"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
July 20, 2016
Oh my! God has really been working on me here lately! Many times, it seems as if what I write about in these devotionals are either things that God is working on in my life; thoughts that have been on my heart; or related to sermons or conversations that I've had where something I've heard struck a chord and stays on my mind. There are occasions where it seems like God is wanting to make a point and wants me to really "get" it, so I keep hearing or reading related things regarding a particular subject, which is what has happened this time.
A few weeks ago, we began a new midweek Bible study at our church. The first lesson was about the role we have in the Kingdom of God and seeing ourselves as God sees us; at least that was what I took away from the lesson. We are sons and daughters of the Most High King of Kings! We're not slaves or outcasts or step-children; but we have been adopted as true children. We are heirs and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. That's pretty amazing, when you really think about it!
Romans 8:15-17 says, "So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God's spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him 'Abba, Father.'" For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God's children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory."
Galatians 4:5: "God sent him [Jesus] to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, 'Abba, Father.' Now you are no longer a slave but God's own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir."
God started showing me that I often see myself as second best, and am content to live as if I were still in slavery. God has given me the rights as His daughter, yet I have difficulty feeling as if I am worthy of fulfilling that role. I want to live in the Kingdom, but have been content with the leftovers and whatever blessings happen to come my way. In fact, I'm often delegated myself to the role of slave, just happy to be "near" the King; but not taking my rightful place.
We don't have kings in America, so I'm going to give an example using the president. Imagine that your father was the president of the United States. Because of his position, you have been given rights as his child. You can have protection and body guards wherever you go; you can have an elegant bedroom suite in the White House; you can ride on the private presidential jet with your father when traveling together; your father's name can open many doors and provide many opportunities for you. You love your father and are proud to be his child! Yet you never take your rightful place or partake of all the benefits offered freely to you. You decide that the beautiful bedroom suite is too nice for you, so you choose to live in the basement with the servants. You travel, but choose to travel commercial in cramped seats. You could attend a private school and get the best education available, but you choose to attend an inner city school. You could drive any new car you want, but choose to drive an old beaten up jalopy. You know that you have a better life offered to you, filled with benefits due to your father's position, but you feel that it shows more humility to refuse all these things and choose a more depreciating lifestyle. It would be prideful to accept the benefits and blessing that is offered daily, wouldn't it?!?
We have this same attitude regarding our place in the Kingdom of God! We are so afraid of being prideful or think more of ourselves than we should, so we refuse many of the benefits that our Father offers us. Somehow we feel that this is humility. Yet, I think our Heavenly Father is standing in front of us, trying to get us to enter His vast storehouse, saying, "Come on My son/daughter! All I have is yours! Please! I want you to partake of these good things that I have just for you. These things are My gifts to you, but you are refusing to take your rightful place and accept all that I have for you!!"
I have been praying that God would help me to see myself as He sees me. I want Him to show me how to take my rightful place as His child. I'm a King's daughter! I'm royalty! God has given me rights in His Kingdom, due to our Father/daughter relationship. I want to fulfill the role that God has placed me in. I am an heir of God, and I want to always remember that. I never want to squander away my rights as a King's kid! I don't want to go through life with a slave mentality, never partaking of all the daily benefits that God has provided for me. I am Loretta Kay Horton Gray, daughter of God Almighty, who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!!
I had someone send me a link to a sermon a few days ago, which was connected to this subject. The sermon was about learning to love ourself. That's biblical, do you realize that? It's not only loving what we do or what our talents may be; it's loving everything that makes us who we are. The biggie for me that the sermon dealt with is loving our body. What?!?!
There were several points in that sermon that really convicted me and made me realize how often throughout my life I've bad-mouthed myself. I've actually bullied myself, by saying very unkind, rude remarks about my looks and my body. I'm pretty convinced that many of us do this on a consistent basis, but have grown so accustomed to it, that we don't even take notice anymore.
