Three Reasons to Give Thanks No Matter What

1 Thessalonians 5:18

     … in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

     Amid everything we can give thanks. No matter how chaotic our season of life happens to be or how traumatic it is. Why would this be so?

     Let’s ponder the verse and ask for a fresh revelation from the Holy Spirit who came to teach us and remind us of everything Jesus said.

     **God has plans for us that are not just for the here and now but for our eternal future.

     Hebrews chapter 11 gives examples of men and women of faith who lived as foreigners and nomads here on earth looking forward to a heavenly homeland. (Hebrews 11:13-16) We can be stumbled when we forget we are just passing through this world.

     In 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes extensively about our future hope. We are to fix our gaze on the things we cannot see for the things we can see will soon be gone (4:18). We will be given heavenly bodies and heavenly homes.

     **God is right there with us in all circumstances.

     One of my favorite passages is Isaiah 43:2-3.

     “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” ESV  

     During trials and tribulations, we can feel forgotten. But God is omnipresent and can be all places at once. Whether or not we “feel” His presence He is near. But action is required on our part as well. We are told to draw near to God, and He will draw near to us. (James 4:8a) Tony Evans writes in his Bible Commentary, “To draw near to God is to come into his presence with prayer, praise, and obedience.” 

     **God’s grace is sufficient.

     Paul writes in 2 Corinthians chapter 12 about a mysterious “thorn in his flesh” that tormented him. When he begged for God to remove it, he was told, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (12:9a)

     In The Message, a version of the Bible author Eugene Peterson wrote in simpler language, this section of Scripture reads:

“My grace is enough; it’s all you need.

My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. 10 Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size — abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” 2 Cor 12:9-10

     Grace, from the Greek charis, is unmerited favor. It brings forth the idea of a favor, kindness, or gift which brings pleasure to another.1

     I find that an attitude of gratefulness takes thought. It is easy to be grateful for all the things in life we like… a warm fire on a cold day, good conversation with a friend as we sip a cappuccino, a bouquet of flowers brought to our door. But in a hard situation it gets tough, until we take our eyes off ourselves and our circumstances and place them firmly on Jesus.

Let’s Talk:

1-Do you find it difficult to give thanks in everything? Why/why not?

2-During trials and tribulations what brings praise to your lips?

References:

1-Holman Bible Dictionary. Copyright © 1991 by Holman Bible Publishers.

Shared Experiences Strengthen our Spiritual Walk

  John 7:37-38
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me [Jesus] and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.”
(from THE MESSAGE)

At Bible study we discussed the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, sharing anecdotes of how He convicts us, redirects us, provides understanding, reveals implementation strategies, and helps us to walk in a manner that honors God.

     One woman described a battle she had with the flesh (what we want and desire, versus what the Spirit wants and desires).

While working on a massive cleaning project, with the kitchen a mess, her husband asked, “what’s for dinner?” His comment was like a match to gasoline, it ignited a firestorm of feelings such as anger and indignation. It seemed impossible to approach the situation with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23)

     These attributes are known as the fruit of the Spirit. In other words, they are produced by the Holy Spirit within us. We can’t produce them ourselves.

     But what is this battle my friend entered that evening, triggered by a casual comment during the chaotic chore of reorganizing her kitchen? According to the Apostle Paul it is a clash between the old self-centered nature and the new nature that wants to bless others (Romans chapter 7). “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing,” he writes.

     The believer realizes there is a struggle within between the flesh and the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-18) and one or the other must be in control, Warren Wiersbe writes in his commentary “Be Right, How to be right with God, Yourself, and Others” a commentary on the book of Romans.

     In my friend’s situation, the Spirit helped her win her battle over the flesh. She did practice self-control and respond with kindness.

     Wiersbe explains how this happens. As the Spirit of Life, the Holy Spirit empowers us to obey Christ and be more like Him. However, He is also the Spirit of death enabling us to put to death the sinful deeds of the body.

