You’re not the Boss of Me!

During indoor playtime, two preschool-aged children exchanged unfriendly dialogue after girl A attempted to control girl B:

“You’re not allowed to play in the block center!” emphatically exclaimed child A.

“You’re not the boss of me!” expediently argued child B.

From the outset, two things are observable: girl A desires to have control, and girl B is not willing to submit to her control. Now I admit, I do smirk slightly when I hear children say the “You’re not the boss of me” clause because, not only do they say it with great verbal force; they also show it with (almost) even greater physical force: head jerking, hip swaying, tightened eyes . . . Even from such a young age, we clearly set the boundaries of just who and who’s not in control. But, even when we clearly know who holds the upper hand, do we submit to their authority well, or do we resist? We know that’s a rhetorical question. What is it about human nature that resists authority? Why do we always want to feel like we are in control (even though we never really are)?

Desiring to be in control is innate in human nature; it’s as old as mankind: Eve desired to be “Like God” (Genesis 3:5); she desired to know, which in and of itself is desiring control. Have you ever heard the expression “Knowledge is power”? Odds are, you have. So, human nature says, “If I gain knowledge, I will gain power—and I desire power, so therefore I must gain knowledge.” Sadly though, the knowledge we so fruitlessly desire is that of the flesh—not of the Spirit. And the irony is, true knowledge, which is only found in Christ, certainly does give us power, but not of the fleshy, despotic kind; rather, it’s one of the greatest strength—that of the spiritual, submissive kind.

In the previous publication of Christian Women’s Magazine, our example, or imprint was explored. In the articles, we were reminded of the great power in our example, whether good or bad. This topic of submission ties in nicely with the topic of being an example to others because of the power submission holds.

Wait! Did I just place the words ‘power’ and ‘submission’ side by side? That appears to be an oxymoron? The world will tell you—human, sinful nature will tell you—that submission is a sign of weakness. But, what did the Apostle Peter say to the “Elect” (1 Peter 1:2) on the topic? “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear” (3:1-2). The willful act of being submissive resonates so loudly that even without a single verbal utterance, the husband may be won over! How true the cliche, “Actions speak louder than words,” is here. What tremendous power lies in the purposeful action of placing yourself under the control of someone else. So, the submissive may appear to be weak and ignorant, yet their obedience reveals their strength and wisdom.

Wives are not the only group who God told to be submissive; we have all been told to submit to one another “In the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). True, God gave different roles to men and women, but that does not mean we don’t all have to submit to one another out of reverence to Him and His authority.

Think of the ultimate authority—God. He doesn’t have to submit to anything, or anyone. He, speaking to Job, said: ”Who has preceded Me that I should pay him; Everything under heaven is Mine” (Job 41:11). Yet, even though He made it all, and owns it all, He allowed Himself to be confined in a body of flesh and then “Humbled Himself and became obedient to the point death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8)! If we meditate on that thought, our minds bend with the hows and whys: How did he confine Himself, harnessing all that power? And after we stop trying to figure that out, we move on to, why would He do it? We could never truly grasp the answer to that either.

Additionally, God, the Son, not only confined Himself into the body of a man (mind bending), humbled Himself (as an example that we should follow), and became obedient to a horrific death (because our sin demanded it); He also submitted Himself to the Roman government (another example for us). He urged the taunting Pharisees to, ““Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s”” (Mark 12:17). The Apostle Paul expounded on Jesus’ words when he, in the same letter mentioned above, stated:

Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (1 Peter 2:13-17)

No ordinance was left out there. And not to be missed is the basis behind the command: It’s all “For the Lord’s sake.” Why? It’s His “will” and by doing so, we will “Silence the ignorance of foolish men.” Silence by submission? Still seems like the despotic would silence by force. And notice, as God’s nature requires, we must do it willingly, because of the liberty/freedom we have in Christ (because of His sacrifice) and our allegiance to our King, Jesus Christ—because we are on His side. We will fight for Him.

