Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.”
James 1:22-24

I remember, as a little tiny girl, being enamored by mirrors. I could sit and look in a hand mirror and make all sorts of silly faces and practice facial expressions. I also remember being at an amusement park and walking through a house of mirrors. Some of the mirrors made me look taller and skinnier than I was. Some made me look shorter and heavier than I was. And others made my body look like an “S.” That was the first time I remember being uncomfortable looking in mirrors, and found myself wondering how true or distorted the reflections I were.  

By the time I was in high school I had developed an eating disorder and what I saw in the mirror had become very distorted, but this time the distortions were all in my mind. No matter how low my weight got, the reflection in the mirror appeared round to me. Even when there was no fat on my body, only protruding bones, I saw a round body. When we studied the book of James the above verses with the mirror analogy caught my eye.  

The more I thought about the mirror concept, the more I realized that I and many of the women I know, have distorted “mirrors” we have used to try to find out who we are and what our value is. Our distorted "mirrors" may include physical things like beauty, weight, body type. This is dangerous in that beauty is not really just a physical thing, it goes much deeper than that. For there is a emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspect to beauty as well. Our health, our attitudes and mindset, our hormonal cycle, the amount of rest we get, and our culture play a big part in how we view ourselves.

Relationships can also be false "mirrors." When we were little children, we looked to parents to get an idea of who we were. We needed their love, approval, and care to survive and grow into healthy adults. At some point, we were to individuate from them and become independent individuals with our own dreams, opinions, tastes, thoughts, and emotions. If we experienced wounds from our caregivers, we may be still seeking approval from them or other people we use as surrogates. Using these people as “mirrors” by which we define ourselves is so unhealthy and can even become a form of idolatry. For when those people treat us well, we see ourselves as lovable, capable, significant, and worthwhile. But, when they mistreat us, we tend to see ourselves as unlovable, defective, stupid, too much or too little, invisible, and insignificant. We often don’t realize when we are mistreated, ignored, or overlooked, it is about another's heart issues; not a statement about us. As adults, we can refuse to let others define us, dictate what we think or feel about ourselves, or show us what our potential is.

Other false "mirrors" might be a certain level of education, a status in the community, a particular job, or maybe even a desired ministry. Again, these things are fleeting. When we use them to determine our value and worth, we are using distorted mirrors. So, if we aren’t supposed to use these things as mirrors, what are we supposed to use? The verses above give us the answer. The Word of God is the only accurate mirror we have, because it is written by our Creator. There are several ways we can find out who we are in the Word. First, the Word makes it clear we were created in His likeness. If we are to be His image bearers, we can gain a lot of insight in who God created us to be by studying about Him.

Second, God’s story tells us about our sin and our need of redemption. We see ourselves mirrored in the lives of the men and women in the Scriptures. Their weaknesses and their sin mirrors ours. Their struggles with pride, fear, and deep longings painfully show us our own. Reading the Bible is no different than being in a real time support group. The first time I walked into a support group, I remember thinking, “I don’t want to be like these women.” Sadly, I was just like them, broken, dysfunctional, and struggling. The parts of them I didn’t like were merely a reflection of the things I didn't like in myself. The same is true of the men and women in the Bible. When I first read about Elijah’s depression, I harshly judged him as weak, especially after his victory on Mount Carmel until I realized I, too, sink into depression after I have fought and won big spiritual battles. When I first read about Peter’s impetuosity, I judged him harshly until I stuck my foot in my mouth an hour later. When I read about the woman at the well, I judged her harshly for having been divorced so many times, until I realized that even though I haven't gone through a divorce, I do have a string of broken relationships in my own life. When I first read about James and John fighting over who would get to sit at the Lord’s right hand, I judged them as immature until I realized I still long to have someone value me above other people. It’s cool that God chose to not only include people’s strengths, victories, and powerful words; He included their weaknesses, failures, and the dumb things that popped out of their mouths. He not only included the great acts accomplished by people driven by faith; He included their defeats that were characterized by unbelief.

Third, God clearly tells us in His Word, who we are--we are His redeemed people. We are eternally loved, accepted, and adopted. We are ambassadors, capable, chosen, and delighted in. We are delivered from evil, forgiven for our sin, friends of the eternal God, empowered by His Spirit, free to serve Him, and gifted to fulfill our place in the body. We are never too much and never not enough. We are satisfied, significant, victorious, vindicated, and strengthened by His power for all that comes our way. If we can grasp and believe these truths instead of looking to "false mirrors" to define us, our lives would be so much richer. Our words, actions, and reactions will flow out of filled hearts rather than empty, needy hearts looking desperately for fulfillment. As Beth Moore puts it in her Bible study, Believing God, “We are who God says we are!”

