October 27, 2014

20 Powerful Statements About Humility

Humility by Andrew Murray has been on my to-read list for a while now. I don't know why I waited so long to read this short and simple yet deeply rich book! It has challenged me, not only showing me how prideful I am, but how far God has gone to humbly serve me through Christ and how much humility must be a part of my life if I am to serve Him in return. I hope you'll read it yourself. Here are some quotes from the book to give you nuggets to chew on for today and to whet your appetite for more:

His humility became our salvation. His salvation is our humility. (17)

Humility is the only soil in which virtue takes root; a lack of humility is the explanation of every defect and failure. (17)

Humility is simply acknowledging the truth of one's position as creature and yielding to God His place. (17)

Meekness and lowliness of heart are to be the distinguishing feature of the disciple, just as they were of the Master. And further, that this humility is not something that will come of itself, but that it must be made the object of special desire, prayer, faith, and practice. (18)

Is it any wonder that the Christian life is so often weak and fruitless, when the very root of the Christian life is neglected or unknown? Is it any wonder that the joy of salvation is so little felt, when that by which Christ brings it is so seldom sought? Until a humility that rests in nothing less than the end and death of self, and which gives up all the honor of men as Jesus did to seek the honor that comes from God alone (which absolutely makes and counts itself nothing) that God may be all, that the Lord alone may be exalted--until such a humility is what we seek in Christ above our chief joy, and welcome at any price, there is very little hope of a faith that will conquer the world. (26)
Jesus' humility was simply the surrender of himself to God, to allow Him to do in Him what He pleased, regardless of what men might say of Him or do to Him. (33)

The root of all virtue and grace, of all faith and acceptable worship, is that we know that we have nothing but what we receive, and bow in deepest humility to wait upon God for it. (34)

What will be the chief distinction in the heavenly kingdom? The glory of heaven, the mind of heaven, is humility. (38)

His service is our highest liberty--the freedom from sin and self. We need to learn another lesson--that Jesus calls us to be servants of one another, and that as we accept it heartily, this service will be a most blessed one, a new and fuller deliverance from sin and self. (40)

Ask not for exaltation. That is God's work. See that you humble yourselves and take no place before God or man but that of a servant. (41)

It is only where we, like the Son, truly know and show that we can do nothing of ourselves that God will do everything. (49)

It is easy to think that we humble ourselves before God, but our humility toward others is the only sufficient proof that our humility before God is real. (53)

Let us look upon everyone who tries us as God's means of grace, God's instrument for our purification, for our exercise of the humility of Jesus. (58)

The great test of whether the holiness we profess to seek or to attain is truth and life will be whether it is manifest in the increasing humility it produces. . . Humility is the bloom and the beauty of holiness. (61)

Jesus the Holy One is the humble One: the holiest will always be the humblest. (63)

The law may break the heart with fear; it is only grace that works that sweet humility that becomes joy to the soul as its second nature. (73)

Not to be occupied with sin but to be fully occupied with God brings deliverance from self. (73)

Let us gladly accept whatever humbles us before God or men--this alone is the path to the glory of God. (79)

How can I die to self? Death to self is not your work; it is God's work. . . Place yourself before God in your helplessness; consent to the fact that you are powerless to slay yourself; give yourself in patient and trustful surrender to God. (85)

True humility will manifest itself in daily life. The one who has it will take the form of a servant. (85)

October 23, 2014

A Selfish Way to Pray {A Guest Post}

I'm welcoming Ashley Haupt, a mama and pastor's wife, to the blog today for her take on ministry and leadership, although I think her words are applicable to every woman. Without further ado, here's Ashley:

Recently, as the sun inched up over the horizon, I began to pray over my day. I was meeting with an acquaintance and I prayed that I would be able to minister to her. Suddenly I became aware of a subtle danger in my approach to my day. Yes, my friend had recently been through some trials. Yes, I wanted to encourage and edify her in our time together, especially in light of the rocky path she’d been walking. But I was struck with the danger and pride in assuming that she was the one to be blessed and I was the blessing-giver. Quickly, I changed my prayer to this: “Lord, may I minister to my friend today and may she also minister to me.”

On the surface, it may sound like a selfish way to pray, but it could be a game-changer for those of us in leadership. To approach every person in our path as only an opportunity to minister creates the potential for two dangers:  

We forget the true Source. Pride whispers that we are always the teacher, never the student, and we begin to act accordingly. Eventually, we find that while many people love and respect us, no one actually knows us, with our struggles and imperfections because we haven’t been humble enough to let them minister to us. We are human and we should allow people to see us as such. Not only does it help us with expectations and boundaries but others can connect to our humanity and it gives them hope for their own spiritual walk.

