Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Challenges for the working gal: self self self

These are notes I prepared for a ladies breakfast I'm hosting on Saturday. Thought I'd put them here before I 'lost' them somewhere in the depths of my computer.

I actually started off by thinking about pride…but selfishness and pride go together. The word ‘pride’ has I at its centre. I’m not talking about time out for ones self, because we all need that. If we don’t rest – whether physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually – we may become ill and overtired. And I don’t know about you, but when that happens to me it opens the door to all kinds of ‘sin’: little sins of grumpiness, less kindness than usual, impatience, irritation – but still ‘SIN’.

At the heart of those sins is ‘I’ or me – MY wishes, MY wants, MY rights – what I would like.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1 – 2, Living Bible)

Philippians 2: 3 says: Don't be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. (Contemporary English Version)

Rick Warren (Better together, p112) says at the beginning of The Purpose Driven Life : ‘Let others go first’ - ‘practise playing second fiddle’ (Romans 12:10 the Message)

This needs a whole new perspective. This means that we:

Diffuse competition with others – this is likely to be one of the best-kept secrets of our lives – often we don’t even realize we are competing until we meet someone or come across a situation where we don’t feel we are ‘top dog’ or even near the top.

Eliminate pride - not want my way all the time. Readily admit when I’m wrong. Even, be prepared to admit that the other person might, just might be right!

Increase consideration – give up my rights. Be sensitive to the needs of others.

Become aware when pride is the driver for our thoughts, words and actions.

Romans 12, in The Message version, gives a lot of practical advice:

3Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
... let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't.
6-8If you preach, just preach God's Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don't take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don't get bossy; if you're put in charge, don't manipulate; if you're called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don't let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
9-10Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
14-16Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody.
17-19Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it."
20-21Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he's thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don't let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

It’s not about what we do but how we do it. My life probably looks quite good to others: I’m hosting this breakfast, for example. We need to ask ourselves what our motivation is: am I doing it to impress others – with my home, my baking skills, my china, my flowers, my devotion to Bible study? Any of those motivators have been mine to some degrees – it’s all about me. I need to remember to check myself: the house needs to be clean and tidy, not to impress you all, but to make it welcoming. Ditto the table, the flowers, the food… these few words must bless you, not show that I can put a few Bible quotes together and ‘puff off my knowledge’

It’s hard to let someone else take the credit – when it should be ours.
It’s hard to let someone else hold the floor when we want to say our ‘bit’.
It’s hard to celebrate other’s successes when we are experiencing failure or difficulty.
It’s hard to serve others with no hidden agenda – for their good, not to get rewards for ourselves.
It’s hard.

"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” from Proverbs 3:34 is quoted by both James and Peter. I think there are huge spiritual benefits from humbling ourselves: we enter God’s grace.

Philippians 2:3 -8 (The Message) says: 1-4If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
5-8Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
9-11Because of that obedience, God lifted him high…

God lifts us high. I believe that, when we humble ourselves, our spirits enter God’s grace. We connect with God in a special way. We know in ourselves when that happens. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, and He will lift you up in due time…” (I Peter 5:6)

I pray that we will all experience that grace and, in doing so, joy.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Pleasing God

I've been challenged to think about pleasing God by Rachel Olsen, who wrote a devotional about Jonah. This, though, was the first verse I thought of:

Therefore, I urge you, sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1, NIV: check it out in The Message, too.)

To offer my body - my female, imperfectly made, sometimes poorly maintained body - as a living sacrifice: how?

My instinctive question would not be HOW, but WHY? Why would God want my body?

Silly question, really.
He made me just as I am – with a little help from me in the way of adding some extra fat cells.
He made me because He loves me – hard to understand sometimes, but one thing I do know is that He loves me enough to send Jesus my superhero to rescue me.
He made me perfect in every way – and nothing is more pleasing to him than to see me use that body perfectly for his glory.

That’s my view of God’s mercy, so the thought of offering my body as a living sacrifice is a huge incentive. Inspirational, even.

So I say to my hands: OK, hands, whatever you do today, you’re doing it for God, right? So think about all the good stuff you could do. Writing encouraging words; caring for someone in sorrow; serving someone in need.

I say to my feet: I’m glad you’re here and working well. Now, just be careful where you take me. Don’t just worry about taking me to the wrong places: I’d like you to take me to the right places, to the places God wants me to go.

I say to my mouth: smile, God loves you. That way others will know that God loves them, too. Jesus reminds us that “What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.'” (Matthew 15:11) and even more scary is “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) I ask my mouth to speak only words which will bless my hearers.

I say to my eyes: choose carefully what you look at today. Psalm 101:3 says “I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar.” (New Living Translation) and Psalm 119:37 asks God to help me turn my eyes away from worthless things.
Psalm 123 (verses 1 and 2) says “I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God…” Don’t you just love the idea of being so devoted to the Lord that your eyes refuse to look anywhere else?

I say to my heart and mind: just do what Paul says in Philippians: fill up and meditate on “things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” (Chapter 4 verse 8 – 9, The Message)

Now THAT is pleasing God.

Becoming mislaid by distraction

I was rereading a blog entry Becoming a Christian Community when I read that I wanted to discern where I was 'becoming mislaid by distraction'. Except it actually said 'misled with distraction'.

And I started wondering what I actually meant by both those phrases.

I am certainly misled with distraction. I can go off quite randomly all over the shop, wandering towards each new thought, idea, sight, sound, experience...

And I do feel that I am 'mislaid' sometimes. As if I am in the wrong place, or have been lost. And that the distractions around and within me have mis-laid me - literally, put me in the wrong place. The wrong place physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. In all sorts of ways: maybe just in lazily eating chocolate biscuits while I am reading a novel, instead of getting on with 'to do' list. And I'm not talking about real 'time out' for myself but when it is just self-indulgence. I am mis-layed by distraction. Not where I ought to be.

But that is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible says that God has me in the palm of his hand

God knows exactly where I am, he sees me - as close as the hand before his face.