So, I wonder if you, like me, are sick and tired of looking in false mirrors. I wonder if you are looking to others or to things to determine who you are or your value and worth as a person. How different our lives can be when we look to His Word and grasp His love, His redemption, and His transforming power in our lives. Let's spend time with the Lord, asking Him to reveal all of the false mirrors we have a tendency to use and then look solely to the Creator and His Word to get a true perspective of who we are created to be. 

Prayer: Abba, we confess we have used many false mirrors over the course of our lives we have tried to determine who we are, what our significance is in this life, and our value and worth as women. We praise You for we are fearfully and wonderfully made. You have redeemed us at great price and in You our lives are and will always have value. Help us to never forget we are truly loved, accepted, and delighted in. How comforting to know, your ears are always turned towards us and we can come boldly to your Throne of Grace, knowing we are not irritating interruptions to You. Nor, will we ever be too much and too little too be loved by You. Thank you for Your redeeming love.

Monday, May 17, 2010

God Runs

"…Lets have a feast and celebrate. For this son 
of mine was dead and is alive again; 
he was lost and is found…"
Luke 15:11-32

Some commentaries say this parable of the prodigal son is about a person coming to know Christ. Some say it is about a believer who walks away from God for a season and then returns to Him. Some say it is about the older brother who is upset with the Father for showing his brother grace. In his book, What is so Amazing About Grace? Philip Yancy says the parable is about the love the Father has for His children. The Father expressed His love through his grace toward the prodigal son, which is contrasted by the older brother’s graceless attitude. In context, the parable was told to the Pharisees and scribes who were disgruntled because Christ was spending time with publicans and sinners. Christ actually tells them three parables. One parable was about the joy a shepherd found in finding a sheep that was lost, one about a woman who had joy over finding a coin she misplaced, and one we call the prodigal son, which is about the Father's joy in a rebellious son returning.

In this parable the younger son asked his father for his inheritance and went to another country where he squandered it on harlots and unrighteous living. He ended up destitute and went to work for a pig farmer who didn’t pay him enough to meet his most basic needs. When he reached a point that he was willing to eat the garbage pigs were eating, he realized his father's servants had it better than him. So, he made the long trek home, wearing the scent of his sin he practiced a speech. "I am not worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired servants." Little did he know his father daily scanned the horizon, hoping to see his son coming home. One day his father spotted him on the horizon and became overwhelmed with joy and compassion, causing him to do something men in his culture never did. He ran! He ran and embraced his pig-scented son, placing a kiss on his cheek which was a sign of deep respect. The son who had selfishly dishonored his family, was loved and treated with respect. According to Deuteronomy 21:18-21, a wayward son could have been stoned. Had the neighbors decided to carry out the law and stoned him, they would have also hit the father who was holding him. The father interrupted his son's well-rehearsed speech, ordering the servants to bring him a new robe, which symbolized his acceptance and cleansing. He ordered a ring, to signify his place in the family. He ordered shoes to symbolize the wealth he now possessed as a son. Last, but not least, He ordered the servants to invite everyone to a big party symbolizing the forgiveness and joy that the Father was extending to His son.

To drive His point home to the religious leaders, Jesus continued the story, telling of the older brother’s reactions. The brother heard music and dancing coming from the house and ordered a servant to find out what the celebration was about. Instead of rejoicing over his brother’s return, the older brother became angry, refusing to go in to the banquet. When his father came out, the son angrily confronted him because he believed he had not sinned against his father and his father had not thrown a party for all the work he had done. The father reminded him, that he had had many days with his son and that everything he owned had always been his to enjoy. Christ used the parables to show the religious leaders that while some people sin outwardly, they were guilty of sinful judgments. This was sin they were failing to acknowledge. From the story, we see God's love being revealed through grace. The older brother, like the Pharisees, lived in a world of self-righteousness, rather than resting in grace. Perhaps his bitterness came from watching his father grieve when his brother left. Perhaps it came from a selfish heart that didn’t want to share the remaining wealth. Perhaps it came from believing his brother had lived of life of fun, instead of the painful life of trying to fulfill a heart with worldly things. Or perhaps it came from a lazy heart that resented all the hard work he had been doing when his brother left. Regardless, had he understood his father’s love for him, he could have grieved with his father, prayed for his brother, and rejoiced as he returned. If he had truly understood his father’s love, he might have served his father out of love rather than obligation.

