You have set up a banner for those who fear you, that they may flee to it from the bow. – Psalm 60:4
As I have studied American wars with my boys this year, I have come to realize how important flags are in a battle. For example, the battlefields of the Civil War were chaotic places filled with smoke, noise and confusion. A flag from a soldier’s regiment or state provided a valuable visual landmark. It served as a rallying point and helped the soldiers keep close to each other. A flag provided a reminder of what they were fighting for and gave the soldiers incentive to press on.
These days it seems that there are many different flags being raised that people rally under. Social causes top the list. Recently the media was filled with women lifting up signs and banners that they proudly marched down the streets of our nation. They gave themselves to these causes and have conformed their lives around them.
Today, my question for you is: what flag are you living under? Each of us has a banner that we raise and dedicate ourselves to. Call it your reason for living or the passion for your existence. What is yours? Most likely you are not wielding a physical sign above your head, but you have something that you are spending yourself on.
Is it the “all-sacred” home and family? Success? Physical fitness or beauty? Comfort? Maybe it’s a “worthy” cause that trips your trigger: the environment, animals, sanctity of life, social tolerance or medical research. For many it is a combination of these elements of life. We fashion our own banner of maybe family, acceptance, being green and healthy living. When we think we have it right we lift it up in social media, in what we give money to, in what we talk about and how we pick our friends.
What does your banner look like, ladies? Pause and consider that question. Here’s another - what are we doing designing our own banners to define our life? Have we forgotten… there are only two options available! There are only two possible flags to live under: the flag of Jesus Christ or the flag of the world. We need to stop trying to make our own.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:30a, “Whoever is not with me is against me.” We are either gathered with Jesus or gathered against Jesus. The banner above your head either reads, “With Jesus” or “Against Jesus”. Check it closely! There are no flags for “Undecided”, “Socially Conscious”, “Nice People”, “Pro-Choice”, or “Baptists”.
The women who took to the streets in protest a few weeks ago evidenced this fact. They were protesting for women’s rights and equality but many of the signs they raised displayed their hatred for Jesus Christ. How strange that those blaming Jesus for their problems are the ones who prove him right over and over again.
Psalm 60:4 above tells us that God himself has set up a banner for those who fear him. It is singular, there is only one banner, the banner of Christ.
The soldiers in the American wars would die for their flag. Are you so bold in your dedication? Are you willing to hang the flag of, “With Jesus” on your life? To display it in everything you do and say? Are you devoted to agreeing with all that is in his Word? If not, you are most likely on the other side under the flag of the world. You okay with having “Against Jesus” above your head? Think about that.
Ladies, if you have been waving any flag other than the flag of Christ in your life it is time to take it down and burn it. Are we pro-life, pro-family and anti-violence? You bet, but it is because we are pro-Jesus first and foremost. There is no reason to battle for right and wrong outside of the One who defines right and wrong. We support causes that are biblical but we conform our lives around Jesus Christ and not the cause.
We need to be with Christ and everything he says in his Word. If we carry any banner in our life to show the world what we live and die for, let it be a white one washed clean with the blood of our Savior and let it simply say, “With Jesus”.
“You shall be holy as I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:16
Does serving an infinitely holy God intimidate you? If not, it should. This quote of God by Peter should cause a great pause, it should initiate an examination of your heart. Don’t skip over it. This is not an isolated verse, it is also found in Leviticus 11:44 and 45, 19:2, 20:7 and there are other verses very similar such as Matthew 5:48, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
As Christians we cherish the “shall” in the verse from 1 Peter 1:16 above (praise God for helping verbs). There is coming a day when we will be fully holy. That will be the day we get to be with our Savior and before our God, complete (wow, do we look forward to that day!). But, while we are here on earth and in the process of holification (yep, made that up) what are we to do? We read in the Bible that we (true Christians) are progressively being conformed to the image of Jesus “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18), but, what does that look like today, this very day that you are reading these words? Good question! Here is the answer: it is displayed in the very next thing you do.
We often like to step way back and take a broad panoramic view of our lives and hope it displays progressive holiness. This is a very good thing to do and your life will image that promise from God if you are truly his. But, what about the close-up view of today, even this hour, or the next minute? How do you take the enormous task of becoming more like Jesus and display that in your mundane, ordinary life right now? It starts with the very next thing you do.
