Recently I began two different devotionals on my YouVersion App. They are each about completely different topics, which I feel hold constant relevance in my life. One covers the impact of evangelism, and the other talks about fear. As a woman of faith, I'd like to tell you that these two don't intersect at all, but what I found while reading these two completely different devotionals, about completely different areas of faith, is that they not only intersect. They full on collide with each other.
Not only do I still deal with fear as a Christian, but I deal with fear about my faith. Probably not in the way you might think. I don't know about you, but I am constantly afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. When involved in conversation with people who don't share my faith, I struggle with fear so much, that I have a difficult time articulating my faith; why I believe what I believe, or why it is important to me. There is a very good reason I have taking to writing throughout my life. Public speaking is not my gift. I am awkward. I stumble upon my words, and tend to repeat myself a lot. If I have to talk about something that is not heavily rehearsed (like to the point of memorization), I tend to sound like a blundering idiot.
The above verse always made me a little nervous. Is it a requirement? No, I wouldn't call it that. We are told that our deeds are not what get us into Heaven, but rather just the acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Savior.
But yet, shouldn't our acceptance of Jesus into our hearts and lives move us toward this? I believe so. Then why am I still so scared to speak to people about Jesus?
This is where another verse, about a separate topic, collided for me this morning.
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
Like a breaking wave, this hit me, and washed over me today. I don't have to be a blundering idiot. I need not speak at all. I thought back on the people who have had the greatest impact on my life and my walk with Christ. It had next to nothing to do with what they said. It had everything to do with their actions.
For my 18th birthday, my older sister risked looking uncool, and without saying a word handed me a present. I opened it to find a Quest Study Bible. She wrote inside the cover, encouraging words and verses she had turned to in difficult times. That one, simple gesture, had and still has one of the greatest impacts on my life.
This is just one, clear example, but there are so many like this. Actions speak louder than words is such a cliche, and yet we are so often much more impacted by people who do not speak about their faith, but show us about their faith. And I am not talking about the social media, 'look what I did," posts. Not that we can't talk about our faith on social media, but the greatest impact you can have on people isn't in what you say, or even write; it is in what you do. How are you serving? How are you walking in your faith? Even, or especially when, you think no one's watching. In the quiet of your own room, how are you praying for the hearts and lives of the people you love?
The interesting thing here, is that this verse from Exodus is directly related to people being shown the power of God; not talked to about Him. Moses had great concerns about leading people. He even expressed to God that he was not eloquent, and he was slow of speech and tongue (Exodus 4:10). Here in Exodus 14, he now finds himself with a large group of doubting and fearful people. Trapped between the Egyptians and the Red Sea, Moses needed to act in faith! Surrounded by people lacking faith, he needed to stand firm. So Moses heeded God's Word, he raised his staff, and he showed the Israelites the power of his God, the power of faith.
Yes, go and make disciples of nations, but know that God will fight for you; you need only to be still.
Last week, we talked about what it could mean to practice the wrong things; how practicing something the wrong way over and over again, does not lead to perfection. I hope that you took my call to action and applied it, and this week, I'd like to talk a little about what we should be practicing.
It is an obvious one folks, and I'm going to keep it short and sweet today.
What should we be putting into practice?
Do you know how many times the word love is in the Bible? That's ok. I didn't either. It varies, depending upon the translation you might be reading. For me, I have an NIV, so I used this site to find out. From there, you can change the translation you're reading to find out yours.
The word love appears in the standard NIV Bible 574 times in 526 different verses. That's a lot. The names Lord, God, and Jesus appear more often. Also, there are less significant, two and three letter words which appear more often. But I have searched many words, and not even the word pray appears more often than love. It's not even close.
Of course, it is important to pray, but what is the one thing that plays on repeat over and over again in the teachings of Jesus, and the teachings of the New Testament? Have we ever read/heard/seen anyone love the way that Jesus loves? I can barely stomach being in the same room with someone who has the stomach bug, but Jesus didn't run from the sick. He didn't turn from the hurting. He didn't chastise the broken.
Jesus walked among the broken. He embraced the hurting, and he cared for the sick. He corrected, and he rebuked, but more often than not, He taught by example and parables, frequently revolving around loving people.
