Growing, Sharing, Becoming

Last night I was fascinated by the action words I saw in Philippians 3 and blogged about in A More Worthy Pursuit.

Growing, sharing, and becoming…

I’ve been editing resumes recently for a lot of college grads who are looking for jobs and one piece of advice that I never fail to give is this: “Change your job descriptions and use words that convey action… strong action and strong leadership ability.” Words like “coordinated,” “managed,” and “organized,” all play well in the corporate setting, as well as in the political world.

At first glance these words… “growing,” “sharing,” and “becoming,” found in Philippians 3 seem to convey A LOT of action. I can almost imagine the early believers scurrying around in the pursuit of growth, community, and Christ-likeness. Or wait… is that me?

Don’t get me wrong – these are action words. But they’re action words that push the believer toward BEING and not just DOING. And after realizing that, I realized that I carry much of my environment, culture, and my profession  with me in my relationship with Christ and the way I interpret Scripture. I see where I place a lot of emphasis and whose strength I rely on.

Let’s refresh: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11

I asked these questions yesterday (and I’ll continue to ask them of myself for a long time to come):

“Am I growing in my knowledge of Christ and the power of His resurrection? The fellowship of sharing in His sufferings? Becoming like Him in His death?

How do we know Christ and become like Him? How do we learn to cherish our salvation and understand the power of the resurrection? Through time with Him in His Word… so that requires action, but it’s Christ who reveals Himself to us (John 17:3, Ephesians 4:14-15), and it’s Christ who sanctifies and makes us into His image (John 17:17, Psalm 119:11). It’s also Christ who allows us to share in His sufferings and depending on what that looks like for you, that may require more or less action on your part. However, in all these things, if it’s not Christ DOING, all of our efforts are in vain. Our primary job is to pursue godliness, but it is a pursuit empowered by the living God – not a race powered by our own legs or breath.

Paul uses lots of action words in 1 Timothy 4:7-10

Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”

Action words are good. I like them because I’m very type-A, high output, and a classic overachiever. However, the important lesson that God continues to teach me is that my relationship with Him is not about me. It’s all about Him and it’s by Him and for Him and through Him. The actions then, must start with Him and I have to do them IN Him or I’ll meet with failure yet again. It’s hard, especially when you hate passivity… but God delights in requesting action, but then requiring that that action be completed by us WITH His help.

That way He gets all the glory. So grow and share and become, but in all your growing, sharing, and becoming, never forget who empowers you or that your purpose is Christ Himself.

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A More Worthy Pursuit

A goal of mine used to be to read all of the U.S. Presidents and First Ladies’ autobiographies and any books they have authored (and it’s quite an extensive list). I love history and politics. I’ve always loved reading and I have many lists of books that I’d love to add to my library. Today I decided that a more important goal is reading all of these: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/OnlineBooks/ByTitle/

I waste too much time. I find that I talk a lot about valuing the eternal more than I value the here and now. But sometimes that’s a bit more difficult to actually live out. It means we have to really take a magnifying glass to our choices. We have to recognize that where we spend our limited time and energy highlights what we truly value. I want to value my relationship with God more than I value music, novels, shopping, academic pursuits, friends, and even ministry. I want to be constantly ingesting and absorbing books, sermons, and Scripture that bring me closer to Christ.

I want to really value Christ and live my life in constant pursuit of Him. I don’t want there to be a day that goes by that I’m not made more like Him. He, and He alone, is a worthy pursuit.

So does that mean I need to stop watching shows on Hulu, stop frequenting Ann Taylor and Forever21, and sell all my books on politics? Not exactly. What it does mean is that I need to more closely monitor how I spend my time and realign my priorities when I realize that the things of this world are crowding out my pursuit of Christ.

