Friday, February 19, 2010

To Know, Know, Know Him (1 Corinthians 13 Concluded)

This is the final post (for now) in my series on 1 Corinthians 13. It is actually a repost from a couple of years ago but I thought it made a great conclusion!

So, tell me: When you read 1 Corinthians 13; you know, "Love is patient, love is kind...", how do you apply it to your own life? Do you immediately get struck with a sense of guilt right there at the beginning? Patient? Yeah, right...not with these kids... Or what about the next phrase, Love is kind...like as in how we should treat our spouses? Other drivers?

When I read through verses, 4-8 of that particular chapter, I always think of how I need to apply these verses to my interactions with my family and others around me.

But tonight, I saw it differently. Tonight, I inserted the name of Jesus...right there in all those places where it says "love". Just change it to Jesus and see what you come up with. More than that, end those phrases with your own name. Like this:

Jesus is patient with Sarah.
Jesus is kind to Sarah.
Jesus does not envy nor does he want Sarah to envy.
Jesus does not boast (although he does dance over Sarah).
Jesus is not proud (though he does take joy in his Creation, Sarah)
Jesus is not rude nor does he want Sarah to be rude.
Jesus is not self-seeking and he wants Sarah to be self-less too.
Jesus is not easily-angered nor does he want Sarah to be easily angered.
Jesus keeps no record of wrongs...even Sarah's wrongs.
Jesus does not delight in evil...nor should Sarah delight in evil.
Jesus rejoices with the truth...he wants Sarah to rejoice with the truth!
Jesus always protects Sarah.
Jesus always trusts God's Word and Promises for Sarah.
Jesus always hopes for Sarah.
Jesus always has and always will persevere for Sarah.
....and, best of all, Jesus will never fail Sarah.

Here's the part I always miss from that passage: verse 10: "but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears." I never get to that part because I stop half way through the litany of love's characteristics. I stop because I am so overcome with my own inadequacy that it shames me and I know I can't ever be all those things that love is.

But wait a minute...when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears! When Jesus covers me and works through me I think I just might be able to be some of those things after all! By God's grace, we all have the ability to posses a clean slate any time we want to! We can make that imperfection disappear by asking Jesus to come with his perfection!

Can it really be that easy? Yes, it can. Because Jesus did the most difficult thing of all. He became sin for us so we could become the righteousness of God. He did the hard stuff so it could really be that easy for us. Let's not take that for granted!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It's Time to Grow Up! Part Eight

1 Corinthians 13 is basically a study on the selflessness of love. It is a challenge to me asking: What are my motives?

v. 6: "Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth"

In this verse, I am again reminded of Jonah and his calling to the Assyrians of Ninevah. Let me just preface this by saying that the following thoughts are just a portion of what this verse could be saying--it's just a thought tangent and not meant to be a complete summation.

We read in the book of Jonah how the prophet was sent to Ninevah to warn the people of God's coming wrath. Even though God knew that Assyria would invade his people, Israel, in just 50 years' time, he sent Jonah with a message of truth and salvation anyway. That's the God of grace we serve.

Although the Bible doesn't give a specific reason why Jonah first avoided going to Ninevah, we get the impression that he didn't think they were worth saving. He knew they were a wicked people and it's obvious he didn't have a heart for them. I wonder if he even rejoiced in their unrighteousness? If he didn't think they were deserving of God's grace, then it's likely he put himself above them in importance. He even went so far as to become angry with God after God honored their repentant hearts by sparing the city.

Lucky for Ninevah, and for us, God rejoices in truth. He loves to see his children step into a realization of his love and purpose for their lives. God spared this evil city--even knowing that some of these same people would take part in Israel's destruction just a generation later--because of their acceptance of his truth.

How can we apply this verse in a practical way? Have you ever taken a secret joy in the misfortune of another? Really? You don't think so, huh? What about...

*the "perfect" daughter of a friend who becomes pregnant outside of marriage
*the snobby co-worker who walks around unknowingly with her skirt tucked in the back of her nylons?
*the obvious weight gain in your ex's new girlfriend?
*your "know-it-all" brother, sister, friend who gets caught cheating or lying or stealing
*that celebrity whose dirty laundry is aired all over the media

Any time we take pleasure in the unfortunate circumstances or the consequences of sin in the life of another--even if we think they deserved it--we are rejoicing in unrighteousness.

