Tag Archive for Humility

A Word About Enforcing Obedience

The human heart pulses with the desire for self-rule.

Every fiber of our natural being is bent toward autonomy and self-sovereignty. We don’t naturally want to bow to the Lordship of Christ, and even after we’ve trusted Christ, our old selfish nature fights against God’s new standard for us: submission to Him.

Truthfully, the flesh hates to submit to anyone. We get really uppity when our will is crossed or people question us. I don’t like it when Peter questions why I keep the water bottles in this drawer or why I don’t crush my boxes before I put them into the trash bin. When he tells me that I should use this curriculum instead of that one {the one that I researched for a gazillion hours and where were you again during that process??} I can feel that old self, that defensive self, rising up claiming its right to rule the world, and I have to force it back down under the rule of Christ.

 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

The rubber meets the road in the oddest places and over the smallest issues sometimes, doesn’t it? Water bottles, recycling, and curriculum?

Even in small matters, God’s will must super-cede our whims and wishes. God wills that I submit to others in areas of preference, and He wills that I submit to my gentle husband.

And unless we choose to bow to God’s will in the small, insignificant moments, taking drastic measures to cut out selfishness and self-seeking– measures that include repentance and turning from the wrong way into the path of obedience,

and unless the grace of God shines in and prompts us towards a serious pursuit of humility,

we’re going to fumble and fight our way through this life, hurting people, sacrificing relationships on the alter of our own ego, burning bridges, cutting off those who cross us, and elbowing our way to our perceived top.

kids

So every morning, my job is to de-throne Sarah and re-throne Christ to His rightful place, as Master and Lord. This is seriously hard business.

SO, where am I going with this?

Well, I often talk to frustrated mothers who are dealing with disobedient children, and they can’t seem to see that their sweet child is struggling with the same old temptation we all face: the submission issue. The child wants what the child wants. End of story.

And honestly, the mother is not dealing with this situation well. They’ve gotten into a battle of the wills and the child is driving her crazy and she resents all the TIME it takes to parent this out-of-control child. She’s frustrated, so she takes action. Nobody will accuse her of being a passive mom. She’s armed with Ephesians 6:1 and she uses it like a boss. She sets out to enforce first time obedience and nobody better cross her. She uses threats or promises to control the child’s behavior. She begins to expect outward compliance. She uses punishments and rewards to get a desired behavior. Her moods are all over the place. She snaps in an effort to control. She yells.

Obedience has become the end-all and she’s ruled by that desire.  And this is where it all goes terribly wrong.

To be clear, the desire for kids to obey is a good desire, but it’s not the ultimate goal and it’s abusive to use ungodly methods to get your child there.

In fact, dear mom, more important than your child obeying you is YOU OBEYING CHRIST. Your authority only comes from Him and He has put you in this place to represent Him.

You are His ambassador and your authority has boundaries. You can’t rule any old way you’d like to. You’ll answer to God for your treatment of His kids.

Your authority must be reflective. It MUST reflect Christ. It should bring the child face to face with the Father’s character. It should hold the child’s hand and say, “I’m dealing with you this way because this is how God is.” “God says we all must obey His word, and this behavior is not in His will for you. We can’t bite and hit and hurt others. We must be kind.”

So when mom is not under the authority of Christ and is ruling like a CRAZY–

You are portraying a false image of Christ to your child and undermining all that you are setting out to do. You’re marring the image of Christ and portraying Him as a moody, silent, manipulative, angry, frustrated, or exasperated taskmaster. And you’re harming your child’s soul. (hardening it as well.)

I know parenting is hard. I know it is. But we make it harder when we don’t submit to God’s will for our life  because we’re locked and loaded on one aspect of our kid’s life. 

There’s a lot about training kids online, but if we would just submit ourselves to Christ, our authority issues won’t become central. No, showing your child Christ becomes central.

If you’ve asked your kids to obey for all the wrong reasons, or if your heart’s motivation was all wrong–GO AND TELL THEM and ask them to forgive you. Tell them that you have an authority problem–a problem as old as Eve– and you’ve used that authority in ways that displeases and misrepresents God. Tell them that yelling, manipulating, and the silent treatment are all just adult selfishness and sin.

And tell them that you are working on trying to be a mother that obeys God just as much as they are working to try to obey you, for Christ’s sake.  Tell them that we are all under the authority of the Word of God and none of us can live the way we want.

Then repent of your wrong reasons for enforcing discipline in the home and remember that your number one job as mothers is to teach our kids to glorify and honor God’s Word and to point them to God by reflecting His nature.

