The “One Another” Principle

one anotherAs a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;  one Lord,one faith, one baptism;  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”  (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?  He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)  So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:1-16

A few weeks back I was talking to a dear friend of mine after our church service.  We were talking about the different ways God was working in each of our lives. She was sharing some of her triumphs as well as struggles and I the same. The thing is, we are both traveling the same journey in our faith, but each of our experiences have been completely different.  The commonality that both of our journeys share, is this that we both see God working in and through our lives through the different relationships we have with others. It is through those relationships God has orchestrated in our lives that he works in us and through us.

We all know that working with people in general can sometimes be very difficult.  We all have different personalities and we all come from different backgrounds and have diverse upbringings. Thank heaven’s there’s not a thousand me’s running around (haha).  That’s why Christ wants us to be “other minded.” To be other minded is to put others before ourselves.  To be other minded is to see others as Christ sees them. We all have battles that we are fighting. Some have wounds and scars from our past that they are trying to overcome. Christ death on the cross set us free from those things and now we are “working out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Meaning Christ sees us as already perfected works “In Him” and we must work to show the results of our salvation which is obedience to Christ and work to attain unity in the faith so we can grow in maturity in Christ. This takes the dynamic work of the Holy Spirit working in us.

Sometimes the biggest stumbling blocks and the things that have set me back the most in my walk with Christ has been my incorrect focus.  When we take our focus off Christ, it’s easy to get too distracted by looking around too much and focusing on people.  When we focus on people what happens? We’re distracted, we see flaws.  So often we see Christians tearing each other apart instead of loving one another. Now don’t laugh because I know this is  a catch 22.   God’s greatest command for us is what? To Love him first and then to love one another.

So how do we love others as Christ commands if we’re not focusing on one another? We need to keep our focus on God.  Our greatest desire and motivation should be to please him with our actions (obedience). When we keep first things first (God) and we keep the proper focus (on God), we can then turn (as Christ commands us) and focus on the one another aspect. Then we are free to love one another with Christ’s love and to help meet others needs. We add value to others by loving them as Christ love them and by using our spiritual gifts to serve one another in love, in Christ’s pure love.  This can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us and we do this by keeping ourselves fully submitted to God.

As believers in Jesus, we all travel this journey together. Some are on the road ahead, some walk beside us, and some are following closely behind.  But the thing to remember about the journey is this, we are travelers together and we are all headed for the same destination. As the passage above says that we are being built up so that we can reach unity in the faith and affectively serve “one another” in the body of Christ. Lord Jesus please help us to keep our focus on you and to be other minded. Help us to walk in grace and in truth and to show the world you, through the love we have for one another! Thank you for being an amazing God! And to you be the glory both now and forever. AMEN

My “take aways” from Taiwan

taiwan1My oldest daughter Whitney and I recently returned from spending  two weeks visiting friends of ours who are over in Taiwan doing missions work. Our trip was amazing! I felt totally blessed for the opportunity to go and for the experiences we had while there. I wanted to write this post about our trip while all these great memories are still fresh and lingering in my head and so I could pass them on and share some of them with you.

Upon arriving home, jet lag had set in pretty bad.  It was much worse coming home than when we arrived in Taiwan. It took several nights (and some Tylenol PM) to finally stay sleeping through an entire night.  One of the very first mornings after arriving home, I wearily climbed out of bed after only a few short hours of sleep, and joined the rest of my family who were already awake and sitting in the living room.  My middle daughter Madison immediately posed me the following question.

She said, “Mom what was your favorite part about Taiwan?” I definitely think that was a loaded question for a such a tired brain.  Whit and I had a fantastic trip and every single part of it seemed amazing to me.  Hmm so favorite part I replied, “My favorite part was of course finally getting to see and spend time with our dear friends the Klein’s.” They have been overseas serving in Taiwan since September of 2012.  Getting to see them and experience alongside them some of the amazing things God was doing in their lives and in the lives of some of the Taiwanese people was totally awesome.

Then there was taking part in their church’s Resurrection Day program in one of the public schools where the Klein’s teach English.  We were immediately embraced by their church and were able to help minister to 150 kids and adults who excitedly poured through the doors.  They all left seeing and hearing a clear presentation of the gospel message. Whit and I both were able to play a part in a music dramatization they put on of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Derek (my friends husband) played the role of Jesus and did an amazing job. It was so exciting to see the Taiwanese people give a loud clapping ovation when Jesus was resurrected from the dead! Yes, our God is alive, very moving for sure!

Then there was helping out in the orphanage (which in and of itself was amazing).  The opportunity to care for and love on all those precious babies was priceless.  And finally just meeting all kinds of wonderful people,  learning a little about the Taiwanese culture and of course seeing some of the beautiful sights Taiwan has to offer. So yes, there were many great experiences and they all rated pretty high. I could go on and on about any one of them and more, so I definitely had a hard time picking out just one highlight because there were so many. Of course one of the greatest things for me also was getting to experience and share all of this with my oldest daughter Whitney.

On reflecting of the people there in Taiwan, one thing that immediately stood out to me is that they were super friendly.  They seem to have this code of respect for others that really shines to me as an American.  People seem genuinely friendly and seem super hospitable and giving.  I believe it comes from the high regard they place on the family unit. It is not unusual to have multi-generational families living under one roof.  Part of their culture is that the younger generation cares for the older generation.  It set me thinking and saddened me because I feel that as a whole, this is something that we in America have lost. The Taiwanese people idolize America and yet I see there are so many things they’ve got going on that are still good and right.

