Removing Splinters

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“I’m not one to judge… but…”

I knew what was coming, the same thing that comes anytime anyone starts any conversation with those words – judgment. I struggle with that. I think Jesus struggled with that, too. The same Lord that warned us, “In the same way you judge others, you will be judged” (Matt. 7:1) and the very God who cautioned, “The same measure that you use, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2), He wasn’t lax on this issue of judgment; in fact, of all the things He reprimanded the “religious” for, this was consistent.

What is in us that wants to judge?

Comparison.

That’s the nuts and bolts of it. We haven’t evolved past Cain and Able. We still feel the need to compare ourselves with one another, and lets face it when we can point the finger at a more public, more destructive sin, we will do it. Why? Because in the shadow of those failures, our gossip and little white lies don’t seem like anything that matters.

Jesus addressed judgment with the analogy of a log and a splinter:

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:41-42)

I’ve been there. I’ve been the pointer and the accused. But it truly wasn’t until I had to fill the shoes of the accused that I could fully understand how the logs and the splinters must be dealt with.

Jesus wasn’t saying they don’t exist or that we should ignore them. He was bringing attention to the flaw, not excusing it, to help us to see that we must first inspect ourselves before we can even begin to correct another. But that is also the mystery of it, because as you see your flaws and imperfections, when you become aware that you have something in your life that humbles you before God and man, then you are much more gentle in the splinter removal.

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Romans 2:1)

The other day Lily got a piece of glass in her foot. She limped around until finally I convinced her to let me look at it. Reluctantly and with great fear she grabbed her foot, letting me have only the shortest (and non helpful) look. I could sympathize. I have been there – clutching my foot, crying, begging my mom NOT to get out the needle! I got her fear. As I gently pulled her foot back to me, I told her a story, a story of a splinter in a kitchen when I was exactly her age with my mom and my grandma and grandpa. I shared with her the absolute fear I felt because I didn’t know what was coming. And something happened, in the telling, in the sharing, in the confession, she relaxed. She loosened her grip and her eyes lost that stark white stare as she relinquished her foot to my care.

And that’s exactly what removing logs to help with splinters looks like.

Compassion.

As we gently approach one another with the confession and story of a life where we stumbled and fell but found the strength in Christ to get back up again, when we tell them, and remind ourselves anew, of the love that met us when we were convinced we would be disowned, we become credible, and the difficult work of healing seems more tangible, more possible, and less frightening. I think that is the very point Jesus was making – before you point out your neighbors struggle, deal with your own, and then you will see better to help them… because empathy begets compassion, and compassion doesn’t stand at a distance and point, it reaches out.

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A Missing Missive

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Graham Cooke said that “God doesn’t focus on what is wrong with us, rather, He is attending to what is missing.

My daughter wants to be a cheerleader. This is a pretty tall order – Not because she isn’t capable but because she is missing some key components in order to do so. As a parent I have a choice – point out what is wrong with her… Or attend to what is missing.

If I choose to point out what is wrong with her, I will very likely crush her spirit. But, if I choose to attend to those missing key components, not only is she capable to live her dream, but she will become confident and strong not only to fulfill that purpose but the passions that inspire her later.

And isn’t that what God is about? With our acceptance of Christ and the knowledge of Him removing the blot of sin and the punishment it affords, what good does it do for God to point out what is wrong with us? Instead He is better served (and I mean that in the very literal expression of that word) by pointing out what is missing and what He provides, what He has already provided!

This is what I see. We are too sin conscious. This serves one purpose, the purpose of the law, to point out our failures and precipitate the exhausting effort of keeping up with holiness. This mindset leaves us feeling defeated and undeserving, which has the eventual effect of crippling our service as Ambassadors of Christ. We will never measure up.

This is what I believe. If we paid less attention to what we were doing wrong or right and more attention to what is missing from our lives, keeping us from dwelling in His fullness, and seeking God for that supply, we will become more holy. The end that we seek through the means of performance is fully met in the knowledge of who we are in Christ!

Let me step back a minute. The key there is “who we are in Christ.” Without Christ we are still stained with sin and our punishment is death. It doesn’t sound nice. We don’t like to hear that some are excepted, but it’s the Truth. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.” Without our acceptance of Christ as our Savior, we are still marked by death. His blood and resurrection is what changes who we are to what we are meant to be. Those who are without Christ are judged by what is wrong AND by what they are missing. But, at any moment, in understanding and humility, they can change all of that!

That being said, as we are reborn in Christ, we are equipped for everything our life in Him requires. God isn’t a task master, He is the giver of all good things. He will never ask something of us that He hasn’t already given us in advance. So, He gave us Jesus to take away what was wrong, and now He reminds us that what we are still missing He has already given us in vast supply!

Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.” (1 John 3:20-22 NLT)

I think a big reason people refuse to come to Christ or believe in God is because they fear what He will do, and that is because they do not know Who He is. I think of Jesus telling the parable of the talents. Why didn’t the guy with the one talent do anything with it? He says “I knew you were a hard Master…” The word “knew” is more like “convinced.” When we are convinced God is one way, heaping shame and guilt upon us and seeing us as infidels never able to measure up, if we perceive Him as hard and cruel and unyielding, if we see Him as vengeful and punishing, that’s how we will respond to Him… In fear, not reverence, in hatred instead of love.

