Have you ever been gripped by a Bible passage and unable to move on from it? It’s the one that you reread over and over again and find new meaning in every time. It’s a passage your brain tells you to move on from but your heart is unwavering, certain there’s still more gold to mine. Recently Ephesians 4 has gripped me – I’ve been stuck there for a couple of weeks and I don’t see myself moving on from it any time soon.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Ephesians 4:1-6 (ESV)
I’ve always loved the part of verse 1 that says “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you’ve been called”. What an amazing exhortation! As I’ve been reading and studying these verses over the past few weeks, I’ve come to realize that I’ve just been scratching the surface on what this verse actually means.
The word “calling” can mean a lot of different things to different people and I had been reading it as your vocation or your purpose or your life mission. If you are called to be a Fortune 500 CEO, start walking in a manner worthy of that calling now or if your dream is to be a stay at home mom, start loving others well now, etc. But that’s not what this verse is talking about, the calling to which we as Christians have been called is so much bigger. We’ve been called children of God and Paul is encouraging us to act like it.
The good news is that he doesn’t just leave us high and dry, but lays out a manual for us. In just a few verses he takes us through “Acting Like a Child of God 101”. Here are, according to Paul, the things people with our calling are supposed to display:
Bearing with one another in love
Unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
That is quite the list!
Imagine for a moment what the world might look like if we did even one of those things consistently! How would my family change if I approached them with more gentleness? How would my job change if I chose to bear with others in love even if I disagree with them? How might my community change if I created opportunities to experience unity? How would the church change if we were more humble every day?
I encourage you to grab out your Bible and a journal for the next part – let’s take some time for reflection.
Ask yourself the following questions for all 5 of these words or phrases:
What does ______________ mean?
For example, to me, “bearing with one another in love” means that love needs to be the foundation of everything I do. Without love I am unable to do life with others well. Without love, bearing with one another means doing it with gritted teeth and because of obligation. Love is a necessity.
What does ______________ look like?
For example, to me, “humility” looks like knowing who you are. It means having a correct view of yourself and your station – not thinking more or less of yourself. Pride is not humility. Self-deprecation is not humility. It’s the delicate balance intricately linked with your identity.
Now the fun begins:
Which of these is the easiest for you? Why?
Which of these is the hardest for you? Why?
Recently, I’ve been thinking audacious thoughts and ideas. These seem to be a little out there, a little grandiose, but I’m at a place in my life where I’m becoming okay with voicing them.
What if we each committed to intentionally incorporating one of these characteristics in our lives? Now, this doesn’t mean that we’ll be perfect – we’re going to fail, but we can choose to pick ourselves up and continue to grow.
I wonder how the world around us could change if we were intentional to love more, be more patient, be gentler, be humble in all situations, and look for opportunities for unity in the Spirit. I think that if we open ourselves up to walking in a manner worthy of our calling as precious daughters of the King and allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us, the world around us could look very different in even a short period of time. I’m willing to give this a try, are you?
I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve said something and then heard my 25-year-old son say, “Filter, Mom!” In truth, remembering to filter what goes on in my head before it comes out of my mouth has always been a struggle for me. I tend to speak much more than I should in some situations and then not say enough in others. Often I’ve missed the blessing of hearing what others are saying in both instances.
However, besides the obvious fact that I miss things, what is the ultimate responsibility I have in my words? Are there consequences far greater than what I may or may not miss? (more…)
I can almost say for certain that there is someone in your life that is abrasive, irritating, competitive, judgemental, controlling, annoying or just plain mean. Yeah, you know the one I’m talking about. You cringe at the thought of just being in their presence.
It might be a colleague, a family member, the parent of a student at your child’s school, maybe someone at the gym or all of the above. Wherever you are, inevitably there they are.
No matter how hard you try to avoid them, you round the corner and THERE THEY ARE! Alarms are going off inside your head! You try desperately to contain your panic, but it’s hard when you instinctively want to turn and run! Instead, you awkwardly manage to expel a series of words that don’t quite sound the same way you thought they would in your head. You feel like a babbling idiot and by the expression on their face they are in agreement.
A sad truth in all of this, is that it isn’t just the colleague, the family member, the parent of a student at your child’s school or even the person at the gym. It’s us… Christian women at church on Sunday morning, at our bible study, in our small group, even at our children’s youth group functions.
