Thursday, October 26, 2006

Living as “Citizens of Heaven”

Phil. 1:27 “But whatever happens to me, you must live in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ, as citizens of heaven.”

This passage in Philippians, entitled “Live as Citizens of Heaven” got me thinking. What does that really mean?
We take citizenship for granted, but it is an important thing, and was especially important to them in Bible times. I know this because anytime Paul was giving “earthly” credentials, high on the list would be “I am a citizen of Rome!”
Citizenship, and the rights offered to those without it in the U.S. is a very hot topic right now politically. It’s the talk, not only in political debates, but “around the water cooler.” (Does anyone really talk around the water cooler? Because I never have for sure!) But it is stimulating and controversial dinner conversation, dividing political parties and families and friends. Why? Because we don’t exactly know what to do with the aliens among us. (Growing up, it took me a while to realize these were not little green men with funny spaceships that come in the night to do secret surgeries on people’s brains. It’s true!!)
So I have wondered what it would be like to live in a foreign country as a stranger or alien? Not exactly like when we go to visit an all-inclusive, heaven on earth resort in Mexico. Not like that at all. No, I mean to actually reside in a country in which you do not have citizenship. Recently I read a book that was set in Italy. There was an American man who was re-located there through the Witness Protection Program or something like that, and he was trying desperately to assimilate and blend in. It was important to his survival that he pass as an Italian. It was intriguing to read how difficult it was! But what does it mean to be an alien?
First, you don’t have the rights everyone else has. You either have no rights at all, or they are very limited. You may have an embassy to go to for assistance. (At least that’s how it works in the movies!) A small group of American people to go to for help; a haven within a strange place.
You don’t blend in. It would be impossible for me to pull this off in so many countries due solely to my hair, eye, and skin coloring. Just walking around in Mexico with my little blonde babies, the Mexican people will always stop and touch their hair. They love it! It’s different, and it stands out.
You probably don’t speak the language. Language, our avenue for communication, is vital to interacting in even the smallest way. Without it, you are left to play ‘annoying mime’ with people, and everyone looks like an idiot doing that. If you’ve ever been in a foreign country, and you struggled to even communicate the basics in a different language, it’s hard not to feel stupid! It is truly frustrating.
People notice your cultural differences. You are unaware of the everyday normal things in their world. There are a thousand secrets that you are not privy to. You eat differently, interact differently, and see life through a different lens.
Lastly, I think I would be a little homesick. I would long to feel “normal” again… to feel at home again. Feeling at home is more important than I think we admit. I would probably feel pretty out of place if I just moved to even the North U.S., rather than the South, where I have lived all of my life. There are cultural differences, even within our own country. We like to visit places, but ultimately, we just want to go home.
So I searched the scripture for other references to us being strangers, aliens, or foreigners here in this world. There are more than you might think! For example:

1 Peter 2:11 says “Dear brothers and sisters, you are foreigners and aliens here. So I warn you to keep away from evil desires because they fight against your very souls.”

1 Peter 1:17 says “So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as foreigners here on earth.”

Do you think Peter was trying to remind them of their place here? We don’t belong. This is not our home. We are foreigners. So what should our relationship to the world be like?
Let’s look at the Word and find out.

Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only the lust of physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world.” 1 John 2:15-16

This is an incredibly convicting passage! First, he could not make this any plainer. (I love that, because we are really dense sometimes.) If you love this world, you don’t have God’s love in you. The two cannot co-exist. If we have the love of God and all that embodies him dwelling in our hearts, the world should not appeal to us. He even gives a description of what the world offers. It offers lust of the flesh, lust for stuff, and pride in that stuff. Isn’t that so true? We need to tear ourselves away from feeding our flesh and from all the “stuff” that the scriptures says will only rust, be eaten by moths, and be corroded. (James 5:2-3) In fact, James says “Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire.” (James doesn’t mess around.) When we stop and examine our lives, how much of our time, energy, thoughts, and affections go into the very things that fall under these categories? Whether it be sex, food, clothes, gossip, the latest technology, status…this list could go on forever…all of it is of the world. It’s temporary, and when we fix ourselves on it, we are “…loving this evil world and all that it offers…”
Let James break it down for us again.

