Looking Beyond Ourselves

How deep, how far reaching, is your hope? Before you give the appropriate Christian answer, pause and evaluate your life. Your words. Those thoughts that whisper to you throughout the day and keep you awake at night.ID-100249429

Surrender. Releasing our life to a bigger plan, whether we can see the details or not. Looking past our momentary frustrations, pain and struggles to see God’s eternal plan.

Because, “if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world” (1 Corinthians 15:19 NLT).

If this is all there is, God help us!

To pose the question asked by my pastor, Lance Burch from Reality Church, last Sunday: “What if our lives are bigger than we know?”

This was certainly the case for both Ruth and Boaz. When I read their story, being the romantic that I am, I zero in on their unfolding love. Boaz is Ruth’s provider and Ruth the sweet, loyal, nurturing wife and mother. *sigh* Such a tender example of true and holy love.

And yet, there’s an even bigger story unfolding in the pages of Ruth, a greater romance that calls out to all mankind, for Jesus is our Boaz, our kinsman redeemer, our deepest and truest love.

Pause to read Ruth 4:13-22 and Matthew 1:6-16.

The real story hidden within this beautiful romance is the wooing of Creator God as He laid the groundwork for His redemptive plan, which ultimately led to the greatest sacrifice mankind has ever known.

Ruth’s life was bigger than she realized; bigger, I believe, than she could have imagined.

As is ours. But I think, often we get so caught up in the I of our story, we lose sight of the Author. It’s His story, and we are but supporting roles. Directed by Him, for His glory, to point others not to ourselves but rather, to Him.

It’s funny, this following of God’s plan. When I first began to write full time, I became obsessed with “the dream”. My prayers were dominated by self-centeredness. Lord, help me get published. Grant me new opportunities. Grant me favor with the contest judges reading my work.

Kinda ugly. In fact, not long into it, God made it clear, my writing had become my idol, and God wanted me to let it go. To lay everything, my whole self, on the alter, and thus, my prayers changed as I began to recite the words of Romans 12:1-2, which I personalized as follows:

“Lord, in view of all You’ve done, in view of Your mercy and grace and the death You endured on the cross, for me, I offer my whole body to You as a living sacrifice. May this be my act of worship. Help me not to conform to the ways of this word but instead, transform me by renewing my mind. Help me to know and live Your good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

That is a prayer God has consistently honored.

As I uttered those words, sometimes multiple times throughout the day, asking God to give me the desire and strength to live them, a funny thing happened. Doors of opportunity began to open and publishers began to ask to see my work.

How exciting, right? What I prayed for years ago was finally beginning to happen! You’d think this would be cause for celebration, that I’d be ready to barge forward unhindered.

That wasn’t what happened. I’m not sure if I can explain the heaviness of what followed and the deep urgings that filled my heart, urgings I believe were birthed by Christ. As I turned yet again to God in prayer, I sensed so strongly and clearly that God was going to use me, and suddenly my inadequacies came into focus.

ID-10075996I knew I wasn’t ready. More than that, I knew I had a long way to go before I would be ready.

So once again my prayers changed. I began praying that God would humble me, remove my selfishness, grant me increased self-control, fill my mind and heart with His truth until everything else was pushed aside.

And once again, He honored that prayer… in a much different way than I’d ever anticipated.

I asked for humility. God gave me two humbling (and at times, very humiliating) chronic illnesses. I asked God to teach me truth. He granted me trial after trial that brought me to my knees in deep, sobbing prayers. I asked Him to remove my selfishness and He showed me, through the faithfulness of a terminally ill friend, what it meant to live for Christ.

In the course of three years, everything changed.

I changed.

My struggles centered my heart in Christ and His eternal plan, and it’s my pain and loss that have allowed me to love others in a deeper way than I ever could have, had I not first been broken.

“What if our lives are part of something bigger than we know” ~ Lance Burch, Reality Church

Don’t be the center of your story. Surrender everything to be part of something immensely, miraculously, mercifully eternal.

Let’s talk about this. I know today’s post is insanely long, but today’s lesson is the most important, I believe. We started this study talking about surrender, and that is how we’ll end it.

If we could but catch a glimpse of eternity, how our lives would change! Everything looks different in light of the cross.

Pause to prayerfully listen to this song.

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The Who-What-Where-and-Why of You!