     “As we yield the members of our body to the Spirit (Rom. 6:12-17), He applies to us and in us the death and resurrection of Christ. He puts to death the things of the flesh, and He reproduces the things of the Spirit,” writes Wiersbe.

     Yes, my friend experienced the death of the flesh and production of fruit, all a work of the Spirit.

     The fact the Holy Spirit is the source of life—helping us live as a new creation—and the source of death, helping us crucify the sinful nature is a win, win situation. He provides all we need.

     Examine your battles with people. Have you responded in the flesh or the Spirit?

     When our first thought is toward a godly response, and we seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit He will answer. As he reveals the right response our attitude will change so we are able to follow His instructions.

     I find it extremely beneficial to exchange learning experiences with sisters in Christ. The Holy Spirit is our teacher. However, we learn best when the classroom is filled with students sharing our questions and answers.

     If this short article has helped you understand the work of the Holy Spirit a little better, please share it with someone.

Let’s Talk:

1-In the comment section below, name one way the Holy Spirit has directed your steps. He promises to teach us all things and remind us of all things!  

References:

1-“Be Right, How to be Right with God, Yourself, and Others”

by Warren W. Wiersbe published by David C. Cook, Colorado Springs, CO.

©2022 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Bolstering Our Faith Through Shared Stories

     Rahab lived in Jericho at the time the Israelites crossed the Jordan River to occupy the Promised Land. Those who have studied the Old Testament of the Bible will know she hid the two men Joshua sent to scout out the territory he and the Israeli military force would attempt to conquer.

     Although the town and its inhabitants were destroyed by the advancing army, Rahab and her family were saved because she protected the spies.

     Why did she protect them? Because she had heard about their God. Stories of how He had parted the Red Sea to hasten their escape from Egypt. Stories of how He destroyed the Amorite kings who came against them on their journey to the Promised Land.

     Because of these stories Rahab developed the fear of God and understood that He is “God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.”

     Although Rahab had only heard of the great acts God had done, she believed. Like Rahab, our faith can grow strong through shared experience. When others testify to the mighty works of God, we all benefit.

     A few years ago, a group of ladies from my church banded together to help a friend prepare her house to sell. It was imperative that she move out of our rural mountain town to a city where she would have better access to healthcare and other much needed amenities.

     We had yard sales, hauled discarded items to the dump, worked on the yard and scrubbed the house. And when it was ready to sell in late fall, she contacted a local realtor who told her because she was selling “as is” it would be difficult for buyers to get a loan to purchase the property. Therefore, the house would probably remain on the market throughout the winter. This was devasting news for my friend who had purchased a small, modular house in her new home town.

     But God moved mightily and within a week she received a cash offer for the full asking price of her home.

     This is not my personal story, but I remember it whenever I am up against a hard situation.

Through shared stories, not just my personal experiences, I gain a greater understanding of God.

We not only come to know God as we share stories in real time, but also we grow in wisdom through the Biblical stories that are shared.

God revealed His names to humanity through individuals such as Moses, Hagar, and Gideon. All who encountered Him in this special way came to know Him better and because they have shared their stories so do we.

Moses came to know God as “I AM” when he was told to ask Pharoah to release the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt. When Moses doubted his ability to complete the task, God revealed “I AM whatever you need.”

When Hagar was distressed by the treatment she received from her mistress Sarai, she ran away. Forsaken and alone, she met El Roi, the God who can look deep into our heart and see all our struggles.

Gideon met Yahweh Shalom (peace) while hiding from his enemies in a winepress. All of Israel lived in fear. But God revealed their peace was not in their circumstances but in Him.

I am a collector of God stories that bolster my faith. The ones I experience, the ones my friends tell, those I read in articles and blogs, or are relayed via social media.

Join me as a collector. But don’t keep these stories to yourself. Be sure to tell them.

Let’s Talk:

1-How has God been faithful lately? Please share your story in the comment section.