“You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy this world, you can’t be a friend of God.”
James 4:4

You see what I mean? James just called us adulterers if we were “friends” with the world. (I don’t know if that means like “friends” on MySpace or on Facebook? If you get a message from “the world” to be friends, you better not accept!) Or if we were enjoying the world. Does this sound ambiguous? The world represents everything that is NOT of God. It is our sin, and our fleshly desires, all around us, all the time. Everything that is contrary to God’s Word. He says if we are into that, we are enemies of God! Christianity is way more black-and-white than we would like to think. We see a lot of gray, where the Bible does not.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
Galatians 6:14 (NIV)

When we have been really “changed into new and different people” (Gal. 6:15), there is love lost between the world and us. The NLT of Gal. 6:14 says “…my interest in the world died long ago, and the world’s interest in me is also long dead.”
I hear the debates about how to remain relevant to lost people, and ways to “cool up” Christians so that ultimately we can share the gospel. We cannot dress up Christianity to make it attractive to the world from a worldly perspective! We want people to say “But look, she’s a Christian and she’s still so cool!” If the world is still attracted to you in a worldly sense, you have probably compromised somewhere. You should look different! You should stand out! If you don’t, you are a friend of the world, and according to James, an enemy of God! If we have to join in sin to stay “in” with the lost, than we have cheapened the Gospel that is our supposed cause.
So what should the lost be attracted to in us? How do we reach them? Let’s hear from God himself who put on skin to walk among sinners and show them the Truth. (That’s Jesus.)

You are the light of the world- like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all.” Matt. 5:14-15

What does it mean to be the light of the world? We hear that phrase all the time. We’re supposed to “be light.” Well, it doesn’t mean that we are incognito Christians, looking as cool and hip as the next guy. We don’t crouch in the shadows of darkness, blending in, ready to pounce on someone with the Gospel of Christ.
“Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead rebuke and expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But when the light shines on them, it becomes clear how evil these things are. And where your light shines, it will expose their evil deeds…” Ephesians 5:10-14

We cannot shine our lights and still look like everybody else, doing basically what everyone else does. Our light should be a stark contrast. Sometimes just being light will expose how dark the world is, and that makes us uncomfortable. But light is good! The Bible uses this analogy over and over! None of us likes to be without light, and like a moth to a flame, hurting people are drawn to it. You can’t be a light, and be the designated driver every weekend . This is not being light, in my opinion, it’s being an enabler. Jesus went to sinners, no doubt, and that is our job! We are to be intentional about making relationships with the lost, and being light among them. If we are not doing this, we are definitely not following Christ’s example. But he still surrounded himself with the disciples as his closest friends, his confidants, and his support system. He ministered to the lost, met their needs, taught them, performed miracles among them, ate with them, crossed all social and ethnic barriers to show them God’s love. But he never sinned with them. He never dressed himself up as a “cool guy” who was just like them, only slightly different. He was radically different! He was a blinding light! Most people were drawn to him like a magnet, while some people hated him for it. So much so, they put him to death on totally bogus charges. He offended the heck out of people, but that was who he was. He was a blunt, straight-forward, and call-it-like-it-is kind of guy. He was also gentle and merciful, and kind beyond imagination.
Are you different? Are you light? Or are you trying to be a friend of the world, sometimes straddling the fence, careful not to offend anyone…careful not to shine your light on anyone, because that would make someone uncomfortable- mainly you! Does the world shake their head at you in confusion, wondering what in the world would cause you to do some of the things you do or live the way you do?

Read John 15:18-21. What is the one reason Jesus told his disciples the world would hate them?

Read John 7:1-9. Why did Jesus tell his unbelieving brothers that the world hates him?

Read John 17:13-23. What did Jesus say he had given the disciples?(v. 14) How, did he pray, they would become “pure and holy” (v.17)

Who was he praying for specifically? (v. 20) What did he say his prayer was for us in verse 21?
If that were achieved, what did he say would be the result in verse 23?

Search your heart, and ask God to reveal ways in which you are being a friend of the world, or ways that he would like you to be shining your light. Write a prayer below.