Why is this? One reason… Satan! He wants nothing more than for us to focus on his deception and by this creating a division within us; distracting us from the opportunity to see the beauty of Christ in others and in ourselves. Whether we are the cause or the effect of the irritation we focus on the negative in either scenario. We fail to understand the purpose of the irritation and discomfort. If somehow we could just learn to respond in grace, truth, love and total acceptance of one another we would find peace.
As I ponder this, I am reminded of one of God’s amazing creatures the oyster, and the beautiful pearl that He designed for it to create. By definition, pearls form out of the oyster’s natural reaction to protect itself from the irritant. As the sand or parasite works it’s way into the oyster, it’s defense is to coat the irritant with a substance called nacre (the brilliant substance that gives pearls their beauty, luster, strength and resilience). This nacre is deposited layer upon layer as a protective barrier until a lustrous pearl is formed.
It is only in Jesus that we will find this natural beauty within us.
It cannot be cultured or imitated. The process takes time but understanding the value of what it will produce helps us to look to Jesus. Remember that:
In all things the greatest of these is love.
What Satan intends for evil, God intends for good… and it is miraculously happening at the same time. Hold tight to this, believe it and trust in Him.
We have the choice to respond in defense and avoidance of the irritation of others or embrace and accept the opportunity to see the beautiful pearl that can only be produced when we allow the Holy Spirit to be our protective barrier that not only coats and protects us but transforms our irritation into a strong, brilliantly beautiful pearl that is genuine and unique.Complete with the capacity to respond in grace, truth and love; and gives us the ability to find
the peace and acceptance that each of us so badly longs for.
By Raena Isaacson
Dear Hurting Moms:
“For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” ~Ecclesiastes 4:10
We are not intended to walk this journey alone. When we’re broken, Christ uses friends to help glue our pieces back together.
I’m inclined to hide when I’m suffering. What about you? (more…)
I was having lunch with a beautiful young lady the other day, and we were commiserating on our individual inabilities to remember birthdays and holidays. She was telling me of a funny time when her mother had broken a cherished bowl. She found a replacement at the street fair one day in late October and determined herself then that she would buy the bowl and give it to her mother for Christmas. She forgot, decided to give it to her for Mother’s Day, forgot, and subsequently gave it to her mother for Christmas the next year. The problem was that she had placed a note in the gift wrapped box that was dated the year before her mother actually got it! Caught red-handed!
I do that sort of thing all of the time, as I’m sure many of you do too. I buy things or cards and put them away with full intentions of giving them to a special someone for their birthday or a holiday, only to not just forget where I put the gift or card, but to often forget the special day altogether! I forget dates, occasions, calls–you name it, and I’ve forgotten it. My young friend and I laughed together as we named ourselves “Time Capsule Friends”–that is, friends who give gifts late or make calls late so that we serve as a sort of “time capsule event” for the one getting them. We excused our lack of memory as a sort of service instead.
Of course our conversation was all in good fun, but I came face to face with the reality of my behavior while having coffee with another dear friend shortly afterward.
Understand that I am a busy woman. We all are! Kids, work, the house, our spouses, our church: Women are more often than not overworked and over-extended in most areas of their lives. Consequently, my friends and co-workers in ministry are generally very gracious with me when I don’t return calls or occasionally re-schedule or even cancel coffee dates or lunch. Sweetly they will say, “It’s okay, Deb. I know you’re busy.” And I am, just as you are and they are and we all are. However, is that always a good excuse? Do we allow our undeniably busy lives to interfere with ministering to one another as friends and loved ones? Is a busy life an excuse to selfishly ignore the needs of others?
As I alluded to, I had coffee shortly after my lunch with another dear friend. We had talked for a while, and I noticed that she was stammering a little, obviously trying to figure out how to tell me what was really on her mind. Suddenly and without warning, she began to weep right there in the coffee shop.
“I’m sorry, Deb, but I need to see you sometimes. I need time with you, not often, but occasionally.”
I stopped short. You see, this is not the first time I’ve heard this, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard this recently. I get so caught up in my work for the Lord that I had begun to forget the work of the Lord. I write and minister and speak and counsel, and often I think this is the bulk of what I should be doing. Unfortunately, I sometimes also ignore that all of those things are absolutely nothing without relationship, without love and friendship and really ministering into one another’s lives.