©2022 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Three Surprising Ways to Fulfill the Great Commission

Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ESV

     I am very familiar with this Scripture referred to as “the great commission.” It is usually taught as a call to missions… the emphasis on “go.” But recently I came to a slightly different point of view. We are told to make disciples, which is generally defined as learners of Christ. [See notes at the end of this manuscript for a more in-depth definition.]

     This was clarified in a commentary by Chuck Smith who wrote:

     “The primary purpose of the Church isn’t to convert sinners to Christianity, but to “perfect” (complete and mature) the saints for the ministry and edification of the Body.” [Ephesians 4:12]1

     While living in Sacramento, California a few decades ago I had the chance to serve at a Billy Graham Crusade. Billy Graham was a gifted evangelist and during his crusades he taught the gospel message and many people professed faith in Jesus Christ.

Each person new to the faith received a pamphlet that contained the teaching of the book of John from the Bible. However, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association knew the importance of discipleship and connected with churches throughout the region to conduct follow-up. In this way those who came forward during the altar call had opportunity for further instruction and guidance to become mature saints fit for ministry and the edification of the Body.

So how might we make disciples, help the saints become complete and mature?  

Here are three ways I have identified. 

–Remember the proper use of Scripture.

2 Tim 3:16-17

 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. ESV

To mature in Christ for the work of the ministry and edification of the body we learn Scripture for it is the tool we need to teach, reproof, correct, and train in righteousness.

As we each grow and mature, we can help those who are a few steps behind us in their spiritual growth.

     –Practice exhortation.

     Heb 3:13

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. ESV

     To exhort is emphatically urging someone to a particular action. As a Christian, we urge brothers and sisters in Christ to follow Scripture and to stay alert for deceptive teaching. In deceit we begin following the ways of the world and soon our heart is hardened to the ways of God. Our thinking is skewed. We believe man rather than God, which is unbelief.

     –Use words that build up

Eph 4:29

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. ESV

     If your mom was like my mom, she told you to think before you speak. This Scripture is a little like that only you need to have your thought process transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).

     In his commentary, Tony Evans writes: “When God has all of us, and when the world has none of us, God does the work of renewing our confused minds. He brings our thoughts in line with his own so that we think God’s thoughts after him. We are given the mind of Christ so we can receive God’s instruction and perspective. (1 Cor 2:16)2

     In this way we can use our words to build up rather than tear down, give wise counsel, and speak in a way that is beneficial to all within earshot.

     I appreciate the work of the Spirit in expanding our thinking. Helping us to grasp a more complete picture of a concept, such as the great commission.

Let’s Talk:

1-In what ways do you make disciples? How are you involved in the edification of the body of Christ?

2-What has helped you grow and mature as a Christian?

References:

1-New Testament Study Guide by Chuck Smith published by The Word for Today in Costa Mesa, California.

2-The Tony Evans Bible Commentary by Tony Evans published by Holman Bible Publishers in Nashville, Tennessee.

Notes:

Disciple

A disciple of Christ is one who (1) believes his doctrine, (2) rests on his sacrifice, (3) imbibes his spirit, and (4) imitates his example (Matt 10:24; Luke 14:26,27,33; John 6:69). (from Easton’s Bible Dictionary, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

©2022 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Problems Solved by Simple Instructions from God

     Some Scriptures have step-by-step instructions that are easy to follow. Philippians 4:6-7 is one.

     “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ESV

     A couple years ago, while undergoing chemotherapy, I would take my anxious thoughts to God in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, letting my requests be made known to Him. This was usually around 2 a.m., but the anxiety that kept me awake at night was soon gone as I poured my heart out to God. I experienced the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.

     “Be anxious for nothing.” These words read in isolation sound like a command. Yet I find that I cannot avoid anxiety. It sweeps in and dominates. Am I in disobedience? I think not. God is simply saying there is no need to be anxious when we can come to Him with our deepest needs. He is not there to chastise. Just as a mother comforts an anxious child, He will wrap His arms around us and hold us tight until our anxiety subsides.

     I can struggle, trying to fight off unwanted emotions. Yet the answers to my problems are right before me. Written in the Word of God.