Day 2:
Today I want to look back at some of the things I mentioned before about what it would be like to live as an alien in a foreign country. My assessment of it was this:
1. You don’t have rights, or you have very limited rights.
2. You don’t blend in. Either because of the language you speak, or don‘t speak, or because of the many cultural differences; everyone who comes in contact with you knows you are an American- you are not a native to this country.
3. You have an embassy to go to for help, relief, comfort, or counsel.
4. You would most likely feel homesick.
First I want to talk about our rights. In a foreign country, we would not have the rights that other citizens of that country have. In the same way, I want to explore the scripture for our rights as aliens here on Earth.
Here’s the bottom line. I used to think I had rights. I mean, of course we all have legal rights here in the U.S. Haven’t you ever seen Law & Order? We have a plethora of legal rights! We have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, the right to vote, the right to bear arms, the right to own property…we could go on and on. But what about our rights as Christians? I used to think I had those too. The right to justice. The right to fairness. The right to walk, head high, not allowing anyone to walk on me, just because I’m a Christian; maintaining my pride. I’ve yet to find the word pride anywhere in the Bible meant as a good thing. I found just the opposite in the scripture.
Let’s look at Philippians 2, my all-time favorite chapter in the Bible!

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross.” Phil. 2:5-8

Philippians 2 tells us that we should follow the example that Christ set for us while here on earth. Not only in action, but it in attitude! (That’s where the real problem lies for me, I don’t know about you.) It goes on to say that Jesus did not demand or cling to his rights, and he was God! He was God, and he didn’t have rights? Why do we think that we do? And what further example did he set for us? One of humility, the opposite of pride. He made himself nothing…he took the humble position of a slave…he obediently humbled himself to death!
What does Peter say about his rights and fairness?

“For God is pleased with you when, for the sake of your conscience, you patiently endure unfair treatment. 1 Peter 2:19

What about when we have been wronged by another person? A roommate, a spouse, a family member, anyone? How should we respond?

“He did not retaliate when he was insulted. When he suffered, he did not threaten to get even. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.” 1 Peter 2:23

“If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Matt. 5:39-42

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written “It is mine to avenge; I will repay” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:14, 17-20

This is going to go against every message the world gives you about relationships to others. It’s completely counter-culture! If someone strikes you on one cheek, give him the other also! I don’t think Jesus was speaking literally, but as usual, he’s making a point. He’s showing us how extreme it will seem when we respond in a God-honoring way to others who hurt or wrong us.
Let me give you an example of an everyday situation where this applied in our lives. Not too long ago, we had a employee lie to the unemployment office about the conditions of her release from us, and more or less “sue” us for unemployment. This would mean that our office would have to pay her a large monthly sum until she found another job. She could not get unemployment from us under the real circumstances, so she made completely false statements to them in order to qualify, accusing us of doing wrong that we had not done. This woman claimed to be a believer. This was not an official law suit, but there would have to be a hearing within the unemployment office, with just our testimony against hers. We had truth on our side! We had the corroboration of all of our other employees who knew the truth! She was a lousy employee who did not deserve any money from us, and I was ready for us to fight it! “Bring it!”, was my attitude. My husband, on the other hand, sought the Lord on this. He prayed and read the Word. He went back to this passage in 1 Corinthians 5.

But instead, one Christian sues another Christian-right in front of unbelievers! To have such law suits at all is a real defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated?”

The scripture says if one believer wrongs another believer, you should go to them. If they do not respond, you should take another brother with you. (Matthew 18:15-16) Rusty tried to contact her to do this. She would not talk to him. He decided that this qualified in his mind as one Christian suing another, and unbelievers settling it, and this would not be biblical. He had an employee meeting and read this passage of the Bible to them to explain his reasoning for not contesting her accusation of wrong-doing on our part. He just accepted the injustice, and allowed us to be cheated.
My first response was of course deep respect and awe of this amazing man I married. Obeying the Word is truly the most important thing to him. But still, somewhere inside of me, I wanted justice! We are a small struggling Doctor’s office, and we can’t afford to pay her a lump sum every month. We’re just trying to cover our own bills and pay our employees! Rusty was beyond kind and fair with her! I was still indignant that she would wrong us in this way. My mind even wanted to rationalize it by saying, this wasn’t an official legal law suit! Maybe this didn’t apply. I think that’s what most people would have said. But my sweet, Godly husband was more interested in obeying the spirit of God’s Word, and not the letter of the law. (That’s why he’s the spiritual leader, and I’m not!)
How will we respond when someone has wronged us? Will we feel justified in our bitterness against them?

