Friday, July 29, 2011

What Are My Rights?

In this me centered world – a world of me and mine; what is really mine? What are my rights? Two thoughts come to mind as I attempt to address this very real concern for us as believers. First is Philippians 2:1-11 which instructs us of the mindset we ought to have, and second is the inheritance, the right we have as children of the Most High. I think it’s important for us to differentiate, understand and apply both principles to our lives if we want to live victoriously.

Let’s get it right. In and of ourselves, we don’t have any rights! We were a fallen people, sinners; condemned. Our “righteousness” are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). The consequence of our sin is death (Rom. 6:23). We were redeemed while still in sin by the blood of Jesus. Righteousness was imputed to us because of his blood. We have value and “rights” not because of who we are but because of whose we are. So when I think of my rights or our rights I think first of the platform, the foundation laid by Jesus Christ our Lord, and succinctly expressed in Philippians 2:1-11.

“…Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him a name that is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:3-11)

This, my friends, is the platform for our rights. We must first die to ourselves, die to our life of sin and pick up our cross and follow Jesus. (Rom. 6:1-13; Luke 9:23) What attitude did Jesus have? He who had all the rights as Creator, gave them up and became as nothing to save us. Astounding! Rights, what rights do we have? Only those God gives us as new creatures in Christ Jesus and as incredible as those new rights are they are shrouded in a cloak of humility because we do not deserve them.

It’s important for us to know our rights. We have the right to repent and receive forgiveness. We have the right to eternal life in Christ Jesus. We have the right to be healed. We have the right to serve (Matt. 20:25-28), the right to peace and soundness of mind (Phil 4:6-7; 2 Tim.1:7). As sons and daughters of God we have the right and power to rebuke the devil (James 4:7-8). We have the right, the power and the privilege to loose those held captive by the bonds of the enemy (Matt. 16:19; John 14:12). We have the right to take back what Satan has stolen from us. We have the right to pray, the right to intercede, the right to defend the helpless, the right to proclaim the good news of the Jesus Christ, the right to sing God’s praises and the right to pursue God. We have a multitude of rights. They’re just not self-centered. We gave up the right to self when we accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of our lives. It is no longer “I” but Christ that lives in us – the hope of glory (Col.1:27).

We have awesome rights in Christ Jesus, but let us remember that with these rights come equally awesome responsibilities. We have rights as children and ambassadors of Christ, but with those privileges come accountability. We will all one day have to give account for how we used our rights (Rom. 14:12).

In a world that's focused on the promotion of self, let us remember to keep our focus- our eyes, on Christ, not on me and mine. For it's not about us anymore. Everything we have belongs to God. "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." (Eph. 3:1-4)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

WOMEN OF GOD - Who Are We?

We’re bombarded with models of women on TV, from Hollywood, on magazine covers, on billboards, in music, in store windows, everywhere we turn we are inundated with the world’s depiction of what the ideal woman should look and be like. The devil’s campaign has been so successful that many women of God have succumbed to the deception. We’ve swallowed the ruse so completely that too often there’s no distinction between them (women of the world) and us (women of God); we look and act like them.

The pressure is intense. What woman doesn’t want to feel beautiful? To be beautiful, however, we have to know the true meaning. The key is in where we derive our understanding of beauty? As a child and woman of God, I derive my understanding of beauty from the Word of God. In 1 Peter 3:3-5, the Word of God says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.”

Again in1Timothy 2:9-10 we are instructed to “dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”

God created us all beautiful. We may not be attractive to everyone, but we each have our own unique beauty. Explore and strengthen it just as you would any other gift God has given you.

The filth of the world had tarnished us. Sin tarnished us. But in Christ we are new creations, redeemed and cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. We are incredibly valuable to God – priceless. Don’t let the world beat you down and fit you into its mold so that you become bland, indistinguishable, a carbon copy of the world’s picture of women. Lift up your head, square your shoulders and smile. You are of infinite value to the Lord and his plan. Adorn yourself with modest apparel and accessories. The scripture does not say, do not make yourself look physically attractive. It says to do so modestly and not to rely upon these physical adornments as your display of beauty. Your beauty should first come from within.

Is your attitude beautiful? Is your spirit peaceful and sweet? Do you mind your business and take care of your house? Are you taking care of your tent- your body and health? Are you tending to your spirit with the Word so that you’re able to care for yourself and family? Are you being a model of a godly woman of character and stature for your children and young believer’s in Christ? None of us are perfect. We will all make mistakes, but like the apostle Paul said:
 “Not that I have already obtained…or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12-14)

Six years ago I received one of the highest compliments I could ever receive in my life – to God be the glory. I went back home to Trinidad to visit for my birthday. I hadn’t been home in 20 years! (The last time I lived in Trinidad was when I was 15 years old.)