We are only giving grace instead of also receiving and we will become drained. Mutuality in ministering creates a two-way connection that is full of energy and power, rather than a weak, one-way connection that will quickly drain us and leave us exhausted. Our church body is a family working together toward the common goal of worship and holiness. Vulnerability requires greater maturity and receiving grace is humbling.

If God is sovereign and the Holy Spirit is our teacher, we as leaders ought to adopt a posture of humility and teachability, even towards those who we are leading. It doesn’t mean we are weak or immature; it means we are humble and aware that all truth belongs to God.

In our minds we often scan each person we meet for their influence, spiritual maturity, beauty, intelligence, maybe even wealth. This scan is natural but entirely of the flesh and faulty. We should be careful with it and let the results onlybe penciled in to our mind’s ledger--that is, easily erased--because we do not know how God sees each person. We certainly know He sees more than we do.

After all, no one who met Christ expected the work of God that was coming:

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:2-3

My flesh wants to assign categories to people based on very limited information and I must work to resist this tendency. Once we assign categories and even stereotypes, we tend to look at people through the lens we’ve created, further reinforcing our own impressions. It takes something very disruptive to jolt us out of preconceived notions; it’s more beneficial to be wary in forming them from the start. 

According to our values, we tend to determine the worth of others. If we value education, but find the person had less than us, we’ll immediately lower their potential for influence in our ledger. If we value wealth and see signs that this person has acquired less than us, same response. If we value spiritual maturity, and pick up on some deficiency of Bible knowledge, we’ll assume we are always going to be the mentor.  The danger is that we “see” so very imperfectly with our still-sin-stained sight, yet we stubbornly hold onto our impressions.

Now we see dimly, friends. This is why we must walk by faith rather than sight. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. Let us approach people with humility, ready to teach and be taught, ready to give and receive grace. Let us pray more selfishly, that we will be recipients of truth and not givers only. The Lord might have a word for us coming from someone we least expect it to come from.

Ashley Haupt is a writer, pastor’s wife, and mom to four. She loves to read, write, take walks, be creative, and spend quality time with people. She is a recovering people-pleaser learning to live more minimally in order to sharpen her pursuit of Christ. She believes in the abundant life Jesus promised and doesn't think it’s found in being stressed, tired, and overstimulated. She loves to write about grace, joy, family, and minimalism. Writing is her play, people are her favorite, and books are her friends.

Visit Ashley's blog, Little Pieces of Ordinary, or find her on Facebook: Little Pieces on Facebook.

October 21, 2014

You Can't Have it All, At Least Not All At Once

Fall is the middle, a shifting. Each brilliant leaf lazily drifting down is a reminder--although I don't care to be reminded, thank you very much--that winter is coming and, with winter, barrenness and stillness and cold. Or as a friend recently reminded me, "Fall is actually a beautiful death." Then, after the earth lies dormant, we will beg, under layers of scarves and coats, to see the little sprouts on trees that announce spring is coming.
After growing up in a place with two seasons (blazing hot and a month or two of sort-of cold), I love living in a place with four distinct seasons. I remember as a child browsing my mom's Land's End catalog and wondering who really wore all those heavy winter coats and snow boots. It seemed like a magical, far-off place. And I now live in that place, a real-life Land's End catalog! 

Four seasons means I've had to learn the necessity of salting our driveway and the art of wearing scarves. We make the annual trek to the apple orchard and enjoy being outside in the not-blazing-hot summer before the hibernation of winter. 

I love the seasons because they break up the monotony, but also because they have taught me so much about life. They've taught me this most of all: 
You can't have it all, at least not all at once. There are seasons for everything under heaven, but you can't have the tulips when it's the leaves' turn to show off. You can't force the trees to sprout when snow is climbing up their trunks. 

We can't have it all, at least not all at once. To believe otherwise is to run ourselves ragged, spinning wheels but never getting anywhere, and definitely not getting anywhere with any semblance of joy. To believe otherwise is to go against nature, the very nature that speaks to the character and activity of God.

There will be seasons of fruitfulness and seasons of barrenness. 

There will be seasons of beautiful, blossoming new life and seasons of beautiful suffering.

There will be seasons when we are filled and able to give and seasons when we are empty and need to receive.

There will be seasons when God appears to be living and breathing everywhere and seasons that are dry and quiet under His watchful care.

There will be seasons when He says yes and seasons when He says no.

There will be seasons when His love feels like delight and seasons when His love feels like discipline.