“Love does not demand it’s own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.” 1 Cor. 13:5

Unfortunately, some of us have an exact record of when we’ve been wronged, and we’re not willing to let go of it. This love chapter doesn’t apply only to a husband and wife relationship just because it’s read at every wedding. It applies to the way we love everyone. The greatest thing that Jesus called us to outside of loving God is loving others (Matt. 22:37), and sometimes we’re the worst at it. Non-believers can be more loving than we are within the church. This should not be so.
Unforgiveness is not an option. There’s absolutely no room for it in the Word. Jesus could not have been more clear about it. Just as we’ve recited in the Lord’s Prayer over and over; “forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.” Matt. 6:12 In fact two verses later, he says

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your Father in heaven will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matt. 6:14

This kind of forgiveness was blowing the disciples’ mind. That’s why Peter asked Jesus in Matthew 18:21

“Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No!” Jesus replied, “seventy times seven!”

Peter probably thought seven times sounded like a lot! Again, did Jesus mean literally seventy times seven? Do you think Peter knew his multiplication tables, and had his finger in the sand, trying to figure it out? ‘Okay…so 490 times…but after that…’ Jesus was again trying to show them, there is no limit. You forgive, and forgive, and forgive, over and over again.
Colossians 3:13 says:

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against each other. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

How has the Lord forgiven us? Without limit. Without hesitation. If we are not overwhelmed with God’s grace and his forgiveness of our own sin, we have not yet grasped our sin! He has forgiven freely when we did absolutely nothing to deserve it. That is exactly the way we are supposed to forgive others.
What about our right to act within our own best interest? There are so many verses on this, but I am going to give you a few.

“Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” Romans 12:17

“I try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them so they may be saved.” 1 Cor. 10:33

“Love does not demand it’s own way.” 1 Cor. 13:5

Paul wrote a lot about this. This was a big issue in his ministry because he was a Jew, and Jews were breaking free from the Law, but he ministered to Gentiles as well. Paul knew that because of Jesus they had been set free from the Law, but not everyone had that totally figured out yet. Even though there was nothing wrong with eating meat, and other such “hot topics” of their day, he would refrain from doing so at times to maintain a rapport with them for the cause of their salvation. He writes on this topic in Romans 14 & 15:

“Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, there is nothing wrong with these things in themselves. But it is wrong to eat anything if it makes another person stumble.” Romans 14:20

“We may know that these things make no difference, but we cannot just go ahead and do them to please ourselves. We must be considerate of the doubts and fears of those who think these things are wrong. We should please others. If we do what helps them, we will build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn’t please himself.” Romans 15:1-3

We must always consider our actions in the light of how they affect others. This doesn’t mean that we live to please people. It means that we live to please God, by holding up our lives as a means to glorify Christ alone, and not ourselves. What matters is how we impact others for Christ. What doesn’t matter is how we please ourselves, with our real or perceived freedoms. We must shift the focus off of us! We don’t live for us. The world will tell you that’s crazy. The Bible tells you it is your calling. And you will find there is no satisfaction in living for yourself. The only true happiness to be found is in living for the Lord.

What rights have you been holding on to?

When you find yourself in a situation where someone has wronged you, how will you ensure that you are seeking a Biblical response and not an emotional or worldly response?

Are you walking in complete forgiveness in your life? Are you holding onto unforgiveness or bitterness toward anyone, including yourself? Go back and look at Colossians 3:13. Commit it to memory. (It’s short!)

What does it mean to be a stumbling block for your brother or sister? (Romans 14:20) What are some “freedoms” that you could be exercising, that in fact could cause someone else to sin? (I’ll get you started…immodest dress…drinking, even in moderation, in the presence of those for whom it causes confusion, etc.)

Day 3:
I said that when living as an alien in another country, you don’t blend in. There are many cultural differences that immediately set you apart.
The same should be true for us as Christians. The ways of the world are completely at odds with the way scripture tells us to live, not only in action but in attitude. People should be puzzled by you at times. We shouldn’t respond like the world when things are thrown our way.

