Love is Not Irritable

In celebration of an incredible “launch” of the First Corinthians study, and due to the fact that I still haven’t quite gotten back into my blogging groove since it ended (i.e., all I’ve felt like doing with my free time for the past week is watching Gilmore Girls) , I thought I’d post one last excerpt from the study. Enjoy!

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

 

For each characteristic of love given, our response needs to be, “Am I . . . . ?”

Am I patient? Am I kind? Am I free from jealousy, bragging, and arrogance? Am I rude? Am I self-seeking? Am I easily provoked? Do I keep a mental record of the wrongs done to me? Am I more prone to rejoice in unrighteousness or in the truth?

Our individual answers are a BIG deal. Remember, apart from love, we are nothing (v. 2).

NO-THING!

This is serious stuff.

Because I can only speak for myself, I want to address the quality of love that needs the most work in my own life: love . . . is not provoked (“easily angered”, NIV). I don’t have “anger issues” in that I don’t scream and yell, punch walls, break things, or emotionally explode when things don’t go my way. But as I was studying the word translated “easily provoked” I came across the word “irritable.” Ding, ding, ding! That’s me. That’s my struggle.

Irritability, which I define as the tendency to be easily annoyed or frustrated, is something I fight every day. Since having my son 3 years ago, the battle has gotten even more intense. Unfortunately, I didn’t birth a perfect child, nor am I a perfect mother. He doesn’t always listen. He gets into stuff he shouldn’t. He usually can’t tell the difference between a washable marker and a permanent one. He doesn’t always want to nap (usually on days when I need a break the most). He messes up my house as fast as I can clean it. He asks “why” 5,789 times a day. He has no appreciation for sleeping in. After months of peeing on the potty, he still insists on going “number two” in his underwear. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Kids pretty much guarantee that a mom’s day isn’t going to go quite like she planned. There will be interruptions, messes, boo boos, tears, time outs, and human waste to clean off of who- knows-what. Some moms are great at tackling that stuff with optimism and grace.

Not me.

I am irritable.

As the small annoyances multiply, the tone of my voice starts to change. The force with which I close doors, drawers, and cabinets gets a little more intense.  When my husband calls to check in, I get less and less chatty. I soon become totally incapable of seeing good qualities in my family members and I get more and more critical. The next inconvenience that comes my way is usually met with complete insensitivity to the needs of others. It’s a downhill spiral that will end with me yelling and screaming if I let it continue. My irritability forces my family to walk on eggshells. It communicates to my child things I would never, ever say to his face. Things like “you are an inconvenience”, “you don’t do anything right”, “you are in my way”, or “I would be better off if you weren’t here right now.” Just typing those statements makes me sick to my stomach, because they are the complete opposite of what I want to communicate to my precious little man.

Irritability, while not as obvious as anger, is no less sinful. And left unchecked, it is no less damaging. It is contrary to love which our passage describes as slow to get riled up, frustrated, upset, or testy . . .  even when things don’t go as planned. When love rules our hearts, no one walks on egg shells. Doors aren’t slammed harder than usual. Words don’t get short and snappy. When love rules our hearts, inconveniences are seen as opportunities. Frustrations are met with self-control. Annoyances are graciously overlooked. Offenses are forgiven. The needs of others are put first.

Love is not irritable. How about you?

 

{Copies of the 1 Corinthians Bible study workbook, Becoming a Woman of Conviction in a World of Compromise, can be purchased here. The teaching sessions that go along with the study can be viewed here.}

It’s Our Own Fault {Another 1 Corinthians Sneak Peek}

Here is another excerpt from the workbook I have written for the Becoming a Woman of Conviction in the World of Compromise study on the book of 1 Corinthians. The passage that goes along with it is 1 Cor. 2:6-3:4.

My husband, like many Americans, loves to spend money on things that will improve his health. He’s been a member of almost every gym in our town, he’s purchased top-of the-line running shoes that any marathoner would envy, he’s the proud owner of P90X DVD’s and related equipment, he’s got a state-of-the-art heart rate monitor (well, he had one – I may or may not have lost it), he has the MyFitnessPal app downloaded on his phone and consults it regularly, and he spent weeks researching home cardio equipment before purchasing the nice hunk of metal that sits in our den. If all it took was having the right equipment to be perfectly healthy, my husband would be a health and nutrition beast! Handsome, adorable, and moderately fit, he is. A health and nutrition “beast,” he definitely is not (nor am I!). Unfortunately, you can’t just have all the stuff, you have to use all the stuff. If Greg and I aren’t as healthy as we should be, it’s our own fault! (You have to know that I am typing this as I stuff my face with chocolate. Oh the irony!)

