The Gospel – it’s not about me

not_about_me

I’ve spent a bit of time lately being reflective. Not in the way I did in the past when scrutiny only brought guilt and shame, but rather just an honest look at where I am, what I’m doing, where I’m going, and what is motivating me. If you’ve read many of my posts, infrequent as they may be lately, you’ve seen that I seem to circle the same wagon, making the same point again and again. Today is not much different because I just can’t get away from the fact that this enormous gift of grace, the gospel, the good news we’ve been offered came with the simplest of instructions on how to live it out. Yet this simple message seems to get lost in our focus on the magnificence of the gift we’ve received.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I need to put my thoughts and feelings into words in order to process the information and keep myself on track. I tend to get tunnel vision. I get focused on something I’m doing, where I’m going, etc., and can easily lose sight of all else. Many years ago I heard a man say that God gave him a word and he made it a sentence and ended up in a different place/or with different plans than God had intended. I can easily take a word from God and make it a 5 or 10 year plan, completely forgetting that my faith walk is to be step-by-step with Him!

This morning as I began the difficult task of waking enough to be functional, I turned the TV to a Christian channel. The program airing was not one I watch regularly but I quickly became interested in where the message from this world renowned preacher was going. Millions will have heard his message by the time I post this and I wonder what they will do with these words that were spoken: “Your number one priority is your happiness.”

Now I’m pulling one line from an entire message which was about not allowing others to manipulate you, being aware when it’s time to stop enabling/rescuing others, etc., which was very good information. However, the words above were in essence wrapping up the message, bringing it to his point. And those words tickled my ears. For a split second everything in my flesh wanted to shout “AMEN!” But I know better.

I went out for my run with those words stuck in my head. I was so focused on my thoughts about them that I looked up after a few minutes and didn’t know where I was. I had intended to go on one of my regular routes through the neighborhood but had inadvertently gone a different way. And being directionally challenged this was cause for concern. (I do possess a phone with gps capabilities, however I choose to run without it because I do not want any distractions…lol) I quickly realized that I was not lost but simply on another familiar path so I returned to my processing of the message I’d heard. Turning my thoughts to my own life, it was easy to see how often I’ve gotten spiritually distracted and tried to make the gospel about me.

The truth is that the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – that delivers and heals and saves and empowers and frees is not about me. It is for me. Jesus came for me, He bore the sins of all for me (and you), He sent the Helper for me. But the good news was never about me – it was about Him. It has always been about Him. He IS the good news. When I try to take this gift of grace and make it about me, I twist His intent. He didn’t set me free to chase my own dreams. He didn’t deliver me so that I could be more self-aware. He didn’t empower me so that I could be anything I want to be. He did it all so that I could be who and what He designed me to be.

The gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – is the gracious gift of God for all who will accept, but Jesus said that to truly receive and experience this magnificent gift one must deny self – completely surrender to His will, His way, His pleasure, His desire. Yet somehow we’ve taken the sacrifice and made the gift about us and our own happiness. We sing His praises and proclaim that we have a good, good Father, but we so often do not trust Him with His plans for our lives. It is only in this denial of self that we will find the true fullness of the good news of Jesus.

“For whoever wishes to save his life in this world will eventually lose it through death, but whoever loses his life in this world for My sake and the gospel’s will save it…”  Mark 8:35

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

It is a challenging balance to maintain – to receive all the wonders of grace and find our identity in Him yet stay focused on Him, not ourselves. To live in the many blessings He pours out over us and yet be willing to hold them loosely, becoming only stewards of what belongs to Him. To exist in our human form and yet live consumed by His mighty presence within.

The gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – when embraced, changes the perspective of our lives. He has taken a story that is full of the everyday stuff, drama, comedy, satire, mystery, and even a little romance (for this not-so-mushy kind of girl) and given it all meaning and purpose. As He’s revealed Himself in my past, shows Himself in the here and now, and gives me vision to see His hand on my future, I grow to know and trust and love Him more and more. The script of my life has humbled and honored and delighted and even scared me at times, yet I am more confident than ever that the chapters still to come will be rich and full because as long as I will allow, this story will be much more about Him rather than me.  And it will be a very good story because He is good.