And what is our response? The response is what I'm really thinking about. Our response of obedience--a yes to God--often means a no to a million other little things. We can't have it all, at least not all at once. Sometimes that feels like the beginning of summer--freeing and warm and wildly satisfying. But sometimes that feels like the tail end of fall--little deaths like each leaf fluttering in the wind. It requires faith that, in the barrenness and stillness, God is preparing a new season of fruitfulness. We must wait. And we must rejoice in the season we're in, not wish for what's next.

October 17, 2014

Living by Scorecards {Is No Way to Live}

I didn't give much notice, but I've started sending out an occasional newsletter. (Occasional is the operative word.) I decided that I'd like to be able to communicate with you, my blog readers, in another way besides the blog, a way that feels a little more intimate, for those who want that sort of thing. Below is the post from the newsletter I sent to email subscribers this past week. In the future, I won't share this exclusive content here, only in the newsletter. However, it offers an example of what you may find in future newsletters, along with book recommendations, links to other blogs that I love, and, eek!, special offers related to the release of From Good to Grace in March. If you subscribe to this blog in any way other than email and would like to get future newsletters so you can be privy to these sorts of things, you can sign up here. I would be so grateful. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

Last Wednesday I sat on my back porch with a 20-something girl I'm discipling and we shared with one another the core lies we believe that lead us around life like a dog on a leash. At least that's how it's felt to me lately--leashed, chained, led to places emotionally that I don't care to go.

Our core lies, as the author Sarah Mae says, are based on what we put our worth and value in apart from God. They cause us to self-protect, build walls, and leak venom. And they block us from loving God and loving others.
I looked up at the young woman and spoke my lie out loud. I am only as loved as my performance. My examples could go like this: I must maintain relationships (and I am always the responsible party) or I won't be loved. I must be conscientious or I won't be loved. I must meet the expectations of others or I won't be loved. And my flip-side examples could go like this: If I am responsible enough, I will be loved. If am a good enough friend, I will be loved. If I do what I think others want me to do, I will be loved.

When I process this with my husband, he said, "You live for the scorecards. And that's no way to live." That's it exactly, I thought. It's usually subtle and subconscious, but when I'm not doing well emotionally, I perform and then look for the scorecards to go up as a validation of my performance. The thing is, life doesn't offer many scorecards. Life isn't an excel spreadsheet where little formulas make calculations of our worth. Life isn't meant to be performed for results; life is meant to be worship.

I had to think about my husband's pronouncement further. After all God has done in my life, why do I still sometimes live for the scorecard? Why do I still fall for this core lie that I am only as loved as my performance? I mean, I truly have come to a place (a place I never thought possible) where I believe with all my heart that God loves me because of Christ. I believe He actually delights in me, and that He delights in each of His children who have trusted Christ.

And then a sneaky little question rose up in my heart: Is it so wrong to want others to love me?

I could see my heart in that question. I know God loves me, but I fall for the core lie when my desire to be loved by others trumps the knowledge of God loving me. I make idols out of the love of others (not to mention my performance and abilities). And when I make gods out of others, they crumble under the weight of such expectation, because they aren't meant to stand under it, and I grow frustrated and resentful.

But when God's love is my sole desire? When I rest in the completeness of His love for me? What love others give me is such a blessed, joyful gift to receive. I'm able to love and be loved in return, without the crumbling weight of expectation.

Where there are no scorecards to be found.

Let's live as loved by the best Lover today.

October 15, 2014

Who Pours Into You?

Who pours into you? That's the question I get asked most often these days, and it's gotten me thinking. Because sometimes my answer to the question posed is a garbled mess. I know what people are asking: "Do you have an older woman that you meet with regularly who offers you her biblical wisdom and shoulder to cry on?" I've had it before, but I don't have it currently, and for some reason, I feel kind of bad saying it out loud. Almost like I'm doing something wrong.
But that persistent question has gotten me thinking about us all. I wonder if, in all our talk of discipleship and mentoring and "pouring into", we've created for ourselves a culture of entitlement. Do we believe it's a biblical imperative that there will always be a Paul to our Timothy? Should we always have someone "pouring into" us in a linear, hierarchical sort of way?

I don't think so. I think it's more circular than that. And I think to believe that we are entitled to have a personal "pourer" is to cripple ourselves from the growth we crave.

But perhaps that makes my point. Do we actually crave growth? Or do we crave a person who is god-like who can tell us what to do, empathize with our emotions, absolve us of our sins through spoken forgiveness, and guide us through our circumstances? Growth can definitely come from processing our lives intimately with another, but if we aren't prioritizing the growth that happens in relating directly with God, we will be forever stunted.