     Recently I came upon another example where the instructions seem so simple, but the problem is so tough we somehow miss them and continue to struggle. To counter our weaknesses, we search for self-improvement techniques. We work on all areas where we fall short. Yet does God’s Word hold the simple action?

     During a Bible study I came across these instructions: “acknowledge our weakness and confess our dependence upon Jesus.”1

2 Cor 12:9

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” ESV

     Name the weakness and ask God to pour out His power to help us in our time of need, the Bible study author instructed.

     These simple, actionable steps reminded me of the Scripture I used to find the peace I needed to sleep. Sometimes practicing what we read in the Bible is just that simple. We can clearly see the actions to be taken. To gain peace make a request through prayer, supplication, thanksgiving. To address a weakness acknowledge it and ask for God’s power.

     Of course, not all Scripture is easy to implement. At these times we must seek insight from the Holy Spirit asking Him to show us what is expected. My husband did this when trying to understand the command to become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 18:1-4] He was told to “watch children” and thus he noted their trust, their dependence, their adoration, their delight and much more.

     But let’s make note of those instructional passages for recurring problems where easy to follow steps or directions are provided. I will continue to grow my list and for those of you who are an email subscriber expect to receive these step-by-step instructions sometime soon as one of my monthly resource sheets.

Let’s Talk: [Comment below!]

1-What passage of Scripture do you use as a step-by-step guide and how did you uncover it?

2-If you have come across any Scriptures you find difficult to implement share them in the comments so others may provide their insight.

References:

1-“For His Glory: Living as God’s Masterpiece” by Marian Jordan Ellis. Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN.  

Looking for Ways to Cultivate Joy

From Pixaby

     I am cutting long stems of thyme from my herb garden and hanging it to dry. It’s October and temperatures already drop into the 30s at night in the mountains where I live, but not low enough for a freeze yet.

It’s time to harvest. But I can only harvest what has been planted and cultivated. Summer’s fresh herb garden will yield dried herbs for winter.

     From my garden I not only harvest the herbs and vegetables I plant but joy. Why is my garden a source of joy? I have chosen elements that create this atmosphere of joy, in a sense planted to harvest joy. I string lights across the backyard that add delight by night and during the day the hummingbird feeders hanging from the strands attract the little birds that were born to entertain. There are two firepits and lots of my favorite Adirondack chairs arranged for conversations.

     In the dictionary joy is described as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires: delight.” (merriam-webster.com)

     I am learning to sow for joy, so I might reap it. I mentioned my summer garden, now I am looking at winter. What might I plant and cultivate that will bring joy throughout the cold and dreary months of winter?

     This delight, emotion evoked by well-being, is not something I often pursue. But more and more I see its value. It brings a smile to my face, it eases the stress of daily demands, it changes my perspective.

     Delight comes in many forms. It may be curling up in a chair with a good book, playing a round of golf, hiking a mountain trail, or baking a chocolate cake. It’s good to gather what we need for these times, look for opportunities and take pleasure in them.  

     Sometimes as Christians we begin to feel guilty about seeking simple pleasures, for it seems we are not dying out to self. Are these pleasures selfish? Is this not the wrong kind of joy?

In addition to physical joy, there is spiritual joy. It is a fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is agape love, and you know you are walking in this love if you possess joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It is a package, and the fruit is produced by yielding to the Spirit writes Chuck Smith in his book titled “Love the More Excellent Way.”

     Joy is a result of being in love with the Lord. Smith describes it as a consciousness of His greatness, majesty, and undying love for us which results in great joy.

     The joy of the Lord is knowing that God will use everything for our good. [Romans 8:38]. Often, we get news the world labels “bad.” I have a few of those “bad news” prayer requests right now. They have to do with medical procedures scheduled for heart conditions and court dates scheduled for legal issues. As I wrote in the text exchange “Don’t know all that is in store but know God only does good things.”

     Nehemiah writes that the joy of the Lord is our strength and that is evident in those “good”-“bad” situations. For those in Christ the outcome is in the hands of the Lord, and it will be good no matter how it looks to the world or even us.

