Others Above Self

“We are not called to be concerned with whether or not we are being taken advantage of.”

If we are honest with ourselves this statement hits each and every single one of us in the gut. In all reality, we are selfish creatures who are primarily concerned with our own well-being and what will benefit us.

How often do we live our life with the mindset of looking out for our own best interests? 

What will be the best option for me? 

How will this help me? 

What does this have to do with me?

By nature, humans are selfish creatures. We rarely think about others and how our actions will affect them, whether negatively or positively. How would our culture, society, relationships, and even our outlook on life change if we truly lived with an outward mindset instead of an inward mindset?

Too often we worry about how people will, or are, taking advantage of us in ways that we do not deserve. Who ever said we deserved to be treated in any certain way? Who determined what we lead ourselves to believe we deserve? We sinful, finite creatures are not entitled to anything. We did not deserve for God to send His only Son down to earth to die for us, so what would make us think we deserve anything else? 

If we live on this earth long enough we will be taken advantage of. That’s a part of life. It’s going to happen. If the only perfect human to ever walk this earth was mistreated and taken advantage of in the most gruesome of ways, there is no way we could ever escape mistreatment or expect to be treated in any better way.

We are called to resemble the image of Christ with every breath and action. In order to become all God has called us to be in this life, we should not shy away from instances in which we may be humbled. Putting others above ourselves allows us to become more like Christ. If He could die a blameless death on a cross for each of us, we can most certainly handle the much deserved actions made against us.

There are so many more important things in life we should be concerning ourselves with. We are called to love others and fulfill the Great Commission. Thinking of others above ourselves goes against our very nature, yet is important to becoming more like Christ. He cared for us more than He cared for Himself.  

 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12, ESV

As you go about this next week, I would challenge you to take inventory of your thoughts. How many are selfish and how many are others-focused? My bet is you would quickly lose count of one over the other. 

High Places

So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.
1 Kings 11:6-8, ESV

Solomon rejected the Lord to pursue sinful desires and the ways of his foreign wives. In these verses we see Solomon returning to the old ways and building new high places of worship away from Jerusalem. High places were only acceptable places for the Israelites to worship while there was no Temple, but after Solomon had the Temple built all high places should have been destroyed. Prior to the Temple, high places should have only been used to worship the one true God (1 Kings 3:2). Yet here we see Solomon building even more high places to foreign gods in order to please the foreign wives he was warned against marrying.

High places is one of those terms used often in the Old Testament. For the majority of my life I
always viewed high places as simply that, a high place. I would envision the top of a mountain or hill when I would read about them. It was not until I went to Israel and was able to physically see them for myself that I learned the true meaning.

A high place is a platform, stage, or pulpit. A high place is not necessarily on a geographically
high location.

That new definition completely changed my thought process.

The Israelites, and pagan worshippers, were not always making a long trek up a distant mountain to worship. They were simply going up to a stage, platform or pulpit. They were physically exalting themselves above everyone else.

This so directly translates into our lives today. Look any stage or pulpit. They are typically
elevated above everything else around them. There is a clear distinction between them and everything else in the surrounding area. People are better able to see the person on the stage or
behind the pulpit due to their “high place”.

In a day and age where anyone with a social media account has a platform, we need to be even more aware of how we are using those opportunities. No matter the size of your platform (physical or virtual), people are watching. Someone is always watching you, even when you think they aren’t.

Is the temptation of your high place captivating your heart?

Are you still returning to your high place rather than going to the House of God?

How are you using your platform?

Solomon started out close to God and humble. Yet, because he defied God, gave in to sinful
desires, and refused to tear down the high places in his life, God tore the kingdom from him. If God has given you a platform, you would be wise to not build a high place for yourself in the midst of a God-ordained situation. God may have given it to you, but He can just a quickly tear it from you.

Take the time today, and everyday, to search your heart for any high places you may have built in your life. Ask God to reveal anything in your life that has defied and condemned Him.

Lord,
Captivate our hearts and bring to light any high places where we have replaced you.
Give us the wisdom and strength to tear down the high places in our lives. Help us use our platform to glorify You and not ourselves. No matter the size of our influence we give all glory and honor to You and You alone. When all is said and done, we want our legacy to point to You. Let us not be torn from You and Your plan.
In all we do, we worship you.
Amen.

Prayer

Prayer is not the normal expression of humanity. The act of surrendering complete control of our circumstances, desires, needs, and concerns into the control of someone or something outside of ourselves is difficult, especially when we cannot see the One we are giving control to.

As humans, we are innately selfish creatures. When it comes to prayer, we love to quote John 16:24, which says, “Ask, and you shall receive”. We take on a ‘gimme’ mentality and treat God, the Creator of the universe, as our personal genie. This mindset perverts prayer and decreases God while uplifting ourselves. If you allow yourself to be self-aware enough during your prayers, you will notice how often you say “I” and “me”.

