Was I called to it?

James 1 (NLT)
5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you.
22 But don’t just listen to God’s word.  You must do what it says.  Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.
26  If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.

In light of James 1, today’s devotional from Oswald Chambers (which I just “happened” to read today – not a normal occurrence) really hit me between the eyes.  Read it here.

In case you didn’t, let me quote part of the article:

God speaks in the language you know best— not through your ears, but through your circumstances.

God has to destroy our determined confidence in our own convictions. We say, “I know that this is what I should do”-and suddenly the voice of God speaks in a way that overwhelms us by revealing the depths of our ignorance. We show our ignorance of Him in the very way we decide to serve Him.

Have I been persecuting Jesus by an eager determination to serve Him in my own way? If I feel I have done my duty, yet have hurt Him in the process, I can be sure that this was not my duty.

It’s a solemn reminder to “be still and know that I am God” and to wait on him.  It’s a solemn reminder that every single act of ministry I do, I must be called specifically to do.  I know to often, I jump in without asking if that is what He wants me to do at this time, at this moment, in this season.

Time for a little self evaluation… through His eyes and not my own.

Father, I invite you to inspect my life, my ministry, my motivations.  Show me if anything is not pleasing or not for this time.  If there is anything I have committed to without your calling to, I ask forgiveness and the wisdom to know how to handle it.  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Am I choosing who I'm serving?

Matt 25:34-40 (NLT)
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ 37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

Jesus taught in parables his entire ministry. It would be interesting to see how many of his teachings were ONLY face value. With that in mind, I started thinking differently about this teaching when I these verses this morning. What if this was not only the lesson of “to the least of these,” but what if there is more?

Could each example be a different kind of person in differing stages or seasons of their spiritual life?

Hungry: Those purposing to be transformed. They have moved from spiritual milk to spiritual food and they yearn for it.
Thirsty: 1. Those spiritual babes still on the spiritual milk; 2. Those who yet have drunk the Living Water from Jesus.
Stranger: Those who feel unwelcome or rejected by the Church. Those who consider themselves outcasts.
Naked: Those plagued by shame. Those who feel vulnerable and exposed and unprotected.
Sick: Those spiritually sick and misguided from the Truth of the Gospel.
Imprisoned: Those who are in bondage by the enemy. Those who feel isolated and rejected by society. Those who are rebelling against God.

I’ve been each one of these at some time in my life. It almost seems like a reverse progression.

I was imprisoned and in bondage to my sin and pride. My sin made me sick and clouded my vision of who Jesus was and who I was in Christ. I was naked and shamed by my sin. I thirsted for relationship with Christ and I am hungry for more of Him.  Could it be that because I’ve been through each of these, God wants to use those experiences to minister to others in those same places?

I don’t know what this means to me yet. I don’t know why Papa put it on my heart, but I felt compelled to share and would like to banter about this idea.

I feel challenged to identify those people that I know who are currently in one of those places and purpose to minister to them where they are. Who are the hungry in my life and what am I doing to feed them? Who are the thirsty in my life and am I giving them them a drink? Who are the strangers in my life and am I welcoming to them? Who are the naked in my life and what am I clothing them with? Who are the sick in my life and am I comforting them? Who are the imprisoned in my life and am I visiting them and just loving on them with the Love of God? Now, the bigger question… am I choosing (or am I picky about) who I’m serving? OUCH! That hurt.

The overlying message is still “to the least of these,” which is humility, service, and expressing His love to others. This is an overriding lesson Father has been teaching me for the last few years.

Dad, let me serve everyone you put in my life with humility and love.  May I show them You and not me.  In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Husband 101 – Part 5

I started this yesterday – and posted it to Running After Papa – but I added more as I mulled over the passages again.  I may later post something on my continued journey through Romans.  If you want to read Parts 1-4 of this series, its at http://runningafterpapa.blogspot.com.  Part 1 starts in October 2008.