We will put ourselves down, focus on everything that we don't like about how we look, and consistently say bad things about our body. "I hate my turkey neck; how my neck droops and all that extra skin hangs down under my chin -- it's so ugly!" "I have really ugly feet!" "I wish I had nice hair like so and so; my hair is thin/curly/straight/wiry and I can't do anything with it!" "I hate my stomach and how big it is!" "My thighs are so thick and ugly. I've never had nice legs!" "I hate my nose! It's so big and wide." "I wish I could wear sleeveless, but I've got these big ol' flabby arms that are so disgusting!" "My hips are so wide!" "I can never find clothes that fit me well, because I'm built so odd. I just hate how I'm built!"
If we made those same comments about others to their face, it would be considered bullying and very hateful! In fact, it would very likely cause offense and extremely hurt feelings. That person probably wouldn't want to be our friend anymore. Yet we have no qualms about saying them about ourself!!
We have no problem putting ourselves down, and seem to feel that it's fine to do so. In fact, it sometimes feels as if we're being humble in doing so. "You have such nice skin. Mine has always been so freckled with big pores." Saying something nice about someone, then putting ourself down isn't a sign of humility. Honestly, we don't make ourselves look better in front of others when we tell them all the faults of our body. It certainly doesn't build our self-confidence and make us feel better about ourself. In fact, it's as if we become at war with our own body. James tells us that there is life and death in our words. Perhaps that should be applied to how we speak about our own flesh. If we are saying, "I don't like you, turkey neck -- you're ugly. I hate you, big hips and stomach -- you disgust me! You big ol' flappy arms -- I can't stand looking at you!"; how can we expect health and strength and cooperation within our own body when we're speaking death and negativity??
What would happen if we reversed this and started loving ourself and our body?! What this lady minister, who had struggled for many years with self-image, said that the Holy Spirit impressed her to do was to apologize to each body part for the critical, negative, hurtful things she had said about it. She stood in front of a mirror naked and asked forgiveness of each of those body parts; then she would tell that body part that she loved it. In this, she made reconciliation with her body and learned how to love herself. That may sound radical, but honestly, I've been trying this. Instead of putting myself down, saying critical comments about myself, I've been standing in front of a mirror (naked) saying positive, loving things about each body part. I asked forgiveness and apologized to each body part for the hateful, hurtful things I've said about them. I can't say that it has been an overnight change, but I am working on changing my thinking regarding myself. Why is it that we no problem saying what we dislike about ourself or being critical about our looks or body, but feel as if we're being prideful or are self-conscious about saying loving things about ourself? We think it's normal to say what we hate or dislike about our body, but it's just crazy or silly to speak words of love. I want to change my thinking and have a healthy relationship with myself.
If I'm going to truly see myself as a daughter of my Heavenly Father, then I'm going to have to see myself as the special treasure that He created me to be and love how God made me! I can't go around finding fault and nit-picking and criticizing myself, but have to accept and love myself -- head to toe!! This also means, that I'm not going to allow others to degrade me or say unkind remarks about me, then accept them as truth.
That also means that I have to forgive others for hurtful or critical remarks they have made to me over the years regarding my weight or looks or body. Trust me, I've held onto those words and can tell you who said what; and often tell you where we were and what we were doing! If I want to make reconciliation with myself and truly love myself, then I have to forgive, let those things go, and move forward. Stop bringing them up and repeating them! Let it go.... let it go..... When those thoughts and remembrances come to mind, I need to remind myself, "I've let that go! I've forgiven! That is no longer who or what I am. I choose to move forward and live in forgiveness!"
We are given three commandments by Jesus: love God, love others, and love ourself -- that's right, love ourself! Mark 12:30-31 says, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. The second is equally important [yes, the scripture says that this second part is just as important as the first part!!]: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these." We have no problem with loving God, no problem with loving others, but that last one is often difficult.
We are commanded, not just encouraged, but this is a commandment, to love our neighbor as ourself. We are NOT told to love ourself as we love our neighbor.
I was thinking about all this a few days ago and the Holy Spirit spoke something to my heart that really hit home: "You can only love your neighbor in the same capacity in which you love yourself! You can't love someone more than you love yourself. You can try, but honestly, it's impossible." Bam! Conviction hit!
There is a quote by Zig Ziglar that says, "What you see in others, exists in you."
