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.
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.
I have a guilty pleasure. Don't judge me, ok?
I like to watch The Bachelor. And not just The Bachelor, but every spin off and every aspect of the franchise. I'm talking Bachelor, Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise, Winter Games; you name it, I've watched it. I'm not proud of it guys. Please still be my friends...
Anyway, a really common theme among contestants in these shows, is when they talk about wanting to find a 50/50 partner in life; a teammate if you will.
As someone who has played team sports, most of her life, let me just tell you, this is not how teams work. 50/50 does not make a successful partnership. Half of each partner, does not make a whole. If you are going halfsies on everything, you are setting yourselves up for failure. This goes for any relationship, teammates, family, friends, significant others, spouses. Are we all going to be 100%, 100% of the time? NO! Because try as we might, we are not actually Christ Himself. But that is precisely why 50/50 will never work. If 50% is your bar; your best, on your best day, to meet that relationship half way, then your bar is too low, my friend. What happens when you have a bad day? God didn't call us to go halfsies in love. He called us to be all in, 100%, and He showed us what that meant.
While we were still sinners, while we were less than our best, Christ died for us. He gave 100 for us, and he asks this of us as well.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
He so much as told us that we should give people our all. He gave all of Himself, for us. He died for us. He didn't give us 50, and wait for us to come the other 50. No! He gave 100! He came all the way. He meets us right where we're at, and He loves us.
And in marriage especially, He tells us that we become one.
So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.
If you take two pieces of clay, and slide them together so that they are touching, you have 50/50. They have met half way. They've met in the middle. But what are they sharing? They are not sharing anything but that space in the middle where they touch. They are saying, I've come this far, but I go no farther. That is not really sharing a life, is it? That is being equal, being two parts of a whole piece, that refuses to get messy. Those two halves are very easy to pull apart.
But when you take those two pieces of clay, and mold them together, that is when they become one piece. They are no longer standing there, side by side, saying they will meet the other half way. They have joined together. They have given all of themselves to the other, and then become impossible to separate.
A very wise man, who counseled my husband and me in our premarital counseling, once told us that for a marriage to work, it should be 100/100. Basically, that if I am putting my husband first in my decisions, and he is putting me first in his decisions, we will be as one; not half the time, all the time. This is more then meeting in the middle. It is showing the person you love that you're willing to come all the way. If you are both doing this, from there then, compromise becomes easy.
Over the years I have really grown to hate this word; hypocrite.
What does it mean to be a hypocrite? Who qualifies as a hypocrite? What are our hang ups when it comes to hypocrites in the church? Why do we so quickly point fingers at others to call them this, without acknowledging our own hypocrisy?
The very definition of the word, hypocrite, leaves me believing that absolutely every person on this earth has played the role of hypocrite more than once in their lives.
: a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings
We are human beings who learn from our mistakes, sometimes after the first one, but often after many. And during that learning curve, people can sometimes see us stumbling.
What is it about our human nature that feels the need to point out others in their failures, faults, and stumbles, while we too struggle with our own battles? What is it about finding flaws in others that makes us feel better about ourselves?
On top of being flawed human beings, destined to make and even repeat mistakes, most of us are also human beings who do not wish to inform absolutely everyone of our mistakes, flaws, or internal struggles. Are we all living under false pretenses? Perhaps, to strangers or acquaintances who stumble upon our flaws, it would appear so. In reality, most of us are just trying our hardest to put our best foot forward. Most of us are trying to be the person we portray to the world, but still stumbling along the way.
One great example of groups of people who are constantly trying to do better, but often still stumbling, even while trying to help others, are support groups for addicts. When addicts stumble along their journey to sobriety, or have set backs, big or small, we call it a disease. Society tries to react with understanding as these people try over and over again to clean up their lives. We often applaud them for seeking the help that they need.
Listen, we are all born with a disease of the heart. We are all born with sin. Not a single one of us will ever, ever live a perfect life. People attend church and Bible studies, and even lead church or Bible studies in one way or another, still struggling with their own sin! We are not a group of perfect people, nor are we a group pretending to be perfect. We are a support group for sinners. The person who greeted you might be struggling with addiction. The person sitting next to you might be struggling with adultery. Just as an AA sponsor has a history, and might still have set backs, the very leaders of your church might be struggling in their own sin.
Pray for them!
We have it in our heads that our leaders are above the need for prayer, that our leaders have figured this all out already, that our leaders have a direct line to Jesus which we don't. FALSE! And when we put them on this pedestal of perfection, we are setting them up for a fall, not them. They didn't place themselves there. We did.
Think about this; what if we all wore our sins on a post-it note stuck to our foreheads? What if we were completely transparent with our faults? Would that make any of us less of a hypocrite? Maybe not.
But if we knew that we were walking around with our own mistakes visible for all to see, maybe we wouldn't be so quick to judge the mistakes of others.
When I began 2 weeks ago with Marvel at the Maker, I didn't know I would be doing a whole three-part series on being thankful, yet here we are! Last week we discussed what it means to have a grateful heart; being thankful for what God has already provided, no matter what else we might wish we had. We talked about how we shouldn't get wrapped up in the desires of the world, but what does that really mean? What does it mean to be truly thankful? What does it mean to have a thankful heart? What does God mean, saying that He will give us the desires of our hearts?
Let's explore that a little deeper.
This is actually so much simpler than many of us may realize, but let's be clear. This does not mean that God gives us whatever we want. Most of us have learned that already. Many of us have found ourselves in positions of crying out to God, desperately, for something that we really want in our lives, only to have that prayer go unanswered. I cannot be the first person to realize how much better off I was with those unanswered prayers. Man! Some of the things I asked for, especially in my youth, would not have been good for me! Even though my heart desperately wanted it at the time, God, in His infinite wisdom, knew better.
So many lines throughout Psalm 37 begin like this:
Trust in the Lord...
Delight yourself in the Lord...
Commit your way to the Lord...
trust in him...
Be still before the Lord...
Turn from evil and do good...
Wait for the Lord...
This isn't actually about our desires, is it? Not really. What happens when we delight ourselves in the Lord? What happens when we commit our ways to Him? Trust Him? Turn from evil?
When we do these things fully, we align our heart's desires to the will of the Lord. Our hearts become changed. Being given our heart's desire takes on a whole new meaning, once your heart aligns to God's will for your life. Our desire becomes to be in HIS will.
And what a glorious place that is to be!
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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