To truly love not just our neighbor but our enemy as well, (Matt. 5:43-48) we must lead them to truth and rejoice in their discovery of it. Why should I be any more deserving of the truth than any other human being? Christ died for all of us and his promises are true for everyone.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's Time to Grow Up! Part Seven

1 Corinthians 13 is basically a study on the selflessness of love. It is a challenge to me asking: What are my motives?

v. 5: "Love is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered"

(cue Don Henley): I've been trying to get down to the heart of the matter...but I think it's about forgiveness...

The first six parts of this study were done two years ago--and then I stopped. I'm not really sure what set me back but I think I got hung up on the meaning of this portion of verse 5. As I tried to make sense of it last night, I originally thought it meant, "don't provoke", but now that I've thought it through, what I think it's really saying is, "don't allow yourself to be provoked".

There are a couple of common sense reasons why this is important. First of all, if God is for me, what does it matter if anyone else is against me? Not that I don't get hurt when there's conflict in my life, but is it really worth it to respond to those who would provoke me? I've experienced the heartache that comes from casting my pearls before swine. Remember what your mama taught you: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.

Wait a minute!!! That's not true! Often times, words hurt worse than physical abuse. Words carry curses and reverberate through our heads for much longer than it takes for a bruise to heal.

This is where the next portion of the verse comes in. "(Love) does not take into account a wrong suffered". Forgiveness. Always forgiveness. What God has shown me in this verse is that if we'll keep an attitude of forgiveness--always forgiveness--then we'll automatically keep ourselves from being provoked.

If we commit to forgiving, even before the wrong is done, then when the provocation comes, God's love will be a barrier between us and the hurt. We'll be more concerned with the hurt inside the one provoking us than we will be about the hurt they are attempting to cause in us.

We can do this by practicing grace. If there's one thing the Lord gives us in abundance, it's His grace. If we are to be Christ-like, let's begin by extending that grace to everyone around us--most of all to those who, by their actions, seem the least deserving of it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's Time to Grow Up! Part Six

This is part six in a study I did on 1 Corinthians 13.

1 Corinthians 13 is basically a study on the selflessness of love. It is a challenge to me asking: What are my motives?

v. 5a: "Love does not behave rudely"

So many times, I say something to my husband that is rude or bitingly sarcastic---and think later on how angry and hurt I would be if he said that to me. I don't know why I have more of a tendency toward rudeness and sarcasm. Is it a cover up to keep me from being vulnerable? Not once in His word is the Lord rude, sarcastic or belittling toward His people. He gives His love freely. I want to be free of sarcasm and rudeness today.

Help me, God, to be merciful, patient and kind---these three traits will help me keep rudeness at bay.

v. 5b "Love does not seek its own"

I have read this verse so many times, but it was only recently that it really made sense--that I understood it according to my own experience. Love does not seek its own. Love does not go looking for love. It is selfless--it is not looking out for number one.

Love isn't conditional. I have put up so many walls and sabotaged many good times with an attitude that says, I won't give to you unless I'm sure you'll give to me. I don't want to risk looking stupid or being vulnerable when it turns out that I was the only one interested in making up. However, all I'm expressing with this attitude is that I am not seriously interested in showing my love to the other person. If I was, then their response wouldn't be a factor in whether or not I did.

I am reminded of a song by Sara Groves called Roll to the Middle:

We just had World War II here in our kitchen.
We both thought the meanest things and then we both said them.
We shot at each other till we lost ammunition.
This is how I know our love.
This is when I feel it's power.
Here in the absence of it,
This is my darkest hour.
When both of us are hunkered down,
And waiting for the truce.
All the complicated wars, they end pretty simple:
Here when the lights go out, we roll to the middle.
No matter how my pride resists,
No matter how the wall feels true,
No matter how I can't be sure that you're goona roll in too,
No matter what, no matter what,
I'm goona reach for you.

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's Time to Grow Up! Part Five

This is part five in a study I did on 1 Corinthians 13.

1 Corinthians 13 is basically a study on the selflessness of love. It is a challenge to me asking: What are my motives?

v. 4c: "Love does not brag and is not arrogant"

Many times, I've questioned my motives: am I doing this for me or for others? I seem to have a real need to be seen, to be acknowledged. It seems like I tend to find my worth in other people's affirmations of me. This used to be so bad when I was younger that it became debilitating. There were a lot of things that I wanted to say or do but didn't because I was afraid of how others would perceive me. I think this fear has turned around a lot lately but I still find myself, every now and then, basing my decisions on how others will react. I don't want to be in the background---I want to be in the spotlight! But love doesn't parade itself---what are my motives?

Do I want to glorify God or Sarah? I don't need to parade a servant's heart. If my heart is truly to serve, I will do so whether or not anyone is looking. If I am to give, I don't need to tell everyone that the gift came from me. The Lord sees everything and He rewards justly. But, am I doing these things solely for a reward? No--I must do them with the heart of God.

Lord, give me a desire to serve and to give--without regard to how many jewels you will put in my crown.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It's Time to Grow Up! Part Four

This is part four in a study I did on 1 Corinthians 13.

1 Corinthians 13 is basically a study on the selflessness of love. It is a challenge to me asking: What are my motives?

v. 4b: "Love does not envy"

Love is not covetous. I can't look at someone else's situation and covet it and have bad feelings toward that person. I should be happy for them because the grass is not always greener on the other side. To be envious of someone else is to slap the Lord in the face. It is telling Him that the blessings He has given me are not enough. The Lord would have me to be thankful and content. He made me an individual--unique. Why should I envy another creation?

Ps. 139:13-18: "For You formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance being yet unformed. And in your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You."

He loves me! I need not be envious. I can love others and rejoice with those who rejoice! He has given each of us gifts, talents and blessings. I want to look for the wonderful things in my own life!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

It's Time to Grow Up! Part Three

This is part three in a study I did on 1 Corinthians 13.

1 Corinthians 13 is basically a study on the selflessness of love. It is a challenge to me asking: What are my motives?

v. 4a: "Love is patient, love is kind"

The best example of this verse in action that comes to mind is an experience I had during a Women's Ministry planning retreat a couple of years ago. Our leader really embodied the heart of this verse as she displayed such a Godly response and attitude toward the nine different personalities spending the weekend together. I will always remember the grace with which she led our group those couple of days and will hopefully be able to apply her wisdom to my own life.

One thing that really stood out to me was that she said we weren't on any kind of a solid, rigid schedule. There were some things that we needed to accomplish and she was the type of person to just get in there and get the job done, but she couldn't expect everyone else to be that way. She was so patient with all of us--and very kind--as we found all kinds of distractions and off-topic discussions to engage in. What started out one morning as a planning session, quickly turned into a "tell me your life story" session and was followed by a 3 or 4 hour shopping break. Our planning session that was originally "scheduled" as an all-day thing turned into a quick hour and a half thing late on the night before we left. It was obvious that her response to us came from a heart that desired to wait on God and let him have control--not an insecure and fearful heart that needed to be controlling. This is a concept that I really need to apply in my own life.

There are nine different personalities in my home. Though I can take full responsibility for my own self, and I have a good deal of control over the kids at this point, there is one here, my husband, whom I have no control over (though I've desperately tried!!). When I want to see change in my relationship with my husband, I need to be patient and trust that the Lord is working on us both. God has a process, just as much as he has a plan, for our lives. I need to wait on God more and to be still and trust that everything is always in his hands.

Sometimes I think on the unkind things that I say to my kids or to my husband and think that if they ever talked to me "that way" that I'd never put up with it. Again, it comes back to a lack of love and an attempt at controlling the situation. As long as I am trying to manipulate and control, God will have nowhere to move. I am stifling my family and keeping them from growing by insisting I have everything "my way". I'm sure everyone on the planet would love to be in complete control of everything that goes on around them--but I know I'd sure be lonely. How would I ever know if someone truly loved me or was happy to spend time with me? How would I know they weren't just doing it because I made them?

That is how the Lord works with us. He doesn't take complete control, otherwise it'd be impossible for us to know whether we truly loved Him or whether we were just taking all the right steps to appease a controlling God. I want to make room for all the personalities in my family to flourish. This can be done in an environment where we are all kind and patient with each other.

Friday, February 12, 2010

It's Time to Grow Up! Part Two

This is part two in a study I did on 1 Corinthians 13.

1 Corinthians 13 is basically a study on the selflessness of love. It is a challenge to me asking: What are my motives?

v.2: "If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing."

If I don't examine my heart to make sure the motive is love, it's all for nothing. I don't think (and I could be wrong) God is going to take away a gift he has given me. It doesn't matter how rotten I am, I will still have the gift because he created it in me. However, Chapter 12 tells me that God's gifting in me is not for my benefit, but for the benefit of all: "but the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all," (1 Corinthians 12:7).

These gifts are only correctly used one way--they are beneficial when covered in love and humility. It is not up to me to decide who is worthy to receive the benefits of the gifts God has placed in me. I can't sit in judgement over my sister or brother and say, "you wouldn't understand" or "you aren't spiritually mature enough for this". (Think: Jonah!!)

I need to freely function in the gifting and faith that God has given me, pouring it out as he directs, and with the love and humility that accompanies God's gifting, the Holy Spirit can use me as his tool.

v. 3: "And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing."

Without love, all my "acts of service" are nothing but reasons to boast. Without love, I can't be giving with a truly sacrificial heart--a sacrificial heart is a loving heart, a selfless heart. Again, what is my motive?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's Time to Grow Up! Part One

A couple of years ago, I did a study on the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 13. While going through an old journal tonight, I was reminded of how much it blessed me and thought I'd share some of it here.

1 Corinthians 13 is basically a study on the selflessness of love. It is a challenge to me asking: What are my motives?

v.1: "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."

It doesn't matter if I know all the jargon and lingo to sound like a mature, loving Christian; if my heart is not right, if the motive for the words is not to encourage, uplift and bless someone, then all that "Christianese" is just a brassy, clanging noise.

I used to sing on the worship team at our previous church and I'd sometimes find myself getting into "puffed-up mode". Then I'd catch myself and imagine God making my voice sound high, squeaky and off-key. Like the Emperor and his New Clothes, I'd imagine that I was going along on my merry way, thinking that I sounded so wonderful--when all the time, I'd disrupted the entire service with my clanging voice and didn't even realize it!

If I'm not tuned into the Lord, I will never hear or recognize him admonishing me to "add to (my) faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge self-control," (2 Peter 1:5-6) because His divine power has given to (me) all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called (me) by glory and virtue," (v.3).

Without love, virtue, and knowledge of God, I can not be self-controlled enough to turn the glory back to Him and "escape the corruption" (v.4) that is the result of my "lusting" after that glory.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Bought My Husband Ecstasy For Christmas

Well, it's been a really interesting month as our family has settled into our new home in the Pacific Northwest. At the beginning of January, my husband was transferred to the town of Mount Vernon, Washington---just north of Seattle. There have been many new things that I've had to become used to---several funny stories that I will write about soon. However, today's incident tops them all.

Early this morning, after my husband left for work, I was picking up the living room a little when I discovered a round, white pill on the floor near the entryway. Upon examination, I found that it had a tulip design stamped into both sides and it was about the size of an M&M. I wondered if it had just gotten tracked in as my husband works in a big mall and could have got it caught in the tread of his work shoes. But then again I thought, his shoes are flat on the bottom. Then I remembered a few months ago when a co-worker had sent him home with some sort of calcium-citrus tablets that were supposed to be helpful for alleviating cold symptoms. "Perhaps it's just something he got from a co-worker," I reasoned, "for headaches or something". I was trying to get started on the kids' school work for the day so I just set it up on the bookshelf to ask him about later.

Later this afternoon, I was just dingin' around waiting to start dinner and had a few minutes to do a little research on the mysterious pill. I Googled "white pill tulip" and was shocked to find page after page on the drug, Ecstasy!!!

One page had a picture of the EXACT pill I had sitting here---just with a slightly bluer tint to it. As I read through the different sites, the information given seemed to indicate that the "manufacturers" of these pills put different stamps on them--sometimes they can serve as an indicator of what is in the pill and other times they can indicate the location from which the pill was obtained.

This little bit of information FREAKED ME OUT!! You see, we've moved to an area that has been deemed one of the great tulip capitols of the world!! Mount Vernon hosts an annual tulip festival in April and is even home to the 2010 World Tulip Summit! What better logo for a local ecstasy pill than a happy little tulip!