     But I am grateful for the joy that is triggered by the delight of life. The hummingbirds that surround my feeders in the summer, paddling across a mountain lake in my kayak, standing at the edge of the ocean with the waves washing over my feet. These moments bless me. And so I will plant and cultivate joy just as I do the herbs and vegetables in my garden so it will be ready to harvest. Cultivate joy not only for myself, but for others. We are certainly blessed when we find ways to bring delight.  

Let’s Talk:

1-What ways do you cultivate joy in your life? Keeping all your “go to” ingredients for baking in the cupboard or craft supplies on hand; taking photographs or painting pictures; creative writing in a coffeehouse with a cappuccino?

2-In what ways to you like to delight others?

Making Time for Mastery of God’s Word

From Pixaby

     I like quick results. But I am learning that most often, good results require time. We must make time, use the allotted time efficiently, and persevere until we accomplish the end goal.

     Years ago I made note in a little booklet, where I write information I want to remember, that 10,000 hours of really hard work are required for mastery of anything. Sometimes it takes twice that.

     I think of this as I consider elements of Christianity. Stewardship, holiness, servanthood, righteousness, faithfulness, godliness, agape… If I was to sit down and write about these concepts from a Biblical perspective how much could I write? Could you write a good definition and expound on what it looks like when implemented, finding examples in your life?

     Just as the purchase of an instrument such as a violin is the first step to securing a seat in the orchestra, our spiritual birth is the first step into the Kingdom of God. We are equipped by the Holy Spirit for insight, but there is a learning curve. Therefore, I am working at prioritizing the study of God’s Word.

     By this I mean planning for the study of a concept for mastery. That would include making time, considering how to use that time efficiently in a way I can reap the most benefit, and persevering in the endeavor.

     2 Timothy 2:15—“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” ESV

     I do not live in drought. I love to sit with God’s Word early in the morning with my cup of coffee, attend church and absorb the wisdom my pastor gleaned as he prepared his teaching, and participate in a weekly women’s Bible study (currently the study is on the book of Ephesians). A new endeavor is meditating on a Scripture for one week.

     Yet frequently God uses physical examples to get across a lesson in the spiritual realm. That happened recently. It came about as my husband and I sand our backyard deck so we can stain it before winter. The job has been haphazard without much discipline, but fall is here and living in the mountains we know the window for such projects is closing.

     Therefore, we are scheduling time for sanding and during that time concentrating on a section to complete. If we have a half hour, we do a little, and if an hour or two is allotted we do more. Some call these bites of the elephant. But they are purposeful, orchestrated bites. A plan with an end goal. With jobs like the deck, I am not aiming for mastery but completion. A job well done.

     But with God’s Word I want mastery, to understand His ways so I might walk in them and represent Him correctly to those who do not know Him. Also, to interact with other members of the body of Christ in a way that glorifies Him. Therefore, it is essential to understand such concepts as agape.

What is required for mastery? Not exactly sure but, using the analogy of the violinist, I want first chair in the Vienna Philharmonic or London Symphony so I will consider the 10,000-hour concept. This will require reexamining my priorities.

None of us ever seem to have enough time. That means we must make time. It may look different from week to week as we look over our schedule to see what is required of us. But I have begun. My first Christian concept is godliness. I hope you too will join me by choosing a concept to master and creating a plan for mastery.

Let’s Talk:

1-In what areas of your Christian walk do you need more knowledge? Select one for mastery and post it in the comment section so we might pray for you.

2-How do you go about making time for something that is important to you? Please share your ideas so that we might all benefit from your insights.

©2022 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

God Directed Steps

By Pixabay

     When my plans suddenly change for the better, or I see something extraordinary behind a decision, I state: “We make plans, God directs our steps.” That statement is paraphrased from Proverbs 16:9.

