"For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.…” 1 Corinthians 12:14-16.
Watching TV the other day, I saw a segment on the local news titled “Are you picking favorites?” The segment was about when parents treat one child more favorably than the other it causes the other child to feel neglected, inflicting painful emotional wounds that can stay with them into adulthood.
Having been the youngest in my family of four, I can personally attest to the truth of that statement. I grew up in a home where my sister was favored, which caused me to constantly want to win my mother’s approval. This carried on into every relationship in my life including my relationship with God.
But this is nothing new. The Old Testament cites numerous examples of families where one child is favored over another, and the devastating effect it had on the family dynamic. But when Jesus came to earth, he abolished the sin of favortism. He offered everyone an opportunity for freedom.
Perhaps you have felt unfavored in your relationship with God. After a long day at work, you spend more long hours shuttling kids back and forth to sports practices, managing your home and helping your husband with little to show for it. It can seem like what you do is unimportant, unseen and unappreciated.
But Jesus came to save all of us. Everyone is god's favorite. He loves you no matter what season of life you are in right now. Whether you are changing numerous diapers or the CEO of a big company, God sees everything you do. When we all work together, we make a difference in the world.
You are God’s favorite, and that’s the best role of all.
Lord, help us to bask in the live you have for us as your favorite. Amen.
I love turnips.
I know, weird.
I remember the first time I ate turnips. It was Thanksgiving and my grandmother religiously made them as part of our thanksgiving feast. She passed on her love of turnips to me. Ever since then, I’ve had to have them every year at my thanksgiving.
I just bought a bag of turnips to make for supper. Opening the bag, I pulled ourt what From the outside seemed like a large turnip, only to find it was as small as a lemon! It was so small I couldn’t even cut into it. Thankfully, the rest of the bag contained useable turnips. Still small in size, they were large enough to be used.
Jesus was able to use small things as well, even our faith. Mark 4:31 says, “And who should we say how shall we picture the kingdom of God or by what parable shall we present it? It’s like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, it grows up, and becomes all of the larger plants and forms large branches so that the birds of the air nest in its shade.”
Sometimes things that seem so small and usable are still useful to God. He can take what we have and grow it, as long as our hearts are in the right place. Even people with the smallest faith can have the largest impact for the Kingdom.
Lord, take our small faith and multiply so that it will grow up to make a large impact for the Kingdom.
“If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples- John 15:6-8
I’ve read these verses many times in Scripture, but the word “abide” has always eluded me. It’s not a word in common, everyday language, so it’s a word I’m not so familiar. So, what does it mean to “abide.”
In Greek the word “abide” is a word men-o, which means to “remain” or “wait.” In other word, it means to wait upon or with. So how do we constantly wait or remain in the Lord?
If we don’t abide in Christ, it is like we are willing to throw away our lives on thins that don’t matter. When we try to live apart from Christ, our lives suffer. If we amass wealth or take care of our fragile bodies with no purpose or only for personal gain, our lives mean nothing. If we try to teach our children to have good manners and live a good life apart from Christ, how will they be different from the rest of the world, and how will they be able to further the Gospel here on earth?
According to this verse we all have to have the word of God in our hearts. We live in a country where we take reading the bible for granted. Yet, there may come a day when we can no longer publicly proclaim our faith. The only thing we will have to rely on is the word we have memorized and kept hidden in our hearts. If we abide in Christ, we will bear fruit— fruit the world that edifies us (patience, goodness, kindness and the like) and that the world desires.
Every January, I make a set of goals to enhance various areas of my life. I choose five and this year I chose my spiritual life, marriage, my children, my career and my health. As I write my goals, however, fear creeps in and I often don’t meet all my goals, which is a source of frustration for me.
The main verse I want to focus on is Philippians 1:1-6. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:1-6
Yes, this verse speaks about finishing well. But in order to finish our spiritual walks well, we must start well, too. So we are ensured success.
A few things about this verse:
Be thankful- Paul is thankful for all the Philippian church has accomplished thus far. He doesn’t seem to focus on what they haven’t done, just what they have done. Paul begins with thanksgiving. So should we when we think about our goals for the year. Be thankful for the things you have accomplished so far; not what you haven’t done. Satan wants us to focus on our failures so we will not accomplish our goals or grow in our faith. That helps us to refocus on all that god has done and continues to do.
Be confident- Paul was confident based on what he had seen and heard about this church that they would fulfill their calling to spread the good news of Christ as instructed. He was also confident on God’s faithfulness. It didn’t matter how many times they messed up, Paul knew that God still chose to partner with the despite their shortcomings and unfaithfulness to him.