The Gospel – it’s not about me” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

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A public apology

confession

You know those times that you mess up and you just can’t seem to let it go? You confess, you know that God has heard you, you’ve apologized to the one you’ve wronged yet you just can’t let it go…

I was one of the speakers at an in-house ladies retreat at my church this weekend. It was a wonderful spa-themed event and I was excited about the portions of the Psalms I would share with the ones who had taken time out of their busy lives to come and listen. The passages and topics of the morning had been very meaningful to me and I was under no impression that what I would share was any more or less important than these.

I was up after lunch and hopeful that I could say what I had on my heart before the after-lunch-sleepies set in and I would begin to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher… wawawawawa… Time always goes quickly when I speak and before I knew it, I had committed the #1 sin of conference speaking – I had overrun my time and left virtually nothing for the speaker following me who was to close out the event. Sigh.

Normally I have a designated person within direct eye contact range who is given the assignment of helping me end on time, someone who will hold up a written 10 minute warning or give the universal shut-up symbol of a knife being drawn across the neck. I neglected to acquire such assistance today. It was my understanding that yes, we were running a little behind schedule, but we would be extending the end time by a few minutes to wrap it up. I was wrong. No excuses, I should have confirmed. I should have been more considerate. I should have…shut up. Sigh again.

I did apologize to my fellow presenter, twice. I prayed as I left and again as I ran my afternoon errands, and more when I got home but I couldn’t shake that yuck feeling. So as I was winding down my activities this evening and finally got still it occurred to me what was left undone – I needed to apologize to all the ladies who attended the retreat. Not only had I taken from this speaker the time and prayer she had invested in being God’s voice today, but I had caused others to miss something God wanted to say to them. I owe them that.

One of my topics today was the prayer of confession and more than a few times God has required of me that mine be made more openly known than just in my quiet corner with Him. He’s like that sometimes.

So, ladies, I hope this finds its way to you because I am truly sorry. Please share this with those who are not on social media or the internet or who may have been visitors to our event. To the ladies ministry team: should you ever dare to invite me to be a part of this event in the future, please give me the last time slot – following her.

Oh, and did I mention the speaker following me was my pastor’s wife? Yeah, let that sink in…  

 

A public apology” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

And she is fiercely fragile

fragile

She’s a wisp of a little thing, the kind of child that catches your eye. She’s often quiet and reserved and seems to ration her smiles to be given only to those who can reach within and draw them out, which is no easy task. She is confident and opinionated and smart and when her mind is set she is as an impenetrable wall protecting her stance. She is fierce and many times a force to be reckoned with, the kind of child that one can find intimidating. I am still finding my way with her.

She seems to live as though every boundary must be thoroughly and repeatedly tested, giving the impression that she is belligerent just because. I suspect she believes herself to already be more intelligent than the most of us who are feebly trying to lead her. Perhaps she is right. She has this innate ability to push your buttons as she locks those steely blues on you and counters your every move. She is as tenacious as she is persistent and certain she can outlast any energy you expend in an effort to oppose her.

She’s had a lot placed on those tiny shoulders lately, more than any child should have to carry, and it is taking its toll. As I was teaching this week I saw it wash over her as if she couldn’t hold it off any longer – defeat. My heart ached for her but she wouldn’t let me in. She is struggling with emotions for which there are no easy expressions, pain she cannot stop, and the frustrations of one who is too young to understand what shakes her soul. As fierce as she is, she is fragile.

She is like delicate, fine china, exquisite in appearance and requiring great tenderness and care – something that is easy to miss in one so fierce. Once noticed, this vulnerable fragility makes you want to take her and keep her hidden from the world and all that would threaten to chip and break this frail heart. Resistant to being protected, she doesn’t want to be hidden, just helped, especially when she doesn’t make it easy.

I’ve always viewed her fierceness as her strength and her fragility as something to be changed. Today she showed me that I have it all wrong – it is her fragility that is her greatest strength. I watched her move with no hesitation, no fear, and no awkwardness among strangers who were weak and frail, tenderly looking them in the eyes and offering them simple, pure love. Precious, unspoken understanding of what it’s like to be fragile was the very thing she had to offer. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

I was humbled and reminded how desperately I need God to help me see what He sees. For I’m not a delicate, fine china kind of person. I’m more the every day dinnerware that can take the bumps and chips and scratches and drops without shattering. The kind of person that has viewed fragility as weakness in others when, in fact, it can be a wonderful strength.