We read of him washing the feet of others, healing the sick, and feeding the hungry. We read of him laying down his life, in great suffering, for the sake of not just his friends, but his enemies as well. Page after page after page, we see examples of this love, and yet we so often walk around with chips on our shoulders, as though the world owes us something. We are quick to anger, quick to judge, and quick to throw tantrums when things don't go as planned. Why? Because those things come more easily to our sinning nature, because we have practiced the wrong things!
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command:
"Love your neighbor as yourself."
What is it that we have "learned or heard or seen" from God? The teachings throughout the Bible, and more specifically the teachings of Jesus, are repetitive. So should our practices be. It takes work, and it takes repetition to make changes. It's a good thing we have a manual for that.
But don't take my word for it! A great place to start is the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' longest sermon, found throughout Mathew chapters 5,6, and 7. Just like Paul stated in Galatians 5:14, even this can be largely summed up with love.
When I was growing up, my dad had a strongly opinionated stance against the phrase, practice makes perfect. He talked about it in teaching and in coaching, and he often used me as an example.
See, he believed that this phrase was inherently false, because if you practice something incorrectly hundreds of times, the result is that you do it incorrectly. Instead, he would often say that practice makes permanent. If I practiced shooting a basketball, the wrong way, hundreds of times, I would not have the perfect shot, but I would have a permanent one. My body mechanics would always return to that muscle memory I had created, whether it was correct or not. Then, if I wanted to correct that shot, it would take twice as much repetition and work to fix the error. The body doesn't let go of what we've told it so quickly, and it takes more discipline to change, than to stay the same.
I did not understand the depth of this lesson, at that young time in my life, on a basketball court.
We are born sinners into a world of sin. Even with the best of intentions, we tend to gravitate toward selfishness and act out of jealousy and unhealthy comparisons, in pursuit of our own goals and ambitions.
And the behavior that we practice, becomes permanent. I will say it again.
The body doesn't let go of what we've told it so quickly, and it takes more discipline to change, than to stay the same.
When I was a young teen, I had some corrections to make to my jump shot. In an effort to shoot baskets from a distance that my elementary school body was not ready for, I had spent the previous years practicing the shot incorrectly. I was pushing hard from my hip, and adding the push of my guide hand in the follow through. This may not mean much to those who don't follow basketball, but the concept remains; I practiced incorrectly for years because of selfish ambition. I wanted to be a 3-point shooter, and instead of allowing myself to grow into that correctly, I tried to speed up the process, and I created a much less accurate shot.
The process of correction was long and tedious. It involved extra time, extra repetition, and even extra equipment. I had to wear a strap over my left hand to keep it from turning incorrectly. It was uncomfortable, and for a long time, I missed even more shots than before because the correction felt awkward, and my body would rebel against it. I had to actually move back in, closer to the basket, to relearn the mechanics. I spent months, not shooting a 3-point shot at all. I wasn't right back where I started. I was actually farther behind.
However, I did, become the 3-point shooter I had set out to be. In fact, my 3-point shot was the main contributing factor to colleges recruiting me, and paid for my education. Had I not made the corrections, I would have perfected an inconsistent, mediocre shot. I would have worked hard, putting in a lot of time in the gym, doing the wrong things. I would have missed my goal because of stubbornness and refusal to change.
But just because something is harder, uncomfortable, or it doesn't feel natural, doesn't mean that it is incorrect. It could just mean that you have trained yourself to believe that the wrong way was the correct way for so long, that the change is hard. When we apply this to our spiritual lives, it can be mind blowing. God often calls us out of our comfort zones. He often asks things of us which are uncomfortable and feel unnatural, because they were never before a part of our practices.
Call to action!
Let's pray about what practices in our lives need to be changed, to direct us toward God's calling. It might be difficult. It might be uncomfortable, but let's open our hearts to those corrections. Ask yourself what the ambition is behind what you're practicing, and if it is anything less than Godly, ask Him to change your heart and your ways.
As a wife, mom of 4, and business owner, finding time to spend in the Word, can be difficult, so I get it! Come join me each Monday for a simple message of hope, faith, and encouragement amidst some honest mommy moments.
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