That's pretty thought-provoking! What do you tend to see in others? Is it good, pure, positive, loving; do you look for the best in people? Or do you tend to see their faults, their weaknesses, their flaws and you zero in on those things? What you see in others, is what exists in you! Ow!!
If we are critical about ourself, we will be critical about others. If we are judgmental about ourself, we will be judgmental toward others. If we put ourself down and find fault about how we look or our body, we will do the same regarding other people. If we are negative towards ourself, that same negative attitude will be what we have toward others. If we are a perfectionist, we will expect perfectionism in others. If we nitpick about things regarding ourself, we will nitpick regarding others. If we are easily offended and get our feelings hurt, that will carry over and hinder our ability to truly love others. We can't give more love to someone else than we can give ourself.
In order to fulfill the commandment to love our neighbor (or love others) as we love ourself, we have to learn to truly love ourself first.
It's easy to have a quick knee-jerk reaction, thinking, "That's not true! I am fully capable of loving others; and how I love or treat myself has absolutely nothing to do with it!" I challenge you: Start paying attention and really listening to your words regarding how you speak about yourself, your looks, your body; and also about what you say about other people! When you say something about other people stop and ask yourself: "Was that critical? Was it negative? Was it judgmental?" Or "Was it loving? Was it positive? Would it build self-confidence and make one feel better about themselves?"
Let's love God with all our heart, soul, and strength. That's the first and greatest commandment. But Jesus said that the second part of that was of equal importance -- that's His words, not mine! Love others as we love ourself. Let's make peace and reconciliation with our body, learning to love every part of ourself. Let's ask God to help us see ourself as He sees us; and to truly live as sons and daughters of the the King. Then let's love others in that same way!
In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist was telling people about Jesus, and mentioned, "I am not worthy to carry His sandals." And this came from one of the most respected, most devout people around. And he should know what he was talking about. In Luke 1:44, John's mother told Mary (before either John or Jesus were born), "the baby in my womb leaped for joy" when they heard Mary coming. The scripture doesn't specifically say so, but it sounds like Mary hadn't told John's mother she was expecting, yet.
In Matthew 3:13-17, Jesus went to John to be baptized. John argued that Jesus should baptize John, but when Jesus insisted, John did baptize Jesus. I've been told baptizing someone is a great honor and privilege for a preacher, no matter who it is for. I can't imagine the honor it would be to baptize Jesus.
So, we went from John saying he wasn't worthy to do something so menial as carry Jesus's shoes to John baptizing Jesus. The point is that John knew he hadn't earned the right or privileges. But when the time came, he did accept an even greater honor.
That illustrates how we are as heirs to God. We know (most of us know) that we haven't earned it. But we don't have to. We can accept it, and even embrace it.
1 stick butter, melted
3 whole flour tortillas (small size)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350. Mix together the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Melt the butter. Place the tortillas on a baking sheet and liberally brush one side of the flour tortillas with butter. Sprinkle generously with the cinnamon/sugar mixture to cover completely. Flip the tortilla to the other side and repeat the process; liberally brush on melted butter, the generously sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Bake for 15-17 minutes until very crisp. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Break into pieces to eat as snacks... or serve with vanilla ice cream.
***When I was a kid, my mom would make basically this same thing using leftover pie crust. She would roll out the leftover pie crust dough, cut into strips, brush on butter and sprinkle with a cinnamon/sugar mixture, then bake on 350 for 10-15 minutes. I always liked this better than the pie!
My great-niece, age 8, was given a pair of "high-heels" (has about an inch to inch-and-a half heel) by her cousin, age 9. I had originally bought the shoes for the 9 year old for her birthday a few months ago. They are black Mary Jane's with a little pearl-type button on the strap that goes across the foot. The shoes are still a little too big for the 8 year old, but she loves them and wants to wear them anyway. One afternoon recently, her grandma took her and her brother to the library, which has a large play area; and she wore her new-to-her heels. Afterwards, they met me for lunch. She told me and her grandma: The shoes do not hurt her feet at all, because they hardly touch (her feet)! She had turned her ankle, but only once. Since they were still a little big on her she had a little bit of trouble walking; but she could run in them. (Not quite sure of how that worked!) She loves her big girl shoes!
Move past your past and into your future. - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon