Kicking the Hypocritical Habit

Day 19, Prompt: NOTICE
 (as in, notice I gave up on writing only for 5 minutes?)

My daughter developed a bad habit since we have moved to the foreign field. She sucks on her bottom lip until a raw, red ring appears on her chin. And then she chews some more.

She does it while she is watching TV, riding in the car, doing schoolwork, playing, and even when she is sleeping! I feel like I have said, “Baby, stop sucking/chewing your lip” at least 65 times a day for the past few months. Finally, it seems, she has broken the habit.

I have a bad habit too; I am a skin picker. Any time of the day,  especially if I am anxious or concentrated on something, you can find me pinching and poking invisible blemishes on my face until scabs appear. I don’t notice I’m picking until my husband gently smacks my hand away from my face.

Oh, and guess what else! I’m a  fairly regular lip chewer myself, yet I never realized this until I was refereeing my daughter’s daily habits.

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So it is with sin. It’s easy to pick up on what ways others are failing in their service to the Lord. It’s simple to see the lack of fruits in a believer’s life and maybe even question the status of his salvation. We may even think we can judge a heart’s condition from a person’s words and actions.

Yes, the Bible says we will know believers by their fruits. But how often do I magnify the rotten parts of the branch without glimpsing the healthy bits budding blooms? At the same time I am squinting at the secret sins of others, I miss the major symptoms of sin in my own life.

You would think that big ol’ beam in my eye would hurt a little more, right? I may not notice the pain, but I will see the ways it hurts my ministry. Maybe after it’s too late.

Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye (Matthew 7:2-5).

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In our zeal to see others’ lives changed by Christ, it can be tempting to focus on the sin rather than the Savior. Christians have earned derogatory terms like “Bible Thumpers,” “Holy Rollers,” and others I’m not comfortable typing out by failing to love others according to the Golden Rule.

While I may not be picketing soldiers’ funerals or rejoicing in a homosexual taken from this world too soon, if I am open to the Holy Spirit’s conviction in my life, I can notice ways that my gospel proclamation is hindered by my judgment of others.

In 1 Peter 3, we see instead the power of guarding our own ways to influence the hearts of others:

Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear (1 Peter 3:1-2).

The wife of a lost man is not instructed here to nag her husband about his sinful state in order to change him. She is instead challenged to submit to him, love and serve him. To live a glowing gospel testimony in her home for the good of the gospel message.

I am not advocating solely practicing lifestyle evangelism. What I want to promote and practice is living a life of repentance as I share the message of the Cross.

And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear(1 Peter 1:17).

Living in fear in my home and in my work proclaiming the gospel message means being careful not to tread over the hearts of those to whom I witness. This includes my children, members of my community, and those to whom we formally minister through our church-planting efforts.

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It is God who judges hearts and opens the doors to heaven. The only job I am given is to love others and faithfully tell of the gospel of His sacrificial death and the Good News of His resurrection. It is above my pay-grade to change the spiritual condition of others. I leave that responsibility with the Holy Spirit where it belongs.

I am promised the Word of God will not return void. I trust that as I carefully handle its truths and surrender the heart-changing job to the only One who can witness the inner workings of man, I will see lives changed.

In my daily surrender to Jesus, I can be certain mine will. I can’t be the hands of Jesus if I am a hypocrite.

Are your evangelistic efforts hindered by a critical attitude?
What bad habits need to be dealt with so you may be a gracious gospel messenger?

Talk to be in the comment section!

 

The You of the Golden Rule

Day 6, Five Minute Prompt: YOU

 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:11-12).

The Golden Rule is not about you.

It’s not about me.

It’s about God and his goodness.

It’s about how the gate is wide and the way is narrow and what our lives say to those who haven’t been captivated by the Love that calls us down it (v 13-14). In our efforts to be like Jesus, we depend completely on His grace to bear fruit which makes His presence in us known (v. 16-20).

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Karma says “do good so good will be done unto me” while grace says “You can’t repay me, but I will serve you anyway.”

Grace looked at us in all our filthiness and died to make us its own. That redemptive act moves us to say, “I will lay down my life for the least of these because I know Whom I serve.” We serve the Almighty God who put on flesh and died a criminal’s death so we could fall in love with Him.

It’s about Our Father who gives us good things.

Proclaiming His name in our families and among the nations is the best gift we’ve been given after salvation.  I want to live as a servant sharing Christ and helping a few more people find the narrow road. I’ll sing and serve my way to golden gates.

What does God’s grace move you to do?

Talk to me in the comment section!

From Stir-Crazy to Strengthened by Stillness: Learning to Just Be

Day 5, Five Minute Prompt: SILENCE

The silence makes sirens go off in my head.

