Called

PANNING FOR GOLD

Digging into 1 Peter – A Key Word

What does this title call to your mind (pun intended)? A referee calling a game off because of lightning? A candidate calling an election because of a decisive margin of votes? A letter calling you to jury duty? Your coach calling you a good sport?

Just for fun, look up the word called on The Free Online Dictionary and you will find a kazillion other possibilities.

Hello

You will also find several meanings for called in the letter of 1 Peter. That is, the apostle states that God has called us to be and do various things.

The reason I mention this is because–as I was meditating on the verses containing the word called–I got excited. I thought maybe you would too.

So here are the four verses and my comments:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9 NIV).

A purely natural response might be: “I’m not so sure about this. I have a few bad habits I really would like to keep. Besides, the full light of God shining on me–I’m need ready for everything in me to show up clearly.”

The response of a believer who understands the power of a supernatural God in their life: “God has invited me to leave the closed-in world of night and enjoy the wide horizons of day. He has invited me out of the guesswork of darkness into the clarity and certainty of the light. He has invited me out of guilt to be clean and carefree.”

If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21 NIV).

A purely natural response might be: “I don’t even want to think about this. Fortunately, I live in the United States, so I don’t have to.”

The response of a believer who understands the power of a supernatural God in their life: “God is calling me to make a difference in this world. To live a life worth living.  What a privilege! Yes, I’ll make waves by standing out like this, but–I’ll know I did the right thing. I’ll enjoy self-esteem and a clear conscience.”

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:8-9 NIV).

A purely natural response might be: “This sounds ‘way too generous and kind for me. I can meet people half-way if they are trying to get along with me–but this is too much.”

The response of a believer who understands the power of a supernatural God in their life: “God is calling me to initiate an aggressive brand of friendliness toward others. To see the good in people I’ve never appreciated before. To care about people who aren’t really related to me. If I do this, I’ll have deep relationships. I’ll belong. I’ll be at peace with everyone (whether or not they are at peace with me). The Lord promises I’ll be glad (be blessed) if I go out of my way to be good to others like this.”

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10 NIV).

A purely natural response might be: “What does this mean? I believe I’ll be in God’s eternal glory when I go to heaven, but what does this have to do with suffering and being restored?”

The response of a believer who understands the power of a supernatural God in their life: ” Jesus was amazing (glorious) when he went to the cross. He kept his composure. He encouraged others. Then–he had the glorious last word by rising from death. The apostle Paul said, ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ Well, not any more. When I turned my life over to Jesus, he reinstated me into the gloriousness of God–into his inner power of love that radiates in glorious attitudes and actions–even in hard times.”

 

The good deeds you naturally tend to do, the ways you can figure out to straighten out bad situations–you don’t need God to call you to do those. You can do them on your own (pretty much). But God is calling you to so much more. Things you can only do because he says you can. Because he will make it possible with his own goodness and ability in you.

 

I’m Not Okay, But It’s Okay

Shortly after my son was born, I made a troubling discovery. I no longer seemed to care about the problems I saw in the world around me. All my life I had been a problem-solver. When my childhood classmates bossed the younger children around, I stuck up for the little ones. When my college dorm mates were irritated with the administration, I made an appointment with one of the deans to discuss the situation.

But—shoot!—after marrying and having a baby, I only seemed to care about my own life. What was really distressing was that I saw why: I was relatively contented now. Previously—because my mother had died and I wasn’t adjusting well to a stepmother—I was edgy and easily upset. Apparently, when I had jumped into good causes, it wasn’t just because I was a noble, caring person. It was mostly because I was out of sorts and spoiling for a fight.

I’m not the only one who whose best trait turned out to be . . . not so. The apostle Paul was like many Jews of his day. He was indignant about the “heresy” Jesus ’followers were proclaiming. Unlike most of his fellow Jews, he was doing something about it! With the blessing of the religious establishment, he went from house to house arresting Christians and aiding in the stoning death of one. On the way to hunt down Christians in Damascus, Jesus appeared to him in a vision asking, “Why are you persecuting me?” In later years, Paul said of himself,  “I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” 1 Corinthians 15:9).

The prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah made these depressing statements about the human race:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV). 

All our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6 NIV).

How can we possibly have self-esteem if we’re so messed up? How can we love ourselves if what we think is really good about ourselves . . . is not?

Here’s the deal: we are like dilapidated mansions. God created us as magnificent buildings (“God don’t make no junk.”). Then a squatter (satan) moved in and corrupted us with his evil ways. Most of our beauty was lost, but God still sees it.

If you have allowed him to become your Savior, God has bought you back. Were you instantly restored to the excellence God had in mind when you were conceived?* No, but he danced for joy, anyway.

The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

Now he has the delightful task of restoring you. And you have the glory of his presence and the benefit of his management back within your walls.

. . . I no longer get bent out of shape by my failures and sins. It’s part of the rottenness I no longer claim as the “new me.” It’s old garbage I can choose to let go of—with God’s all-powerful grace.

*A huge amount of restoration did happen instantly, but there’s still more to be done. Monday’s post is all about that.

Making It Personal

  • Do you sometimes think too highly of yourself? And other times, too little?
  • Do you know how you look from God’s perspective? It will show you your true worth. (You can find out how God sees you by reading the Bible. You might start with the Gospel of John.)

 

How Important Is Self-Esteem?

Quote People

A quote by Bobbe Sommer:

Having a low opinion of yourself is not “modesty”. It’s self-destruction. Holding your uniqueness in high regard is not “egotism”. It’s a necessary precondition to happiness and success. ~Bobbe Sommer

A quote from the Bible:

4 I . . . [make] mention of you always in my prayers . . . 6 that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus (Philemon, verses 4 & 6 NKJV).

Right on Schedule

“Hitting the Bull’s-Eye” pointed out that we want so much to feel good about ourselves that we are constantly aiming at the target of self-esteem. Our darts seldom land right in the bull’s-eye–and sometimes do not hit the target at all. One thing that keeps us from hitting the target is shame. In some families, parents say things like “Shame on you” or “That was so mean” to steer their children toward better behavior. These parents mean well. They want their children to develop the good attitudes and behavior that equip them for a happy, successful life. But shaming children backfires. It robs them of the healthy self-esteem that is also necessary for a happy, successful life.

My mother was very wise. One evening, when I was four and my brother was two, she set about putting us to bed. Neither of us wanted to go. She put Frank in bed first then came to my room to tuck me in. In the middle of the process she stopped and said, “Do you hear how hard your brother is crying? You are just fussing a little. You are getting to be such a big girl.”

At that moment I would have done anything for her. She had given me the gift of self-esteem. Until she said that, I thought my little bit of protesting made me a “bad girl.” She assured me that I was a “good girl.” No, I was not as mature as I would be when I was older, but I was right on schedule—as mature as I could be for my age.

My mother’s approach mirrors God’s. He removes the burden of shame so we can live and grow and become strong.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me . . .
To comfort all who mourn,
3 To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

7 Instead of your shame you shall have double honor,
And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.
Therefore in their land they shall possess double;
Everlasting joy shall be theirs (Isaiah 61:1-3, 7 NKJV).

Making It Personal

  • What has someone said to you that made you feel “bad”? like a loser?
  • Is that really what you are?
  • It takes time to build character and gain wisdom. Are you right on schedule? Or are you moving slowly but at least on track? God sees that, whether anyone else does or not. And he is pleased.
  • Do you sense you’re not even on the right track? Why don’t you open your heart to the Lord and let him get you there? How do you do that? Talking to him daily and reading the Bible are big keys. But you may need to first let him bring you into a right relationship with him. If so, click here and here.

Pecking Order

“Nathan was the star of the show, but don’t tell him so. He’s already too conceited.” Have you ever heard a statement like that? Or thought it?

Does a conceited person have true self-esteem? Does a bragger feel good about herself?

A person who truly has self-esteem feels good about herself when she wins a blue ribbon and when she tries hard but doesn’t place. An insecure person has to be the best in order to believe in himself.

That means staying at the top of the pecking order—exalting yourself and putting others down. I have seen many variations of this; for example:

George is a bully. He threatens and harasses others to get them to do what he wants—or just to get their “respect.”