“We are human, but we don’t wage war with human plans and methods. We use God’s mighty weapons, not merely worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds. With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God. With these weapons we conquer their rebellious ideas, and we teach them to obey Christ.” 2 Cor. 10:3-5

We are human, but we don’t wage war with human plans and methods. With whom are we at war? The Devil and his strongholds. What are strongholds? One commentary I read defined it as things “in which sinners entrench themselves against reproof: all that opposes Christ; the learning, eloquence, and philosophical subtleties, the pride of the Corinthians.” These sins that have a hold on us beyond reproof! In other words, we know they’re wrong. We’ve been told what the Bible says about our sin, but we don’t listen. We are prideful. We are deeply entrenched, and we’re too scared to try to crawl out. Or we just plain don’t want to. Sometimes these sins are “subtleties”, and they reek of our pride, just like the Corinthians to whom Paul was writing. (In my opinion, pride is usually at the root of my ugly, ugly sins. That’s why the Bible talks so much about pride.)
We can’t wage war against our sin like the world would. We can’t just watch a Dr. Phil, or Dr. Robin on Oprah, and apply behavior modification and poof! It’s gone! We must knock down these strongholds with God’s mighty weapons. And who would choose man’s methods over God’s anyway! (Study Ephesians 6:10-20 on the Armor of God.) But I think there are three crucial, introductory points to knowing how to demolish strongholds.
1. Having a real relationship with God.
2. Studying and knowing the scripture.
3. Being in a Body of Believers where you can find accountability to the Truth.
That brings me to my next point. The Embassy. If you haven’t figured it out, the embassy that we go to for “help, relief, comfort, and counsel” is the Church.
Almost the entire New Testament is comprised of letters to a church body. Christianity is absolutely not meant to be lived out independently. It is designed for us within the context of a body. This is meant to refine us, encourage us, and teach us. I have no doubt, throughout the whole of the scripture, that there was never a thought that one should try to live the Christian life outside of the church. But that is exactly what the majority of Christian college students are doing. They may have a church that they attend on Sunday mornings, when they wake-up in time, but they are not connected, they are not serving, they are not truly sitting under the protective authority of their elder believers, as those receiving the letters from Paul, James, Timothy, and others in the New Testament churches. This is foolish, and I am desperate to bring this to light. I made the same mistake the first few years of my college career, and I wish someone had come along side of me and corrected me. Bible Studies are great, Christian organizations are wonderful, Para-church activities are fun, but none of these are a replacement for the Church. Why? For a few reasons. One, our connection to a church body is not just about what we get out of it. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the Body of Christ, comparing it to the human body. He illustrates how crucial every part of the Body is!

“But God made our bodies with many parts, and he has put each part just where he wants it. What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 1 Corinthians 12:18-21