I saw my little friend again this afternoon and she rushed to give me a hug and a smile. Her world was made right, even if just for a while, by the giving of herself to those who she knew just need to be loved. Another lesson for today.

 

And she is fiercely fragile” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com 

 

 

 

Taking the bait

mousetrap

It was a simple little comment, not intended to offend, but not well thought-out either. A simple comment about my appearance as I was about to stand to speak. Grrrrr. My first thoughts were not nice and my snarky tongue wanted free rein. While I controlled the words I did not hold back the “look” knowing full well that the eyes are the window to the soul. Sigh. I fell for it. I took the bait.

I’m not usually easily offended but this particular day I was tired and the comment caught me off guard. Add to that the fact that a co-worker recently told me he has also seen my “death stare” and it’s time for me to pay attention. I don’t like to think I can be come so easily ensnared but isn’t that the mindset that allows that very thing?

We live in a time when being offended is the norm. It’s open, in-your-face, how-dare-you attitudes displayed for all the world to see over just about everything. Sheesh. I am weary of the news and social media, yet find myself struggling with the same temptation. So what’s the harm in being offended?

The word offense comes from the Greek word skandalon, meaning the trigger of a trap (the mechanism closing a trap down on the unsuspecting victim); (figuratively) an offense, putting a negative cause-and-effect relationship into motion.*

It’s a trap, people!! There is no positive effect in being offended. It breeds negativity and anger, harsh words and resentment, and places the responsibility of resolution on others rather than ourselves. Once given its way, offense ensnares. Oh, we may think we’ve gotten away with our feeling of self-importance as we’ve condemned another for their words or actions, but little do we realize we remain trapped. We become a people constantly reacting to the opinions and actions of others rather than acting on the commands of Christ.

mousetrap2

A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle. Proverbs 18:19

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger… James 1:19

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23

When did we become a people devoid of understanding the difference between disagreement and offense? When did we decide the technology available at our fingertips is our platform to proclaim how right (and superior) we are and how wrong another most certainly is? When did our allegiance to a nation, a flag, an anthem become greater than our allegiance to follow Christ – to do life His way – treating others as if they were more important than ourselves? When did love become something we give only to those with whom we agree?

The injustices and imbalances are real. The issues and debates are endless. Take part. Take a stand, discuss, disagree, listen – really listen – before responding. Vote, protest (yes, I said protest!), take advantage of the freedoms we have that allow us to do those very things and to disagree. Loose yourself from the trap of being offended and be determined to avoid it at all costs! Don’t lose sight of what we are about – to show the love of God to ALL the world, perhaps especially to those with whom we disagree.

Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14

*Strong’s Concordance

Taking the bait” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Second image taken from http://www.dreamstime.com

 

Staying on point

 

hang onI’ve dipped my toes into the insurance world once again. After several years out of the industry I have accepted a position to teach a licensing prep course and it feels good. I love the classroom and watching the lightbulbs turn on as information is absorbed and understanding comes. I had a wonderful career in this industry and there is joy for me in encouraging those making career changes by sharing my experiences.

Yesterday we touched on a topic of the studies that got me sidetracked. Insurance is a product that is regulated by both state and federal entities and as we discussed the programs offered through the government, conversation turned to the abuses that occur in said programs and it spiraled from there. I can be very passionate about what I believe and while I seldom enter into discussions about the government or politics, there are realities that cannot be ignored.

I believe in the intent of the programs we have – to help people in need. The elderly, the poor, those in need of medical care. I simply do not believe that government programs were supposed to be Plan A. As idealistic as it may sound, I believe we were created to help each other, not look to the government to take care of our brothers and sisters on this earth. Yet I am not ignorant of the frailties of the human will or the strength of the love of self. Herein lies the problem.

So my classroom became my pulpit for a few minutes. And while I very passionately expressed my feelings and opinions on these matters, it had absolutely nothing to do with what the students needed to know in order to pass the upcoming exam. I got off point. Thankfully no one seemed too disturbed by my short spiritual lecture and I was able to refocus on the actual facts needing to be addressed and move on.

As is my habit whenever I speak to a group of people, my drive home involves the mental replay of how the event went. Yesterday was no different and I chided myself for allowing my personal opinions and emotions to interrupt the fulfilling of my professional responsibilities. And as I did this mental replay it occurred to me that we so often do this as Christians – get off point.