The same is true spiritually. If you and I are not spiritually mature, if we are still worldly, if we are still sipping on spiritual milk when we ought to be chewing on steak  – it’s our own fault. We have been given everything we need for godliness and growth (2 Peter 1:3). Not only do we have God’s Word, which is the ultimate source of divine wisdom and truth, but we also have God’s Spirit who enables us to understand and apply it. And I should mention that those of us who live in America have literally thousands of solid Christian growth resources available to us with just one click. The crazy thing is that American Christians are arguably the most immature, worldly, self-centered, cliquish believers in the world. Why? Because you can’t just have the stuff, you have to use the stuff . . .

You can’t just hear the word, you have to do the Word.

You can’t just acknowledge the sin, you have to get rid of the sin.

You can’t just give your tithe, you have to give your life.

You can’t just attend the church, you have to be the church.

You can’t just have the Spirit, you have to yield to the Spirit.

You can’t just listen to great sermons, you have to live those great sermons.

You can’t just go to a conference, you have to take it home with you.

The single greatest reason why we don’t fully appropriate all that God has given us and grow up in our faith is because we feast on the world’s wisdom, but only snack on God’s. You can’t imbibe the world’s mentality day after day, TV program after TV program, magazine article after magazine article, song after song, book after book, talk show after talk show and expect that one or two measly hours of church a week is going to get you out of spiritual diapers. NOT. GOING. TO. HAPPEN. 

Don’t be the girl sitting on the couch watching a Jillian Michaels DVD eating a massive bowl of Moose Tracks ice cream. Get rid of the worldly junk.  Marinate in God’s Word. Listen to the counsel of His Spirit. Surrender daily to His will. Then watch yourself become a woman of righteous, mature, brave, Christ-honoring conviction in a world plagued by compromise.

Oh, and I can’t think of a better way to jump-start the transformation than studying 1 Corinthians with me this fall! (Yes, this is a shameless plug.) Check out all the details here.

Whatever You Do . . . {Another 1 Corinthians Sneak Peek}

I have officially crossed the half-way marker in my writing for the Fall study I will be teaching on the book of First Corinthians. Thank you so much for those of you who are praying me through! Needless to say, blogging has taken more of a back seat than usual, so I thought I’d post another excerpt from the study. The verse being applied here is 1 Corinthians 10:31:

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

For several years after I graduated high school I served in my church’s youth ministry, the highlight of which was getting to enjoy the retreats and camps right along with the students. One year our youth pastor brought in a retreat speaker who told our students (and I quote), “Have all the sex you want to the glory of God.” The second the words came out of his mouth, the middle school students giggled while the high school students sat wide-eyed and speechless. All I could think of in that moment was the damage control I was going to have to do as a leader of girls who were sure to ask a thousand questions about that statement.

Fortunately, the speaker followed his provocative declaration with really solid teaching. His point was that for an unmarried person, “having all the sex you want for the glory of God” means having no sex at all. God’s commands are a reflection of Himself. Because of that, a person absolutely cannot break God’s law by having sex outside of marriage and glorify Him at the same time. A body engaging in sin cannot be a body reflecting God’s image as He intended. That’s why sin of any kind is so detestable in the eyes of a God whose very purpose in creating us was His own glory. He desires for even the most mundane tasks like eating and drinking to point to Him and reflect His worth. All of life is worship, or at least it should be.