I believe there are churches with missing parts because believers are just choosing not to connect. We would not have announcements in church begging for more workers with the kids or teachers or parking attendants or whatever it is, if every believer was serving as he was designed to serve within his church. 1 Corinthians 12 is clear, that every believer is gifted specifically for service within the church, but college students have been deceived to think that this time in their lives is only about them and what they receive. I remember believing that very lie as a Freshman in college. I had so many Bible Studies and Christian organizations on campus that I really didn’t feel I needed the church. The thought never occurred to me, as self-centered as I was, that the church needed me. The church needs our service, and we need to serve!
But how incredibly prideful was I to think I didn’t need the church. I shudder to think of the foolish decisions I made while outside of the protection of a Body. I knew I needed guidance, but I was looking for it everywhere but the church. I was especially hesitant to join a church because I was looking for the “perfect church,” or I was looking for an exact replica of my home church. I didn’t want to move my church membership from my home church, which is something I hear all of the time from students. Really, this is so silly when you think about it! What is church membership? It’s a piece of paper! We act like it’s a sign of loyalty, and we can only “root” for one team at a time. Our church has solved this dilemma for students by offering a dual membership. This means you can keep your letter of membership at your home church, while still connecting as a member at Living Hope. I think this is brilliant. But whatever excuse we are using, we desperately need the accountability of believers within the church, especially those who are older and wiser than we are. College is the only time in your life that you are not surrounded by and integrated with people who are older than you are. For some reason, even churches have kept you separated out, to only mingle with other college students. This is not how the church was designed, and it is only exasperating the problems I see students struggling with. Titus 2 directs the older women in the church to be “training” the younger women. Training them in how to be wives, to be mothers, to be women. I think the college years for a woman is a crucial window to be taught. By the time you have moved on to a career, a marriage, even motherhood, without this training, you will find out learning the “hard way” doesn’t just hurt you. It hurts everyone you love. You should go into the adult life equipped by the older women. You should be armed with scripture and right thinking concerning who you are in Christ and what He has called you to. If every college girl was truly under the mentorship of a Godly, older woman, do you know what kind of pain could be avoided in one’s life? Eating disorders, painful dating relationships, the trap of sexual immorality and alcohol abuse, to name a few. In the college years, many people are choosing their mates, they are choosing a career, they are making life-altering decisions, and no one who has walked their path before them is guiding them.
As a college student I felt the freedom to make grown-up decisions, without anyone’s stamp of approval. But this was so foolish! Enjoy the protective authority of your parents and your church. Do not make the decision to date someone seriously without first asking the people you trust if they think you are making a wise choice. I was well on my way to marrying the most wrong person for me had my parents not stepped in, and thank the Lord, I finally listened to their wisdom. The disaster that was averted would have been catastrophic! Be accountable for your actions, your choices, your thoughts, and not just to those who are in the exact same spot you are, making the exact same mistakes. (That’s called the blind leading the blind.) In every stage of my life, I need someone above me who will keep me accountable and share wisdom from God’s Word and experience with me. As a Mom, as a teacher, as a wife; in everything! That never ends. I need someone reproving me when I am wrong, not only in action, but in my thoughts. Proverbs is full of verses about the wise and the foolish. The wise rely on fellow believers to instruct, correct, and even rebuke them in life. Solomon calls the person who ignores that instruction a fool. Here are a few Proverbs pertaining to that.

“Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be broken beyond repair.” Proverbs 29:1

“When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is happy.” 29:18

“Trusting oneself is foolish, but those who walk in wisdom are safe.” 28:26

“An open rebuke is better than hidden love.” 27:5

“A prudent person foresees the danger ahead and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” 27:12

“As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” 26:11

“Timely advice is as lovely as golden apples in a silver basket.” 25:11

“…wisdom is sweet to your soul. If you find it, you will have a bright future, and your hopes will not be cut short.” 24:14

“Commit yourself to instruction; attune your ears to hear words of knowledge.” 23:12

“Plans succeed through good counsel; don’t go to war without the advice of others.”

“People who accept correction are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore it will lead others astray.” 10:17

“To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.” 12:1

“Fools think they need no advice, but the wise listen to others.’ 12:15

Are you sitting under the wise as you walk through life, or are you walking independently? I have decided that there are many euphemisms in our language for prideful, and independent can be one of them. We are not meant to be independent from other believers. There should always be someone in authority over us. When I look back at the decisions in my early adulthood that I regret the most, I can see every time how I ignored those who were often older and definitely wiser than I. I felt totally qualified to make my own decisions, and ultimately my own mistakes. Unfortunately, that means I had to pay the consequences all by myself. I often led others astray while doing so. You don’t have to make your own mistakes! That’s the good news! You can learn from those who have gone before you. If you are stuck in sin, returning to it over and over, something must be done. You need accountability, and you should have wisdom spoken into your life.

What role does the Church play in your life?

What are you doing to serve in the church? How are you using your gifts and talents to benefit the Body? If you are not, how should you?

If you have lacked desire to connect with a church body, what do you think that could mean? Do you desire the Lord more than anything, or are you desiring the things of this world the most? What “things” (including sleep) have taken precedence over the things of God?

What things are holding you back, or have held you back in the past, from being the “hand” or the “foot” in the Body as the scripture says? What should be done about that?

If you are not sitting under the mentorship of someone wiser in your life, make a list of people you could contact to make that happen.

