How an Eternal Perspective Shapes Our Present Living

Let’s face it – we are chronically self-focused. Our gaze is usually turned inward, and we evaluate and engage everything through the lens of personal impact. In seasons of suffering or bouts of difficult emotion, our vision is narrowed even more. But in Christ, our mind and heart are being transformed, renewed in the image of our Creator. A big piece of that sanctification process is growing in developing and nurturing an eternal perspective, so that our affections and purposes come into line with God’s. We need our lives to be shaped by God’s promises.

Eternal perspective has become a pervasive theme in what God has been teaching me lately. And the more I learn and grow, the more clearly I see how having an eternal perspective shapes every aspect of our present living. Here are just a few examples of areas that are impacted:

  • SUFFERING | We are given hope and comfort in the midst of suffering and grief. We are motivated to persevere and surrender.
  • FOCUS | We lift up our eyes and take the focus off ourselves. It cultivates a heart of humility.
  • SPIRITUAL GROWTH | We are motivated to know God more and walk with Him daily, and to put off sin and grow in sanctification.
  • PURPOSE | Our priorities are reoriented to focus on God’s purposes. We recognize that life is a gift to be stewarded rather than a competition to gain all we can.
  • WORK | It changes our perspective on work and ministry. Everything we do is fueled by the ministry of reconciliation that has been entrusted to us.
  • FEAR | In the face of anxiety, we are led to trust God and rest in the peace that He gives. This life is fleeting, and the pain and hurt is temporary. God is bigger than the things we fear, and we stand in reverent awe before Him.
  • IDENTITY | Our story is enveloped in God’s, and all glory goes to Him. He redefines and reframes our identity.
  • RELATIONSHIPS | We are motivated to pursue reconciliation in our relationships. We let go of offenses more quickly and remember that relationships are for Him, not for us.
  • LOVE | Our affections are loosed from earthly treasures, and our heart is fixed on our Father who has so abundantly loved us. We are devoted to Him above all else.
Advertisements

Engaging with the Word

The Bible is unlike any other book. It’s not meant to be read passively or selectively. It is living and active – it teaches, convicts and changes us as we interact with it. We come to the Word to learn about God’s character, and to be progressively transformed into His image. So we need to learn what it looks like to engage actively with God’s Word, with a heart of surrender that seeks to know and respond to Him.

REFLECT
Instead of just skimming over the words on the page, take time to really sit in it and reflect. Ask questions, think about what it means, consider how it connects to the overarching story of redemption, identify what it teaches about who God is and how He works.

EXAMINE
Invite the Lord to illuminate your heart and open your eyes through His Word. In what ways do your thoughts and desires fail to line up with what you’re reading in this passage? Seek to understand the root of your sin, not just the external action.

CONFESS
Whenever we see some aspect of God’s character in Scripture, our own sin and insufficiency will be evident. Recognizing our sin is a gift of God’s grace to us, and is part of how He is at work changing us. But it’s uncomfortable, so our natural tendency is often to ignore it and focus on things that seem more pleasant and encouraging. However, the only right response is to humbly confess to God our sin and desperate need for Him.

PRAISE
We know that the Bible says God is good and faithful and loving, but in the face of difficulty, it’s hard to remember and walk in those truths. One of the ways for truth to move from our head to our heart is through praise. Whatever you learn in Scripture about God and His work, respond by praising Him – awaken your heart to love and worship the Lord.

SUPPLICATION
Be specific in praying that God will change your heart and mind. We are dependent on Him and need His help to learn to walk in His ways. For example, if you recognize pride in your heart, ask God to grow you in humility and show you where in your life you have been pursuing your own glory instead of His.

RESPOND
Identify particular ways that God is leading you to respond to His Word. Heart change may take time, but you can take steps forward in obedience as He teaches you through His Word.

That God would speak and reveal Himself to us is such amazing grace. May we cherish and engage with His Word, looking not just for information or help, but to know our Creator in relationship and be changed by Him.