Ephesians 5:25 ESV Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

This will be the final post in this series.  I want to explore a couple of words in this verse that have changed the way I understand and respond to this verse.  The first word is “as” and is used “… as Christ…”  This little word delivers a big meaning for me.  Look at how Strong’s defines it:

1 according as;  1A just as, even as; 1B in proportion as, in the degree that.

Look at 1B, “in proportion as“, or “in the degree that.”  Just inserting it into the verse changes it.  “… love your wives, in proportion as Christ loved the church…”

The second word is “gave.”  The idea of the word here is to give into the hands of another.  Its the same idea behind the word betray.  Inserting this thought into the verse would render it something like this.  “… and gave himself into the hands of another for her,…”

Interesting thought.  It just implies giving up ones self.  We know Christ gave himself to be beaten, scourged, ridiculed, and crucified, but he also gave of himself, 24×7.  When Jesus goes off to pray, it’s always in the wee hours of the morning.  I wonder if that’s because that was the only time he had for himself, because he gave his life away… literally.  He gave every moment of his life away.

Dr. Benjamin B. Phillips of Southwestern Theological Seminary wrote this in his Practical Theology class Spring 2007:

As recipients of God’s love we are expected to love (Matthew 5:44-48).   An example of this is in marriage. Husbands are to love their wives like Christ love the church. (Eph. 5:25). The word love in this instance is agape, which means seeking the highest good for another person. This love is revealed in the death and resurrection to life in Jesus Christ (1 John 4:9-11).  In our marriages we should not withhold love or affection because of circumstances that may arise. We must continue to love no matter how we are treated by our neighbor we must still love and be perfect, just as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48). Our love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10).

This is how I am called to love my wife.  “… in the degree that Christ loved the church…”.

Here’s another point.  The church – the very one Christ gave his life for – is the very same church that beat him, scourged him, hated him, rejected him, and ultimately crucified him.  Hosea, by God’s calling, marries a prostitute and redeems her over and over to draw the picture of exactly what Christ did for the church.

This is how I am called to love my wife.  “… in the degree that Christ loved the church…”.

How does that look?  Its different for every husband.  Maybe its making the bed every moment.  Maybe its getting her a glass of water, even when it’s not a commercial.  Maybe its as Peter admonishes us:

1 Peter 3:7 (NLT) In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

Again, Dr. Phillips wrote this in his Practical Theology classes of Fall 2007 and Spring 2007, respectively:

As we examine the practical side of holiness we see that husbands must have an unselfish attitude towards their wives.  Christ gave himself to the church unselfishly and husband must do the same with their wives. Husbands should be self-sacrificing and giving, Jesus Christ extended the greatest act of sacrifice and the giving of himself at Calvary.  Husbands are to be nourishing, cherishing as the Lord is to the church. Paul address the Colossians, he told the husbands, “husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (Colossians 3:19). He told them not to be harsh with them, which is not a sign of holiness. …  Jesus Christ loves the church so much that he caused himself to identify with it. To love our wives as Christ loves the church means to identify with them. Peter tells the husband that their relationship with their wives are so important that it effects there communication line with God, … The man of God must protect his family, to assist their personal growth. Christ’s goal for the church is to make her holy, “that he might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26).

In Ephesians 5, especially verses 25-27, Paul also contrasts the husband’s relationship with his wife with that of Christ with the  church.  Christ came to serve the church and to die for the church.  This is what Paul is calling the husbands to do for their wives.  The husbands should also be willing to put the needs of their wives before their own.  The husband’s role as head is a sacrificial one that should imitate how Christ loved his bride, the church.

I know partly what it looks like at my house (mostly because I don’t have it figured out yet).  I know this.  I have become a student of my wife.  I have looked with different and opened eyes at her and watched her… learning how I can better serve her and live with her with understanding.

This is how I am called to love my wife.  “… in the degree that Christ loved the church…”.