So, in light of 1 Corinthians 10:31,  I would like to take what that retreat speaker said to our students and rephrase it in a few ways that may strike a chord with adult Christian women:

  • Yell and scream at your kids to the glory of God.
  • Spend obsessive amounts of time at the gym to the glory of God.
  • Tell a dirty and/or racist joke to the glory of God.
  • Compromise your sacred marriage covenant to the glory of God.
  • Shack up with that guy to the glory of God.
  • Make alcohol a central part of your social life to the glory of God.
  • Routinely choose sports, recreation, entertainment, and home improvement over church to the glory of God.
  • Read pornographic novels – all “shades” of them –  to the glory of God.
  • Go see Magic Mike (or any other blatantly inappropriate movie) to the glory of God.
  • Watch sitcom characters dialogue about their private parts to the glory of God.
  • Listen to Katy Perry sing about kissing a girl and liking it to the glory of God.
  • Flaunt your boobs and other body parts to the glory of God.
  • Gossip, belittle, and criticize others to the glory of God.
  • Ignore your family and your home so that you can pin, tweet, or update your status to the glory of God.
  • Refuse to forgive and hold that grudge to the glory of God.

Don’t these sound utterly ridiculous? Each and every point is an absolute impossibility. And yet aren’t we constantly fooling ourselves into thinking we can dabble in sin and still live God-glorifying lives? Or that we can sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” on Sunday and seek to defy God’s authority by doing our own thing the rest of the week? If God cares about our eating and drinking, then He most definitely cares about the subtle immorality we carelessly putter around in. “Whatever you do” means “WHATEVER you do.” No exceptions.

Sadly, the life of the typical Christian in America reflects God’s glory about as well as a carnival mirror. Interestingly, we get all worked up when unbelievers don’t take God seriously. But do we? Do we take Him seriously? All too often, the answer is “no.” And rarely do we have to look further than our media preferences to prove it.

I hope you don’t feel like the morality police just rolled into town. The point of all this is not that we would be good boys and girls obeying all the rules and retreating from society as much as possible. The point is that we would start to see our lives as platforms for God to show off His glory; as stages upon which He can display His majesty; as channels through which He can broadcast His goodness and grace to a world so desperate to see that the gospel really does make a difference. When I started seeing my life that way, obedience became an honor instead of burden. Holiness became a source of tremendous happiness instead of an exhausting duty. My life became a beautiful story of redemption instead of boring record of a church girl who tried her best to be good. Even the mundane started to have meaning. Seeing my life as a platform for God’s glory changed everything for me. With all my heart, I desire the same for you.

There is perhaps no command that, when heeded, has more potential to transform the church of Jesus Christ than 1 Corinthians 10:31. The health and influence of the Church throughout the ages has always depended on a passion for the glory of God, an insistence on worship as a lifestyle, and a radical commitment to live all of life coram Deo – before the face of God.

And that will never, ever change.

Have mercy on us, O Lord . . .

 

 

Obsessed with Change . . . and Why You Shouldn’t Be

This post is an excerpt from the study I am writing on the book of 1 Corinthians (coming to a blog near you in September 2012!). The Scripture in view is 1 Corinthians 7:17-24:

1 Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches. 18 Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. 20 Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called. 21 Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. 22 For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called. (emphasis added)

These words were written to a group of people who were seeking to change their circumstances (specifically, their marital status) in order to acheive a deeper level of spirituality. Paul is basically telling them to stop it – to stay put in whatever situation God called them  unless and until God said to move.

Here’s the application for us . . .

 

It’s easy to become obsessed with change, isn’s it? Life can rapidly become a pursuit of one “status update” after another. We invest a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears into improving our financial status, social status, relationship status, intellectual status, athletic status, super-mom status, career status, and the list goes on. Up the ladder we climb seeking to “live our best life now,” convinced that we’ll be much better off at the top. As we do, there’s no shortage of “Christian” motivational speakers and life coaches cheering us on to “be all that we can be” by creating the life of our dreams . . . and it all sounds so right.

But what if it isn’t? What if God is totally unimpressed with our ladder climbing skills? What if our status here on earth is meaningless in heaven? What if our best life isn’t supposed to be lived now? What if pursuing the “life of our dreams” can actually rob us of a much better reward? In light of today’s passage, we don’t have to wonder about these things. Scripture is clear: change isn’t inherently bad, but an obsession with change is sin – our “dream life” can easily become an idol. We guard ourselves from this by understanding that earthly status of any kind is ultimately irrelevant to God. The value, significance, and meaning of our lives are determined by His call, not our living conditions or social clout. When we reject that, we ultimately reject the whole concept of grace.