The things that distract us from the point can be matters that stir our passions at depths we cannot fully express. We see the causes, feel the pains, grieve over the losses, protest the injustices and these actions can become so consuming that we begin to believe they are the point. We get off-task. The needs are real and emotions drive our responses. We are afraid so we lash out. We are angry so we blame. We feel helpless to affect so we give up. And while the causes are all very worthy of our attention, we have gotten off point in how we respond.

What is the mission to which we said we surrendered as Jesus-followers? To love. That is how it will be known that He exists and that we are His. If I speak (or post on social media…) of, or more importantly to, a group of people who I believe are in error in their ways and actions, yet my words show no love for those very same people, I am but a clanging cymbal, accomplishing the very opposite of what I was called to do. I bring harm to the cause of Christ which is Plan A: His will, His way.

The questions we must ask ourselves daily (maybe hourly) are “Am I on point? Whatever I have to do, am I doing it His way, not mine? Am I showing His love in everything I do?” For that is the mission.

I feel like a broken record lately, but I can’t get away from this message. I grieve for the hurting and the injustices in this world, but I grieve also for His body who is so often distracted that we are missing the point. Maybe no one near seems to be too disturbed by our passionate discourses and may even vehemently agree. But I pray we re-focus and stay on point. It is then He can use us to change our world. And that’s the Jesus Plan A.

Staying on point” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Image from www.artique.com

There are victories to be won

 

heart of hands

Where do I begin? The events of the last two weeks have rocked our world again. Emotions have driven hasty words, hurtful words, divisive words, all in a desperate attempt to cast blame because surely if we can point a finger at the culprits we will feel better. We will feel as if we have affected change. But is that the kind of change we really want? To step into the battle blindly believing that anger will stop anger, hate will stop hate?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

 We have been called to a maturity that requires we lay down our opinions and surrender our emotions to the One Who has called us to greater love. Loving our enemies wasn’t a suggestion. It was an expectation that if we call ourselves His children this would be how we show it to be true. This would be the only way we turn the hearts of our enemies – overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21).

“But I say to you, love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:43, 48

The emotions are raw and intense and conflicting and disturbing. Anger and frustration and sorrow and grief. And fear. FEAR. All whirling so violently in our souls that it seems they cannot, should not be contained. To feel so passionately about injustice surely must be the indication that we speak, no, SHOUT our views and if we shout loudly enough surely we will feel better. Surely someone will listen. Surely the madness will stop. Surely once released our souls will be quieted.

But this is the moment we must stop and turn the fierceness of those emotions into passionate prayer. We must retreat into the secret place wanting only what HE wants, saying only what HE says, doing ONLY what He says to do for everything else will be wood, hay, and stubble. It will not endure. It will not affect real change. It will not win the lost. And that remains our mission – to be led by His Spirit to be His heart, His hands, and His feet that take His love to EVERYONE.

He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty – Whose power no foe can withstand.  Psalm 91:1

Does it mean we don’t have good conversations in order to find understanding and work toward unity? Absolutely not! But good conversations rarely begin with verbal assaults or fingers pointed in blame. 

Should we protest? Should we post on social media? Should we bare our heartbreak through videos? Should we sit silent? These are questions that can only be answered in each and every Christian’s secret place with God. Will He lead us all to do the same thing? No. We each have a role to play in representing Him to the world and once committed to the pursuit of our individual purposes we can no longer play the comparison game amongst ourselves. Hearing the voice of God in the secret place is where we find the peace Jesus died to give us and nothing can take it away. Hearing the voice of God in the secret place is the first of the victories to be won.

We must stand for those oppressed. ALL who are oppressed. We do not choose sides. We do not take it upon ourselves to deem one worthy of His love and mercy and another condemned without hope. That is not our call. Our call is to obey. Whatever He says. No matter what anyone else thinks or says.

But the LORD reigns forever, executing judgment from his throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness. The LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O LORD, do not abandon those who search for you.  Psalm 9:7-10 

As I pray for the angry and the violent, the grieving and the lost, and for His children to be His shelter for these the oppressed, I pray for you “Peace”. Not as the world gives but as Jesus gives. For we simply cannot give away what we do not have.