How do I know? Well, I’ve seen it, and it breaks my heart that someone cannot see my Father and Saviour as accessible and grateful and merciful and loving. Secondly, I’ve experienced it. If I came down on my daughter and told her she wouldn’t measure up and that she should just forget ever pursuing her dream, she would think me mean and cruel, and I would be. But, when I lovingly instruct her in what it takes to do what she desires and we take the time to help her make those changes, no doubt she might not like me at first because I’m asking her to change her sedentary ways, but in the end through her perseverance and my support and love and encouragement, she will realize that she is free to be more by replacing her doubt with confidence.

God wants to do the same. He wants us to see our relationship like the latter example rather than the first, but too often we see changing our ways as punishment rather than transformation and being led as brain-washed rather than walking in freedom from guilt and shame.

My daughter may never be a cheerleader, but she is learning new habits and a mindset that will set her up for greater things to come! And I know God is doing the same with me – little by little, day by day, pointing out that in fully abiding in Him I am found whole!

What women need men to know about pornography…

1. It hurts us.
More than you will ever know. More than we can articulate.

2. It IS about us.
I’m not sure what twisted part of your male psyche allows you to think it isn’t about us, and maybe for you that’s true, but we won’t be convinced. You looking in lust at another woman, is very offensive to us, and we DO take it personally.

3. 8. We know its everywhere.
That’s not an excuse. We realize this makes it harder to not be assaulted by the images, but love transcends temptation… Or it should. True love would.

4. We don’t feel like we can measure up.
When we see what you look at, we see our bodies and know they aren’t the same, they don’t measure up. We can’t be airbrushed. Our stretch marks should speak louder and look sexier than their tramp stamps.

5. We don’t want to be a replacement.
You see, we aren’t sure you see us at all. We aren’t sure that when we are lying there, exposing our bodies and souls to you and longing to be cherished, you aren’t thinking of someone perkier, tanner, skinnier, or more voluptuous… Someone you’ll never meet.

6. It’s unfair.
Nothing about it is, but – We are faulted for every perceived flirtation, every look we give, and every appreciative glance in our direction, but you can spend hours ogling women in a world where no one sees, no one judges, and no one can point you out.

7. It’s adultery.
You can gloss over it. You can tell yourself no one is harmed by it, but the truth is, you are harmed, your marriage is harmed and your children will reap the consequences.

8. We aren’t just a hole.
You can’t use our bodies to fulfill your fantasies. We have a heart and a soul, and we have a desire for love that isn’t made up of the faces and bodies of strangers.

9. You remind us of our past predators.
Our past misuse, abuse, and assault come roaring back into our lives, and the lies that we are something to be used and discarded, unworthy of love and affection, and easily replaced become truths to our hurt hearts, which means Daddy God has to reach deeper to heal those places.

10. It damages our trust in you.
If you will do this in secret, what and who will it take to entice you for good? Who will you leave us for? And when, if ever, will we be enough? How do you see our friends, our sisters, our daughters? Can we trust you to stay at home alone with them? Will you take advantage of them if we aren’t there to be used?

11. You cease to be our hero.
This is a hard reality. You cease to be the Prince Charming we believed you to be, you no longer seem like a knight in shining armor, and you no longer resemble our protector. This is as painful to us as it is for you to hear it.

12. Pornography to us is more than a hobby, a simple attraction, an appreciation of sexuality. It is a blaring, painful, aggressive cancer that eats at all we believe and hoped for in love. And, to many of us, it is the nail in a fragile coffin of insecurities.

13. We can forgive you.
Forgiveness is easier to do than forgetting… So holding a grudge or keeping a record of wrongs isn’t our way of rubbing it in, it is the struggle we face to forget we’ve been hurt.

*This list is based on multiple conversations I’ve had with women who face this daily in their relationships, ranging from men who “casually indulge” in pornography to those that are addicted. Some of these couples are walking in victory because of the grace of Jesus Christ and a lot of hard work, but many women and men still seek healing from the thoughts listed above along with serial mistrust and destructive addiction. Pray for them.

Another Look at Proverbs Thirty One

From the time I was pronounced as a bride, I have been admonished to live up to the character of this woman. Not that that is a bad thing, but it can be quite intimidating and daunting a task, even for a woman that feels guilty for resting. One of the most peaceful words of advice I have ever received regarding this woman, and by a mother of 4 and consummate wife, were these: “It’s important for us to remember, that this was over her lifetime, not in the course of one day.” Sighhhh. Can I tell you what a relief that was to a mom that was stressed to the limit trying to make every day look like a “successful” day as it lined up with that woman!

 

Then, yesterday, I was reading the Proverb again. Try as I might it always convicts me to be better, to do more, to give more, to love deeper. Only, as I was soaking in the gargantuan challenges, God whispered to my ear, “This is a look at My Bride.”