Day 4:
The last characteristic of living as an alien was feeling homesick. There are some old hymns that speak about longing for our home, and I remember as a child being confused by this. I have to confess, for a long time, I didn’t feel homesick. I knew my eternal home was in heaven, but I still longed for the things of this world more. (I am so sad to admit that in print.) I was not so in love and enthralled with my Savior that I would long for the second coming so I could be with him. I longed for other things. I longed to be married, to experience motherhood, all the things that I wanted to happen before Jesus came back for us. This was indicative of something wrong in my relationship with the Lord.
I found this verse in Colossians 3 (a great chapter!) that stirred my interest on this topic.

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about the things down here on earth. For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:1-3

Ephesians 5 says we are the Bride of Christ. He is our Groom. What a beautiful analogy this is! How do we wait for him? How do you wait for your Groom as your wedding day draws near? Do you wait apathetically, nonchalantly, with a total lack of passion for Him? Who would marry you if you felt that way about your groom? Or do you wait with fervor, longing, impatient to see Him face-to-face?
I thought it was interesting that the passage says “Let heaven fill your thoughts.” I hadn’t put too much thought into heaven, because I felt there was little knowledge to gain from it, and it was strictly a wait-and-see kind of deal. I didn’t imagine it very often. I didn’t see the point. But when you are waiting anxiously for a Groom you love passionately, you can’t help but think about that day. It says we should not think only about the things down here on Earth. Why? Because they are temporary! They are fleeting! In the grand scheme of things, most of the things that we fret about are just tiny blips with no eternal value. 2 Timothy 2:4 says “…do not let yourself become tied up in the affairs of this life…” which is exactly what we do. We become entangled in the temporary, with little thought left over for the eternal.
One day my six-year-old taught me something about heaven. I was putting my boys down for their naps, and because Emma doesn’t nap anymore, she was doing her own thing. (Playing, drawing, etc.) When I successfully had Jax asleep, I came out of the room and looked for Emma. I looked and looked. I looked in every room, and every closet. I looked in the backyard and the front. I looked everywhere. I started to panic! Where could she have gone? Finally, I looked in the garage. I didn’t see her at first. She was sitting on top of our little freezer, against the wall. I was so relieved to find her, and asked her what in the world she was doing in the garage! She sat there, all red-faced from the heat (yes, very scary, I know!) with a little cup of water. She’d been there a while, I could tell from her face, and from the melted ice in the water. She said “I’m waiting for Daddy to come home. I have a cup of water for him.” Daddy was not due to come home for more than three hours yet. But she was anxiously waiting, with her little cup of water for him. I was so touched by this! And God spoke to me, as He so often does through my little ones, about what it means to wait anxiously for the Father. To see the love and adoration that our little girl has for her Daddy is a beautiful picture. They ask in the morning, many times before they can even get their little sleepy eyes open, “When’s Daddy coming home?” or “What day is it? Is it the day Daddy stays home?” Sometimes I’m jealous because he gets to come through the door and get the grand welcome, complete with violent hugs, and shrieks of “DAAAADDDDDYYYY!!!!” They think about him during the day, and they always need to know when he’s coming back.
Do we feel that way about our Heavenly Father? Do we wait for him anxiously, letting it fill our thoughts? The Bible says we should. We should not feel so at home here that we long for the things this world can offer us. I know I can’t even imagine it now, but we will surely scoff at the things this world offers in comparison to eternity with the Father. It’s got to be like someone offering us the most pristine, purified cool glass of water, and we say ‘No thanks, I can just get some from the toilet…at the trucker rest stop…where no one has cleaned it 1976.’ (Is that not truly disgusting!?) I think it may be a fair analogy to the difference, though.
Set your sights on the realities of heaven. Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do you long to finally be home? Are you waiting anxiously for your Groom? Do you feel at home here in this world, or do you feel like a stranger and an alien?

Read Matthew 6:19-21. What treasures do you long to store up here on earth? What do you think Jesus meant by storing up treasures in heaven?

Read 2 Corinthians 5:1-8. What temporary trouble is Paul writing of here as he longs to be “at home with the Lord”? How does it affect us and our families now? What do you imagine it will be like in our new heavenly bodies?

Do you think if we truly “set our sights on the realities of heaven”, that we would pursue the lost people in our lives more diligently? Why?