To close with a message of hope—and a smile, let’s recall the Moabite woman, Ruth. She was not an Israelite; she had no inheritance with the children of God. Yet, through her dedication and willing submission to, first, her Judean mother-in-law, Naomi, and then, Naomi’s relative, Boaz (her future husband), she gained an invaluable inheritance: a son, Obed—the great-grandfather to King David—in the lineage of Jesus Christ! Wow! I would encourage you read the brief, four chapter book of Ruth, observing Ruth’s submissive character throughout, beginning in Moab, and how her perceived weakness: following Ruth to Judah, laying by the feet of Boaz, etc. was actually her greatest strength. May we always turn to our Bibles to define strength and never cease to ask God for help in shedding our human nature, which desires to have control, and clothing ourselves with the willingness—and strength to submit to all those around us, for God’s glory!

Fleshly Metaphors!

Isaiah 40:6-8

“The voice said, “Cry out!”

And he said, “What shall I cry?”

“All flesh is grass,

And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.

The grass withers, the flower fades,

Because the breath of the

LORD blows upon it;

Surely the people are grass.

The grass withers, the flower fades,

But the word of our God stands forever.”

In Isaiah 40:6-8, the prophet is told by God to cry out the above message to the Jewish people. In 1 Peter 1:24-25, the apostle Peter exhorted the same message to Christians. It is certainly one of encouragement and hope! If we carefully observe the poetic writing, we see: A great visual metaphor in verses 6 & 7: all flesh/people are grass, and a beautiful simile in verse 6: the loveliness of flesh is likened to a flower of the field. In verses 7 & 8 the lavish living is transformed into the decrepit dying—and the why is stated: because the breath of the Lord blows upon it. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! “BUT”—in verse 8 there is a contrast! Unlike our physical bodies, which fall, God’s word “Stands forever.”

God’s forever word is:

“The word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” Ephesians 1:13

“The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” Ephesians 6:17

“Quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Yeah, it’s a really, really “sharp” sword! We need to treat it with care and never forget its power!

We know that our flesh is wilting—and fading away, but God’s word—which stands forever will always remain. Let us not hold on anymore to our fleeting flesh, but to the unfading word of God!

Just the Hem!

   “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well” (Matthew 9:21).

The unnamed woman did not approach Jesus face to face as many others did; she did not verbally beg Him for His healing, or His mercy. She simply, in desperation, humility and faith, “came from behind and touched the border of His garment” (Luke 8:44) as He was walking; the “multitudes throng[ing] Him” (Luke 8:42). Keep in mind that throng means to strangle completely, to drown, or crowd. This was a very large and chaotic gathering!

After “being subject to bleeding” (Mark 5:25) for twelve years, the woman must have been physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. She was most certainly frustrated after having spent “all that she had” (Mark 5:26) on physicians who could not help her. Being “unclean” (Leviticus 15:25) according to Jewish law, her illness definitely hindered her in every facet of her life: personal, work, etc. Did she wonder from  where her next meal would come? Had her family abandoned her?

One has to ask why this story is in the Bible? In John 21:25, it is written: “There are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

Armed with such knowledge, why did God choose to share  this particular story with us? What was is about this woman’s encounter with Jesus that He desired us to learn? Below are some important observable facts:

  1. What is impossible for man, is possible with God!    Mark 5:26; Matt. 19:26 Twelve years of illness gone in an instant.
  2. Faith produces results; healing (in this case). Luke 8:44
  3. Faith affected Jesus. After the woman touched Him; He said, “Who touched Me? . . . Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me” (Luke 8:45;46). The woman’s touch of faith was unique—it set her apart; remember, the LORD was being pressed and thronged by the large crowd. And she didn’t even touch His skin; only His clothing.
  4. The unclean are made clean through faith. Luke 8:48 Praise the Lord!
  5. Faith is bold. The woman “declared to [Jesus] in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately” (Luke 8:47). Being unclean, she wouldn’t have normally been allowed in the “presence of all the people.”

As “faith as a mustard seed” (Matt. 17:20) moves mountains, so, armed with her faith, touching only the hem of Jesus’ robe, accessed the power within Him and healed the woman straightway! Faith was absolutely necessary in order for the woman to be healed. We know this because of what Jesus said to her: “Daughter, your faith has made you well” (Mark 5:34). This woman was made clean! She was no longer a castaway. She was no longer going to suffer in the flesh, or in the spirit—by being condemned. This story can be compared to Christians: By faith we believe in Jesus and take the necessary steps to become His children. Once His children, His blood then cleanses us from our sins, making us no longer unclean! What man cannot do (cleanse himself), Jesus can do in an instant! May we never forget the great value & power of faith.