Key Strategies for Navigating Conflict

Especially in our closest and most important relationships, conflict has the potential to become volatile and cause severe, lasting damage. But in Christ, our conflict has the potential to display the grace of God and actually strengthen the relationship. This redemptive fruit is not automatic, though. We must depend on God to help us approach conflict in a new way that is so opposite from the natural bent of our flesh. While navigating conflict in this new way is a complex matter, I would sum it up in two key strategies: love and listen.

LOVE | Be committed to unity. Love doesn’t keep score or manipulate. Try to approach conflict with a cooperative, rather than competitive, attitude. You’re on the same team; you’re sitting on the same side of the table. Let your communication be characterized by humility and selflessness. Love and honor each other as people created in God’s image and given value by Him.

LISTEN | Usually in conflict, you will find a clashing of perspectives and desires. Each person is coming at it from a different angle and is interpreting things according to their own interests and experiences. And each party views one particular aspect as the most important consideration or most pressing concern. So be grace-centered in your approach by seeking to understand each person’s point of view and interests. Rather than assuming you know how the other thinks and feels, ask clarifying questions with a desire to truly understand their heart. Then respond with empathy and compassion. Lay down arms, seek God, and work together to reach a wise solution that honors God above all.

Doing conflict from a place of love and grace is hard. We won’t always get it right; we will often hurt those we love. But we can cultivate a pattern of humble confession and merciful forgiveness, and keep moving forward together as we learn a redemptive way to walk through conflict.


*  My perspective has been influenced by Ken Sande’s book Peacemaking for Families. I highly recommend it as a valuable resource for understanding communication and conflict in relationships.

Walking in Wisdom

Each of us are being shaped and guided by particular beliefs, desires, and allegiances that set our lives on a trajectory. Yet often we get so busy living life that we don’t take time to really consider how we are living and what we are pursuing. But God has a specific design for how we have been created to live before Him – walking in wisdom.

Proverbs 9:10 tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” So this wisdom life that God has called us to must be rooted in the fear of the Lord. Nothing else is a steady foundation, and no other posture is conducive to growing in true wisdom. What does it mean to fear the Lord? It’s a matter of the heart – our posture and allegiance – that flows from a right view of God as holy and exalted. Fear of the Lord looks like worship, surrender, obedience, trust and love.

The life of walking in wisdom embraces and is marked by humility. This means we trust that God’s ways are best, even when they are hard or don’t make sense. Humility is dependent on God, rather than being self-reliant. We look to His character, purposes and design as our source for discerning what is right and best. We also seek to have an accurate awareness of our weaknesses and temptations. As we learn to walk in humility, we receive correction and are willing to confess and repent in submission to our Good King.

Scripture teaches us the life-giving value of wisdom, and insists that it must be intentionally pursued. So what does that pursuit look like?

  • Wisdom’s reach is extensive, so we should shine the light of Scripture into every area of our life.
  • We can invite correction, input, and accountability from other believers.
  • Wisdom grows as we take time to process and reflect on our experiences and the responses of our heart. If we stay in survival mode or fill our lives so full that we’re never still, there won’t be an opportunity for growth.
  • We must remember that wisdom is not just about behavior and choices, but heart change and being shaped into the image of God. With this perspective, we can seek out the root and pray for God to change us as we follow Him.

Let us move forward in pursuit of the life God created us for, growing in wisdom as we follow Him in joyful, humble obedience.

The Problem with Confidence

The mantra of the world is all about building confidence: “You are enough,” “You can do whatever you set your mind to,” “You can manifest your own destiny,” “You are worthy & entitled.” But this pursuit of self-confidence is like building a house on quicksand – it won’t be long-lasting or stand up under the weight of reality. It’s bound to crumble. But it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have any confidence at all. The problem with confidence is when it’s misdirected and built on the wrong foundation.