Life is simpler when we follow Christ first. Only then can we lead our kids to Christ.

 

 

Hard Times: Ministry Wives Edition

I’m sitting by my Christmas tree and the baby is napping and I want to take a few quick minutes to jot down a few encouraging words of perseverance for my fellow sisters in ministry who are hurting right now.

church

This week has been rough, ministry wives. You’ve written and inboxed and honestly, my heart hurts for you. I was singing “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” this morning with the congregation and tears flooded my eyes for several sweet friends who have been hurt by the church and are floundering this week.

“And in despair I bowed my head, there is no peace on earth, I said…”

We assume that there will AT LEAST be peace in the church, don’t we? And that’s what makes it hurt that much more. Idealism. Expectations. “We’re serving God and now this.” We imagined it one way and the reality is that people are sinful and people disappoint.

I don’t know all the details.

I don’t know who is right or wrong.

I don’t even know WHY this is happening.

But I want to encourage you with a few absolutely grounding truths that we must remember during hard times.

Whatever you are going through, whatever has happened, THIS MOMENT is a peek into your heart and a test of your current spiritual condition.

Ouch. I know that hurts. I know because it’s convicted me many times. But that’s the truth of it.

See, we care about outcomes and setting things right, but God cares about having our heart closer to Him. During this hard time, what are you doing with His Word?

I don’t just mean reading His Word. Treasuring it. Obeying it. Walking in it whether you feel like knocking someone’s teeth out or not.

We want to be heard and understood, but God wants closer fellowship and communion with us. Sometimes He uses trials for this very purpose.

So, today, in your hurt and frustration, how you respond and what you do with God’s Word RIGHT NOW matters. We reap what we sow, and we all know that and have taught it.

Wrap your mind around the basics and fight to think Bible truth.

Is God in control? He is.

Is your life spinning out of control? It is not.

Does God have a plan in all of this and does He expect a certain response from His people? He does.

This may seem like pouring alcohol on a cut, but sometimes hurt and confusion can linger a little too long and morph into anger and bitterness.

When we believe that God is in control and that He is truly doing what is best for us, we can step forward confidently into an unknown (unplanned, unwanted!) future because our good God goes before us.

We can give our emotions to God to rule more easily when we realize that He’s the one in charge.

It always comes back to our heart responses, doesn’t it? And sometimes that can be frustrating.

We want God to change them and intervene for us. Some fire from heaven might be nice. JK!

God does work in His time, but, plot twist–He wants the heart of the evildoer as well as He wants good for you. God is long-suffering.

Don’t believe FOR A MOMENT that the people who hurt you will get away with it. We all reap what we sow.

The proud reap resistance from God. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Imagine what God must think of the proud in His church—a place of humility,unity,and peace– who use it as a place to pamper their pride and use others. Let that sink in. (Think in human terms about how you as a parent would respond to a caregiver who was supposed to nurture your child, and you find out later that they used and abused the child. Righteous indignation, I would say.)

The God who sent His Son to die for you

don’t think for a minute that God won’t deal with that person.

If you have a minute sometime, read Numbers 11:33-34. It’s about how God gave the complaining Israelites the “thing” they complained for. The “thing” in this instance was quail.

Whenever I see a ministry leader who is contentious, I think of this quail story.

Quail= whatever idol is lurking in a man’s heart.

The frustrated fruit of the unmet idol is complaining and discord.

And when a ministry leader is not content with what God has provided or the opportunities He’s given, they either withdraw in self-pity (HOW COME NOBODY RESPECTS ME OR REALIZES JUST HOW WONDERFUL I AM!!?)

or assert and take up arms in their own defense (I AM GOING TO DO THIS WITH ZERO CONSIDERATION FOR YOU OR YOUR WELL BEING BECAUSE I’M ALL ABOUT ME RIGHT NOW)

The ruling belief is that there is not greater cause than SELF and someone has to look out for #1.

This is where it gets ugly. We often hear of church splits over the color of carpet or the stupidest little things…and we wonder how people in “ministry” could act so shortsightedly and self-focused.

How could someone who claims to live for the glory of God pick up arms over decorations or committees or preeminence. The answer is pride and covetousness which is idolatry.

And here’s the thing, hurting ministry wife: GOD allows them to do this.

God doesn’t make people puppets and robots. He gives them free will. So while they look like they are prospering, remember the rest of the story: God often gives them what they want and withdraws, sending leanness to their souls.

God’s not a player. He demands your heart.