Something God  has been speaking to me about throughout this last week is how easily distracted I am by life. And not just by the hard things of life, but by the pleasures of life as well. The primary take away from this Easter season was I don’t love my Lord as I should because I don’t give Him the time that I should. He’s also reminded me that all the things of this life are worthless compared to knowing Him. The Apostle Paul learned this lesson as well:

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11

Would we say that a man loved a woman (or a woman loved a man) if they infrequently or sporadically spent time together, talked, or shared their lives? Unless there are extenuating circumstances that prevented communication for a time, most would consider that to be an incredibly unhealthy relationship. Couples in love delight to sacrifice other things to spend time with the one they love. After all, my boyfriend Josh is correct in his frequent assertion that “time spent is relationship built.”

So what relationship am I building? Am I growing in my knowledge of Christ and the power of his resurrection? The fellowship of sharing in his sufferings? Becoming like him in his death? Does everything I do reflect my love for him and time spent with him in his Word?

Wow. These are the things (growing, sharing, becoming) that are a worthy pursuit.

Relationships, Marriage, and Christ

I’m currently developing several weeks worth of discussion points and questions for my small group. We’re in the middle of a series this semester called “Tough Topics” and the goal is to really tackle the topics that hold us back from being the women that God created us to be.

Our culture is a tough one to grow up in. The media has done much to confuse us about our proper roles and has clouded and distorted God’s idea of relationships and marriage.

I love this quote by John Piper from This Momentary Marriage:

“I mention this cultural distortion of marriage in the hopes that it might wake you up to consider a vision of marriage higher and deeper and stronger and more glorious than anything this culture—or perhaps you yourself—ever imagined. The greatness and glory of marriage is beyond our ability to think or feel without divine revelation and without the illumining and awakening work of the Holy Spirit. The world cannot know what marriage is without learning it from God. The natural man does not have the capacities to see or receive or feel the wonder of what God has designed for marriage to be. I pray that this book might be used by God to help set you free from small, worldly, culturally contaminated, self-centered, Christ-ignoring, God-neglecting, romance-intoxicated, unbiblical views of marriage.The most foundational thing to see from the Bible about marriage is that it is God’s doing. And the ultimate thing to see from the Bible about marriage is that it is for God’s glory. Those are the two points I have to make. Most foundationally, marriage is the doing of God. And ultimately, marriage is the display of God.”

Just wanted to share these online resources (both books are available in their entirety by clicking the links below) in case you’re interested in tackling this and aligning your perspective of relationships and marriage with Scripture, as well as getting some practical advice in relationships:

This Momentary Marriage by John Piper

A Girl’s Guide to Marrying Well by Boundless (multiple authors)

Rest

I’m enjoying blogging every day. I find that it helps me focus on the truths I’m reading in Scripture and that it allows me to process what God’s doing in my heart more completely.

The theme of today has been rest. No, I’m not still at home in my pajamas. But I was ’til about 2:00 p.m. this afternoon! Today’s the first Saturday in over a month that I was able to sleep in, make breakfast, and spend some time with God. I have a favorite spot for quiet times – a massive green chair in my living room that’s perfect for cuddling up in and reading my Bible.

Like I said yesterday, I set my heart last night to embrace this season of waiting and to use this weekend to rest. And really rest regardless of what my schedule dictates I must do.  So I took this morning slow and haven’t rushed at all today, even when I was running behind. I was right – this is exactly what I’ve needed and I need it far more often.

I drank several cups of coffee, listened to Jason Upton, had a long phone conversation regarding ministry with a very dear girl, and spent time this afternoon catching up with an old friend over Mexican food (we actually found a decent place in Crystal City!) and ice cream. Time spent like this is soothing to my heart and I begin to remember what relationships are about.

Rest changes me. Yesterday the rain made me irritable and tired. Today, the rain almost emphasized rest and peace. Even the torrential downpour wasn’t going to be allowed to ruin my day (I’m totally a sunshine girl). If I owned a pair of rainboots I would have taken a long walk and gone and splashed in the puddles. You see, my perspective is really all about my heart condition. Where I set my heart is crucial. If I allow my heart to grow angry and restless, I will be angry and will get no rest. If I’m focusing on God and His Word, I will have peace and rest, and my soul will be restored (Psalm 23:3).