Sharon is an attractive and personable doctor’s wife. She casually mentions all the important people who come to their dinner parties—and their compliments on her home and hospitality. She offers advice to her friends—implying their homes, children, appearance, etc., aren’t as perfect as hers.

Garrett is a strong, benevolent husband and father. He truly cares about his family and delights in helping them with the details of their lives. However, he believes he is the only one in the family who is strong and sensible. He does not encourage his wife or children to do anything without his supervision and control. If they stopped being helpless, he would no longer be the hero of the family.

George, Sharon, and Garrett are propping up their self-esteem by maintaining their “superiority.” They have to be better than everyone else, instead of getting on with who they are—and enjoying it.

Let’s keep talking on Wednesdays about leaving dead-end roads to self-esteem and learning to truly love ourselves.

 

Making It Personal

  • Do you find yourself needing to believe you are better than others? If so, why do you think you have trouble liking yourself the way you are?
  • If your self-esteem is shaky, does it always have to be that way?
  • How can you show appreciation for a conceited person in a way that builds true self-esteem?

BY THE WAY, one reason the world is so full of people who can’t accept themselves is: 

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23 NKJV, emphasis added).

But we can have back that glorious life God created us for.

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. . . . It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ (Epehsians 2:1, 4-5 MSG). 

If you have already become alive in Christ but are still struggling with self-esteem issues, don’t be discouraged! Let’s remove the roadblocks to the fullness of life Christ has given you.

 

 

Hitting the Bull’s-Eye

I don’t play with a dart board very often. When I do, I find it’s not so hard to hit the target. But hitting that little circle in the middle–well now, that is not so easy. In many aspects of life—family relationships, success at work, and physical fitness, to mention a  few—our darts, figuratively speaking, land at the left edge of the target . . .  or the bottom edge . . . or far right . . . but not right in the middle.

Let’s apply that concept to our current idea that if we don’t love ourselves very much, we won’t be able to love others very much.

What do I mean by “loving ourselves”? I’m talking about believing in ourselves, being happy with who we are, and being comfortable in our own skin. Things that set us free to be the person God created us to be. They are also things we all desire so much that we constantly aim at them.

Pretty often, we miss the target altogether, but we keep trying. Many of our darts are barely on the board, far from  the bull’s-eye. But we sometimes settle for that because it gives us at least a little self-esteem.

Let’s take some examples. “Eric’s” darts do not hit the bull’s-eye. They land too high. He latches onto something good about himself—athletic ability—and makes that his source of self-esteem. He doesn’t work hard in other areas—like education or treating people well–because, well, he’s just too cool to sweat the small stuff.

“Sherri’s” darts land low on the board. She takes care of other people. When a neighbor is sick, she is always there with a pot of chicken soup. She spends all her waking hours chauffeuring her children to their events, helping them with their projects, and washing gym clothes her son forgot to tell her about until the last minute. She does not take care of herself. She doesn’t like being pushed around all the time, but she consoles herself with the thought that she is such a kind and considerate person.

“Garrett’s” darts end up too far left. His sense of self-esteem comes from his friendly, life-of-the-party personality. Everybody likes him. That helps him to not feel so bad about the financial fixes he always gets himself into.

“Janell’s” darts land too far right. She impresses herself and others with money, political power, and fame. She doesn’t take time to develop personal friendships, but she has an exciting life. . . .

And then there are darts that land high and to the right . . . or just a little to the left of center.

The thing is, we often throw blindly. We don’t really know how to develop healthy self-esteem, so we choose whatever seems right and run with it. The result is that our inner and outer lives are out of balance and wobbling badly. The Bible describes a dilemma like this with these words:

There is a way that appears to be right,
but in the end it leads to death.
(Proverbs 16:25 NIV).

On the other hand, the Bible has this good news for those who learn from the Lord how to live:

Understanding is a wellspring of life to him who has it (Proverbs 16:22 NKJV).

Let’s talk again next Wednesday about why our attempts at self-love aren’t working, so we can turn from them and find the real thing.

Making It Personal

  • Has your search for self-esteem and well-being hit the bull’s-eye yet?
  • What does loving ourselves—the way Jesus  said we should—look like?

Can you give some examples of healthy self-acceptance and self-esteem?