The gospel, as it always does, flips the world’s values on their head. God’s redemptive purposes give us a very different perspective. His Word teaches that we are weak and He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). We are vessels of clay, and the power comes from Him (2 Corinthians 4:7). Without God’s grace in Christ, we are rebellious and dead in sin, deserving only of judgment. We must abide in Christ, for apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:1-11). Our sufficiency is from God (2 Corinthians 3:4-6), and it is He who equips and enables us. Because God created and redeemed us, our lives belong to Him and we exist for His glory, not to build up our own kingdom (Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 3:1-4; Hebrews 12:28-29).

So then, if we are weak and dependent, what do we do with this idea of confidence? Does it mean that we must cower through life in shame and fear? Not even close!

As followers of Christ, our confidence has a different foundation than the world offers. Our confidence is rooted in the grace of God, the redemption and righteousness provided by Christ, and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to teach and change us. Most importantly, our confidence is marked by humility – knowing that we are sinners in need of a Savior and fragile vessels in need of a greater power. We recognize and surrender to the reality that our lives belong to God, and that He will accomplish His purposes in and through us. God’s forgiveness covers our shame, and His presence and strength calm our fear. Confidence does not have to be synonymous with arrogance. We can walk with God with boldness AND humble dependence.

Our Daily Bread

In Exodus 16 we find a story that displays God’s character and teaches us how we’re designed to relate to Him. He had delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and was personally guiding them. But the people began to complain about the lack of food in the wilderness; they forgot God’s deliverance and presence, and questioned His character and intentions. In response, God fed the Israelites with a daily supply of manna that He provided, sustaining them in the wilderness for 40 years.

DEPENDENCE & REST || The Israelites were utterly dependent on the Lord for their daily bread. They needed Him to provide what they could not produce for themselves; they couldn’t go even one day without Him. The Israelites were taught to rest, and to trust that God would provide a double portion to enable that Sabbath rest.

HUMILITY || The dependence on God’s daily provision was meant to produce humility in the Israelites. In Deuteronomy 8, Moses reflects this in his warning to the Israelites to not become proud. They were called to remember that it was God who delivered and sustained them and to respond in praise and thanksgiving.

TRUST || God’s character and faithfulness were on display as He sent the manna each day. Even though the manna itself was mysterious, something the Israelites had never seen before, they could trust God in the unknown.

OBEDIENCE || Part of the purpose of the manna was for God’s people to learn obedience, listening to His voice and following His instructions. His intentions toward them were pure, and His commands were for their good.

Just as God revealed Himself to the Israelites as He provided for them, so we too can learn these lessons as we draw near to Him. We are made to walk in humility, dependent on our Creator and overflowing with thanksgiving. He is always good, always trustworthy. And in Christ, God has offered provision for our deepest need—salvation and rescue from the bondage and penalty of sin. Jesus is the Bread of Life, given by God so that we might have life in Him:

“Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now He offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…. I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’”  — John 6:32-33, 35

In salvation, and in all of life, we are fully dependent on the Lord — for grace, strength, growth, joy, life. He knows our need, and He is faithful to provide. He is our rest.

Whatever you are experiencing today, remember this story of a God who sees, loves, teaches and provides… and look to Him for your daily bread.

The Humility of Image Bearers

We were each created by God, made in His image. Though the image in us has been marred by our voluntary enslavement to sin, it is still present. This identity as His image bearers is what defines our value and our purpose.

As creatures, our natural right position before God is one of humility as we yield to Him His rightful place of honor and authority. We exist to glorify and exalt Him. Just as the moon has no light of its own but merely reflects the sun, so we are only reflectors of His glory and image; we are not the source or center of anything. Humility is “the sense of entire nothingness that comes when we see how truly God is everything.” We are to be empty vessels that are filled up and used by Him. Our design as God’s image bearers is to be wholly dependent on Him — that is the essence of humility.

