November 17, 2018

Live Alive {Day 17}: Arrogant and Rude

Previous posts in the Live Alive series can be found here.

I thought it would be fun to look up the definitions of today's words:
  • arrogant: having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one's own importance or abilities
  • rude: offensively impolite or ill-mannered
Raise your hand if you'd like to be described as arrogant and rude?  Yeah, me neither!  And yet, here we are, often expressing arrogance or rudeness before we've even had time to think about it.  Our sinful nature is so quick to exert itself!

I am particularly struck by the definition of arrogant.  The arrogant person has a false understanding of their importance or abilities.  They are essentially deceived.  Wow.

We've all been there, though, right?  I mean, we want to show the person in front of us that we are cool, worthy, able, etc.  We inflate a resume; we exaggerate a story; we assume our right-ness; we inflate our importance.  Having rude paired with arrogance is perfect, because rudeness is a natural outpouring of an arrogant orientation.  We think our need to get somewhere is more important than another's so we tail them on the highway or cut them off in traffic.  We are sure our story outdoes the one the next guy just told, so we butt in and share ours to show the superiority of our experience.  We believe we are contributing more in a relationship, so we justify rude comments or belittling behavior toward our spouse or friend.  (Guys, you know it's a serious problem when it even affects our relationships with people we love, not just a stranger in a car who drives too slowly!)

Love calls us to a new alive way of living that is the opposite of arrogant and rude.  Here are some antonyms for our two words of the day:
  • arrogant: humble, modest, meek, unconceited
  • rude: decent, gentle, nice, polite, refined
Love is humble, modest, meek, and unconceited, decent, gentle, nice, polite, and refined.  That sounds about right.  The first list concerns mostly what's happening inside our heads, our perspective on who we are.  The second, on how we interact with others, in thought, word, and deed.  How beautiful would it be to be described like this?!

We need a perspective change before we can experience a behavioral transformation.  Looking to Jesus is the ticket!  He resisted the temptation to both while He walked the Earth, so that we could be rescued from them!  We can unashamedly say, Hey, I'm arrogant and rude, because the Gospel gives us a proper perspective on who we are.  It flattens us in the dust by telling us the truth about our self, rescuing us from the deception that arrogance wields over us.  Then, the Gospel picks us up, dusts us off, hands us clean clothes, fills us with power, and gives us a job to do!
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4
Paul encourages the Philippian church to live like this.  If it came naturally, they wouldn't need reminding.  But just like us, they needed reminding.  Paul goes on to tell them to have the same mind of Christ among them, who, though equal with God, humbled Himself before God and was obedient to the call on His life.  Then the Lord lifted Him up and exalted Him and gave Him the name Lord!  

Before glory, comes humiliation.  But even in humiliation there is the constant comfort of knowing we belong to God and are His beloved child.  And that is enough to carry us to glory living alive in humility in the meantime!  We know we are hopeless and helpless without our Lord.  We know everyone else is, too.  Meditating on the Good News of the Gospel keeps us grounded in the reality that we deserve nothing, yet have been given everything!  I can't be arrogant and rude to you if I'm lost in the wonder of God's love for me; that love will pour out of me in compassion, kindness, gentleness, and patience.

So, what am I trying to say today?  Simply this:
If you want to be able to flee arrogance and rudeness and live alive, you need to stay close to Christ, regularly remembering what He's done for you, His promises to you, and how He's called you to take up your cross daily and follow Him.  We cannot have an "exaggerated sense of [Christ's] importance or abilities" because there aren't enough words in the world in all the languages to express His majesty and greatness!  The Gospel keeps us in our place in the very best way, because it meets our needs while eliminating all cause for arrogance and rudeness.  The Gospel sets us free to love one another.

If you are in Christ you are ALIVE!
Enjoy Him, and the rest will fall into place.

Heather 💛

November 16, 2018

Live Alive {Day 16}: Envy and Boasting

Previous posts in the Live Alive series can be found here.

I don't mean to brag, but I've blogged every day so far this month!  That's the perfect way to start today's post on the second set of descriptors of love - love does not envy or boast - right?  Hahaha.  Truth be told, the daily blogging has been tough this week; we had a pet get injured and my schedule has been inconsistent, along with my sleep.  My slightly-crazy determined personality has compelled me not to miss a day, but it hasn't been all roses!

I suppose the best way to start into this topic for real is to ask this question:

Why do we envy and boast?

And further
How are envy and boasting related?

Then, of course, for our purposes here, we must ask:

How should alive people handle envy and boasting?

At the core of our beings, we want to be known and loved.  The Bible tells us the only way we can know this wholeness is through the love of God in Christ Jesus.  The Bible also informs us that the reason we envy and boast is because of sin, that rebellion against God.  The biggest problem with this condition is it's insecurity.  If I am responsible for being Queen of my own domain and I'm failing at controlling my kingdom, it's on me.  The harsh truth is, I'm never in control of my kingdom, no matter how much I want to think I am.  That insecurity - the vulnerability of an orphan with no one to care for her - breeds all kinds of ugliness.  Two expressions of that ugliness are envy and boasting, both an outpouring of the pride that reigns in us when we are trying to be our own ruler.

Envy desperately wants what the other has.  Boasting desperately wants the other to know she is worthy.  Neither satisfy because we turn the corner and find yet another soul who has something else we want and because we constantly need to be proving ourselves in different ways to different people, and they may not thing we're as awesome as we want them to!

Notice that in 1 Corinthians, these are set in the negative: love does not envy and does not boast.  So what does love do?  Love is content.  Alive people who are secure in their restored relationship with their Heavenly Father can rest.  No longer do they need to be concerned that their needs will not be met, that they have to prove themselves to the world, or that everything depends on their own achievements.  Christ died for their sins, set them free from bondage, gave them His righteousness, fills them will the power of His Spirit, and promises to never leave or forsake them.  In short: they good!

Alive people handle envy and boasting by first repenting when tempted to go there AND by remembering who they are in Christ.  The Gospel changes everything and turns them around every time!

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
but envy makes the bones rot.
Proverbs 14:30

Alive people don't have time for rotting bones.  Neither do you!  We need LIFE and the Lord offers it.  And one more thing that is SO IMPORTANT: the glory that we seek when we boast belongs not to us, but to the Lord.  He alone is worthy to receive all glory, honor, and praise.  Period.  So when you feel like you need to promote yourself, stop for a second and think about how it is your Good Good Father who has provided you with that experience, gift, ability, etc.  And lift that heart of yours up in WORSHIP  AND THANKSGIVING to the One who saved you and has blessed you well, well beyond what you deserve.

Know contentment in the Lord;
He loves you so. 
You good!

Heather 💛

P.S.  I feel like I could say so much more about how to live this out in the world, because these are two big hang-ups for me.  Don't tell anyone!  😄  I'll cook up a couple more posts along these lines!

November 15, 2018

Live Alive {Day 15}: Patient & Kind

Previous posts in the Live Alive series can be found here.

Yesterday I shared how alive people put others before themselves, thus living out the second greatest commandment, and the first, too.  For as we are obedient to the second - love your neighbor - we live out the first - love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Not absorbed with our own needs, because we know God's got that all in hand, we are able to look to the interests of others.

I promised that we'd get into the nitty-gritty of this loving your neighbor business in subsequent posts, and this is the first subsequent post!  As a structure we'll use these verses and take the descriptors of love set-by-set:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  I Corinthians 13: 4-7
Perhaps you've heard these verses at a wedding.  They're nice, aren't they?  Yeah, till you think about actually living them out and you're like, how in the world?!

Before I go on, a reminder:  the only One who ever perfectly lived out this kind of love on earth was Jesus.  The Bible says God is love and I talked in an earlier post about how alive people are serious about God's love.  His love is the basis for our relationship with Him, for he so loved the world.  Without that love, we are lost.  Jesus showed us the extent of God's love, (that would be death on a cross).