As I continued my research, I found that many Ecstasy pills will have a slight mint smell to them. As my heart raced with the fear of discovering the obvious truth of what this little pill inevitably would turn out to be, I picked it up and gave it a sniff.

Sure enough! This horrible little intrusion to my happy, Christian home had a very distinct smell---Vanilla Mint!!

The idea that my husband had accidentally tracked it in was immediately thrown out---I was furious! Surely someone at work was playing a joke on him! The scenario began to play through my head. I pictured my poor, hard-working husband developing one of his regular migraine headaches and asking his co-workers if anyone had something he could take for the pain. I could see these slick and scheming city guys chuckling in the corner of the kiosk---"let's play a joke on the new country boy!" One of them slyly pulling out part of his clubbing stash and offering it to my naive and unsuspecting husband. Thank God, I thought, that he intervened and kept Jamie from actually taking it!!!!

Relief mixed with the fear of what "could have been" began to settle me down a little and I set the pill on top of my desk so I could make sure and educate him when he got home on the dangers of taking unknown drugs. I planned to show him all the sites I'd found and talk to him about how important it is that we remember: we're not in Eastern Oregon anymore. There are DANGERS here!!!

I headed to the kitchen to make dinner, determined not to dwell on the possible horrible scenarios that could have taken place had one of the kids gotten a hold of it. I really wanted to sit and write in my blog tonight and didn't want this worry hampering my creative thoughts from flowing.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, the realization of what was really going on hit me. Co-workers, I thought. I remembered that last Sunday night, my husband had gone to a friends' house to practice medieval sword-fighting. A CO-WORKER friend. When he came home that night, he had explained to me the reason why he was a little late---the friend had given him a couple extra lessons since he wouldn't be available to teach this coming week.

There has to be more to this, I thought. My husband isn't naive. In the twelve years we'd been together, we'd switched character traits as he went out into the world to work and I stayed home with the kids. He knows a lot more about this world than I do...surely he'd recognize a drug for what it is. Panicking, I texted him: "You need to take a break and call me NOW!!!" For the next hour and a half I couldn't think straight. I just sat here at my computer Googling and Googling. I began planning the trip to my mom's that the kids and I would have to take to give my husband time to "think about" this new lifestyle and whether it was really worth it. I considered going through and deleting all my searches on Ecstasy as they would only prove incriminating when he was busted for drugs. No way, I thought, the jerk deserves it.

I went back to the computer and picked up the pill, examining it very closely. A small little twinkling of hope was nagging to get through my thoughts of a shattered life and a destroyed family. There's a stem, I observed. A stem with two leaves and a top petal-sort-of-thingy. However, a real close look at the devilish device made me aware of something I really hadn't noticed before. The leaves were sort of jagged along the edges. And the petals---they were sort of jagged too---and really rather leaf-shaped. Really, the more I looked at the thing, the more it looked like the image of a cluster of mint leaves.

Actually, this image does seem sort of familiar, I thought. Just then, the phone rang---it was my husband.

"Umm...did you maybe happen to drop one of your mints this morning?"

"No," he answered.

*Blink*, there went that little twinkling of hope.

"Why?" he asked.

"Well," I continued, "What do they look like?"

"Round," he answered, "Why?"

Ignoring his question: "And sort of the size of an M&M?"


"And do they have something stamped on them?"

"Yeah...like a mint leaf. Why?" By this time he was getting really irritated with my obviously interrogating tone.

"Yeah, but does it look sorta like a tulip?" I asked, desperately.

"Yeah, I guess. WHY? Oh wait," he said, realization dawning on him, "did you find it in the bedroom?"

"No, by the front door."

"Oh, ok well I had dropped one in the bedroom while I was getting ready for work and couldn't find it on the floor anywhere. It must have fallen in the cuff of my pants and then onto the floor later on. I'll show you what they look like when I get home. I promise, I'm not turning into a druggie!"

Finally, it dawned on me where I'd seen that little "tulip" stamp before. It was on the tin of Starbucks mints that I'd put in his stocking a couple months ago for Christmas.

Wordless Wednesday

This is a picture my husband took recently as we drove through a nearby neighborhood in Northern Washington.
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