You want to step on others? Okay, but disobedience to my Word comes with consequences.

You want to be the big shot, ruling your own little mini-kingdom? Okay, but God’s not coming to your little party. He’ll wait until you are over yourself.

Leanness. God resists. Withdraws.

Pretty scary.

Enough of them. What about us?

We can quickly let ministry hurts overwhelm us and control us rather than allowing the Holy Spirit and the love of God to constrain us.

Bottom line: God is going to show you more of Himself through this trial if you look to Him in your pain. God is the prize and after the tears, I hope you’ll realize how dear this truly is. More of God should be our end goal. And God will use WHATEVER to achieve this. He cares more about your responses and your HUMILITY than He does about almost any other detail.

And know this:

God does move people and lead through the misdeeds of others. He may physically move you, yes, but He wants to lead you into a closer fellowships with Him that you might not have had before if that person had not sinned against you.

And if you’re not sure of the next step in your ministry–

I have seen time and time again how the sin of one person became a conduit of ministry for another.

Perhaps his busy schedule makes him seem unapproachable so people in need come to you, because you are available.

Her sharp, judgmental tongue is a turn off, and hence a conduit that sends younger women to you for safe advice and encouragement. Her moody demeanor is unpredictable, so tired moms look for someone who is joyful and welcoming and seek you out.

My fellow ministry friends, just keep your eyes on the Lord, even in trials. Your ministry might change. Your location might change. But God never changes and right now, and forever, He’s most concerned about your heart.

If your heart is right with God–all the ministry details will work themselves out and you’ll never “lack” the ministry opportunities He wants for you.

Praying for you, ladies!

Dominating Obsessions

“There are three things about us that significantly shape the course of our lives: what we think, what we feel, and what we want. They way in which we handle our thoughts, our feelings, and our desires determines not only our path but whether the path is joyful and fulfilling or fraught with discontentment” states Lydia Brownback in A Woman’s Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything.

How we act upon our thoughts, what we do with our feelings (feelings aren’t facts!) and what we most desire will determine much about about our spiritual walk and growth.

obsession 2

What do you think about, when you’re awake at night or day dreaming doing dishes? What hurt feelings do you nurse and coddle when people have failed you? What is your biggest desire when life is not what you planned?

What are you obsessed with?

 

Teenage girls says things like, “I’m obsessed with this gel or hairspray,” or “I’m obsessed with Starbucks Salted Caramel Mocha.”

And while that phrase may be meaningless to them, we are, in fact, obsessive creatures.

Our minds get fixated on one thing:

that problem, that person, that need, that solution, that if-only.

We’re “locked and loaded” with fierce focus on our one thing and our lives become dominated by the pursuit of that one thing. It’s all you talk about, all you think about, all you dream about.

We convince ourselves that we are helpless against it. That we’re made this way.

  • “I’m this way because years ago, so and so….”
  • “If only she’d accept me the way I am, then I wouldn’t be so….”
  • “My husband drives me crazy and until he changes his ways, I’m going to…”
  • “As soon as I reach this level of success, I’ll spend time with my family, but until then I have to…”
  • “I have to get good grades. Nothing else matters to me right now.”
  • “People like her better than me, so to gain popularity and acceptance, I need to be like this….”
  • “She hurt me so deeply, so now I’ll find every way I can to punish her from here on out.”

When we’re focused on stuff like this, it’s all downhill. And in this case, all down the spiritual, emotional, mental hill.

Our minds and hearts are meant to be fixated and focused on God’s glory and what He wants from us, and our life motive is to love/serve others well for His sake.

There is no place for sinful “obsessing” in the life of a spiritually healthy Christian woman.

On the contrary, our only healthy obsession should be towards God’s glory and knowing Him well so we can enjoy Him forever. On this we can be one-focus women.

One-focus women recognize that God is God and is in control. We can trust Him with the big hurts and the tiny details of our lives. He’s capable.

When we are struggling for clarity of thought and steadfastness of heart, we can cry out for help.

I was dreading a difficult meeting I had to have with a woman who was being unreasonable and acting harshly to others. Another friend saw me that morning and said, “What’s that written on  your hand?” I had scribbled in my palm A1, which is my memory prompt “Audience of One.” When tensions get high and women are prone to throw words that are hurtful, my goal is still to live for an audience of One (Not give in to name calling and hurtful jabs, as good as that might feel momentarily in the flesh.) What she says reflects her heart’s goals, and what I say shows what’s going on in my heart as well. 