Proverbs 4:23 says “keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” I’ve heard that verse used in every sermon on relationships I’ve ever heard. And it applies there, but we need to see it as valuable outside of that context as well. I need to guard my heart against worry, stress, and insecurity. I need to be wise with my time so my heart can grow and find rest in God’s Word. If my heart’s not right, nothing I do will be right. It makes total sense.

I’m also reminded of Colossians 3:2-3: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

My life’s been hidden WITH Christ IN God. I cannot think of anything more amazing. And that should be my focus – the focus of both my heart and my mind; my will and my emotions. When all of those parts of me are in line with Scripture, then rest becomes easy.

Identity

As Capitol Hill staffers have begun to trickle back into the DC area for the last week or so, traffic has greatly increased on the Capital beltway and I-395, giving me moments of great frustration, as well as additional time to reflect and listen to the Holy Spirit. I have realized again in the last few weeks, just from my time sitting waiting to get across the 14th Street Bridge, the human proclivity to self-identify and our great need for genuine identity.

We are siblings, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, mothers, fathers, employees, supporters, sports fans, and the list goes on and on. We see ourselves by the roles we fill, rather than by who we really are. We crave identity and we jump to identify ourselves based on where we come from, our last name, our relationships, who we know, and where we live. I’m not sure if it’s just because we are desperate to belong to something greater than ourselves or if it’s because we want to define ourselves before someone else has the opportunity to do so.

We do it when we meet new people, we do it in casual conversation, and we  tend to display all of our affiliations and many of the things we love on the exteriors of our cars. So recently, I’ve been getting to know the people in the cars around me (just their exterior, of course), just from seeing their back dashboard or bumper. It astonishes me that I can tell where an individual went to school, where their kids go to elementary school, what neighborhood they live in, gym they belong to, sports team they support, and many times their favorite vacation destination – all from sitting behind them or passing them on the road.

Even I’m not exempt from this. I laughed the other day as I passed a suburban with an elementary school honor society bumper sticker, and OBX sticker, and a bumper sticker that showed that the family had four kids, a cat and a dog, and then I realized that I do the same thing. I have a red and blue American University School of Public Affairs sticker in the back of my car that I’ve had since I first moved to Washington. I’m proud of my school and of my accomplishments there and it’s part of how I define myself.

But the thing that I’ve begun to realize recently is simple: in a city where so many define their lives by the politician and ideology they support, the university they graduated from, their job title, and their roles within their family or society… it’s that much more important that as a follower of Christ that I draw my entire identity from Christ alone. I don’t want the car I drive, my job, or even my family to define who I am. Does that mean I’m going to pull down my AU sticker or throw a bunch of Jesus fish on my bumper? No. Because really, that will never define who anyone is or how they choose to live.

What it does mean is that I have to give that much more effort to living as Paul did:

Galatians 2:20 I have been tcrucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives uin me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, vwho loved me and wgave himself for me.

And always remembering that my identity must always be found in my life in and through Christ:

Colossians 2:6-15

6 hTherefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 irooted and jbuilt up in him and kestablished in the faith, just las you were taught, abounding min thanksgiving.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive by nphilosophy and oempty deceit, according to phuman tradition, according to the qelemental spirits1 of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For rin him the whole fullness of deity dwells sbodily, 10 and tyou have been filled in him, who is uthe head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also vyou were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by wputting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 xhaving been buried with him in baptism, in which yyou were also raised with him through faith in zthe powerful working of God, zwho raised him from the dead. 13 aAnd you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God bmade alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by ccanceling dthe record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 wHe disarmed the rulers and authorities2 and eput them to open shame, by ftriumphing over them in him.