Are you about to speak to your husband? Speak words of respect and love. Are you talking with co-workers? Refuse to gossip and find opportunities to turn the conversation toward the gospel. Are you wiping snotty noses? Do so in love and because Jesus also humbled himself and served others. Are you deciding what to do for the evening? Make a choice that accords with Scripture and pleases God. Do holiness now.
We can easily get caught up in “putting off” holiness for another day and just trust that God will get us there eventually. We like to think of ourselves as “long-term projects”, maybe saving holiness for our golden years. This is a rotten way to think and says very little for our zeal for the Lord and his desire for us to “grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). Instead we need to “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14). We need to work at our holiness with discipline and be, “bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2 Cor. 7:1). Fear God and shape up. We are his kids and we need to act like it.
Understand, it is okay to feel overwhelmed when you read verses calling for your holiness. Imitating our perfect Savior is a huge task! Actually a God-sized task, only accomplished by God himself. That is exactly why Jesus sent his Spirit, the Helper, to reside in you. It is the Spirit that produces the fruit of holiness that honors God. We really can do nothing apart from him (John 15:5). The Holy Spirit will help you be more like Jesus, from the next thing to the golden years.
Take comfort in knowing that when God says, “You shall be holy as I am holy, “it is not just a command but also a promise. You will someday experience the fullness of the rewards of being washed clean with the blood of Jesus. Our holification will be completed (it’s a good word). We will truly be holy like our Father is. It will be a great day!
Until that time, Ladies, intentionally work on your holiness. Continually do the next thing like Jesus would.
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. – 1 Corinthians 2:2
Who can understand the mind of a woman? No one aside from God. I think we can all agree on that one, we even confuse ourselves much of the time. The female mind is like a jungle: full of fantastic beauty, yet containing pathways of perilous danger. Today I want to encourage you to block off one particular pathway and to train your thoughts to walk in gospel light.
One of the most dangerous roads we tend to wander down in our minds is the pathway of comparisons. We assume certain things are true about others when they are not. Before we even enter a room of people we have a dozen thoughts zooming into our consciousness. Thoughts of inadequacies and self-doubt, feelings of not measuring up in appearance, intelligence or experience. We assume we are lacking in some serious ways that others are not.
Even in our own homes we are not shielded from the taunts of deception. We assume other women are better mothers, housekeepers and cooks (I mean, just look at their Facebook page). We assume they are loaded with friends and social events when we are often lonely and longing for just one good girlfriend to hang out with. We assume they have it all together while we are struggling to stay sane.
Stop the assumptions, ladies! I’m here to tell you today that you are just not as special as you think you are! One thing I have come to learn about women is that we are most certainly more alike than we are different. We tread very similar pathways and experience what is common to womanhood. Just like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” These deceptive assumptions that we allow (yes, allow) to cross our minds are from our enemy and his aim is our distraction (wow, are we easily distracted). He has been using the same simple play book for decades on us. Why not change up his strategy? Because it works! We fall prey over and over again.
No more. Board up that perilous pathway of thought and walk away from it. Send your thoughts where your all-knowing Father tells you to. He makes it clear in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers [and sisters], whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Thoughts consumed by what is praise-worthy (the epitome of all of these attributes is Jesus) do not have time to wander off into darkness. They are trained away from darkness and toward light.
I think Paul said it best when he said, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2. When he went to the people of Corinth, he was not consumed with thoughts of his potential inadequacies (what he looked like, what the people would think of him, how he would compare). In some ways he would have been inferior to them and other ways superior, but here is the point…it didn’t matter. Paul didn’t care about any of that. He decided to know only Jesus and what he did on the cross. That was his only concern - to display the gospel. His mind was trained away from petty, earthly concerns and trained onto gospel purposes.
That should be our concern too. Not how we measure up (which is WAY off target to reality anyway) but how we can display the gospel to others. We need to think on Jesus and display him in our actions. Ladies, the next time you feel the coming bombardment of deceptive thoughts (whether in private or public) remember that you no longer take that path, it is off limits. Do not entertain dangerous assumptions leading to pointless comparisons (truly idolatry of others). Refuse to be distracted from your purpose for breathing!
Train your mind to walk in the light of the Word and turn your thoughts onto your true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praise-worthy Savior. Decide to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified.