I am not my own

I Am Not My Own — For The Rest Of My Life.

“And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.” 2 Corinthians 5:15

I felt so grown up.  I had landed a college internship in a glassy office building in downtown Orlando, Florida.  Every morning that summer, I got dressed up in hose and heels and drove down I-4 passed Orlando’s sky scrapers, the rising sun reflecting off the buildings and bathing my world in gold.  I filled the car with the music of David Meese, and I belted out this out chorus right along with him:

“I want to live for you, for the rest of my life, for the rest of my life!  And I want to give to you all the rest of my life, the rest of my life!”

My future seemed as vast a Florida’s flawless blue skies, and I dedicated the whole of it to Him.  The  trouble is, futures aren’t like that.  They aren’t flawless.  And they aren’t whole.  “The rest of my life” is not one big unit I can dedicate to God at one point in time and be over with it.

In the decades that have passed since that sunny summer, I’ve lived some moments for God.  I’ve lived others for myself.  And I’ve realized that the whole of “the rest of my life” is made up of a myriad of isolated moments, each of them requiring a choice.  Will I, in this present moment, live for the One who died for me and was raised, or will I live for myself?

So, when it is late at night and the house is quiet, in this moment, will I choose to think God-honoring thoughts?  Or will I let my mind wonder down frivolous or sinful paths?

When the person who has deeply hurt me – and hasn’t even thought to apologize – is standing before me, scowling, in this moment, will I choose to forgive as Christ commanded?  Or will I live for myself and hold my self-righteous grudge?

When I finish ordering lunch at the cute little bistro and settle in for a chat with a lost friend, in this moment, will I choose to share the gospel with her?  Or will I avoid it, because a conversation about God might be socially awkward?

When I’m asked to give to missions, when I’m asked to participate in a church outreach project, when I have the choice to pray or watch T.V., in these moments, what will I choose?

Every one of those moments is a part of “the rest of my life.”  And I only have the moment I’m living now.  I am never promised another.

May I choose, in this moment, whatever it brings me, to live for the One who died for me and was raised.

I am not my own

Called to Unfailing Love

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all
mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but
do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. ~1Cr 13:1-3

How well-known is the love passage that follows these three verses? I’ll bet you could recite it-at least some of it. “Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast…” These words cover wedding invitations, wall art of every variety. They find their way into music stanzas, and perhaps most notably this time of year, are scripted into countless Valentine’s Day cards.

But very often these lovely words are minimally applied. Love–agape, is the call of every
believer. Paul wrote this passage to a church, and it directly follows a section in which he fleshed out spiritual gifts. So, when he begins with, “if I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love…” It is an extension of what he’d been addressing before. The church, every member, expressing the agape of God by how they live, what they do, how they serve.

See, back in chapter 12 of the book of Romans, Paul wrote that we, believers, are to living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God. In other words, we are supposed to live a life that resembles Jesus. A life of service, of sacrifice; of love.

Love isn’t the warm fuzzies of an emotional moment. It’s not flowery and poetic and pretty. It’s hard. It gets down on its hands and knees to wash what no one else wants to touch. It offers kindness to the most undeserving gentile sinner. It forgives a traitor, one who has denied Him in the face of agony. It flings the wrongs done against Him as far as the east is from the west. In this evil-infested, fickle world, love never fails.

Unfailing love. That’s a little more than hearts and roses and pretty penmanship. It’s a tall, gritty order.

And it is the life to which I have been called.

I am not my own

I Am Not My Own — A Joint Entry

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.

Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.”

But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “if anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” ~Matthew 16:22-26, NASB

From Jen:

Get behind me, Satan? Wow. That’s a rough rebuke. Why was Jesus so passionately firm against Peter’s censure?

Because He knew His Father’s will, and was surrendered to it. Nothing, not even one of his closest friends, was going to distract him from obedience. The line was drawn, and it was clear to Jesus.

Not so much to Peter. ‘Lord, certainly you’re mistaken. Don’t scare us by saying these things. What’s this business about suffering, dying? You’re the Christ, man! You’re here to establish your kingdom! Don’t be such a doomsayer.”

How crazy is it to say “Lord,” and then proceed with a plan of your own devising?

Yet, I do it all the time.

“Lord, I don’t want to love that person. They make me crazy.”

“Lord, I don’t want to go there, it’s out of my comfort zone.”

“Lord, I don’t want to let you take my kid to that place. It will break my heart.”

Here’s the thing of it: “Lord” is a term of surrender. I could easily say “Master” and have it mean the same thing. But verbiage is impotent without a heart that is prostrate before Him.

Jesus called us to deny ourselves. What exactly does that mean? In the Greek, it meant to ‘forget one’s self, to lose sight of one’s own interests.’

Why would Jesus say that? Doesn’t He care about me, about my life?

From Susan:

He said it because he has a greater purpose for my life than my comfort.

Those are hard words to write, because personally, I’d like quite a bit of comfort.  I’d like to live where I want to live and socialize with whom I’d like to relate.  I’d like to spend what I want to buy what I want.  I’d like my kids to have every educational advantage and social opportunity.  I’d like God to give me all these things, because I think they’d make me happy.

But it’s not all about me.  It’s all about God, and it always has been.  He gave me my life not to spend on my pleasure but to invest for His glory.  Jesus rebuked Peter because Peter was suggesting Jesus do what was best for Jesus, what was best in the 70-something-year, natural lifetime that Jesus might have spent on earth.  But Jesus had a far, far greater purpose for his life: to die quite young, bringing salvation to generations upon generations of humans, including myself.

He calls me, too, to sacrifice for a greater purpose

I was 22 years old, sitting in the Baptist Student Union at University of Florida.  A speaker took the stage, dragging a chalk board.

“I’m going to make a timeline of your life,” he told us. And he drew this:

.___.__________________________________________________>

“The first dot represents your birth, the second your death.  The line after your death is your eternal life.  It goes on and on into infinity.”

He paused before he asked his question.

“Does it make more sense to live your life for rewards to be found between the first two dots, or for rewards to be found on the line after the second?

So back to Jen’s question. Doesn’t Jesus care about me, about my life?  Certainly.  But he has his eyes on the whole of my life.  He calls me to give up the tiny little segment at the beginning in order to find rich blessings on the never-ending line that extends into … infinity.

 

I am a Citizen of Heaven

Waiting for my True Home

“In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you.  I am going away to prepare a place for you.  If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.” John 14:2-4

Jesus addressed these words to 11 men who adored him, who had given up their jobs to follow him around, who had set their hopes and hearts on them. These three sentences were among some of the last words he said to them as he tried to explain to them that he would be crucified ever so soon.

They didn’t get it.  They didn’t have the 2,000-year-ago perspective that we have today.  In 2014, a child who attends Sunday School can tell you, “Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again on the third day.” But that wasn’t clear to these men, living in the moment, feeling the raw feelings before any of it happened.  All they knew was that their best friend, their mentor, their hero, was talking about leaving.  They didn’t know why, and they were crushed.

And so, Jesus comforted them. “I am going to prepare a place for you, and I’ll come back and get you so we can be together again.  I promise.”

He promised me, too.  He’s preparing me … me personally … a home in heaven.  He’s getting it ready for me.  And he’s coming back for me.

I am so relieved every time I can pry my thoughts off of this world and its myriad of worries and unsolvable problems that I somehow think I can solve if I just think about solving them enough …  ugh.  When I can stop worrying my worries and contemplating my solutions long enough to remember—this world is not my home—what a blessed relief!  I just have to live here for a short time, and then Jesus will let me come live in his Father’s house—forever.  With Him.  All my worries and problems and contemplations are just a speck in the timeline of eternity.

Jesus is preparing my true home.  I just can’t wait.

I am a Citizen of Heaven

Safe Wings

But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, [Or to] turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people [shall be] my people, And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If [anything but] death parts you and me.”
— 
Ruth 1:16-17

I try to imagine this passage as it plays out. A woman in grief, still young, with options available to her, but determined. For what reason? To honor her dead husband? For the love of her bitter mother in law? I’m not sure. But her declaration is certain.

Your people will be mine. I will dwell with you, take your name, honor your God. Claim your home. I renounce myself as a Moabitess. I am now only Ruth, your daughter.

We think of home as something familiar. What if it’s rather a determination? An intentional choice that says “I’ve never been there, but that’s where you are to be, that is where I’ll be also.” What a transforming thought.

Ruth, this woman of reckless abandon, brings determination to life. Her resolve brought the notice and favor of Boaz, a man of standing who possessed all of the finest qualities. I love the blessing he speaks to Ruth in the fields.

“May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.” -Ruth 2:12
Under whose wings you have come to seek refuge. Jesus says to the disciple who has sought His refuge, “I am preparing a place for you. Where I am, you will be.”

Home with Him. Under the safety of His wings.

I am a Citizen of Heaven

A Heart at Peace

Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.  But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 HCS

I started this post by typing out a list of all the material things I yearn for.  But as I read my list, I was pretty embarrassed, so I just deleted it—on the computer.  It’s … um… still there in my heart. 

While you aren’t reading my list, God is.  And he’d like me to change it, I think. Lots of items on my list had to do with my house, the one here in Texas.  God isn’t against me adorning my house.  He just wants me to be thinking of the one in heaven, not the one here. He’d like me to align my list with my true citizenship.

What does it look like to store up treasures in heaven?  I think it is one of God’s topsy-turvy way of looking at things.  The more I give away here, the more I pile up there.  When you and I give away our time for ministry, to be his hands and feet to a weary world, we gain treasure in heaven.  When we give away our money to advance His Kingdom’s work, we are making deposits in our heavenly banking account.

If I spend my time and my money on gaining new pretties for my house or any of the other frivolities on my list, I am setting my heart on this world, which will soon pass away.

More stuff never really satisfies.  But a heart set on heaven?  That’s a heart at peace.  Peace is the fringe benefit of a hefty treasure chest in heaven.

May I not only remember that I am a citizen of heaven, but act like it.

I am a Citizen of Heaven

A Heavenly Home

For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.
And truly if they had called to mind that [country] from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.
But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly [country]. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
–Hebrews 11:14-16, NKJV

I love Steven Curtis Chapman’s music. As I read through these verse, his song ‘burn the ships’ came to my mind. It’s been years since I’ve listened to it, but the chorus still echoes strong.

Burn the ships, we’re here to stay
There’s no way we could go back
Now that we’ve come this far by faith
Burn the ships, we’ve passed the point of no return
Our life is here
So let the ships burn

The fleet had landed. They’d committed to this new adventure, to a new home. That home hadn’t been realized yet, and the journey to it was harder than anyone had imagined, but they couldn’t go back. Cortez wouldn’t let them.

Faith is a sure confidence in things yet unseen. Home is a hope of a life fulfilled, a joy sustained and a wholeness unsurpassed.

None of these things are realized here on earth–not completely. There’s always a little longing in our hearts, always something waiting to be filled. Because this isn’t home.

CS Lewis wrote “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

I have a heavenly home, I was made for it, and I long for it. This world cannot offer enough pleasure to fill the void of yearning. So, I press on. My heart is there, how could I turn back?