It is the same with us. God chooses to partner with us despite our shortcomings and faults. Even when we say “I’m praying for you” but don’t ( and we’ve all done that) or we failed to send that card to encourage someone or confront that person when they are gossiping or slandering her reputation. We all have failed to step up and do the right things at pivotal moments in our walk with God. But God still loves us anyway, and he wants to use us to accomplish Hs work for the kingdom.
Which brings me to our goals. Whether we are setting goals for our personal growth or for our church as a whole, here are a few ideas to keep in mind:
Break up with perfect- God says He will perfect His work within us. But to cover up for our own inadequacies, we fall into the trap of perfectionism, making sure everything we do meets others’ standards so no one believes we are a failure. There’s no such thing as perfect! When we can transform our minds and accept this reality, the pressure is off. We no longer need to keep up a façade that we are better than we really are.
Have a vision- Goals are not goals unless they have a vision attached to them. Proverbs 29:18 says, ‘Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.” We can want to lose weight or get out of debt all we want, but without a commitment attached to it, it will never come to fruition.
My husband ran his first half marathon two years ago. He felt so accomplished. But it wasn’t easy. He had to commit to running everyday and for the duration set forth by the program he followed. He couldn’t run a mile or two and then quit because he didn’t want to. His ultimate goal was to run a marathon, which takes months of training, eating right and building momentum. It’s the same with any goal we have. We didn’t gain excessive weight or have out of control debt overnight. It takes planning, setting goals and sticking to them.
Expect setbacks- When he ran, there were days when his hip or foot hurt when running too much, so he had t stop running and resume once his injuries had healed. He wanted to be completed with his training earlier than he actually was, but setbacks, much like life happens. Anytime you try to improve your life, especially spiritually, expect Satan to throw you a curve ball. That’s his job. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” When your guard is down, that is when Satan strikes. Keep your guard up by putting on the full armor of God. Read your word; memorize Scripture. Keep communion with God both through prayer and listening. Practice silence and solitude regularly. Fast when you can.
Keep accountable- one of the most successful weight loss programs is Weight Watchers. Why? Not only do they have meetings where members must come together and share their successes and failures, they also have to weigh in. It is a physical reminder of the accomplishments or failures of what members have done. As Christians, we are told we need to walk in the light, if we want to be like Jesus. 1 John 1:6-8 says, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
Rather than looking to your pastor to perform all the spiritual duties of the church, scripture says one of our roles as Christians is to be there to help each other on our journey. This means helping people get out of sin and walk righteously.
As I Put on my workout clothes and began stretching my body, I stared out the window and sighed. It rained non- stop over the past few weeks. It would be easy to make excuses as to why I couldn’t go out and run.
The ground is too wet.
I’m too tired.
I can do it tomorrow.
I had been working hard all week; I can make it up next week.
No one would have known if I had forsaken my commitment to train for a 5k. But I’d know and sometimes I’m the hardest person to disappoint.
It’s the same in my life as a disciple. The busyness of life sometimes keeps me from regular devotion time. One week turns into two weeks, two weeks into a month, and then soon I can’t remember how long it’s been since I had spent time alone with God. In the same way, I want to make excuses rather than run each day to train for a 5 k, It’s always easier to make excuses instead of doing the hard work of discipleship. But if I do the work each day of studying the word of God, practicing disciplines like silence and fasting, my faith stretches and grows. Just like each half hour I dedicate to running, my lung capacity grows, too.
It’s hard, much like life. But when I’m huffing and puffing my way to the finish line when my training is over, the still small voice tells me to keep going, because although the tough times may seem long, they soon give way to perseverance and hope.
And that’s what makes it all worth it.
I hope you have enjoyed this series on the Power of Words. As we have learned, our words have the power to make a difference in our world. I thought I would end the series with a practical tip to remind yourself to use your words for good instead of evil.
Everyone needs encouragement, including me. With the explosion of social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, my heart’s desire is to be noticed, heard and validated, especially when I have accomplished a specific goal in my life.
However, my vocation often calls me to work in isolation. Staying motivated can be a daunting task. Having a way to stay encouraged, however, keeps me on the right track toward finishing my tasks and reaching my goals.
One way to keep me encouraged is an encouragement board. Each time I receive an encouraging word from a friend or an inspiring quote, I tack it onto my board. In times of discouragement or frustration, I look at it to remind myself not only of what I am doing, but more importantly why I am doing it.
