave me as you found me. Your desire is for me to look more and more like Jesus. Today I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice. Take me, clean me up, and use me in any way you will. Lord, I do not want to conform one minute longer to the pattern of this world. Transform me and renew my mind with Your Word as I read it every day. I am yours. Change me, mold me, make me more like Jesus. In the mighty, transforming name of Jesus I ask these prayers. Amen.
If you would take my challenge and pray Romans 12:1-2 over your life and mind, would you let me know so I can be praying for you? Leave me a comment or email me at email@example.com.
Although I cannot sing very well, I do love the old hymns of our faith. I thought I would share a link to a CD that is playing on my iPod A LOT right now. It is Selah’s ‘Greatest Hymns’ CD and it contains so many of my favorites. Perhaps you would enjoy it, too?
Linking up today at Grace & Truth:
Last week in our Sharing Life series we began a look at suffering and how to prepare ourselves for it. We explored the fact that LIFE IS HARD, BUT GOD IS GOOD. Y’all, no one is exempt from suffering. It is simply part of the human experience in a world that is tragically and fatally broken because of sin. Today we finish by considering two more thoughts that lend courage and perseverance when we are in the heat of suffering.
Experiencing a heart attack, stroke, or cardiac bypass surgery is a life-altering event, physically and emotionally. I know this, not because of personal experience, but because I worked in cardiac rehab for a few years late in my career at Emory University.
When individuals walk through one of these events, they often come out on the other side feeling frightened, isolated, and unsure of how to move forward. One lady shared with me that she was terrified that even the simple act of walking up her stairs at home might cause another cardiac event. Fear crippled her so much that she was unable to make herself go up her stairs to the bathroom the day she was released from the hospital. She said, “I wet myself because I was too afraid to try the stairs.” After participating in a cardiac rehab program, she emerged confident in her physical abilities and ready to move forward.
These very feelings are the reason cardiac rehabilitation programs are such a blessing. Not only do cardiac patients receive coaching and monitoring for exercise, stress management, and diet, they receive something else that enables most to journey on. They are surrounded by others who have walked the same road; others who can come alongside of them and encourage them to keep moving forward. So often this camaraderie, this coming alongside of, reminds the patient that others have experienced what they are experiencing. They are not alone!
This is the second thought that I want to share about preparing ourselves for suffering seasons.
We Are Never Alone
While suffering may cause us to feel distraught and alone, the truth is that we are not. There are other people who have walked a similar road…maybe not the identical one, but a road similar enough to be able to show empathy and understanding. Our tendency in the middle of suffering seasons is to withdraw and hide, thinking that no one understands or cares. But, the truth is that there is always someone out there…a person with skin on, as well as Jesus….who will walk with us.
Paul, the apostle, knew the truth of this and shared it with the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 1:3-9. He told the church of the utter despair that he and others felt in a suffering season…despair that caused them to be certain they would die. They did not die, and the lesson he taught the church as a result of his suffering season was that God allowed that season so he could come alongside others who suffer. I’ve linked to the passage because it is an absolute go-to passage for me in times of suffering. I hope you will read it.
We are never alone in our suffering seasons, friends, but we must not isolate ourselves. We must be willing run to Jesus with our hurts, and allow God to bring others alongside us for comfort.
There Will Be An End
The final thing we need to remember as we go through suffering is that there will be an end to it. That is why it is called a ‘season’. Seasons come and seasons go. In Isaiah 43:1-3a (ESV) the prophet told Israel:
1 Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (emphasis mine)
Every person in Scripture experienced a suffering season. Even Jesus, especially Jesus. But, there was always an end. If God has allowed suffering in our lives, there is a reason…a purpose, and He will bring it to the desired end.
Are you in a season of suffering? I hope these two posts will provide comforting reminders of the love of God toward you. Reminders that
- God is good, even when life is hard
- You are never alone in suffering seasons
- Your suffering season will have an end
So, friends, I leave you with the wisdom of the writer of Hebrews. For those of us who are in a suffering season,
1 let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Here I offer you my Amazon Affiliate link to another of Dr. Charles Stanley’s wonderful books on suffering. This book is one that you will want for your library.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Happy New Year! We find ourselves in Revelation 9 as we begin our journey through 2017. In 2016 we studied Revelation 1 through 8, and I hope you learned much to encourage and strengthen your faith. I am grateful for your patience as we study. I had anticipated getting through the book of Revelation in one year. Ha! Was I ever naïve? We will likely not even finish in 2017. I’m thinking more like 2018, should Jesus not come back first. If He does, He can teach Revelation much better than I!
Would you like to go back and read some of the past teachings? I have created a page on my website where I link to each post in this series chronologically from the beginning of 2016 to the end (Revelation 1-8). CLICK HERE and you will be taken to that page. Once there click on the picture associated with each post and you will be directed to the specific teaching.
As we return to our study we pick back up with the trumpet judgments. The first four trumpet judgments were found in chapter 8, but at the end of chapter 8 we were given a dire warning by an eagle flying overhead. Let’s step back to the end of chapter 8 and refresh our memories:
Revelation 8:13 (ESV): Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”
We cannot say that we have not been warned. Things are about to go from bad to worse, and we have a bird’s eye view. Let’s read our passage from Revelation 9:
1 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.
2 He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft.
3 Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.
4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
5 They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone.
6 And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.
7 In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces,
8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth;
9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle.
10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails.
11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.
12 The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come.
This would be a great place for you to stop for a moment and download the drawing of Revelation 9 by my friend Lisa. I think it might give you a visual of a very busy chapter.
Let me give you a brief overview of what goes on in these verses, then next week we will really dive in.
- A star falls from heaven
- Star (demon) given the key to the bottomless pit and opens it
- Smoke and locusts boil out of the pit
- Locusts torment unbelievers for 5 months but cannot kill them
- Description of locusts
- This is described at the ‘first woe’
The sounding of the fifth trumpet brings a serious escalation to the judgments that take place. In all likelihood John uses significant symbolism to describe what he sees, because no less than ten times does he say that what he is seeing is ‘like’ something else. He simply used what he knew to describe something that he probably had no idea about.
Next week we will return and peel back the layers on this fifth trumpet judgment. Until then, friends, stay faithful. Jesus could return at any moment!
I would like to offer you a link to one of the commentaries I use in my study of the book of Revelation. Warren Wiersbe’s “Be Victorious” is an easy to read commentary that adds so much to my study time. Here is my Amazon affiliate link in case you would like to pick up the book.