Autumn Leaves 3 Column

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Maturity in Spite of Me

“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”  Ephesians 4: 14 – 15

I wanted his approval and good will more than I wanted to be holy.  I wanted to be held in high esteem, so I tolerated bad behavior and foolish jesting at the expense of others.  My desire for acceptance was greater than my desire for God.  These are my sins…confessed, repented of, forgiveness requested and received before the Lord and the appropriate individuals, now shared to make this point: spiritual maturity is attained slowly but surely in spite of self because God is mightier than foolishness or sin.  He will finish His work in us.

As many of you [readers] are aware, relationships are extremely important to me.  But as I reflect, those relationships were not more important to me than my standing before particular individuals.  Through the consequence of the loss of those relationships over the last few years, along with the humbling and difficult work of repairing them, the Holy Spirit is doing the transforming work required to make me “grow up”.  Spiritual maturity requires hard work!  And I believe relationships are the means by which Jesus is transforming me, and you, to spiritually mature people who resemble Jesus. 

Truth in my inmost being was required first: truth about who God is and His mighty power used to make me holy through the circumstances of this life that His sovereignty allows.  Truth about my sins: my desires, my will, being more important than the will of the Savior who rescued me from the pit of hell.  Finally, I had to be honest and recognize that my life in Him is to reflect and pursue kingdom purposes; “His kingdom come, His will be done”.

My next step was in observing others through the Lord’s perspective: each individual is His creation.  Therefore, I had no choice but to respect each individual and their opinions, cull the wheat from the chaff and pray for wisdom and understanding to confront my sinful behavior and make amends where I could.  Restoration is the work of God and I am to join Him in that work.

Finally, I must continue to apply the above steps willfully and intentionally if I am submitting to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Today I am celebrating God’s faithfulness, love, mercy and eternal presence in my life.  I still have a long way to go in this process of maturity and I won’t be surprised if I have to practice these steps many times to get it right!  But I’m in this for the long haul…to become like Jesus, to be presented as blameless before my holy, righteous God.  Amen.

Friday, October 14, 2011

R-E-S-P-E-C-T (Find Out What it Means to Jesus)

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  Eph. 4: 2

 Respect: Aretha famously sang about it. Our society complains about the lack thereof.  But not long ago, I was confronted by the lack of respect within myself.  I was taught some difficult truth by a person that I, sinfully, did not value as I should.  While I am not proud of this fact, I found the Holy Spirit speaking sternly to me in my arrogance and hammered home a lesson I’m not likely to forget anytime soon!  But as usually happens when the Lord moves, the experience also allowed me to ponder the necessity of respect for others.  Even if I don’t particularly like someone, or believe that somehow I am superior, I am to treat each individual with respect.  Period.

The fact is every person is created in the image of God according to Genesis 1:27.  If I’m “completely humble and gentle” than respect is present.   In Philippians 2:3, Paul also says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,…” Frankly, that is the definition for respect: “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person.”

How would our relationships alter if we recognized the creation made in God’s image in every individual we encountered?  What do we miss when we are unwilling to view others through the lenses of the Lord and see them as He does?  Honestly, the path to maturity is cultivated through relationships…and respect is one of our most important tools.  Thankfully, the Lord handed me that tool (again) through one of His children and altered my vision in the process.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

No More Illusions

“What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ's body we're all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.” Eph. 4:25 (MSG)

Have you ever gone through a period of time that has left you so discouraged, hurt and confused that you don’t even know what you need?  Thankfully, while I’m on the road out of that pit, I am discovering afresh and anew how sovereign our heavenly Father is and how willingly He meets our needs if we will just turn to Him.  Considering the last few years, the Lord’s timing of focusing my heart on the book of Ephesians is wrought with irony and loving mercy.
 One painful lesson I learned preparing for the retreat concerns truth.   Regrettably, people will inadvertently distort truth through the lenses of perspective.  I used the idea of an optical illusion to emphasize this point.  Optical illusions can affect our perception of reality.  Similarly, one person’s perspective impacts another person’s perception of truth.  In other words, facts from one person’s viewpoint may be very different from another person’s.  Without prayer and discernment, I cannot bank on the perception of facts from one or two people to be truth.  Jesus is the only one who is in possession of all of the facts of any situation because He sees the hearts of all the participants.  We cannot.  Only as the Lord reveals actual truth can we make decisions and progress accordingly.  That’s one reason why we are to forgive others, and bear with one another in love (Eph. 4:2); otherwise as the body of Christ, we will be divided.
After all that I have experienced, I’m doing my level best to remember that because imperfect, broken people are involved (including me) in my life, truth will always be shaded with the perspectives of all involved!  If I can remember this, then, even while I lick my wounds, I can respond with praise for God’s ability to reveal TRUTH!