Be still makes me squirm.

I want TO DO.
I want TO GO.
I want TO BE HEARD.

In the silence, I hear whispers of “You’re not good enough.”
In the stillness, I feel muscles twitch with restlessness: “You’re not doing enough.” But this restlessness is only a distraction from living out the Golden Rule and The Great Commission. It keeps me sulking and self-seeking.

In the silence I can soak up His grace. In the stillness I can breathe Jesus in and rest knowing that the work Has already been done. I can DO, GO, and BE HEARD because I fell face first at the feet of Jesus and acknowledged my need of Him before I set upon my mission.

This is my theme and my philosophy of ministry. This is how change happens. Not by my hands or by my words. It happens in the silence and in the stillness. It happens with Jesus.

As I silently seek Him through the Word written long ago, and as I sit under the instruction of faithful servants, I move forward to do unto others.

But first I just have to Be.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).

Do you struggle with the silence?
How has God changed you in the stillness?

Talk to me in the comment section!

Other posts about silence and listening: Uncovering Stillness- The Very Cranky MummyThe Irony of BarbieSavior on SheLoves Magazine

Everyone Needs Someone to Walk With

Day 1, Five Minute Prompt: WALK

“Do you need a friend?” I hear them say to one another as they travel down dusty streets.

The sweet people of my host culture can’t stand to see someone walking alone. They aren’t as eager to walk with the red-headed foreigner lady, I’ve noticed, however.

I thought by now I would have found a friend with whom I’d walk this road of culture and language learning. I guess I’ll just have to keep going until I do.

As I go along, I’ll find others who walk alone and say, “Do you need a friend?”

If we’re honest, we all do.

And if you’re like me, you sometimes feel like you’re standing alone, watching others walk happily hand-in-hand (friends actually do that here). You’re pining for the kind of intimate friendship it seems like everyone else already has.

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I’ve shared before how I love…

what the Word says about friends…
  • friendly (Prov. 18:24)
  • love at all times (Prov. 17:17)
  • comfort and edify (1 Thess. 5:11)
  • encourage to love and live better (Heb. 10:24-25)
  • live selflessly and sacrificially (John 15:13)

I may not be invited on a lot of long walks with close friends. But the more I extend my hand to those who walk alone, the more I will be invited along the way. The deeper my relationships will run, and the more influence I will have for Christ in this country.

Who do you see walking alone today?
How can you apply the Golden Rule to your relationships?

Talk to me in the comment section!

 

Giving the Creator Room to Make a Masterpiece

My husband slipped me a note during the meeting designated for Sunday school teachers and youth workers. This otherwise insignificant act would set a chain of events that would domino me into some of the hardest days of my life.

“Should we announce that we are going to India [as missionaries] tonight?”

“Up to you, babe,” I replied in attempt to mask my panic.

“Are you 100% in?” (Quite a weighty question for note-passing, right?)

I quickly scrawled, “YES.”

I had previously been on a missions trip to Africa, and we made plans to serve somewhere on that continent. When I thought about missions, I saw black faces decorated with tribal paint. I prayed more fervently for the work there, decorated my home in souvenirs, and dreamed of returning someday.

We had a friend whose heart for India was contagious, and the Lord wrecked our plans with this viral compassion. He dreamed for the church that would send us to plant 8 missionary families in India. We would be one of them.

We made a trip shortly after the loss of our second child, and God gave me such a great peace about where we had been and where He was taking us. I didn’t know it would all unravel soon. I didn’t know that I would have to change the focus of my gospel-passions again. I just knew Who sent us and Who was going with us. That was enough.

I write this in Nepal, totally humbled by the work He has done and undone to bring us here and see His work accomplished. The stain of goodness left by His fingerprints hints at the masterpiece that is to come. It’s made up of brokenness and jumbled up plans, but it is good because the Artist that made it makes no mistakes.

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I can trust Him as the brush strokes glide across the canvas I’ve given Him to work with. Whenever I start to gain a sense of how the final product will appear, the hand at work spins in another direction. I feel frustrated, as if I’m crossing my eyes and backing away from a picture, trying to see what I am supposed to see.

Other times, the brush is dipped in pain and hardship, and I’d rather see the pretty pots of sunshine and warmth spill onto the page. But because I have grown to know the heart of the One who wields the tools of change, I know that the finished work will require nothing but a deep sigh as I gaze into the depths of its beauty.

For now, I’ll hold my breath and my tongue as I watch the Artist in action. It is quite the sight to behold.

How may you yield to the Master Creator today?
What hints do you see of the masterpiece to come?

Talk to me in the comment section!

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