The Bible speaks of believers making progress by "eating" the Word. Babes drink milk but then grow to maturity and eat meat. A babe drinking milk is in a receiving posture, but when I think of eating meat, I think of how I purchase, cook, and serve it to my children. I am a "pourer" who also feeds myself on the meat I cook. Babes in the faith need pourers, but if we aren't babes in the faith, we must be able to feed ourselves (and are expected to feed ourselves).

Part of growth is actually being the pourer. The non-babes are all meant to be pourers. If we're getting frustrated and resentful that no one is personally pouring into us, we're missing something. Perhaps it is our turn to be a pourer and, in pouring, we find the growth we're looking for.

But that doesn't mean we aren't to be or shouldn't seek to be poured into. It just often looks different than what we expect it to, and our problem is that we stick to only one formula--the hierarchical formula. In fact, God has given us the Church so that we might be poured into. This idea elevates the idea of intimate Church, because we must be open with our needs, our sins, and our victories if we are to be poured in to as we desire. I think we often wait for that one person to open up our heart and life to, but God intended for the mature to open ourselves up in community, so that we have a circular discipleship in which we serve and are served. This doesn't come easy. We have to fight for it.

So when I am asked, Who pours into you?, I don't think of one specific person. I think of my pastor-husband who preaches verse-by-verse through the Bible. I think of the elders who provide for and protect our church. I think of the young women who ask me hard questions and cause me to search the Scriptures for answers. I think of the women I'm discipling who in turn disciple me. I think of the staff and elder wives who serve so faithfully and encourage me to use my gifts. I think of my friends who are willing to say hard things. I think of the people in my community group who pray for me. I think of long-time friends who live at a distance and listen and respond objectively to my struggles. And, yes, I think of several older women who help me know what to do in parenting and marriage. This is the Church, and it's a gift to receive. Go grab hold of it!

And if God asks you to walk through a season of pouring without much receiving, know this: He is enough. He will feed you.

October 9, 2014

Help Your Husband Be a Better Pastor {Through Encouragement}

Ministry can at times feel like one big battle against discouragement. If I experience it as a pastor’s wife, I can’t imagine how difficult the battle must be for my husband, who is in the spiritual trenches fighting for souls every day.
Last February was an especially discouraging time in our family and our ministry. My husband, Kyle, and I had the opportunity to go away for a few days and almost immediately upon leaving our city, we were able to get more of a bird’s eye view of what God was doing in our church and our family, and many of them were exciting. I started recounting to my husband all the good things that were happening that we’d been blind to in the everyday grind, and I quickly saw his demeanor change. I realized in that moment how often we talked about what was going wrong and how little we focused on all that was going right, and I determined that if I did nothing else, I wanted to help my husband pastor by encouraging him.

As Kyle and I had that conversation, God reminded me of something He’d shown me in my study of the book of Ezra. In Ezra, a Jewish remnant returned from exile in Persia to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. They were excited; some were weeping because they’d seen the original temple and couldn’t believe they were seeing God’s restoration after a long period of exile and discipline. It is a strong start, a good beginning.

When I read that, I thought back to when we first planted our church. We moved to an unfamiliar place with a huge task ahead, but filled with a sense of excitement and wonder. We felt God’s pleasure at our obedience and faith. Anticipation was high.

While starting something is exciting and glorious, we cannot maintain that same level of excitement. Why? The reality is this: gospel work is not romantic. It is day-in and day-out faithfulness that is largely unseen and sometimes seems unrewarded or unfruitful. And then what happened for the temple builders is what also happens with us: gospel work is always met with resistance.

The one that the temple builders faced that is most like what we face is discouragement-- the Jews’ enemies actually hired professional discouragers to frustrate their efforts. As a result, the restoration work stopped for 15 years. They were paralyzed by discouragement for 15 years. Later in Ezra, we discover that they also lost their joy and zeal for the Lord’s work.

That’s what discouragement does if we listen to it: it causes us to lose our joy and zeal for the Lord’s work. Though we continue working and going through the motions of ministry, our hearts grow hard and building stops on the inside, where God can see.

This is the interesting part, however, the part that God reminded me of as I sat talking with my husband: the building of the temple eventually resumed. What got it going again? The prophets Haggai and Zechariah spoke words of encouragement to Zerubbabel, the leader of the exiles.

We actually have their specific words recorded in the Bible and it’s a lesson in itself to see what they spoke over Zerubbabel.

Haggai drew his attention to the Lord’s constant presence: “Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel, says the Lord...and work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts. According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!” (Haggai 2:4-5)

Zechariah spoke to the Spirit’s power and the daily effort that adds up to a great work: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; His hands shall also finish it….For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the Lord, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.” (Zechariah 4:6-10)

We may not have these prophet types standing alongside to encourage us as we serve the Lord, but we can certainly be a Haggai and Zechariah for one another in our marriages. Because, certainly, ministry tends to be a constant fight with discouragement, but we always have something to celebrate regarding what God is doing, and we have the same promises that the exiles did of God’s constant presence.

