Friday, June 29, 2018

Quiet Retreat: Take the Lowest Place

Another common phrase rolling around in my mind lately is about choosing the lowest place. We live in a culture where fame is praised and being known is sought after. Again and again this idea of choosing the lowest place, choosing the smaller place comes to mind.

Again, this really is a seeking first of His kingdom, seeking His honor and not my own. Seeking what serves His kingdom not what elevates myself.

Seeking first His kingdom is really rooted in humility, worry comes from pride and insecurity.

Look at Luke 14:7 - Jesus noticed how guests picked the places of honor. What is the motivation? How do I perceive honor? Stop right here: how are my decisions influenced by the perceived or real honor they will or will not bring? Who would this honor come from? How could I choose for His honor?

When we choose the lowest place, there is always room for honor - but when we choose the more honored place, we open ourselves up to pride, humiliation and embarassment.

So, what is my measuring stick for choosing a place of honor? What characterizes this honor I desire? Where do I place the value of honor?

What does it look like to choose the lowest place in my daily life?

I have turned to 1 Peter several times today in looking up cross-references and I want to just jot down things that come as a result of choosing the lowest place and/or in seeking Him first:

1:3 - Christ is praised
1:3 - new birth for ourselves
1:4 - eternal inheritance
1:5 - shield of God's power
1:7 - genuine faith
1:8 - joy
1:9 - salvation
1:10 - grace

1:12 - opportunity to serve
1:12 - insight
1:13 - coming grace
1:14 - obedience
1:15 - holiness
1:16 - holiness {He is holiness in us!}
1:17 - reverent fear
1:19 - redemption
1:21 - faith and hope in Him
1:22 - purification by obedience
1:22 - sincere love
1:23 - imperishable

2:2 - crave spiritual milk, growth
2:5 - built into a spiritual house
2:6 - no shame
2:7 - precious stone
2:9 - being chosen
2:9 - declaring His praise
2:10 - being His people
2:10 - receive mercy
2:12 - live as a testimony
2:15 - by doing good, silence the ignorant talk of the foolish
2:16 - live as His servant
2:17 - show respect, love fellow believers, fear God
2:18-19 - submit with respect, bear up under injustice
2:20 - suffer for doing good
2:24 - healing

3:4 - inner beauty, unfading beauty of a gentle, quiet spirit
3:6 - do what is right and do not give way to fear
3:9 - repay evil and insult with blessing
4:2 - live not for earthly desires but for the will of God
4:7 - be clear minded, self-controlled, pray
4:8 - love deeply
4:9 - offer hospitality
4:10 - use whatever gift I've received to serve others which administers God's grace in various forms
5:2 - be willing, eager to serve
5:5 - clothe myself with humility, "put on"
5:7 - again humility is contrasted with anxiety
5:9 - stand firm
5:10 - restoration, strength, firmness and steadfastness

Why? For HIS glory - this is mentioned specifically in several verses:
1 Peter 1:3, 2:12, 4:11 and 5:11 at least.

Choosing the lowest place really means that in earthly standards, I humble myself so that He is glorified.

It is setting aside my preferences and embracing what He has for me, which really is His very best and a place of honor.

I Thessalonians 4:11-12, "... and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."

Psalm 115:1, "Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness."

Isaiah 41:20, "... so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it."

A few days later as I look at these pictures I'm reminded at how nature even takes the lowest place naturally. There is no flower shouting at us for attention and fame. It draws this attention naturally by just being a flower. No one calls from the fuzzy pod at the end of a stem or from baby turkeys waddling along in the grass. Creation praises Him because it is His artwork, His handiwork on display. 

A bird singing a beautiful song on a small branch, a small flower in the crack of the sidewalk, a birds nest found fallen in the grass, a butterfly fluttering across the creek and up the bank - each of these things just exists in their created nature - to bring beauty, to do the things that each was created to do and to bring praise to our Creator. Let it be so for me as well - though it is so much harder for beings with souls and minds and sin nature. 

How will choosing the lowest place bring Him honor and glory in and through our lives?


Thursday, June 28, 2018

Quiet Retreat: Seek First

This phrase "seek first" has been on my mind lately and I sort of mentally filed it away to pursue, study and process at my annual quiet retreat.

So, here I am sitting at a cute table on the Castle lawn soaking up the beauty around me and asking what it looks like in daily life to seek first.

Turning to Matthew 6:33 - I want to see what I can gain and how to apply this.

I notice that verse 33 starts with "but" which implies that it contrasts what has come before. What comes before is the command not to worry about what we will eat, drink, wear and the reminder that our Heavenly Father knows we need those things. It's as if that 1st word were instead.

Instead of worrying, seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.

What does it mean to seek? Seek is active, it is a doing word - a verb! To seek is to look for, search out, pursue. So to actively be searching for, pursuing and looking for what -

His Kingdom
His righteousness

Instead of worrying, actively search for ways to invest in His kingdom, further His name, build up the Gospel in my own life and the lives of others before pursuing other goals.

Seeking first reminds me of the priority of this active pursuit. It comes before other things. There is no place before first, no question on what that means - this active searching comes when I'm at my best - before I'm tired, before the cares of the day sweep me along, FIRST means first in my heart. It is a giving of my best: time, energy, resources.

Again, I seek first His kingdom. What does that mean? His kingdom is ruled by Him so it could mean choosing things that fall under His authority and leadership, keeping in mind what things are of eternal value, honoring His kingdom by devoting my best self to it: my resources, sharing, serving, etc. Honoring His kingdom by how I live, my choices, how I use the time He has given me. His kingdom is based on truth, forgiveness of sin, holiness, purity - seek these things first.

Is it true?
Is it noble?
Is it right?
Is it pure?
Is it lovely?
Is it admirable?
Is it excellent?
Is it praise-worthy?

Seek first His righteousness. What does that mean? Out of all the options I could pattern my life after - His righteousness should be the ultimate model shouldn't it?

Then, after all this - we are reminded that all the things we aren't supposed to worry about will be given as well. It's an act of faith and trust - this seeking first, instead of seeking first an orderly home, seeking first my comfort, seeking first cares over what I think I need -

Instead, seek first: Him!

Instead of worry, focus the best of my resources on actively looking to Him.

Practical ideas of how to do this:
- have my quiet time during my best time of the day
- look for what I learn about God before looking for what it means to me
- practice replacement thinking: replace worry with trust, replace worry with actively looking
- be thankful: when I'm actively looking for how He is at work, I will see all the ways He cares for me
- worry is based on: what-if; seek first is based on: principle, trustworthiness of His character, truth
- worry is about me; seek first is about God
- worry is earthly and temporal; seek first is heavenly and eternal
- in the moment, name the worry and seek His kingdom and righteousness in it; what do I know to be true? Who do I know God is? Regardless of the outcome - what is the TRUTH?
- seeking first is for spiritual food; worry is for physical food/needs
- seeking first is inner self focused; worry is outer self focused

As I am writing this, a robin is nearby with a worm in its beak - what a fitting picture as I consider Matthew 6 where God reminds that He even cares for the birds!

What ideas do you have for seeking first?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

North Pole Memories