When I lived in Trinidad many years ago, I spent a lot of time over my best friend’s house hanging out or as we would say, “liming.” She had four sisters and five brothers. When I went home to visit, I once again spent much of my time visiting with my best friend’s family. Unbeknown to me, one of her younger brothers had admired me when I was a teenager. (He was a handsome boy that grew up into a handsome young man.)The first day I went to visit with them, they called the brother that had admired me to let him know I was visiting. He quickly made his way to the house to see me. He shared with me that he had looked up to me when I lived in T’dad and had said he wanted to marry a woman like me. He had recently married in the last three years and said he found a woman like me. He pursued her for 13 years and did not defile her during their courtship. I was so touched and honored by this revelation. I don’t remember him sharing what it was about me that had left such an impression on him. It was enough to know that even at such a young age I had made a difference – to God be the glory. We are not only being examples to young women in Christ, but young men also.

Women of God, it’s not about us. That’s the world’s focus, not Gods’. I have a long way to go to reach the mark, but I continue to press forward. My attitude isn’t always good. Sometimes I give into my flesh and I’m not proud of it at all. But I get up and keep pressing towards the mark for which Christ took hold of me.

Let me encourage you, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2a) You are a peculiar being, a beautiful being, separate, holy- the temple of the living God. You are unique. Do not be molded into the pattern of a woman of the world. You’re a woman of God. Let your godly light shine!

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Discipline of Love

What do you think about when you think of love?
Do you think of a man and a woman in love, or the love of a parent for a child, or love of football or pizza? Or do you think of the love of God for us or your love for him? What a profound word, love is, but so often misused, so often misunderstood.

"God is love" (1 John 4:16). I hesitate to write anything else. Pause for a few moments and just soak that in - "God is love." So what in the world does that mean? I certainly can't ever address the magnitude of that in a blog, a book or life, but I've got a glimmer of it through Christ. God gave, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son..." (NIV) Love gives. Love is not about taking, love is about sacrificing, putting everything on the line for the one(s) you love or care about.

Love is not just about the soft, mushy, tender feelings one may have for a new born baby or for your lover, your husband or wife, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your dog or cat. Not if you think of God being love; the epitome of love, the founder, the creator of love.

When I think of love, I first think of Jesus-God incarnate, God in the flesh. I think of the universe and its vastness. I think of the beauty and infinite care with which it was made. I think of being, breathing in, existing in the expanse of God, his creation, his love. Yes, I also think of the love of a parent for a child and of a man for a woman or a woman for a man. But I tend to think more of the "Discipline of love" immediately after I think of God being love and demonstrating his love to us by sending Jesus. Love is making difficult choices regardless of how you feel, to honor God and act righteously. Let me repeat that with an addendum: "Love is making difficult choices regardless of how you feel, to honor God and act righteously, over and over and over and over again." 1 Cor. 13:8 says it, "Love NEVER fails." (i.e., Love NEVER gives up!)

The previous verse (1 Cor. 13:7) says, love "...ALWAYS protects, ALWAYS trusts, ALWAYS hopes, ALWAYS perseveres." Is your heart and mind bursting yet? After we come down off the mountain top of our emotional experiences of love, then comes true demonstration of love in the nitty-gritty, sometimes mundane, sometimes drudgery responsibilities of love and life. Because our understanding of love is often so carnal, emotional and shallow, we have to turn to the constant example of God through his Son, Jesus and follow his commands, if we are to truly experience the fullness of love.

"...Love covers a multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8)

"...How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins agains me? Up to seven times? 
 Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven." (Matt. 18:21-22)

"This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands." (1 John 5:2-3)

Prayer: (Ephesians 3:16-19)
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he (God) may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

ALWAYS and NEVER? - The Discipline of Love II

Love "...ALWAYS protects, ALWAYS trusts, ALWAYS hopes, ALWAYS perseveres." (1 Cor. 13:7)

ALWAYS is such an expansive and absolute expression, just as NEVER is absolute and conclusive.

So love always trusts, even when my loved one has cheated on me?
Always hopes, though I've seen no change in 25 years?!
Always protects, even though he/she has stabbed me in my back?
Always perseveres, though they've stolen from me, violated my body, killed my children?
Love always forgives even though he/she repeatedly violates my trust and takes advantage of my generousity?
Love NEVER fails?

Does the Word of God really mean ALWAYS and NEVER as we know it? I suppose that's why Jesus used a different expression in case we needed clarity, "Forgive seventy times seven." I guess that's why when dying on the cross, Jesus said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." I suppose that is why we are reminded in Ephesians 6 we are reminded that we are not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers and spiritual forces of darkness.

Love baffles my mind. So in this wishy-washy world we live in, with the pervasive pallor of a Hollywood depiction of love primarily based on emotion, I say:

"Love is making difficult choices regardless of how you feel, to honor God and act righteously, over and over and over and over again." God is love and if he lives in us we can do ALL things. We can do ALL things through Christ who gives us strength. We can love our enemies and those who despitefully use us. We can forgive those who've wronged us seventy times seven times.

Help us, Father, to love.