While living out that love in the world - a love we long for but struggle so much to give and receive - Jesus said to His disciples that he had a new command for them: love one anotherThe love He was talking about is the love described above.

Another reminder: Jesus sent the Spirit.  Alive people rely on that strength to try to live out this kind of love, not their own.  You Cannot Love Like This Alone.  Please reread that sentence.  If you want to have any hope of maturing into this kind of love, you must stay close to the Spirit of God.  He's the source of the alive life, every day and always.

With all that background, today we hit patient and kind.  These two seem kind of obvious, right?  Naturally, we love others when we are patient with and kind to them.  But, boy, others sure make it hard to do: a co-worker isn't pulling his weight, a friend never asks how you are doing, a child pushes back in every little thing, a spouse doesn't love you the way you need, a driver cuts you off, etc., etc.  At each of those junctures we have a choice: trust God and try to live alive or turn back toward death and live for self.

We not only live out the alive life when we choose patience and kindness, we also come more to life and are filled with praise for the Life Giver.  When the Spirit pricks our heart and prompts us to choose God's way, there's a jolt of energy to our faith.  Hey, wait a minute, I am "hearing" God speak to me!  I am still wrestling with a desire to disobey, because I like me so much, but wow, God is at work in my life.  That's incredible.  Maybe there's hope for transformation after all.

If that's not enough reason to pursue the live alive, I'll give you one more.  Choosing patience and kindness also increases our compassion.  You know, because sometimes we're the one in need of patience and kindness.  Remembering that we're just as human as the person driving us bonkers or the person who has an inconvenient-for-us need drives us back to how merciful God has been to us.  I mean, 'cause seriously, there was nothing convenient for Jesus about his years here on Earth!  But love brought Him and love kept Him on the cross.

The alive life of patience and kindness isn't about a grin-and-bear-it and hope-it's-over-quick tolerance, but rather a dependent pursuit of the alive life by practicing patience and kindness with all our neighbors, i.e. anyone God puts in our path.  Right at this very moment I am having trouble trying to practice this in my own house with my people, so I'm gonna hop off here and think about this for myself.

For Christ and His glory,
Heather 💛

November 14, 2018

Live Alive {Day 14}: Others Before Self

Previous posts in the Live Alive series can be found here.

Well, here we are.  Again the day has flown by and I haven't gotten to get any thoughts down on the screen to share with you all.  Daily writing is so fun, but this week has been a little more hectic that expected - we have an injured pet and plans to go away for the weekend.  But after a particularly emotional Monday, the week has looked up and I praise God for how He's been hearing my prayers for increased dependence on Him.   I mean, I do really prefer the comfortable and predictable, but not much growth that happens in that cozy corner, eh?

That brings us to today's topic: Others Before Self.  God wants us to purse Him, and one of the ways we do that is by living out His love in the world in the way Christ did.  Paul says in Philippians 2:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant  than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Guys, this his hard!  Every fiber of our human nature wants to look only to our own interests and perhaps to the interests of others if it is to our advantage.  But our Lord lived so differently:
Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted Him ... .  
Jesus, the only one who had any right to claim superiority over or service and praise from every other human, did exactly the opposite.  He humbled Himself.  And when He calls us to follow Him He also bids us to come and die, to self.  Christ is more than our example; He's our Savior and Lord who doesn't ask more of us that He was willing to do Himself.  Let us also not forget that He sent His Spirit to equip and help us to choose humility, too.

Alive people are people of action.  They take Christ seriously when they remember that He said:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?  Luke 9:23-25

The two greatest commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as our self.  (Matthew 22:36-40) Much of the time the way we express our love for God is by our obedience to His command to love our neighbor.  Alive people are like this, loving God by humbling themselves so they can love their neighbor.  You all know folks for whom it is like second nature.  I would guess that it wasn't always that way for them, and they would tell you stories of how much practice it took to become more loving.

With all the pressure this week, I feel like I have been racing against time to keep up with daily responsibilities.  Monday afternoon, feeling too unfocused to accomplish anything else and knowing rain was coming Tuesday, I headed outside to race the sun and get some necessary raking done.  I had about an hour to get the leaves down the hill, onto the tarp, and out to the curb.  Part way through I told the kids to come out to get in a few sleds down the hill into the leaves before I dragged them all away.  My youngest was particularly delighted!  And of course, after a couple of runs, she wanted me to sled with her too.

My initial reaction was to say, "No, I'm in a rush here."  But I felt that good Holy Spirit prick with the truth that a sled ride or two would really not set me back that much.  Love your neighbor as yourself.

This lively little girl was so thrilled to take a couple of runs down the hill in a green saucer with her mama.  I got all the leaves to the curb with a little daylight to spare, we picked up our pet's medicine, dinner wasn't too late, and I got in a little practice at choosing another over myself.

I don't always.

I do love my Lord so much that I am saddened by how often I won't give up my time, talents,  or reputation to love Him and my neighbor.  Isn't it wonderful that He is so long-suffering and that His mercies are so great and new every morning?  Alive people remember that, too!

There are many specific ways to live alive by loving our neighbor, whether it's someone in our home, our town, at work, school, a friend, or an enemy.  Over the next few or many posts, I'll share some of those.

Love on!
Heather 💛

November 13, 2018

Live Alive {Day 13}: Pursue God

Previous posts in the Live Alive series can be found here.

Writing like this, day by day, is an interesting experience.  In my notebook, I'll have scribbled down an idea of what direction I want to go over the next few days, then when I wake up in the morning I'll feel led to go in a different direction.  I am just checking my little list of dates now and noticed that I jotted down a few ideas for the beginning of this week, but yesterday I talked about the family of God rather than what I had written down: Pursue God, God's Way.  Let's go there tonight!

The thesis would be Those who are living alive pursue God God's way.  A couple of Scripture passages came to mind when I wrote down Pursue God.

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13
And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.   
Luke 11:9-10

These verses are astounding!  God the Father and God the Son telling their followers that if they will seek Them, they will find Them.  God is not trying to hide from us or play games with us.  He knows us and He wants us to know Him.  The way He wants us to know Him is to engage our whole hearts in it.  We find God and come alive when we toss all hindrances aside and get after Him like our lives depend on it.  They do!

I love the promises of Luke 11:10.
  • Ask, and RECEIVE
  • Seek, and FIND
  • Knock, and THE DOOR OPENS

To a fairly great degree, God is mysterious.  His ways and thoughts are oh so very high above ours.  We cannot know the mind of God.  But we can find Him and follow Him all our days.

How do we go about this business of pursuing God?  Well, first of all, given God's greatness and authority, it seems quite critical to me that if we're to endeavor to pursue God, we ought to learn to do so in a way that honors Him.  In doing so, we take hold of the grace He has given us.

One big huge way we get to know what God is like is by reading the Bible, paying very close attention to Jesus, who said that if we have seen Him, we have seen the Father, because they are one.  Another way to pursue God is related to the Luke verses above: prayer.  Whatever we need - guidance, hope, help, understanding, faith, perhaps our next meal - God tells us to ask.   One other way (and the final thought for tonight) is to try out living like God tells you to live: tell the truth, forgive those who hurt you, seek justice, love mercy, walking humbly with God, loving Him and your neighbor.  In living for the Lord, we get to know Him better.  His rules make more sense and we enjoy more delight in our relationship with Him.   To live alive is to pursue God using the means He has given us to find Him: His Word, prayer, and stepping out in obedience and trust.

Here's a funny thing before I head up to bed and call it a day.  I typed pursue into Chrome and the definition in the drop down options was follow (someone or something) in order to catch or attack it.  Let's not attack God, but certainly, let's try to catch Him!

Pursue God!
Heather 💛

November 12, 2018

Live Alive {Day 12}: The Family

Previous posts in the Live Alive series can be found here.