Do you ever feel like your brain is combatting itself? Fighting against those nasty lies we soak up and buy into with truth? Clinging to your identity in Christ while echoes of self-loathing swim through your head?

Larry's picToday Larry Timm, fellow ACFW writer and a man who has made countless readers literally laugh out loud turns serious as he shares his thoughts on our identity in Christ. As you read his heart-stirring devotion, I pray God will allow these truths to penetrate deep, to your very core. I pray you would not only believe and accept these truths, but that you would live them out.

 

The Who, What, Where, and Why of You! By Larry W. Timm

Many years ago I developed a “Prayer Motto” that has helped me in my ministry as a preacher/teacher. Most recently it has been a source of inspiration for my ministry as a writer. I share it with you in hopes it will encourage you in whatever area God is using your life.

Dear God,

Please help me remember:

WHO I am, for I’m Your child;

WHAT I am, for I’m Your ambassador;

WHERE I am; for I’m in Your sight;

WHY I am, for I’m forgiven.

 

WHO I AM:  Christian, never forget that you are a child of the King! Relationships on earth are extremely valuable, and I love being a husband, father, preacher, etc., but nothing compares to the wonderful reality that I am a born-again child of the Heavenly Father! The Apostle John wrote, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are…” (I John 3:1 NASB) And our heavenly Father will never abandon, abuse, reject, or refuse us. Ever!

WHAT I AM:  Paul wrote, “…we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us: we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (II Corinthians 5:20 NASB). As Christians, we’re not just children who wonder around with nothing to do. We are on a mission in a world that is not our home. We represent the Lord Jesus Christ. We’re called to be ambassadors—representatives of One who is greater than us. We are trying to offer light in place to darkness, truth instead of error, and hope in place of despair. You and I have a responsibility to bring people to Christ and Christ to people. And the Holy Spirit supplies our power to carry out this task.

looking-at-the-sea-1282219-mWHERE I AM:  No matter where we are in life, God sees us. His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me! And you! He never loses sight of us, even for a second.  Hebrews 4:13 says, “For there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (NASB) He sees us through eyes of love and acceptance. No matter how solitary our days may feel, we are never alone…never unnoticed…never out of His perfect sight.

WHY I AM:  Yes, my friend, take a moment and bask in the soul-cleansing glow of forgiveness. In Christ, we are pardoned. He is the perfect and only sacrifice for our sins. We are Christians, not because we deserve it, but because God has graciously “delivered us from darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14 NASB). Like John Newton, the author of the hymn Amazing Grace, we once were lost but now we’re found, were blind but now we see.

May these truths encourage you as you live your life for the glory of our King. May they strengthen you to be a good steward of whatever responsibility God has entrusted to you.

Larry W Timm is a husband, father, preacher, teacher, writer, child of God, and ambassador for Christ. He lives in south-central Kansas with his wife and two children. Larry loves the power of words. He is represented by Jessica Kirkland of The Blythe Daniel Agency. He’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and The Christian Writers Guild. He has been a two-time double semi-finalist in ACFW’s GENESIS contest, a finalist in ACFW’s FIRST IMPRESSIONS contest, and recently finished First and Third in the CATEGORY 5 contest sponsored by The Writers of the Storm (an ACFW Chapter in Texas).

Twitter:  @larrywtimm

Blog: www.larrywtimm.com

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/larrywtimm

Let’s talk about this. How accurately does your view of yourself line up with what God says about you? And how often do you put yourself down? It’s slightly cliche, but true, we are all our worst critics and tend to obsess over every weakness and imperfection while minimizing the good. But the Bible tells us, if we have surrendered to Christ as our Lord and Savior, we have been given the mind of Christ. So, how can we make our thoughts more closely aligned to God’s? This week, I encourage you to ask God to help you see yourself as He sees you. 🙂

I love this song by Third Day. Whenever I hear it, I think of how often we, God’s chosen children, walk around with shoulders slumped and faces downcast. But God wants to “lift up our face!” To restore our dignity, to transform our thinking, and to fill us to overflowing with the abundant, victorious, peace-filled life He promised. Will you let Him? Will you take your thoughts captive, refusing to dwell on negative thoughts, filling your minds and hearts with God’s truth instead?

LivingbyGracepicI’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook atLiving by Grace.