It’s Not About Me: tiny mantras that change my thinking

Sometime in my mid-twenties I learned a valuable lesson. When having a bad hair day, ignore it. Don’t apologize for the offending hair. Don’t make self-deprecating comments about it all day. Every time it comes to mind, redirect my thoughts.

I have better things to do with my brain space. If I spend my day thinking about my hair and how it doesn’t look like what I want, I’m not doing the work that God has given me. You know what I discovered? Not one other person is paying attention to my hair. They are too busy thinking about their own hair or that project at work or a tiff with a friend.

Who’s the Real Hero of the Story? (hint, it’s Jesus)

Not shockingly, I’ve been reading a book. Overall, it’s a great resource, but there’s one sentence that we should discuss. The author is noting what identifies her as a woman and how all women know they are women.

“Or that in us, was not the instinct to jump in front of a bullet for a man but to be the first warm face he saw once he fell to the ground.”

Now to be fair, this is actually in a paragraph that I disagree with as a whole. Her markers for being a woman are not true for all women everywhere; actually not one of the women in our small group identified with the whole list.

My point in writing about this is not to pick at the author. But this particular idea is actually unbiblical and we are still doing a lot of damage with the ways we talk about gender. This quote represents a Disney fairytale, a princess desiring to be rescued by a knight in shining armor. This is a woman waiting for a hero when women already have one (so do men). The hero of all stories is God, and we are called to act like that hero.

Kindness + Respect: a primer for believers

Nice is a nothing word. Sure, it has a dictionary definition but if someone tells me that my outfit is “nice,” I go change. I attempt to never tell my kids to be “nice” because what does that even mean? A lot of times I think it just means “don’t rock the boat, don’t make waves, and for heaven’s sake, don’t be the wave.” I’m almost always the wave so I don’t have a lot of space for that. I’m not interested in nice and much more importantly, God never tells us to be nice.

But I do frequently remind my boys to be kind. One of my parenting goal is teach my boys to be kind and respectful by teaching them why they should be kind and respectful. We need good reasons for the things we do; motivation can make all the difference.

Kindness, as opposed to niceness, is a characteristic that should flow out of a believer. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). God describes Himself as kind. Psalm 145:13 says, “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.” Love is kind (1 Corinthians 13:4) and we are told to be kind to everyone (Ephesians 4:32, 2 Timothy 2:24).

How to Have a Settled Life: finding a firm foundation

Occasionally, I hear someone say a pretty flowery thing about following Jesus. They present an almost fairy tale; candy that entices, but doesn’t sustain. It’s not that they aren’t true; they just left out the meat. They presented the fairy tale ending too soon and left out the part about life today. The full redemption and transformation comes after God makes the world new. Then He wipes away all our tears; pain and suffering and death are gone forever. But here, even with the joy of being in Christ, comes persecution and suffering and loss. We are joined, not just in Jesus’ resurrection, but also in His death.

Paul never minces words about this dual reality. This both/and narrative is his story. He’s writing this book to the Philippians from prison. He’s in prison and he doesn’t know if he will live or die. He doesn’t know if he will see these believers he loves again. And even if he lives and does see them, it’s second best. He would actually rather go be with Christ.

How to Live in True Humility

“My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). Those are the two verses we ended on last time. Knowing Christ, both in death and resurrection, is the road to glory.

Context is critical when we are studying Scripture. If we don’t read what the verse means in context of the passage that surrounds it, we can make a verse say anything we want. That’s not rightfully handling the Word, and we don’t want to do that. We aren’t after our own agendas in studying the Word; we are after faithfulness, seeing God, knowing Him as He has revealed Himself.

In Bible study last week, I confessed that at the beginning of the summer I would have said that I was familiar with Philippians, but now that we’ve spent seven weeks reading and rereading the entire book and digging into individual portions and connecting the topics of Paul, I don’t think I knew anything about this book. After going through three chapters, I keep picking up a theme of true humility.

The Aim of Life is Knowing Christ

Christian circles, especially once you move into women’s ministry, sometimes take a lot of flack for talking so much about identity. Identity can be very poorly explained; it can disintegrate into conversations about beauty and being enough. I’m all for throwing that out because that has nothing to do with our identity anyway.

But identity itself is crucial. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in Matthew 4, the first two times the devil started with, “If you are the Son of God.” Are you sure, Jesus? Are you who you think? Are you what the Father says? Is He true and faithful?  We stand on our identity; what we perceive to be true about ourselves and what others tell us is true about ourselves shapes what we believe. Identity matters. I think women and men should have regular conversations about where they should find their identity.

We need regular conversations because we are a forgetful people. Everything we know about this new life in Christ goes against our nature. It’s fought by the world. It’s not what we hear in the scattered conversations at our workplaces and schools. We need constant reminders of who God is and who we are. Paul starts chapter 3 of Philippians pointing this out. “In addition, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write to you again about this is no trouble for me and is a safeguard for you.”

Why You Need the Bible: Paul’s Version

One of my favorite things to talk about is reading the Bible. But I think it’s very important that you know why you should read the Bible. It’s not about a checklist or memorizing a list of rules. We read the Bible because it shows us truth. We read the Bible to know who God is and what He’s doing. From that, we know who we are and what we are supposed to be doing.

Knowing the Word was just as important to Paul. Right after his magnificent poem about Jesus and His example of living, he continues shaping the way the Philippians should live and he wraps it all up with one phrase, “holding fast to the word of life.” This is the only hope we have of making it.

Work it out

Paul introduces this new thought with “therefore” because it’s all based on the life that he just told us about. The life that Jesus lived is the basis for what coming’s next. Philippians 2:12-13 says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”