Arrogant Boasting?

What are you doing tomorrow? Do you plan on going to work, or are you going to work?

In James 4:16, it is revealed that being ignorantly confident in our plans is actually arrogance in action. God’s word states that such “boasting” comes from arrogance—and, “Such boasting is evil.” But how often do we hear people say that they plan to . . .? No, people are “sure” they are going to go to work, take a “much earned” vacation, attend Aunt Sue’s party, arrive to worship on Sunday . . .
Even before the writer of the letter, James (the brother of Jesus), revealed the effect (boasting) of the cause (arrogance), he demoted such a one by posing a question: “What is your life?” He immediately answers himself with, “It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (4:14, emphasis mine). What a sobering metaphor to compare our lives to—a vapor that is only observable for a “little time” and then “vanishes away.”

We understand such a concept from tangible things (as in the image above). We know that the vapor rushing out of the kettle will be unobservable in seconds, but our lives, surely they are not comparable. However, to God—who functions not on time, we are physically observable in our fleshly tent only “seconds.”

So, what must our response be? I believe that first, we must try to conceptualize the metaphor. There is an urgency that comes with facing such a truth. Then, we must acknowledge that making “confident” plans is boasting in a temporary flesh—“evil” boasting that stems from arrogance. Maybe you think the order should be changed; maybe you are correct.🙂 The important thing is that we acknowledge and alter.
Instead of boasting in arrogance, James states a humble alternative: ““If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that”” (4:15).
IF the Lord wills because He is the only one who knows how many days He has planned for us—Psalm 139:16. I don’t know about you, but I do not want such devastating descriptors to be used by the Father toward me. Do you?! Let’s make the change—if we need to, today. XO

Who Am I?

fading-flower-picture-roses-lowering-down-fading-and-unproud

John Mark Hall wrote a song simply titled, “Who Am I?” The lyrics are very deep and beautiful, but what I love most about this song is the pre-chorus and chorus:

I am:

a flower quickly fading

Here today and gone tomorrow

A wave tossed in the ocean

A vapor in the wind

Still you:

hear me when I’m calling

Lord, you catch me when I’m falling

And you’ve told me who I am

I am yours!

 

We truly are fading flowers, tossing waves and vapors in the wind, but the Great I Am still hears us, helps us and has told us that we belong to Him!

There is no greater joy than knowing that!❤

Scripture references: Psalm 144:4; James 4:14; Ephesians 4:14; James 1:6; Job 14:2; Psalm 103:15; Isaiah 40:6-8; James 1:10; 1 Peter 1:24; John 10:14; John 17:10.

God’s Loving Counsel

It is difficult to imagine a created being directly counseled by the Creator, but amazingly such encounters have occurred. One is found in Genesis 4, where we learn that Cain, “A keeper of sheep” and Abel, “A tiller of the ground”(4:2) each brought an offering to the LORD. Not many details surrounding the offerings are revealed to us, but what is disclosed is, “The LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering.”(Genesis 4:4-5). It isn’t until we get to the New Testament book of Hebrews that we learn, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain” (Hebrews 11:4). So, we can decipher that, because of his faith, Abel’s offering was more substantial—he did, after all, offer the “Firstborn of his flock and of their fat” (4:4); whereas Cain is said to just have offered “The fruit of the ground” (4:3)—not necessarily the “firstfruits” of the ground. So, how did Cain react to the LORD not respecting his offering? He was “Very angry and his countenance fell” (4:5b).

In verse 5 Cain is angry; in verse 7 he slays his brother, but in the two verses in between, the LORD directly counsels—intervenes by asking the angry one a rhetorical question, then giving practical advice: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (4:7).