It’s easy to be controlled by our “if onlys.” If only I had been raised in a Christian home . . . if only I had a husband who loves Jesus . . . if only I wasn’t stuck at home with kids every day . . .if only I weren’t sick all the time . . . if only I had more money . . . if only I could move back home . . . if only I had more Christian friends . . . if only I wasn’t stuck working 40 hours a week . . . if only I didn’t live in this tiny apartment . . . THEN  I could really be a passionate follower of Jesus. I could go on mission trips! I could give to ministries! I could host Bible studies! I could have longer quiet times! I could resist temptation more easily! I could practice hospitality more! Ever thought that way? I have!

We have to put an end to the “if onlys” and embrace the liberating truth that we do not have to seek the “ideal situation” in order to be all that God desires for us to be! We don’t have to create the “perfect” life to serve Him effectively! Sure, we are to flee sin and anything that encourages sin, but other than that we can stay right where we are with confidence that God can and will be glorified in and through our lives as long as we are seeking to honor and obey Him.

What we can’t see matters a whole lot more than what we can see. God cares a whole lot more about our hearts than He does about our habitat. Wherever you are, whatever you do, whoever you’re with – “remain with God” (v. 24) and rest in the beautiful reality that He remains with you.

 

Such WERE Some of You {Another 1 Corinthians Sneak Peek}

I’ve been busy working on the Becoming a Woman of Conviction in a World of Compromise study of 1 Corinthians again this week, so I’m letting some of that do double-duty by posting another sneak peek for you. In September, you will have an opportunity to do the study with me online, or (if you live in the Brandon, FL area) live at Bell Shoals Baptist Church. You’ll be hearing lots more about that as it gets closer, I promise. In the meantime, would you pray for me and for this study? The deadline to have the workbook written and ready for formatting is fast approaching and I’ve only written two out of seven weeks. Ha! (I choose laughter over tears . . . most days.) If only I could write, play trucks, cook, clean, pay bills, menu plan, and hang out with my husband all at the same time. 🙂

The following is application of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, focusing in on verse 11: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

__________________________________________

I’m a big fan of room makeover shows. Do you remember TLC’s Trading Spaces? “Two rooms, two sets of neighbors, two designers, two days, $1,000 each.” I was addicted, folks! (And  I’d still give anything to have Laurie Smith come work her magic in my home!) But whether I loved the finished product or hated it, I always thought to myself, “There’s no way that’s going to last.” What may have looked good on camera wasn’t very likely to withstand the wear and tear of real life. One thousand dollars may be enough to redecorate a room for a TV audience, but it takes a much bigger budget (and a lot longer than 2 days!) to permanently renovate a room so that it stands the test of time.

Christianity is not a spiritual room makeover show. God is not interested in merely redecorating our lives; He wants to renovate our lives. He’s not in the business of making us better versions of ourselves. He’s in the business of total transformation – of gutting all the old stuff and re-making us into the likeness of Jesus (Rom. 8:29). The price tag on that renovation? Nothing less than the precious blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:18, 19)!

To use another metaphor, salvation isn’t some spiritual version of plastic surgery – it’s a heart transplant! The message of the gospel is not that God accepts us in all our sinfulness, forgives us, and then leaves us in our sinfulness with the command to do the best we can at being nice Christian people. The message of the gospel is that God accepts us in all our sinfulness, forgives us, and then indwells us with His Spirit so that we might live lives that are radically transformed from the inside out!

We’ve got to put an end to the line of thinking that Christianity is merely cosmetic; that life in the Spirit is some lofty notion to discuss in Sunday school but has little bearing on our everyday lives; that Jesus is some kind of divine self-help guru sent to improve us rather than a Redeemer sent to save and transform us. That’s nonsense! You and I have not just been saved from sin. We have been saved to an entirely new life in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17)! The Corinthians had pretty much forgotten that, and I’m afraid many of us have as well.

Does your life story have an obvious “but” in it? Does is contain something to the effect of, “I used to be _________________, BUT then I met Jesus and I’ve never been the same!” Is the “but” in your story evident to everyone around you? Does it magnify the beauty of the gospel and the worth of your Savior? Is your former life really your former life?

But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified” (v. 11). By the grace of God, that is who you are, sweet sister. Because of Jesus, your story has a “but.” It’s time to start living like it. No more compromise! It’s time to make purity an absolute priority.

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