I am Useful

I am Useful: A Joint Post

But you [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9, NKJV

From Jen:

There are some interesting words in that verse…concepts that beckon a deep longing inside me. Chosen. Called. I looked them up in Strong’s, because I’m a writer and that’s what we do.

Chosen: eklektos in the Greek. It literally means ‘picked out.’

Called: kaleō, meaning ‘to invite.’

Makes me think of an elementary school playground. You know, when you’re going to play kick ball and the team captains go through the team selection process. “I pick Joey,” says blue captain. “Okay, I want Sally,” responds the red leader. Why did they pick those two first? Well, Joey has a punting leg and can send that ball to the fence, and Sally never misses a catch in the outfield, so any high floater send her direction is an automatic out. They’re useful to the team.

Peter tells his congregation that they are God’s called out ones, His special team. They’re useful to the Kingdom.

Useful? Me? But I’m just a stay-at-home mom. I live in a lovely middle-of-nowhere town. I don’t have any extraordinary talents. I live an ordinary life. Going back to the kick-ball analogy, I’m average at best, and probably closer to one of the last ones who would have been chosen for the team. How can I possibly be useful to the kingdom of God?

From Susan:

Because He makes me useful.  When God chose me, he gave me the Holy Spirit to empower me to be useful.  In elementary school, I was always the last one chosen.  And I do mean always.  I couldn’t kick, run, or catch.  I was not only “not useful”  to a kickball team, I was a detriment.

Not so on God’s team.  Everyone He picks, He empowers.  But the pitcher isn’t necessarily empowered to be the catcher, or vice-versa. God uniquely equips His children to work together to create a powerful team called the Church.

I sat in an organization meeting for Awana workers tonight.  I’m new at my church, and many of the people in the room were strangers to me.  I just listened as they hammered out the logistics, marveling at the logic of God’s team planning.  One woman was an amazing problem solver, coming up with creative, workable solutions to sticking points.  A man in the room was gifted administratively, offering to take care of all the paper work and point counting.   A third person voiced how much she loved the little ones, while another said he couldn’t work anywhere but with the older kids. They were a team… and every one of them was useful.

The Captain had chosen them all.

I have direct access to God

Never an Orphan

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:16-18 NAS

I just wanted to talk to my Mommy. And I couldn’t. At. All. She was in Florida, and I was in West Africa. The nearest reliable internet connection was a nine hour drive from my hut. I could get to a phone 45 minutes away, but it only worked about 10 percent of the time. Cell phones? Ha. We didn’t even have running water, much less a cell tower.

I ached to hear my parents’ voices. The separation – it was a tangible ocean of loneliness. When I had said goodbye to them in that airport, it had really been goodbye. Although I was not an orphan, I felt every bit of one. My mother later told me that she mourned me as though I had died.

That same deep, indescribable pain of separation must have crept upon the disciples as Jesus told them He was leaving them. And Jesus knew it. That’s why he spoke these beautiful words.

“I will not leave you as orphans: I will come to you,” he told them. How? Through the Holy Spirit, the Helper, who would abide with them and be in them.

God with me. God in me. Never, ever, for one nano-second, am I separated from Him. And so, even as I pray, the Holy Spirit in me helps me, “for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27

My prayers are too often pitiful ramblings of a confused heart. And yet, the Holy Spirit takes those inefficient words and speaks them eloquently to God the Father. He can do that because He is inside of me, examining my heart, expressing what my words cannot. A member of the Trinity, pleading on my behalf to another member of the Trinity, never leaving me or forsaking me. I’m not doing a very good job of describing the awe I feel as I try to wrap my brain around this.

I don’t think I understand it well enough to turn it into words. But I am so thankful I live it, connected, to Him.

I am to be filled with the Holy Spirit

The Old is Gone

Therefore, if anyone [is] in Christ, [he is] a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV

Being filled with the Spirit means emptying myself. Maybe an illustration would help (I’m a visual learner, so forgive me if this is too elementary).

My little brother took on a massive project a couple of years ago. He is a master craftsman and he bought himself a fixer-upper. A real doozy. Not the kind that you update appliances and slap on some new paint. The kind that most people run away from.

He gutted it. I mean stripped the thing bare and started fresh. Walls were moved. The floor plan is entirely new. Electrical completely replaced. Plumbing redone. Everything redone. And it is gorgeous. I mean WOW.

I think sometimes as Christians we think that now we can be the best version of ourselves. We think that we’re a minor fixer-upper, when the truth is, we need gutted. Jesus isn’t into slapping on new wallpaper and then calling it a day. He has plans to make us entirely new.

When I read that I am a new creation in Christ, I think of this project my brother took on. He could have done something easier. He could have just fixed the cosmetics, made that house a better version of what it was. But all the deep problems would have remained. Bad plumbing. Dangerous electrical. Dysfunctional design.

He didn’t do that. He took a property he loved and applied his vision to it. He made it new—from the gut and bones out.

