I am not my own

A Sacrifice of Praise

And the crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them, and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods.  And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he … threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:22-25 NASB

Ok, let’s just stop her a moment. Paul and Silas were stripped in public and pummeled until they bled.  Then the jailer threw them into the middle of the filthy prison and clamped a bar down on their feet.

Paul and Silas chose that moment to sing praise songs. 

These were men who most definitely were not their own.

If I put myself into that scene, I can see lots of tears and self-pity and prayers to get me the heck out of there.  If I put some godly men that I know in that scene, I can see some pretty serious anger going on.  But praise songs?  Wow.

Paul and Silas were so completely Christ’s that any moment was a moment to praise Him, and horrific moments so much more so.  I think this must be what Hebrews 13:15 calls “a sacrifice of praise.” 

Praise comes in so many forms.  Singing a pretty chorus in a pretty church on Sunday morning after doughnuts in Sunday School – that’s praise.  But is it a “sacrifice of praise?” I think not.  I think that only comes out of our lips on prison floors after beatings.

 A Christian wife whose husband scorns her, cheats on her, throws her out like so much trash – when she praises God, that’s a sacrifice.  A family man, a deacon, an upstanding guy who loses his job and then his house – when he praises God, that’s a sacrifice. A West African believer who lays awake at night listening to his children cry because they are starving and he has no rice to give them – when he praises God, that’s a sacrifice.

And I don’t think we can give those sacrifices until we understand whose we are.  If we are living for ourselves, we will praise God only when he does good things for us.  But if we are His, completely His, we will praise him no matter the circumstances in our life.  Because He deserves it – no matter what.

I am not my own

Belonging to Jesus

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. ~ Gal 5:19-26, NASB

wedding ringsWhen I got married I changed my name. I changed my address, my college, my future plans. I change my allegiance. I was no longer a single woman, serving my own desires, looking out for my agenda. I declared myself his. I belong to my husband.

Sometimes we look at Jesus like He’s the genie in the lamp. I’ll call you when I need you, but otherwise, I’m doing my thing. Living on my own terms.

But a disciple belongs to Jesus. They have made a declaration, to God, and to the world, “I am His.” And what does that mean?

I belong to Jesus, I am no longer pledged to sin.
I belong to Jesus, I have laid aside selfish ambition.
I belong to Jesus, I am committed to His joy.
I belong to Jesus, I claim His household as mine.
I belong to Jesus, I am not my own.

Life was different after marriage, but fifteen years down the road, I don’t have any regrets when it comes to that pledge.

Life is different when we belong to Jesus, but in an eternity of life with Him, there won’t be a single regret.

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.