When reading this parable, it hit me that as we relate to God, His holiness will reveal even the sins of our hearts that no one knows. That should humble us. We need to make sure we aren’t so focused on others and their doings that we miss the depth of our own sin and miss the relationship and love God shows us through His grace. We each have the potential of being the big brother and the Pharisees who measured spirituality by “doing” rather than “being,” which can foster critical spirits that inhibit the flow of grace from our hearts to others.

To be honest, I've been in the position of each character in the story. As the prodigal, I have experienced times in which I have grieved and have confessed sin that others wouldn’t let me live down. As the older brother, I have been unforgiving and held on to anger so I would not be hurt again. As the Father, I have been blessed by both my natural children and my spiritual children’s confessions and have been given the privilege of reminding them they are loved and forgiven, only to watch other’s snub them in mercilessly.

If we are close to the Father, we need to stay close so we won't become prodigals. If we are pig-smelling prodigals, we can be sure the Father is scanning the horizon, longing for our return. We are loved by a great big God-sized heart, yearning for us to come home so He can wash away the stink of our sin and clothe us with His grace. If we are Pharisees and not experiencing His love, all we have to do is rest at His feet and let Him pour His lavish love into our hearts. It never ceases to amaze me that God is the only One who has the right to judge, yet His mercy triumphs over judgment and when that happens God runs!

Prayer: Father, thank you for the story of the prodigal. It shows us Your love through your mercy and grace. We are all prodigals at one time or another and in need of grace on a daily basis. Please help us to extend your grace and kindness to others who are trapped in their sin. It is your goodness that leads to repentance, not our critical hearts. Help us to realize how vulnerable the returning prodigals are so that we might be more loving and ready to welcome them home to the center of your will and your heart. Amen.

Loving One Another

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible as far as it depends on you live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written; "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary; "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." -
Romans 12:9-21

Today (7/14/17) I am editing this blog and after reading the Scripture with it, I realize it could have been made into twenty blogs. Over the years I have slowed down and begun to focus on smaller chunks of it so that it sinks in to the heart.

John 13:35 says, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another." That could be one of the reasons Paul gave such practical advice about loving in this passage. As we look at Paul's description, we see love is real, transparent, and sincere. It despises evil and clings to what is good. Love is being kind when a person deserves it and when they don't. Love is not being conceited, but choosing to put others' needs above our own. Love is not robbing our bosses of time or resources; it is giving them our best and using their resources wisely. Love is seeking to meet the needs of others. It is serving God by serving others passionately. Love is choosing to bless those that persecute us, instead of cursing them or trying to repay evil with evil. It may mean we must trust God to be our defender and seek to overcome an evil act with a good one. It means not avoiding or running from an enemy, but dealing with them honestly and respectfully. Love is being willing to enter into the emotional world of others by rejoicing with them when they are rejoicing and weeping with them when they are weeping. It’s choosing not to show partiality to the wealthy. It is being honest so our words are trustworthy and assuming the responsibility to make peace with people when it is possible.

There are three things that stick out to me in verse 12. When I was going through a long painful trial I prayed with a friend and realized I was not living out this verse. I have not been rejoicing in the trial and my friend exhorted me to remember that God was a God of miracles and a God who changes hearts. I realized I could rejoice because of who God is -- even though the situation appeared hopeless He was not! I had not been patient in the tribulation. Because I wanted the trial to end and I wanted to experience peace. However, to become more like Christ, to love like He loves, and to learn to face trials with courage and grace, I had to face the long trial. I also realized I wasn't diligent in prayer. I have learned to pour out my heart to God, but I neglected to praise him in the midst of the trial. I had neglected to pray for those involved in the trial or to ask God how He would want me to respond and how He would want me to demonstrate love to the one who was mistreating me.

It is important that we ask how we are doing in the love department. To love sincerely requires God’s transforming power. To be kind when we are tired, being mistreated, or under lots of stress requires we let His kindness shine through us – especially when we have nothing left to give. To keep working when exhausted may require we allow God to help us stay focused and energized. Giving to other's needs and sharing in hospitality requires we make sacrifices and depend on God to meet our needs. To rejoice and weep with people requires we be transparent and let others see God laughing and weeping within us. To love our enemies is a mark of maturity and of walking closely with God. Elizabeth Elliot went to the tribal people who had murdered her husband and shared Christ with them. I don't know if I could do that, but I want God to get me to the place I could. No matter what our circumstances and trials are,  we can rejoice in serving a God who is powerful enough to change the hardest of hearts into loving and kind hearts. We can rejoice that we serve a God who is powerful enough to calm the most violent storms. We can rejoice that God is a God who is capable and willing to heal even the deepest wounds. Do we trust Him enough to be patient in a tribulation while He is doing His perfect work in us? Are we diligent in prayer, no matter whether it is good times or hard times? When life seems hopeless it is time to praise Him for all He is to strengthen our faith. When our heart hurts, it is time to focus on His love so that our hearts may be healed! When circumstances seem stormy it is time to focus on His goodness and His grace to keep us safe through the storm. We would do well to remember His light shines the brightest during the darkest moments. Looking to Him will enable us to see Him clearly and become more like Him. Christ’s love shined brightest during His darkest moment, will mine? Will yours?