One-focus women let go of having to be right. One-focus women let go of been wronged.

We know our God and we can trust Him. To obsess over trials and troubles is to become distracted, discouraged, disillusioned. Our God can handle our troubles and the people who inflict them. We don’t need to plan retaliation, worry about outcomes, protect our reputation, replay the wrongs done to us by others, or waste any energy worrying.

As a woman in pursuit of God’s glory, I can’t give in to temptations to worry, to play the mean girl, to use corrupting speech, to withhold love from that annoying person, to misuse the roles that God has ordained for me, to be lazy about opportunities God puts in my path, to gossip about the people God has called me to love, to avoid people who are needy, to give the cold shoulder to that hurtful woman.

When we do all those things, we are confessing that we are double-minded, unstable, content to try to make life work outside of the methods God has chosen and allowed for His people. (Thank God for 1 John 1:9!)

If you are content to use wrong methods to get what you want,

when you are willing to war, or neglect, or manipulate, or abuse others to chase that one thing,

when you play god, making life work your way and monitoring the moves of others to make sure they all play the life-game according to your rules,

be afraid, because you’ve made a choice and have chosen a course and have jumped on the spiritual roller-coaster of your own emotions, feelings, whims, and ways, and it’s gonna be a crazy ride all around.

But He gives more grace.

Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4: 6,7

God says that the only thing that the proud will get from Him is resistance and opposition. His grace is for the humble, who’ll submit to His Lordship in their life.

James 4:8 tells us how to jump off the crazy ride and to begin thinking soundly and acting purely:

“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your heart, you double-minded.”

Cleanse your hands: stop doing what you are doing. Stop being disobedient. 

Purify your hearts: get rid of the “thing” that is making your heart purity dirty. Rid yourself of the sin.

What’s your one hang up? Or maybe, WHO, is your one hang up? Does it rule your thoughts and therefore your life? Do you obsess over it during the night and daydream about it during the day.

If yes, this sin has become your puppeteer, (and you’ve chosen it if you are saved because sin has no power over you unless we choose to allow it!) whether you realize it or not, entrapping you, yanking your chain, controlling you.

When it comes to mind, and you are tempted to obsess over it, see it as it is: a tool, a trick, an entanglement, an area of your life that you’ve allowed to become too big.

And ask God to forgive you for allowing it to reign for so long in the place that was God’s rightful place. Tell God what He already knows and ask Him to rescue you from the grip of this sin.

In faith, claim the promise that He can deliver you from the power of this sin when you choose to work in agreement with His plan and walk according to His ways.

The cure for obsessive thoughts is this simple truth: God is sovereign in all the affairs of men. God is in control, even when life seems out of control. AND I CAN TRUST HIM!

Do you have one area that seems to have you spinning your wheels spiritually? That one thing that trips you up every time? Be willing to open your hands to heaven and ask God to search them and cleanse them. He will. He promises.

 

What Have You Been Given Today?

I had a chat with my daughter this weekend about life at college, life in the ministry, making, choosing and being a friend. It was one of those talks that I wish I could bottle up and save for forever.

It is hard to tell your daughter that roommates won’t be perfect, people will let you down and that even sometimes those who should be helping you spiritually are sinfully negligent. But, unfortunately, this is the fallen world we live in.

I tried to stress to her one last time a principle that has helped me so often: God gives us our daily portion.

All things come to us from God’s hand. In other words, God allows all things, good and bad to test us. What is God’s test all about? It is all about our humility and our remembering to obey him.

In Deuteronomy 8: 2, God tells the children of Israel

And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.

Later in the chapter he warns that they should not forget the Lord in prosperity, when they get into the Promised Land and have all they need.

In other words, in prosperity and in want, God is testing our humility and our hearts, to see whether we will obey him or not.

When life gets hard, do you tend to mumble and complain? Do you blame others for your problems? Do you think you have the right to speak your mind, settle the score or get even?

When life is easy and everything is great, do you forget God or think that your cleverness or competence has brought you where you are today? Or do you acknowledge that through God we have our breath and being and without him we are nothing.

I heard a pastor put it this way once: “The measure of our humility in adversity is usually a pretty good indicator of how our humility will be in prosperity.”

God will humble  us if  we will not humble ourselves.  He limits and disciplines those who refuse to submit to his will or think that they can make life work without God.  I have seen this played out many times. God humbles a person who is self seeking, self exalting, self promoting or self reliant. And it is for that person’s own benefit.

Limitations, deprivation, opposition from friends or family, financial need, financial gain, defeat and success are all a test to see if you will remember to obey God or not.