There were a few occasions when the Klein’s would try to buy something and people there would just give it to them.  You can’t give, without them wanting to give something in return.  When they give to their neighbors, they can usually expect some fish or something else in return. So to me the people seemed just very endearing and easy to love. Another thing I noticed is that the people there do not have the same problem with stuff that us Americans have.  They live life quite simply and seem very content with that.

So upon evaluating my experience there in Taiwan, I have two main take away’s. What I mean by take away’s is that God always allows us to do things or go through things with a purpose in mind.  As the “Great Teacher,” he always desires for us to be continually learning and growing and he wants to use our experiences to do that.  This entire trip was a huge blessing.  I got to see God work in amazing ways and to see his love extending around the world, it was so awesome.

But there are two things in particular that I would like to take away from this amazing experience.  One is that I would try to keep my focus more on what it most important in life. Life often gets too busy and often we as Americans get easily sucked into that trap.  It leaves us overextended and tired. I honestly think this is a big tactic on the part of the enemy.  Keep them super busy, and they neglect what is most important in life.  God calls us to love him first and foremost and then to love others.  We do this by keeping our priorities in order.  We must try to block out activity that draws us away from these two things.  We purposefully make time for God by spending time in his word and then we make time for others and we don’t let over business steal from what is most important, God, our family and others.

The other take away is that I want to aim at living life more simply.  God has been speaking to me some time on this same matter.  The Taiwanese people live simply. I’ve never been much of a “stuff” kind of girl anyways, but like it or not stuff does becomes part of living.  And over time we accumulate more and more stuff.  The more stuff we have, the more baggage we carry.  I can just open any one of my drawers or cabinets and find an overabundance of stuff.  Too many clothes, to many Pirex dishes, etc., etc.  To me, the less we carry in this life, the lighter our load is and the more freedom we have.

So there it is. I hope you’ve enjoyed some my ramblings and like I said I can go on and on about each of these experiences. I pray too that you would see some of the take aways in the experiences of your own life. God’s not finished with us yet and for that I’m SO thankful!

Father God I thank you for this opportunity Whitney and I had to go to Taiwan.  I thank you for the Klein’s and pray that you continue to pour out blessing on their ministry and on their family.  Thank you for their example and willingness to go where you have asked them to go.  Thank you for your directing and leading in all of our lives.  Help us to be obedient to the call you have placed on each one us. Thank you for who you are and for all you do and for your amazing love for us. To you be the glory both now and forever. AMEN

The Greatest Teacher

chalkboardThis morning as I was driving my children to school, I was feeling blessed as I was reflecting on some of the amazing teachers they’ve had over the years.  Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a few good teachers in my lifetime. But I’m also sorry to say that I’ve also had my share of bad teachers as well. I believe that being called a “teacher” is both an honor and a privilege.

I then began thinking about what the difference is between the two and what makes a “GREAT” teacher from just an average teacher or a poor teacher. I could definitely come up with a bunch of points of what a bad teacher looks like.  But instead I’ve decided to list ten points from which I have witnessed throughout my few (wink, wink)  short years here on this earth that make the difference between good and GREAT teacher . . .

* Great teachers ASPIRE to bring out the BEST in their students and are not satisfied to let them squeeze by or fall through the cracks.

* Great teachers will put students ahead of themselves by GIVING of their time. They will go the extra mile to show them they care and are others focused.

*Great teachers don’t give students the answers or make things easy for them. They consistently DEMONSTRATE and then challenge the student through constructive examples and reasoning to come up with an answer or the solution independently.

*Great teachers are GRACEFUL. They consistently give additional chances to earn a better grade or to improve a negative behavior for students who are trying their best.

* Great teachers are HONEST. They don’t promise things will always be easy, but they inspire students to do their best through their consistent examples and care.

* Great teachers will look beyond a child’s shortcomings or disabilities at CHALLENGE them to succeed to the best of their ability.  They see the greatness within EVERY child.

*Great teachers are HUMBLE. They admit their own struggles and are transparent and vulnerable with their students in order to help them grow and learn.

*Great teachers are ENCOURAGERS and inspire students by their words and actions and to help them to reach their full potential.

*Great teachers are forever LEARNERS. They never stop trying to improve their knowledge or gain more information to help themselves and others succeed.

* Great teachers CARE about the HEART of a child above all else, even above the child’s education.

Now with all this talk of greatness in teachers, I can honestly say that when I was in school, I was a very poor student.  School was hard for me and I did what I had to do to get by. I was also a daydreamer and when the going got tough, I zoned out.  There are times that I wish that with all I’ve learned in the school of “hard knox”,  that I could go back and have a do over in my early education. But I pray that with all of the lessons I’ve since learned in this lifetime, that I would now be a much better teacher than I was student.

What I mean by all of this is that we are ALL teachers in some form or another.  I say this because every human being makes an impact and has an influence on others around them.  These are the people that God has placed in your care and in your life.  Daily we all have to make choices, we can either be a good teacher (influence), or a bad one.  JESUS was the only perfect teacher.  I surely do my share of messing things up now and then.  But I know that as I continue to grow and follow the “Good Teacher,” that he will help direct my life in ways that are pleasing to his him.  And I can trust that when I fail, that God is always acting out of a heart of love and he disciplines and trains me in the way I should go for my own good.

Jesus was the greatest teacher who ever walked the earth.  He came into this world to give us an example to follow and we were told that we should walk in his footsteps.  I was also reminded of this passage in John 13:13-17 . . . You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Thank you God for the truth of your word.  Help us to walk in wisdom and grace. Thank you for sending the perfect example for us to follow, your beloved son Jesus.  HE alone is the perfect teacher.  Help us to follow in his footsteps and always do our best for you. Thank you for your amazing love for us. To you be the glory both now and forever. AMEN

Psalm 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.