Prayer: Father, You have loved us with a perfect, sacrificial, and eternal love. You have called us to learn to love as You love. Sometimes the only way we learn to do that is to go through a trial that strikes at our pride, overwhelms us, or breaks our hearts. Give us teachable hearts and help us to be patient in our trials so that we can be that ray of hope and love to other people. Amen.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Beautiful Body Parts

"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do you think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully."
- Romans 12:3-8

Paul begins this passage by telling the Romans to not think more highly of themselves than they should. Paul realized he had been transformed from being a man who hated and tortured believers in the name of God into a missionary who introduced people to Christ. He reminded them and us to realize we are sinners saved by a holy, righteous God because it is His nature to be gracious. It is only because God loved us and has invited us into a relationship with Him that we are His children.

Next, he takes us to a more outward perspective as he reminds us we are all part of the body of Christ – the church. He reminds us the church is made up of many individuals who have different functions within the church. God gives each of us a unique blend of special abilities, passions and desires to do things nobody else can do. He names some of the gifts in this passage (others are found in 1 Corinthians 12). The gifts Paul lists are: prophecy – telling forth the truth according to the word of God, ministering – coming along side of people and helping them, teaching – being able to understand and communicate God's word, exhortation – encouraging people to live lives that are obedient to God's word, giving – the ability to see needs and give to meet those needs, ruling — shepherding or the ability to help believers mature, mercy – the ability to be merciful and forgiving and the ability to come along side of people and help them to live in the light of God's mercy. It is interesting that spiritual gifts flow over into our everyday lives. If we mature and react to a given situation, it is often partly controlled by our spiritual gift. For example, when a child spills his milk the prophet might confront him for his carelessness, the person with the gift of ministry would bend down and help the child clean the mess, the person with the gift of exhortation would try to help him understand what caused the spill, the person who is a teacher would try to discern why the milk was spilled and help the child see what he could do differently, the person who has the gift of mercy would care more about the child's embarrassment and try to alleviate that, and the person with giving would probably replace the milk!

One of the friends with whom I used to do a Bible Study had the Spiritual gift of faith. When we first started meeting it was funny because in her honesty she shared how she could not understand how people had doubts about God. She, from the time she became a Christian, never doubted God, His love, or His sovereign plans for her life. We grew up in very similar family structures and did not experience Christ in our childhood homes. Yet, I love God's word and often wrestle with the truths contained in it before they actually become a part of my heartfelt faith. Every time we met I could show her things from the scripture she hadn't noticed before, because I have grown in my faith by wrestling with what I read in His word and because my gift is teaching. She in turn exhorted me to trust God in the way I never had before. During one of our early studies I encouraged her to give the freedom to let people express doubt so she could see God use her gifts to speak faith into their lives. Oddly, I probably reaped the most benefit of that advice. I could express my doubts to her freely without fear of rejection or admonition. I knew she loved me and accepted me and I was blessed by the encouragement she gave me to trust God. I always walked out of our study together full of hope and a whole new perspective on life. She in turn told me that she felt free to tell me she doesn't know how to say something to someone who doubts and we looked in scripture and found answers. She also asked me for insight into a passage and if it was one that I had struggled through I could give her all the ramifications of what that passage meant in my life. It was a really blessed “body” relationship! 

What are your passions, gifts, and abilities? How do you use them to build up the body? Do you accept other's gifts and view them as important as your own? Do you encourage other people to their gifts? Do you realize how valuable your own gifts are to the body of Christ?

Prayer: Father, thank you for your grace and for taking each of us out of the muck that we use to live in. Thank you for gifting people with special abilities and placing them in the body of Christ as You would. Thank you for the prophets, teachers, helpers, givers, and merciful people You have put in my life. Give each of us the courage and strength and insight to use our abilities and passions in ways that will honor and glorify You. Amen.


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!