We can help our husbands pastor by encouraging them the way the prophets did: One brick at a time. One person at a time. One day at a time. One sermon at a time. One response of faithful obedience at a time. Eventually it all will add up to the building of a fruitful life lived in honor of the Lord.

This article originally appeared on Send Network, a great resource for church planting.

October 7, 2014

How to Be a Good Sounding Board for Your Husband

Women are influencers. We're relational by nature, so we're often the relational glue within our families, churches, and communities and, within these relationships, we have tremendous opportunities and a great responsibility to use our influence well.

After almost 15 years of being my husband's marriage, parenting, and ministry partner, I am just coming to understand the weighty responsibility of being his greatest influencer and most important sounding board. Because he is a pastor, I affect my husband's perspectives, sermons, thoughts on others, and his decisions. Am I giving him my opinions and trying to influence him to do what I want him to do? Or am I listening and speaking with a heart that trusts him and, above all, trusts the Lord? In other words, how can I use my influence for his benefit and for the benefit of those he influences?

You don't have to be a pastor's wife to have influence. You don't have to be a wife, for that matter, although that's another post for another day. Every wife influences her husband, and most husbands depend on their wives to be their primary sounding board. We color their perspectives on everything: work, manhood, children, friendship, the church, and God Himself. This is a great power and also a great responsibility. How can we do it well? Here are a few things I've learned (and am honestly still learning) about being my husband's primary influencer and sounding board:

Influence Through Listening and Asking Questions

When he has a decision to make and wants your insight:
Immediately pray for the Holy Spirit to help you know when to speak and when to not speak as your conversation begins. In relation to his work, I have learned that is a very rare occasion when I am to help make the decision, but it is often that I am the one that can help him come to the decision through the questions I ask and the ideas that we brainstorm together. Sometimes I want to tell him what to do from the get-go, which is why I need the Holy Spirit to nudge me if and when it's time to give my opinion.

When you have a strong opinion right from the start:
Know your power to influence the situation, but also know that your visceral instincts, experiential wisdom, and especially your preferences may not be godly wisdom. You don't want to influence him according to your preferences but according to God's preferences. Pray for ears to hear the whole of the situation, probing questions to ask to help your husband mull it over, and for the ability to wait for him to ask for your insight. Most of all, ask the Lord to give you His heart for the situation and that it would trump your preferences or instinctual response.

Influence Through Speaking

When he's stressed, discouraged, or overwhelmed and wants to talk about it:
Seeing my husband stressed and uncertain can be extremely disconcerting, not only because I hurt when he's hurting but because it asks me to trust my husband and the situations he's facing to the Lord. Will I trust Him and allow the process of sanctification or will I fear and worry in a way that increases my husband's stress? When I choose to trust the Lord, I am then able to speak truth over my husband and draw him back to the foundational realities that God is trustworthy and will sustain him.

When he is verbalizing his frustration with another person:
Every wife's instinctual response is to defend her husband, but I've learned that when my husband is sharing his frustrations, I can listen but there is no need to join in the sharing. I have the tremendous power of clouding my husband's perspective on people in his life. Even with words spoken in private conversation, I can cause division in relationships and frustrations to grow.

Influence Through Activity

When all you're talking about is one thing all the time (which, for pastor's wives, is often church):
The best thing you can do for your husband is to help him be a whole person. If he is talking about work all the time and that's all you two have to talk about, that is a sign of not being a whole person. A whole person has family relationships, friendships, recreation, healthy emotions, and has varied interests that are life-giving and restful. Influence your one-track-mind husband by encouraging him to pursue activities outside of that one thing and joyfully giving him the time to do it. When he has other relationships and activities in his life, he will have varied things to talk about.

Influence Through Prayer

When heart and lifestyle change is needed:
As a wife, I can help my husband through insight and feedback, but there is one area that I can only influence through prayer and that's his heart. Nagging and spouting off my thoughts and opinions about what he needs to do (even if they're accurate) aren't helpful in influencing any change. I can, of course, respectfully and gently bring my concerns to him, but I find it is always most effective after I have spent considerable time praying about my concerns and praying that the Lord would do the work needed in his life.

It's interesting to look back through this list and recognize just how influential we are and the scope of that influence. And it emboldens me all the more to seek to use that influence for good in my husband's life. What about you? Are you using your influence wisely and for your husband's benefit?

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