Did you see the way God personified sin as lying at the door—to our heart, perhaps. He didn’t give sin an object that we could picture in our minds; just an image of sin itself lying there, begging us to open the door and indulge in it. Romans 7:13-25 runs through my mind as I think about sin and its control in our lives. God tells us to “do well” to be accepted, but in our sinful nature, we “do not do well” —that is sin dwell[ing] in [us]” (Romans 7:17;20). BUT, I love the end of that section, where Paul, after bearing himself, exclaims his wretched state, asks for help (in the who)—and reminds/encourages with truth: “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (7:25a).

Cain killed his brother because he gave in to sin “lying” at the door to his heart. If he entertained the Creator’s plea at all, it didn’t last long. Like Cain—and Paul, we too are weak. BUT, “Thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord” that we can be “Delivered . . . from this body of death” (Romans 7:24).

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:8) XO

The Conduct and Caring Connection!

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

Teachers get asked a lot of questions. Some are relevant; others are not. Last week, one of my 6th grade students raised her hand just before I began discussing the short story we had read the day before. This particular student’s questions are typically aligned with what we are covering, but this question was not. She, with a bewildered look on her face, asked me why I focus so much on my students’ conduct. Before I even had a chance to respond, she continued; rolling her question into the following comment: “None of my other teachers remind us all the time about how we are supposed to act; I don’t think they care.” My eyes remained focused on her as my mind processed her thoughts. After concluding that she was sincerely interested, I knew that her inquiry had just altered the lesson for the day; we would be taking a detour that would carry us outside the normal realm of the physical-worldly and into the spiritual-eternal.

I began the conversation by asking simple introspective questions like, “Do you think it’s rude to let the door slam shut behind you when the class is quietly taking a test or reading?” And, “Do you think it’s disrespectful when one of your peers is hindering learning by talking during instruction?” Both answers were given quickly and were an unequivocal, “Yes.” I then reminded them that, as their teacher, I am required (by the state) to give them, not only a letter grade, but a number grade for their conduct in my class. I told them that, while other teachers may just flippantly give out the conduct “numbers” (to satisfy the parents), I do not—and will not. I assured them that the conduct score they receive from me would accurately reflect their behavior. I encouraged them to consider others and personally hold themselves to a higher standard, even at a young age—as a benefit to themselves and those around them. I recall saying something like: “Good conduct is vital to being a good and respectable citizen.” They all agreed.

The long and beneficial, yet random discussion on conduct ended as surprisingly —and unexpected as it began; with one of my most challenging students admitting that he was ashamed of the way he had been acting. He turned to me and voiced aloud that he was glad that we had the discussion and that he had changes that he needed to make. He said he was “ashamed” that he was not the example he needed to be! I tried to conceal my shock on the outside, but was standing with my mouth gaped open on the inside because of his ability to realize his negative behavior, the courage to admit it out loud, and his resolve to make changes.

It is relevant to mention that I teach at a public middle school where many of my students are in frequent contact with neglect and abuse in varying degrees. I often hear sad stories innocently shared between them as they stand in line, work in groups, and walk along the hallways. I also frequently read about their sorrows in their journal entries they freely and innocently compose. The majority of my students have no direct contact with the Bible; they are deprived of hearing, not only of the great love their Creator has for them, but of the standards that He desires all of His creation to live up to, yet they understand—and agree with what appropriate and inappropriate conduct is. If they know, without being taught at home—or through knowing the Lord, what acceptable and unacceptable behavior looks like, how much more should we, who have been exposed to the truth of the gospel, understand and conduct ourselves? And how much more will we be held accountable for neglecting to conduct ourselves in a manner “Fully pleasing” (Colossians 1:10) to the Lord?

The manner in which we conduct ourselves becomes our example, or the lasting impression we leave on others. It’s a sure, visible stamp—whether positive or negative, that remains long after we are physically gone. Because of that fact, we must always ask ourselves “What impression are we leaving?” Do we possess the recently famed “YOLO (You only live once) mentality?” We should, but it should mimic the same mindset as Job who cried out to God saying,““Oh, remember, that my life is a breath!””(Job 7:7a). Because our life is brief, we should be laboring from our youth to make sure our conduct imprint is a positive one.