Here are three items you can tack on your encouragement board:
1) Scripture quotations- Nothing inspires me more than a quotation from the oldest and most transformative book I own– the bible. Jeremiah 29:11, John 15:4-5, and Proverbs 27:17 are all great examples of inspiring quotes that keep my fingers typing in times of stress or discouragement.
2) Quotes from other authors- Are there other authors that you enjoy whose words have pierced your heart? If so, write them on an index card or type it onto different colored paper. The different colors will catch your eye and remind you to keep pressing on towards your goal.
3) Photos or Images- Does a serene beach scene, an old photo of friends and family or a picture of an accomplished athlete spur you on to accomplishing great things too? Intersperse those photos among your quotes. Go crazy! The wilder the better!
We all need something to inspire us. What inspires you?
“This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder.”-2 peter 3:1
God has created you with unique stories, circumstances and situations that only you have experienced. People want to know you because of who you are and what you have gone through. They want to see you share that story in a way that points them to Christ. Holley Gerth, author of You’re Made for a God Sized Dream exhorts, “You are who you are for a reason. God could have designed you in any way that he wanted. After all, he spoke the world into being. Customizing you wasn’t a challenge. So why would he create you in a way that didn’t match up with the biggest dreams he has for your life?”1 Every one of your experiences is unique to who you are and designed to transform you into Christ-likeness. You just have the boldness to share your story in order to engage them in the overall mission of God.
Your story is more than just the words that escape your lips during a public prayer time, the amount of Scripture you have memorized or the conversations you have over a cup of tea with a girlfriend. Your story defines you. As you mature, your story changes, just as your theology and knowledge of the word changes. As you grow, your knowledge of the word grows, too, allowing you to evolve into the person God has made you to be.
What if God is calling you to impact others with your story? Pray and ask God who God would want you to share your story with today.
1 Holley Gerth, You’re Made for a God Sized Dream: Opening the Door to All God Has for You, (Grand Rapids: Revell Books, 2013), 30.
“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”- Colossians 4:6
Last night at dinner, I took the juicy chicken from the oven and placed the steaming hot morsels onto my plate. I portioned my children’s plates then sat down to eat. Picking up the saltshaker, I shook it over the chicken, hoping to add some flavor. But to my surprise, nothing came out! I shook and shook. Still nothing. I ran it under hot water, hoping to unclog the holes but still nothing. To my chagrin, I gave up. I popped the chicken into my mouth. Although it tasted good, I couldn’t help but notice how much better it could have been if I had the benefit of some salt on it.
It’s the same with our words. As Christians, we have the best news of all—the Good News! But our words are seasoned with condemnation rather than grace. Just as I longed to savor the chicken with the extra flavor salt can add, the world longs for our acceptance rather than our chastisement.
We don’t have to fully accept sinful behavior to accept someone as a person. Even Christ didn’t do that. He didn’t blindly welcome everyone into God’s kingdom. In fact, he made it clear that His disciples are those who hold to His Father’s teachings. He still had to die so the ultimate penalty for our sin could be paid. But He took on our sin so we could have the opportunity to be free. That’s grace. Grace helps us love people just as they are. As we season our lives with grace, others will truly understand who Christ is and bring them closer to the opportunity to be set free.
Is your witness to others seasoned with grace or with condemnation?
“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal…Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”- James 3:3-5
When talking about spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23), I’ve come a long way in many of these areas—love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. All, except for one: Self-control. Yes I eat too much at times and spend too much money. But that’s not the area of self- control I struggle with the most.
I struggle with my tongue.
I get myself into trouble when I don’t exhibit restraint, especially during conflict. I get mad when I feel someone is attacking my character, causing me to lash out and win the argument. I also find myself puffing my chest up when I post pictures of my or my family’s accomplishments on social media. If no one else is going to brag, then I should, right?
But the deeper issue when I do that is not my mouth.
It’s my soul.
When I boast with my tongue, I am giving a voice to the sin that eats away at my soul. When I lack self-control in my speech, I resist the notion that my sufficiency and worth comes from God, not from me.
That’s not how a Christian should be.
Like the above Scripture suggests, horse trainers place a “bit” in the mouth of a horse to keep it from bucking out of control. If the trainer can control the horse’s mouth, the whole body follows. In the same way, if I can exercise restraint and bite my tongue in times of conflict, resisting the urge to be right, my soul will follow.
In what ways do you need to exhibit self-control with your tongue?