On Sundays throughout 2018, I have been reading through The Heidelberg Catechism: A Study Guide, by G. I. Williamson.  It is divided into 52 readings, one for each week of the year.  Overall, I would recommend it, but there were some of the author's commentaries that I thought went more into diatribes than was necessary.  Reading through a Catechism slowly has definitely been beneficial for adding new knowledge and energy to my faith.  I would recommend doing so!

Yesterday's Catechism questions were about how Christ teaches us to address God as Father in the Lord's Prayer.  The Catechism says Jesus did that to awaken in us, at the beginning of our prayer, that childlike reverence and trust toward God ... . This serves as just another reminder of how dependent we are on God.  We come before Him in prayer and call Him Father, which reminds us how much we need Him and that He is in authority over us.  Calling Him Father also reminds us that we are now members of His family and that He is the kind of Father all fathers long to be and that all children desire.  He does not abuse His authority or neglect His children.  We can come to him with childlike reverence and trust.  Looking at Jesus enables us to do so without hesitation.

In the commentary, Williamson wrote something that struck me about how we can't reach God on our own, but Jesus is a sufficient mediator:  
The reason is quite simple: Jesus is both God and man.  Both the divine nature and the human nature are there in one person.  Because in his human nature He is our brother, and in His divine nature is the only begotten Son of God, he can reach both God and man and bring them together.  p. 213
I know Williamson was specifically speaking of salvation, but after some conversation in our Life Group last night, it got me thinking about how alive people connect with their new family.

When we are made new in Christ, brought back to life and called God's children, we are also adopted into a new family, the family of believers.  Jesus is our brother and our Lord and as such we are bound now and eternally to anyone else who calls on His name.  This can be super awesome, because we each have different gifts and abilities and can work together for the advancement of the Gospel in the world.  This can also be super awful, because we all have different gifts and can become divided and lose sight of the mission to share the Gospel with the world!


Paul hits it all in Ephesians, guys!  He talks about this very thing, reminding the Ephesian believers, and those of us who read the letter today, that we are united in Christ and are headed somewhere with/in/through Him!
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. 
Ephesians 4:1-7,11-16

Alive people interact with their family in some specific ways:
  1. They keep the first thing the first thing!  Alive people fight to be unified with their family, remembering that we are all one under Christ. Alive people also remember that we have not attained "mature manhood" yet as a body, so they are patient with the process living in a manner worthy of the calling, like Paul says in the first few verses.  
  2. They know what their gifts are and use them to serve the family!  We are all different.  There is incredible diversity in the body!  Alive people know God has given them specific gifts to use to serve the family (the body or Church) to help maintain unity and to help the body grow.  They rejoice in how God has made them and pursue opportunities to serve with them.  They know the Church needs them to use their gifts - it's God's call on their lives!
  3. They help their brothers and sisters to discover their gifts and use them!  Alive people don't waste their time in jealous pride, they know that they desperately need the rest of their family. So they encourage other believers to know and exercise their God-given gifts, so they can delight in watching the Lord use them for His purposes.

Cynicism is easy.  We all know how hard it is to be unified with people who are different from us.  We still live this side of heaven and our sinful natures are still demanding dominance in our hearts.  We won't see the body perfected till Christ returns.  But alive people are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.  Hebrews 10:39

Living alive denies cynicism a seat at the table, leaving the space for hope.  Christ calls us to be unified; we will fight for that.  Christ calls us to use our gifts; we will use them.  Christ calls us to encourage our brothers and sisters to use their gifts; we will encourage and enjoy them.

We are family because God made it so.  Alive in Christ, we can have faith, press on, and rejoice together at what God does.

Not shrinking back,
Heather 💛

November 11, 2018

Live Alive {Day 11}: A Song - All Glory Be To Christ

We have been singing this one at our church this year.  The tune will be familiar, the theme fits with what I said yesterday:  We won't boast with pride, we'll burst with praise!

Have a blessed Sunday,
Heather 💛