There are victories to be won” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photo by Just Wild About Teaching

 

On birthing an Ishmael

Wilderness south of Machtesh Ramon3, tb q010403

It’s a quiet Saturday morning, the raging storms have slowed to heavy clouds and scattered showers. At least for now. I sit here sipping my herbal brew which has replaced my morning coffee and am fully enjoying both the brew and the stillness. I’ve had a full and productive week which brings its own satisfaction, a feeling which has escaped me for quite a few months. I embrace this return of peace to my soul and vow to never let go again. Easier said than done…

I think of Abraham and what it must have been like to pack up everything he had and move his family when he didn’t know where he was going. The changes God brought in my life a few years ago weren’t quite as dramatic, well, at least not geographically. I remain in the same city with family and friends near. I thought I knew where I was headed but my “wandering” has lasted longer than expected. Seeking His direction has become a much deeper experience and I’m realizing just how often I distrust my ability to discern the difference between my own way and His.

I can certainly identify with Abraham’s impatience. He’d heard from God a profound promise for his life. He’d obeyed the instructions that did not make sense and began his journey as a man of faith. He had every intention of doing exactly what God wanted but found himself yielding to the pressure to make something happen. So he did. And Ishmael was born.

There is pressure in the not knowing. Pressure from people…what are you doing? Pressure from the checkbook…how are you going to make ends meet?  Pressure from within…are you sure you heard Him? It’s easy to believe the pressure can be relieved if we would just do something. 

I embarked on a venture last year that had all the potential in the world to be successful. There is an untapped market in this area, I have the talents and abilities to provide the product and services, and the high-end nature of said product could provide a very sizable income as the business could expand even into international arenas.

I had someone to introduce me and guide me through the details of this particular market. I easily found the resources and supplies I would need, and so I began. The logistics and timing of my first productions were challenging to say the least. It was definitely a learning process for me and my guide, and we were both making our notes of how to do it better the next time. And while I was confident that I could do it and could envision the potential of this business, I was striving to make it happen.

Working hard and striving are not always the same thing. To strive can mean to devote serious effort or energy. That’s a good thing and can bring the sense of satisfaction I mentioned above. But striving can also mean to struggle in opposition, and deep in my soul I was striving with this new endeavor. I didn’t have that absolute peace that I was headed in the right direction.

Abraham yielded to the pressure from his wife and he acted on it hoping that it would bring him peace. It did not. Ishmael was an innocent child and Abraham loved his son but he was not the son of promise. I’m sure Abraham tried very hard to make him the son of promise, he could see his potential, but in his soul he knew. Ishmael’s presence brought grief rather than peace. There was nothing wrong with Ishmael but he was an obstacle in the plan and God had Abraham send him away into the wilderness.

I can only imagine the grief in the heart of Abraham at the loss of his son. It surely was an obedience that he wrestled with greatly. Yet he obeyed. And when he did, peace returned to his camp. The promised son would come in the right time and it would be because God did something, not Abraham.

While I still see the potential for this business endeavor, I have sent it to the wilderness. It’s not a part of His plan for me. Once I obeyed in the letting go, peace returned. Direction became clearer of where I am to continue walking. I’m tempted to look back and lament wasted time. But that in itself is wasted time. Rather I will chalk it up to the experience needed to get me to exactly where I am. At peace.

This is not the first time I’ve had to send a desire to the wilderness. I’ve spent much time in my life trying very hard to make things work that just weren’t right for me. Or their season had ended and I just wouldn’t let go. And leaving these things in the wilderness wasn’t easy. But realizing that these things would only bring grief if I held on was the call to obey.

Jesus talked about the kind of peace He provides. Peace that defies pressure. Peace that isn’t logical and that cannot be fully explained. Peace that positions us to hear Him more clearly. Peace from within that cannot be taken away. Peace that has nothing to do with what I can make happen but rather what He has already done. Peace that remains in the midst of hard work. Peace that will cause the world to hunger for what we have.

*There are many families in the greater Houston area that are dealing with the devastation of floods. Please pray that these families find God and His peace during these difficult times. Please consider a donation for disaster relief to help the many who have literally lost everything. Samaritan’s Purse is a favorite organization of mine and I invite you to follow this link in order to help Houstonians:   http://www.samaritanspurse.org

 

“On birthing an Ishmael” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com