Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ten Scriptures...

Well, due to popular demand…okay, due to the request of like, three people, I'm sharing the content of my "final Sunday School lesson" for my teen girls. After teaching junior high and high school girls at First Wisner for 29 years, it is time to pass the torch. For my last lesson, I shared 10 Bible verses/passages that have shaped, challenged, inspired and influenced me. It was hard to choose only 10, so I tried to also consider which ones might encourage the girls I lead. It's not an exhaustive survey of the Bible -- only one Old Testament scripture is referenced, for example, when there are many (in the book of Isaiah alone!) that I could've included, but here's what I shared:

Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. (Isaiah 26:8 NIV)

“Renown” is defined as the condition of being known or talked about by many people; fame. It’s widely considered to be the chief aim of many in your generation. This verse may not mean much to anyone else, but it has been a “theme” verse of mine since the first year I taught Bible study at Cross Camp. Pride, the desire for approval and admiration – these have been strongholds and things that trip me up, consume me – influence my choices; and I finally came face to face with it and (began) the process of surrendering lowercase “me” and magnifying uppercase HIM. Other translations use the words “glorify you” “remember you” “we desire your fame and reputation to grow…” I also love the picture of desiring His name. Just His name. So powerful. (Even at the ripe old age of 52, it’s still a process – daily, moment-to-moment, but how about we link arms and work to make HIM famous?)

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 NLT)

I also love the Message translation of these verses:
Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”
So simple – so clear – and so profound. “Watch” Him – how? By studying his Word. Then do what He does. Like He does it. The amplified version adds “esteeming and delighting in each other” to “live a life of love.” Putting others first – happily. That only happens from a place of security – of knowing you are beloved. And you are. And of course, there’s a reference to “pleasing aroma” or fragrance, which leads to my next favorite:

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 
(2 Corinthians 2:14)

Anyone who’s been with me very long knows this is a favorite of mine. I love that it starts with thanks (key to joy!) and highlights our mission – we’re supposed to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Him! When people are close to us, they should be able to inhale deeply an aroma of grace, love, joy, peace. Y’all. We need to smell like JESUS! Love it! (spritz of Grace, anyone?)

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 
(2 Corinthians 9:8)

If you’ve ever requested prayer in a challenging season, there’s a good chance I’ve sent you this verse and/or prayed it for you. I call it my “go-to” verse for almost every situation. I mean, look at it – what a promise! God is able. We could just sit on that for a few days. He. Is. Able. He is not some weak, lowercase god, wringing his hands, wondering what to do. He knows. And He is able. Then it gets specific – He can make ALL grace abound to you. Look at all the “alls” – all grace…all things…all grace…all times…all you need…and then every good work. That seems to cover it – what can he supply? Just all. And then for any time, any need – every good work. Whether it’s a job, school, sports, relationships, whatever – it’s good work you’re up to and He is willing and able to make grace abound to you! Marinate in that for a while!

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. 
(Colossians 4:6 NIV)

Does this really need much explanation? I am a person of many words…much conversation. Be honest – you are too. I shudder to think of some of the “conversations” I’ve had even this week that were not close to being “full of grace.” Ugh. The Message brings this point: “The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.” Now we’ve enjoyed some sarcasm and joking around in here, but just imagine how relationships; how the very atmosphere around us could change if our conversation was gracious, seasoned just-right? (Notice, it is “seasoned” – we’re not talking boring, bland conversation – flavorful, tasty! I love that we're not called to "bland.")

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 
(Romans 12:9-10 NLT)

How great is this? How real? Anybody who doesn’t think the Word of God is practical just hasn’t read it. Don’t pretend, people. Really love. Don’t fake it, our friend The Message says. Hate the stuff God hates – hang on tight to the good. Love each other – with affection. We’re not just enduring each other! And again – honor each other. How about that for a competition – see who can show the most honor to another – “outdo” one another in showing preference. "You first – no, YOU!" This is a worthy goal!

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” 
(Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

These are what we call “red letter words” – Jesus the Christ said this while walking around on earth. So pay attention. What He’s saying is – walk along side Me and it will go well with you. I found this so encouraging as it relates to calling and ministry. When I’m doing the work He calls me to, it isn’t burdensome or ill-fitting. That's not to say it's always easy…but it feels right. I can work AND be refreshed and renewed at the same time because He’s called me to it and is actually sharing the load. Unforced rhythms of grace *sigh.* God’s Word is just gorgeous.

These last three are prayers I’m praying, believing and claiming over the lives of every girl I’ve taught!

For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 
(Philippians 1:6 NET)

Yes. He began the good work in you. That is real. That is true. And there may be times when you doubt yourself but He doesn’t doubt you. He isn’t wringing His hands wondering how you’re going to turn out. (Unlike us earthly parents!) He started it with every intention of finishing it and He is able. Isn’t that a relief? He’s not letting you go. You might as well cooperate!

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.
(Philippians 1:9-10 NLT)

Love. Overflowing. That’s kind of the point. As your love of God deepens and increases, it naturally will overflow into every other area of your life. You’ll not only love much, but well. Ah. You’re going to be leaking Jesus all over the place! And along with that, your understanding, discernment – the ability to determine what is right and important and valuable – will increase. Which is good, because your need to know where to focus your life and love and attention – this is increasingly more important with every passing moment!

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

So much to love in these verses…He has glorious riches – He wants to apply them to your life – to strengthen you…with power…through His Spirit…in your inner being! That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith!

From that place of being deeply rooted and established in His love – we have supernatural power to grasp, to understand, His love for us    
• how wide - it covers the all of our own experience and reaches out to the whole world
-  • long - it continues the length of our lives
-  • high - it rises to the heights of our celebration and joy
-  • deep - it reaches to the depths of discouragement, sadness

He loves you. He didn’t have to make you. He didn’t. He wanted to make you. You are his idea. His very good idea. He thought you up, He delights in you – you make Him laugh! He loves you AND He likes you.

So from that place of being rooted in love – we’re free from fear, from the need to compare ourselves to others, free to love others and share God's love with the world!

And then the last part – again – He is ABLE to do…immeasurably more – super-abundantly, above and beyond, beyond-beyond what we can imagine. And His power is at work IN us…to Him be the glory.

And God’s people said: AMEN!

1 comment:

Shellie Tomlinson said...

Oh, my friend-- these are good words. Deeply honoring, full of overflowing life, Jesus words! THANK YOU for sharing your life with all of those girls over the years and with me, your Jesus friend. We simply must carve out time to get together and talk All Things Jesus~