     It seems as I make decisions about my daily schedule, God tweaks it as needed so I don’t misstep. I first made note of this as a new Christian, asking God for direction about whether to enroll in a creative writing extension class at the University of California, Davis. When I didn’t hear from the Lord, I pulled a credit card from my wallet and registered. Shortly after the decision I received a call from the registrar who informed me the class had been canceled because not enough people enrolled. God had answered my prayer for direction.

     More recently my brother sent me a text asking if I would switch weeks with him providing care for Mom on her caregiver’s days off. Although I had to cancel a couple appointments, I was able to help him out. Had we not switched weeks I would have been exposed to COVID and quarantined on the Saturday I was to attend a Christian women’s conference. It seemed my planned week had been changed by God for my protection.

     I have learned to hold my plans lightly not insisting on my way but eager for God to orchestrate my steps.

     This week I am contemplating this Bible verse, mulling it over for deeper meaning, a more solid understanding. I printed the verse from various Bible versions:

     “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” ESV

     “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. NLT

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.” HCSB

The “heart” in the original language of the text is our “feelings, will, and intellect.” The planning is to “plot or contrive. To think, regard, or compute.” Our “way” is our course of life or an action to take. To establish or direct is to “render sure, proper or prosperous.”1

I think a key element of this verse is the heart, what is the status of our heart when we make a decision? Is it obstinate and self-focused, wanting its way, or soft and pliable eager to do things God’s way.

I focus on the heart because Proverbs 16:3 seems to provide the direction needed for established steps, those orchestrated by the Lord. It reads: “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” ESV

A devotion I read on Proverbs 16:3 explained that when we commit our activities to the Lord, we hand them off “deciding through prayer what our steps should be, and running them through the grid of God’s Word, discovering if they are in keeping with what would please him.”2

So, we run our plans past God in prayer and by reflecting on Scripture that might be applied to the decision. Then we know our plans will be established. This is where I see God tweaking them for our benefit.

The other day I was ecstatic when I learned I could leave my mother’s house on Friday the week I will cover the day’s off for the caregiver in October. I committed for three days as needed, but my sister said she would cover one making it possible for me to attend a wedding on Saturday. My sister didn’t know there was a wedding, I had not asked. I just committed this activity to the Lord.

I planned my way, but the Lord established my steps.

Let’s Talk:

1-How do you see God directing your steps as you seek him?

2-Do you have a favorite Scripture that helps you make wise decisions? Share it in the comments below!

References:

1-Greek/Hebrew word definitions, Biblesoft One Touch software.

2-“Trusting God in All the Things, 90 Devotions for Finding Peace in Your Every Day” by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk, devotion 44 “If This, Then That.” Published by Bethany House Minneapolis, Minnesota.

©2022 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

A Royal Reminder to Have the Same Attitude as the King of Kings

Photo by Pixabay

It’s amazing what you learn about people after their death. Watching snippets of the ceremonies honoring Queen Elizabeth II of England I see that she is a devout Christian.

 I not only know this through the Scripture I hear read during the service, but recorded comments made by the queen about her faith and from statements made by people who knew her.

During one event I hear the reminder that Jesus has prepared a place for Queen Elizabeth.

John 14:1-5 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” ESV

Since we were told she scripted the entire event before her death there is no doubt, she lived with the assurance she would one day see her Savior the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association assembled several quotes from the queen regarding her faith. One written in 2022 in the “Letter to the Lambeth Conference” reads: “Throughout my life, the message and teachings of Christ have been my guide and in them I find hope.”

Finally, I want to mention a statement made by Stephen Harper, the 22nd Canadian Prime Minister, in a television interview. “Her life was about service, about others, it was never about herself.”

Knowing the Queen of England lived in a house filled with servants, it is difficult to envision a member of the monarch as a servant, yet this is the role in which she saw herself.

I am reminded of the counsel Paul gave the church at Philippi:

Phil 2:5-9

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” ESV

One Bible version says “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” Phil 2:5 NIV

The definition of attitude is “a mental position with regard to a fact or state.” [merriam-webster.com]

Just as Jesus took the form of a servant, although God, Queen Elizabeth II took the form of a servant, although royalty. What does this look like? Making your life about others rather than all about yourself. Since each of us are in a different position we each must learn this servant mindset from the perspective of the life God has given us. It’s an “I will” attitude rather than an “I won’t” attitude.