Pride is the loss of humility and the root of sin. Pride can be expressed in a multitude of ways, including taking control, exalting ourselves, going our own way, rejecting God’s leadership, and redefining our own identity. The kingdom is for those who have nothing in themselves and seek nothing for themselves. So here’s the question — who or what are you seeking? If we would grasp the fact that our value and identity are found in God, we could stop seeking them elsewhere and instead let Him define us and give us purpose. In pride, we constantly strive to exalt and protect ourselves. But humility rests in our union with Christ, remembering that our life is hidden in his…

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 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. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Colossians 3:1-4, NLT

When it comes down to it, humility is a matter of worship and affection. Who will we serve, and what will be our posture before God? Humility is a basic component of our salvation — admitting the depth of our sin and our need, and quietly resting in His grace rather than relying on ourselves. And humility is “the first and most essential element of discipleship.” The initial step toward obedience is recognizing the holiness of the Father and submitting to His authority.

Humility is often misconstrued as something negative and undesirable, but that is far from true. In reality, the path of humility and service is the way to freedom from sin and self. Humility is joy — living as we have been designed to live…in dependent communion with our loving Creator.

 

* quotes above are taken from the book Humility by Andrew Murray

 

Our Identity in Christ

As I’ve counseled others and worked through my own struggles, a foundational truth has come to light. As believers, our identity is found in Christ, and that fact changes and shapes everything. Who we are in Christ defines our worth, our purpose, our ability, our love for others, our hope and joy in the midst of difficulties… and on and on. In so many of our struggles, part of the answer is to know, remember, and walk in the truth of who we are as children of God.

There are many ways that our identity in Christ functions in our lives. When we face hard things like fear, loneliness, discouragement, anxiety and depression, looking to who God says we are can be a source of great comfort. Our identity in Christ also illuminates our sinful habits and reminds us that we are weak and needy and lost apart from the Lord. Finally, our identity in Christ motivates and enables us to serve others and follow God. One important thing to note — our identity in Christ is absolutely dependent on who God says HE is. So as we think through these truths about ourselves, let us remember that our ultimate focus should be on the Lord and His steadfast character and faithfulness.

From time to time, I plan to return to this topic on the blog, breaking down the different truths about who we are in Christ and providing some Scripture passages for further study. For now, I’ll leave you with a story of how Jesus’ identity informed his actions.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples ‘feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

– John 13:1-12

Most of us know this story well, but one key element is often overlooked. Check out the bold sentence above, this statement that immediately precedes Jesus’ counterintuitive and countercultural actions. Jesus knew three immensely important facts about himself (and God):

  1. Jesus knew that God had given everything into his hands. This enabled him to give freely of himself, humbly stooping down to serve his disciples.
  2. Jesus knew that he had come from God, so his identity was secure and he didn’t seek affirmation from people.
  3. Jesus knew that he would be returning to God. This future hope motivated him to lay down his life.

In the same way, the things we believe about our identity fuel our thoughts, our actions, and the way we live. As you journey this week, I encourage you to start thinking about these things… What does God say about who you are as His child and a follower of Christ? Are you living out of that identity, letting it shape your thoughts and actions?

* Click here for further teaching on this story *

All Things New

I’m a mess. I cry a lot, for no good reason. I put too much value in the opinion and approval of others. My gut reaction is more often discouragement and fear than joy and hope. All that to say, I don’t have it all together and I don’t have all the answers. But there’s beauty in the mess and brokenness, because it shows how in need I am of God’s grace, and it reminds me that the Lord is at work changing and growing me.

But the beauty of it is, I am not alone. Together as believers we are being remade whole, the image of God being renewed in us. I’ve learned over the years that we need the love, support, and accountability of the Body… it’s in relationship and community that we all grow. This family of believers is an integral part of God’s plan to create a people who glorify Him and make His name known.

Starting this blog is a bit terrifying for me. But I have to remember that He is the author of this story… the truth is His, and I just want to be a megaphone to proclaim it. He’s given me a heart to encourage, to disciple, to counsel, and to equip the church to minister to those in need. This blog will be honest and raw. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but together we can think and process and pursue truth. We belong to the Lord, and He is making all things new.