Jesus, the one person in all of eternity who truly had an excuse to maybe cancel a few coffees and lunches, never did so. Right after teaching the Sermon on the Mount, He didn’t hesitate to heal the leper or go to the centurion’s house to heal his servant or to heal Peter’s mom or hundreds of others. He was busy. He was about the Lord’s work, but our Savior knew that this work was accomplished in relationship and giving time to individuals.
What excuse have you given for not meeting with a friend or a woman who needs you? Is it your children or your grandchildren or your job or even your ministry? Sisters, please don’t do what I’ve done and think that it’s somehow a service or even adorably quaint to be a “Time Capsule Friend.” It isn’t. God has called us to pour into one another’s lives and live in the love exemplified for us by our Savior.
Needless to say, I’ve made a few long overdue calls lately and paid a few long overdue visits. My work can wait. After all, it’s really meaningless if in it I am not showing the love of Jesus to the people around me.
Do you need to pick up the phone?
Have you ever met one of those people who is the epitome of freedom? They don’t care what other people think and don’t seem to be phased by what happens to them, but continue to go forward with almost reckless abandon? I’m not one of those people. I would like to be, but I am far from their level of freedom. I have a comfort zone, a routine, to which I have grown accustomed and like to maintain. Interestingly enough, the most free people I know are those who are very close to God, intimately tuned into his voice, and actively seeking his face. The most free people I know have trusted God through good and bad, displaying an awe-inspiring amount of faith. Trusting God is great in theory, until he asks you to do something that makes you uncomfortable. So, what do you do when his direction or instruction flies in the face of your instincts?
All of our favorite Bible characters navigated through this same internal struggle. Let’s look at Moses. God told him that he would be used to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. What a ridiculous notion! Then, after they had been rescued from their oppressors, God sustained his people through miracles as they wandered about in the desert. God’s instructions to Moses were ridiculous, but he obeyed, why? It wasn’t because he was being forced or coerced into submission. Moses obeyed because he knew God. He knew His voice and character, making obedience a no-brainer. So why do we struggle so often with following God’s instructions?
I want you to think about a time when God has told you to do something. It could be going and speaking to someone, forgiving someone who hurt you, quitting something or starting something new, or a thousand other things. Do you have yours in mind? I have mine. Now, how does that instruction or direction make you feel? Now, that’s a strange question coming from me, I’m not one to talk about feelings often, but I’m learning that there’s value to this type of self-assessment. I think two of the main responses can be: fear or freedom. I think your reaction depends wholly on your perspective. Let me say it another way, your response to obedience reveals your view of God.
The Bible says that God is love, it’s not that he can love or he loves well, but he is the very definition of love. The Bible also says that perfect Love casts out all fear, meaning that fear cannot exist in the same space as perfect love. When a frightening directive is given by God and your focus is on the directive and yourself (i.e. a selfish perspective), the natural result is fear. But when you focus on the one giving the command, it can be a freeing experience.
Most of the time, I take the selfish road, as I am a very selfish individual. But the interesting thing is that this perspective always leads to my detriment. By focusing on myself and how God’s word effects me it causes me to operate in a place of fear. But, when I change my perspective and focus on God, my response changes. When I know that God loves me and is always looking out for me I can trust that his directions are indeed good. I can know that He wants good things for me and will work things together for my benefit and not to my destruction.
I don’t know what you’re facing right now, but I know that God is good. Every time I have entered into a period of transition or stepped into something scary, God has pulled through and, despite all the bumps in the road, I’ve come out better on the other side. And I believe he will do the same for you. If you’re frighted by that next step He’s telling you to take, know that you’re not alone. It’s okay to react with fear, but you can’t stay there. When fear begins to creep in, whispering in your ear to run away or hide, change your perspective and focus on the One who is speaking to you and leading you.
I’m not writing this because I have mastered this or because I have this all figured out. I’m writing this because I’m in the middle of it right now. What God is telling me to do scares me and I have to daily, sometimes hourly, shift my focus to the Lord and off my situation. I’m asking you to join me on this faith walk as we continue to move toward God and away from ourselves.
A simple shift in perspective can change everything. I’m willing to humble myself and change my thinking, are you?
Sarah was raised in Tucson, Arizona, but now lives in Dallas, Texas. She currently works a 9-5 job, but in her spare time she loves to write, paint, draw, and sing. More importantly, she wants to help people receive hope when they feel like they have none.
Sarah: “I believe every number has a name, every name has a story, and every story is worthy of being shared.”
Sarah’s Blog: workinprogressblog.co