Sometimes I think, ‘hey, there’s some good stuff in me. God can work with that.’ But He’s got a perfect vision for what He wants in me and from me. And, if I’m really honest, it’s gonna require some gutting. Glup. But again, if I’m honest, I want to be that new creation—that perfect vision he has for me.

So, this morning, I chose to empty myself, Jesus. Fill me with your Spirit and make me new again.

I am to be filled with the Holy Spirit

I am to be filled with the Spirit: A Joint Post

And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled with the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music to the Lord in your heart, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.  Ephesians 5:18-21

From Susan:

My denomination loves to trot out this verse as a tirade against drinking.  And while Paul is certainly saying here that getting drunk is sinful, I think he has a much larger point, one we sometimes miss if we get hung up in legalism about alcohol.

He’s making an analogy. A drunk woman slurs her words and does embarrassing things because the alcohol is controlling her mind and body.  We are supposed to give that kind of control to the Holy Spirit.  He is to have as much influence over us as alcohol can. I am to drink Him in, give him control of my mind and body, so that I think things I’d never think on my own, do things that are exactly the opposite of what I’d like to do.  Only, instead of embarrassing me, those things give God glory.

And he lists those things right here: speaking to one another in psalms, making music in my heat to the Lord, giving thanks in everything, and (this is the hardest one for me) submitting to one another.

I don’t naturally do any of those things.  If I do what comes naturally to me, I complain, worry and push for my way.  I’ve … um … done all those things this week.  So I have a choice to make.  Just as a woman makes the choice to reach for the third and fourth beer, I’ve got to make a conscious choice to drink in the Holy Spirit and allow him to control me.  Otherwise, I’ll act just like me … and not like Him.

What does this mean for you?

From Jen:

I don’t like me without Him.

I’m a little old for this realization, but it hit me this week. I really don’t like me when I am not submitting to His indwelling presence. I don’t feel like ‘me,’ and, more importantly, I most definitely don’t think and act like the ‘me’ He wants to wrought.

I was thinking about that drunk woman analogy. Sometimes people say or assume that what is said or done when a person is drunk reveals who they really are. I’m gonna have to beg to differ—a person’s personality morphs when alcohol is pumping through their brain. They do and say things that, if they knew about sober, they’d be appalled. Ashamed. Broken.

Perhaps this is true for a person who is not under the influence of the Holy Spirit. We become selfish, mean-spirited, unforgiving and unkind. We become the person with whom, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we would be appalled.

I become that person. The ‘me’ I don’t want to be.

So, Jesus, come. Fill me up. Soak my soul with Your Spirit until that ‘me’ is drowned. Shape me into the woman You intend.

I am a Citizen of Heaven

Joint entry: Proof of Citizenship

passport“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3:20-21, NIV

From Jen:

Citizenship denotes the link between a person and a state. A relationship between me and the kingdom; one that is certain whether I am physically in that kingdom or not.

I can’t help but think on Christian’s pilgrimage to the Celestial City in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. The narrow path is difficult, full of trials and fearful encounters, but along the way, Christian carries with him his parchment—the scroll with the seal upon it—that he’d received at the Cross. He was to study those words, to think upon them and talk of them. And at the end of the journey, he would hand that scroll over to the gate-keeper, and it would be delivered to the King. Why?

It proved his citizenship. During his pilgrimage, as he struggled along the difficult path, suffered humiliation, wrestled with temptation, grappled with grief, and trembled before Apollyon, Christian carried with him that scroll. Because it wasn’t mere parchment. It was his proof of Citizenship.

God gives us his proof—He gave a deposit. The Spirit of God, dwells with me. Seals me. Journeys with me. I don’t know what the road ahead will look like. Sometimes there are dark clouds ahead. Sometimes I get trapped in the dungeon of doubt. Sometimes the valley terrifies me. But along the way, I carry with me the same scroll. He declares now, and at the City Gate, “She belongs. I am her proof of citizenship.”

From Susan

I love that.  The Holy Spirit, my proof of citizenship.

Do you have a passport?  Do you know where it is?  If you are living in your home country, those questions may not seem terribly pressing to you. “No, why would I have a passport?”  Or perhaps, “I think I have one, but it may be expired . . . hmm . . . Is it in my sock drawer maybe?”

But, if you were to ever travel abroad, you’d know exactly where your passport was every second you were on foreign soil.  You’d know, so you could snatch it up in a fraction of a second if you were ever called upon to flee a political coup.

You’d know, so when the police stopped you on the side of the road, as they often do overseas, you could prove your citizenship.

You’d know, because it would be your ticket inside your embassy.  The only ticket. Without it, you stay on the outside of those tall, barbed-wire topped walls.

And you’d know, because it’s the only thing that could get you back on to your country.

We are citizens of Heaven.  The Holy Spirit is my proof of citizenship, far more precious to me than my tattered U.S. passport.  He is my guide through emotional coups and hostile interrogations.  He rejoices with me when I enter a Heavenly Embassy, otherwise known as a church.

And one day, this weary traveler, sealed with the Holy Spirit, will step into Heaven.

I’ll hear God the Father say, “Welcome home.”