Paul encouraged the young Timothy on the importance of being an example from youth when he wrote,“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1Timothy 4:12). In truth, the example young Timothy would leave through his words, love, spirit, faith and purity would all be reflected in his conduct. Paul also knew that, by following Paul’s advice—to be a positive example, the naysayers would be silenced, and his actions would in turn earn the young preacher the credibility necessary to being an effective preacher of the gospel of Christ. We know Paul’s words are just as applicable to us today, regardless of any differing factors. God has called all Christians to be a good example, period.

Paul not only spoke to young Timothy about the imprint he should leave, but he encouraged the young and old in the church in Philippi by saying, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel”(Philippians 1:27). Did you make the connection there!? Whether Paul came to them or not, their behavior would have been “visible” to him through word of mouth! And what would Paul wish to see? Similar to what he wished to see in Timothy: a sound spirit and unified mind that is working for the faith of the gospel.

Just as the score my students receive from me is an accurate reflection of their conduct in our classroom, the conduct “score” we receive from the Lord will accurately reflect our conduct while living on this earth. And as my young student wisely concluded, it only logical to connect the act of not being concerned about conduct with not caring! We must consider the impression we are making as we walk this life, and hold ourselves to a much higher standard; that of imitating Christ! Paul told Timothy to “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness” (1Timothy 6:11). If we are pursuing those things, the example we leave behind is sure to be a positive one.

Ezekiel

This is the excerpt for a placeholder post.

Ezekiel, a great prophet of God, is fascinating to study. His mission was, as all the prophets’, very serious. His message was shared in very drastic ways, such as muteness and dramatic acting. God’s message to His “Watchman” (3:17; 33:7) was one that was to be shared with the Israelites whether they heard or whether they refused 2:5, 2:7; 3:11; 3:27. God does not share with us why He chose to “speak to” His people in such ways, but it definitely got the point across. In the photo (above) the prophet is depicted in his dramatic portrayal of the siege of Jerusalem. Facts about this portrayal can be found in the 4th chapter of Ezekiel. Another interesting portrayal can be found in chapter 12. In that instance, Ezekiel is acting out Judah’s captivity by going “into captivity” in their sight. Their response to him: “What are you doing?” (12:9). To which he would reply, as God instructed him: “I am a sign to you” (12:11).

Why do you think God used such drama to get His point across? Ezekiel is not the only one, either. The prophets, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Micah used drama as well. Although impossible to fully compare, we—Christians, are told, among other things to “Present [our] bodies a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). Is there any drama in fulfilling that call? And could/SHOULD others say, after observing our sacrificial behavior, “What are they doing?” What a great opportunity such an observation would afford the Christian to share the message of Christ! Can you think of other ways we have been told to “act out” the message of Christ? How about just truly living it—being the “Salt of the earth” and the “Light of the world” (Matthew 5:13) as Jesus instructed? Think about it awhile?

Who Has Seen The Wind?

This is the excerpt for a placeholder post.

Christina Rossetti (1830–1894) was a British poet who wrote during Britain’s Victorian era. Although she penned many great poems, one of her most famous is titled: “Who Has Seen the Wind?” It’s a short poem with only two stanzas:

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

The poem is so simple and so true, for the wind is only visible to us by those things in which it touches. The same is true of our faith.In James 2:17b-18 we read, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

Who has seen faith? It’s not “visible,” yet it is. James penned: “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say,“You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:17b-18). I can boast all day long that I have faith, but if my actions are not visibly revealing my faith, then, like the New Testament writer penned, it is dead. Think about the wind again; if there is no movement, there is no wind. If there are no works, there is no faith. In Ezekiel’s day, God spoke to the prophet, saying: ““So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain”” (Ezekiel 33:31). Jesus, quoting from the book of Isaiah, said: “‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me’” (Matthew 15:8). We know that God is able to see through to our hearts, but are our non actions revealing the state of our faith to those around us. The famous saying, “Actions speak louder than words” became cliché for a reason—it’s true. We certainly expose our faith by our works!

How can we increase our faith?

Hear the word: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Persevere/Persist in it: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).

Stand in faith—do not depart: “Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand” (2 Corinthians 1:24).

Walk in faith: “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).