 

So I read it again, this time not as woman failing, but as the Bride of Christ striving to make my Groom proud. I challenge you to read it and do the same:

 

 

A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve,
and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously
all her life long.
She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,
and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places
and brings back exotic surprises.
She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it,
then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
diligent in homemaking.
She’s quick to assist anyone in need,
reaches out to help the poor.
 She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows;
their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.
She makes her own clothing,
and dresses in colorful linens and silks.
Her husband is greatly respected
when he deliberates with the city fathers.
She designs gowns and sells them,
brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.
Her clothes are well-made and elegant,
and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her;
her husband joins in with words of praise:
“Many women have done wonderful things,
but you’ve outclassed them all!”
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
The woman to be admired and praised
is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.
Give her everything she deserves!
Festoon her life with praises!

 

I’ve heard a lot of attitude about service lately. Some of us are of the mind that it doesn’t matter, that it shouldn’t drive our actions, and the smallest offering we give should be enough. We don’t want to be bothered in our selfishness to actually “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And, we don’t want to be treated as we treat others. I challenge us to think past ourselves. To see our “husband at the gates” as our Father in Heaven, our eternal Groom. Is He bragging on us? Is He, like with His beloved Job, able to point us out and say, “Look at him/her! Look how well they love me, how obedient they are to reach out to others, to serve with their whole hearts.”

 

Can He trust us with the work? Can He be assured that we are taking care of the affairs of the home while He is away? Do our actions and words prove that He is a good Father, a loving God, a generous and gracious Groom? I pray so. And, that is what I am living my life for…not to gain respect or admiration or the praise of others, but so that He is praised and respected and worshipped for the amazing One that He is!

 

I will do my best to live up to the character of the Proverbs 31 woman as a wife and mother, but I will give my all to be the Bride of Christ that is worth far more eternally than the accolades of any human being, because what I do in this life needs to mean more, do more, and inspire more to find the Groom that so desperately loves us all. My effort is not to gain His love, I have that without trying, my desire is to kneel at His feet with arms full of crowns that I did not attain on my own and hear the words, “Well done….enter your rest.”

The Elected

Today is the day after the vote, and nothing has changed.

This doesn’t surprise me.

I was talking to God about this, and He reminded me of this verse:
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

God did not say:
“…If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and select them a new governmental leader to restore their land.”

And yet, that is what we believe. We believe that if we seek and pray He will appoint someone else to do the work. This has never been so, and will never be. The truth is we aren’t comfortable with the idea that He has appointed us. We often look for ways out of our appointments.

We are burdened for a need in our lives or in another’s and so we beg off prayer. Pray for me, pray for this, pray over them… I am guilty. This takes the responsibility off of us. This allows us to look to other things, when obviously God has called our attention to those things.

We are tired of abortion and the taking of innocent lives in heinous and barbaric ways. But, are we supporting organizations that vehemently oppose those acts and reach out instead to help the mother understand the value of the life she carries inside?

We hate to see the impoverished; in fact, so much so that we struggle to call them poor. We make comments about laziness and living off the government, but are we lending them a helping hand? Are we showing them theimportance of work and allowing them the opportunity to serve?

I could go on and on…this list could be never ending. But, I am not here to point out what’s wrong with us. I want us to see what is right with us! What God purposes us to do, regardless of who is in charge.

Isaiah 63:1-2 says: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.”

That same Spirit that anointed Jesus is on His elect. We who are His are ambassadors, and as ambassadors we are chosen to continue the work that He started. That is good news!

As long as I have been praying and seeking God, this is what I have found – Prayer is the exercise of faith…the results are born in our hearts, out of that obedience. So as we pray we must remember that just as Christ declared as He took the stand before the people to announce His election, we too are called to do those same three things:

Bring good news to the poor – What is that good news? It is good news that the impoverished in Spirit don’t have to remain that way. Through Christ they are offered abundant life…That Christ’s economy isn’t based on the economy of man. That what they lack others have, and it is our responsibility to freely share.

Comfort the broken hearted – There are many of these, daily they grow. We aren’t called to stand on a soapbox and declare all the wrong things they’ve done to get there, we are called to sincerely comfort them, aid them in their suffering, and offer hope and life.

Proclaim freedom for the captives and release for the prisoners – We all can feel the chains or cage of some prison. Whether it is a literal holding cell or one of the mind and heart or the limitations of thebody. We all have the propensity to be captured by something. But, God says we have freedom through Christ! We must proclaim that.

Our circumstances may never change…in fact, they could get a lot worse. But, as Christians our election is sure! We know what we have been called to do and what it will take to heal our land…and it isn’t the promise of a Christ-friendly government. It is the promise of an abundant life in Christ…one that doesn’t look around for what we can get, but looks earnestly and urgently for what we can give.

The greatest empires always tumbled. The powers that be are now the powers that were. Nations have fallen, and wars have always been tragic. But, this election that we have isn’t about the “State of Affairs” it is about the affairs of the heart, it’s not a proclamation of the “State of the Union” but about the state of being unified. This is a Spiritual election that refuses to sit idly by and pray for others to do the work, but it is an anointing that says, “You are the one that I have chosen. Be my ambassador.”

In the end, it isn’t about who is elected. It is about what we elect to do.

Today is the day after the vote, and in my spirit, something is changing.

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