Within the intended bounds, prayer will always forsake the kingdom of me for the Kingdom of God. Prayer is abandoning my reliance on me and running toward the rest that can be found only when I fully rely on the power of God.

Prayer must be kept in the proper placement of our life. Proper placement demands death to pride and sensitivity at the feet of Jesus in prayer.

I would challenge you to take time away from always praying simply to ask for something. God is not your personal genie and has more in store for you than just granting your endless list of wants. And lets be honest, most of what we ask for are wants.

Too often we treat God just like He’s just waiting to serve us. We live our lives thinking we are in control but when something happens that seems out of our control we go running to God, put on our puppy dog eyes, beg him for what we want, then go back to living our lives in our own little kingdoms.

Now, I’m not saying it is wrong to ask God for the desires of our hearts and present Him with our deepest worries. However, I am saying we should be cautious of how we present ourselves to Him. I would suggest you start being intentional about taking space to just talk to God. Challenge yourself to spend time in prayer without once asking for something.

Simply talk to Him because:

  • He is worthy of that and so much more
  • He is your best friend and most important relationship
  • You honestly want to talk to Him and hear from Him

A Story of Redemption

The story of Hosea and Gomer found in the Old Testament book of Hosea is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. The love portrayed in the text is heart-wrenching and convicting. Each time I read this story, my heart is gripped and I am called out in ways I never could have imagined.

For me, Hosea chapter 3 begins the most prophetic and convicting section of the entire book. A prophet of God (Hosea) has been called by God to take a prostitute as his wife (Gomer), then later on after they have married and have children, she goes back into her old lifestyle. Hosea goes looking for her in the area of town where a man of God would never be expected to go. He finds her and ends up paying the price for her. 

HE PAYS FOR HER. 

He pays to get his wife back. 

HE HAD TO PAY FOR WHAT WAS ALREADY HIS.

God had to do this same thing for us. He had to pay the price for something that already belonged to Him. The price for humanity cost God a whole lot more than the 15 pieces of silver and a half-homer of barley it cost Hosea. 

The price for the redemption of humanity was His Son, Jesus Christ.

When I used to read this story, I would tend to get in the mindset of placing myself in the shoes of Hosea. I thought I was the holy one, the righteous one, the one who is doing right in the eyes of the Lord. Because in my mind I was never going to be a position as awful as what she was doing. 

Yet in all reality, I am Gomer. 

I am the prostitute who has deserted her love, her family, her responsibilities and given herself back into the ways of the world. I am the one who is so undeserving of such a love. I am constantly wanting to go back into what I know and what is comfortable rather than stay where I have placed. I am not the seeker, I am the sought. 

God is the one who has to come seeking us out in the unmentionable places. We are the one who is full of shame at what we have done. We are the one who is so undeserving of such a deep, selfless love. Yet in the face of all that we have done, God still comes seeking us in whatever place we are in. He will take our shame and love us ever so gently and devotedly. We will never be worthy of anything He has done, or will ever do for us, yet He never stops seeking us out with unrelenting love and grace.


Start Losing Count

In Matthew 18:21–22 we find one of the most powerful lessons Jesus ever taught. This lesson was on forgiveness. He gave it because Peter approached Him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

We give Peter a bad rap, but you have to admit he is one brave, bold dude. I have a sneaky suspicion he had someone in mind that he had already forgiven six times. I mean, why else ask this? You don’t really ask about having to forgive someone unless you need to do it. He just might have been ready to go ahead and write that person off and was looking for some confirmation. Whether or not this was his actual thought process, he was in fact looking for a forgiveness formula.

To which Jesus responds, “No, not seven times. Seventy times seven.”

If you’re one of those that are not good at mental math, the answer to the equation is 490. This can be read to mean we are to forgive the same person 490 times each day. That is a lot of forgiving to do. In order to do this, you would have to commit one act of forgiveness about every three minutes, basically spending the whole day just forgiving someone!

But this statement is not just about the numbers. Jesus was giving us a new math formula, a new set of truths for walking in forgiveness. 

The first truth is this: Forgiveness is not about keeping score. It’s about losing count. If you were to truly try and count to 490 when forgiving someone, my bet is you would lose count pretty quick.

We are all going to get hurt in one way or another. 

Someone will let you down.  

Someone might lie to you. 

Someone might lie about you. 

Someone might gossip about your marriage. 

Someone might steal your money. 

Someone might steal your spouse. 

Someone may have abused you verbally, mentally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally. 

Someone may have harmed your child.

While getting hurt is a reality for this fallen world, getting and staying bitter is a reaction. Unforgiveness will only eat away at you like a poison. We must live a lifestyle of constant forgiveness. This is not about satisfying the requirements of a mathematical equation. 

We must forgive. All the time. Forgiving is not easy. Forgiving is not fun. But forgiving is necessary. 

How can we expect to be forgiven if we do not forgive?