How are you doing today, right where you are?

Are you acknowledging God as the one who brings certain people, problems, situations, trials into your life? How are you responding? According to God’s word or in a manner that satisfies your flesh? We make choices, and they show how well we are passing the humbleness/obedience test.  We choose  gratitude or complaining? Humbleness or Arrogance?  We submit to God and surrendered or we become stiffnecked and stubborn?

What do you see today as a trial? How are you responding?

What are your blessings today? How are you responding?

The answer to both should be with humbleness, knowing that it is all from the One who loves us, and with a renewed commitment to obey him.

Linked To Courtney

Cultivating Humility

As you know, I am going through the book From Pride To Humility by Stuart Scott this week. My first post on this book focused on the problem of pride and how it shows up in our lives. here.

Now I’ll share a few highlights about Humility. Not too many–remember, I want you to buy the book!

First, some Biblical synonyms for humility:

  • bowing low
  • crouching down
  • gentle
  • meek
  • servile
  • yielding

We  know that Jesus was the greatest example of a servant. He was meek and lowly. He put himself last and others first. He calls us to do the same.  He was completely surrendered to  the will of another (His Father.)

In our day and age, the greatest is the one who has status, popularity, wealthy or power. But, in Jesus eyes, the least – the servant of all- is the GREATEST.

Humble people are focused on God and others, but not on themselves. They have no need approval or recognition. They don’t demand respect from other people, because they have no need to elevate themselves. They, instead, are seeing to elevate God and encourage and better others.

Here is what Humility looks like in every day life:

  • Being overwhelmed with God’s undeserved grace and goodness. Ps. 116:12-19
  • Being gentle and patient. Col. 3:12-14
  • Seeing yourself as no better than others. Eph. 3:8
  • Being a good listener. James 1:19
  • Being gladly submissive  and obedient to those in authority. Rom. 12:1-2
  • Being thankful for criticism or reproof. Prov. 9:8
  • Quickness in admitting when you are wrong and seeking forgiveness. Col.3:12-14
  • Being genuinely glad for others. Rom.12:15
  • Minimizing other’s sins and shortcomings in comparison to your own. Matt. 7: 3-4
This was a wonderful little book. I found the best price at CBD (they beat Amazon’s price!)

 

 

Meekness or Weakness?

“The meek shall inherit the earth” is one of the most familiar statements of the beatitudes, but so few people are truly meek. I think that is because most people assume that meekness equals weakness. In our day, the word meek conjures up images of a spineless person with no opinions and no influence. Someone who really is not going to make much of a difference.
Yet, meekness is really strength under control. Think Moses. He was a meek man, a powerful man with influence, but the Bible tells us he was meek.
Meekness is the opposite of an angry, self assertive person. Meekness is self control and humility all wrapped up in one bundle.
I have been so blessed to know some truly meek WIM(Women in Ministry). They have a love for others that draws people into a closeness with them and ultimately their Savior. They have a broader ministry than one might see at first glance, because they are so unassuming. Yet, when the Spirit of God reigns in a life, people are drawn to her because she is imitating Christlike humility.
I have also known WIM who are self assertive, self promoting, needlessly offensive and demanding. They want so much to be a woman of influence, but they go about it all wrong, and as a result , other woman keep them at an arms length distance, not willing to share their lives with them and only dealing with them at a minimum. They forfeit truly being able to minister to others because they are so busy looking out for themselves.
Listen to what Andrew Murray says about meekness in every dealing with people:

WHAT a solemn thought, that our love to God will be measured by our everyday intercourse with men and the love it displays; and that our love to God will befound to be a delusion, except as its truth is proved in standing the test of daily life with our fellow-men. It is even so with our humility. It is easy to think we humble ourselves before God: humility towards men will be the only sufficient proof that our humility before God is real; “

A meek spirit flows out of a heart of humility. One that recognizes that without the cross I am nothing. One that with the cross, leads other women by a godly example of humility, good works and service to others. They are characterized by being good in the most wholesome sense of the word. They Do what is right by others and others are better off because they knew them!
If you are a WIM, are you imitating Christ in this area of meekness?
Are you “teaching and doing”(Matt.5:19)? If you have a position of influence in your local ministry, God tells us that our effectiveness is measured by not just teaching but actually doing. Our lives should be a model of good works, a pattern that others will want to follow, because our lives and hearts and motives so closely resemble Christ.

Resources: Andrew Murray’s classic work “Humility.” Excerpt can be read here