I read that Queen Elizabeth II at age 90 carried out 306 royal engagements within her country and 35 overseas. Although I am not sure what type of preparation this entailed, I do know from comments made by people who met her she seemed to know something about them that made the conversation personal rather than a formality.  

The funeral for the queen was not something I planned to watch for it was lengthy and I too had commitments. But it did cause me to exercise 15 minutes longer on the treadmill listening to the commentators and watching the people involved. A glimpse of a little boy in the crowd hugging a Paddington Bear touched my heart and I felt great compassion for the six young men who carried the coffin up the steep steps into St. George Chapel at Windsor Castle, knowing the pain of stressed muscles.

I am grateful to have caught the comment about her viewing the role of queen as a place of service. It was a fresh reminder to make my life about serving others, not about myself.

Let’s Talk:

1-If you watched any portions of the funeral for Queen Elizabeth II what struck you? Was there anything about her life that was impressive to you?

2-In your current position, how might you serve others?

©2022 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Understand Scripture to Avoid Misunderstanding God

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     Frequently I hear students of the Bible issue warnings about taking verses out of their context and applying them to situations that are not fitting. For example, Jeremiah 29:11 is printed on many graduation cards congratulating those who have just earned their high school diploma or degree of higher education. It reads:

     “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” ESV

While a Bachelor of Science Degree may secure a bright future for the recipient, the engineering student is not being addressed in this verse. The words were spoken to the Israelites held in captivity in Babylon.

Scripture out of its context leads to misunderstanding. If the graduate does not do well in the field of engineering, he or she may think they do not deserve God’s blessing. 

Context is not just identifying the audience and the occasion and purpose of the writing; it is looking at the historical setting and the culture of the time. Also, the verse must be viewed in context of the sentences that come before and after it as well as the meaning of the key words in Koine Greek (New Testament) and Hebrew (Old Testament), from which the passage has been translated.

One of the greatest dangers of taking the verses out of context is the misconceptions we can develop about God. I witnessed a Christian recoiling from God as verses in Deuteronomy were covered during a Bible study. One verse in chapter 21 discussed how a woman captured during war against an enemy nation was to be treated when an Israelite man wanted her for his wife. The instructions included “setting her free” if the man took no delight in her.

The person in the Bible study linked that law to God’s character and therefore incorrectly believed it showed God as lacking compassion, grace, and mercy toward the captured woman, yet it demonstrated the opposite. The instructions set Israel apart from other nations who often brutally mistreated women during times of war and it offered the woman protection.1

This misunderstanding could have been prevented by putting the passages in their historical and cultural context.

I was struck by how easy it was to have our view of God skewed, to be deceived. To think less of Him, based on our perceptions when they are so tainted and meager. Yet I should not have been surprised because even Eve, before sin entered the world, began to doubt God’s character.

     “Did God say?” was the question Satan asked Eve. And didn’t God say on the page of the Bible in Deuteronomy that the man could discard the woman captured during war, if he took no delight in her. But it isn’t God’s heart we see in the action it is ours, and so God steps in to guide us.

     It is so easy to fall away when we make God less than who He is by pushing our perceptions onto Him. That is making God in our image, and we are people flawed by sin.

     Look for the Scriptures that describe God, His attributes and character and remember them as you read the Word. If any Scripture seems to defy the truth we know about God, take a second, third, or fourth look. Study its context very carefully so you come to know the true and living God.  

Let’s Talk:

1-Describe a time when you misunderstood God because you misinterpreted Scripture?

2-What Scripture do you see being taken out of context? How is it misused?

References:

1-The Tony Evans Bible Commentary by Tony Evans Holman Bible Publishers 2019, Nashville, Tennessee. [Page 230/Deuteronomy 21:10-14]

©2022 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved