Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Ultimate Hypocrisy

"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man [woman], I put childish ways behind me." 1 Corinthians 13:11

Besides teaching me about my speech, the other biggest lesson that God has taught me has been a seemingly simple one, to love one another.  In John, Jesus commands His followers to "love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this, all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (13:34-35).  For some reason, showing true, genuine, Christ-centered love for people has been difficult for me to do.  Apparently, it is a difficult thing for other people to do as well, because Jesus explicitly commands us and teaches us how to do it through His Word, so I know I'm not alone.  It has taken a lot of divine work on me to change my critical nature.  I used to believe Satan's lies that I was "just a critical person.  That was just how I was born," but God's Word tells me in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that I am a NEW creation in Christ Jesus.  Praise the Lord!  I do not have to live in bondage with my old sins.  However, breaking the sin of a critical heart and attitude was difficult.  I would say that God has been working on that since I began diligently walking with Him in December of 1999, so that means MANY days of spending time in His Word and in prayer and MANY trials and tests that have taught me how to truly love others the way Christ loves them.

Initially, it was my nature to find fault in everyone.  I had heard people say that we should focus on the good in people, and not the bad, but I didn't really know what that meant and there were some people I could not see ANY good in, so I didn't know what to focus on, but that was where I was immature.  That was where I talked, thought, and reasoned like a child.  God has fearfully and wonderfully made each person in His image.  That means that you and I were woven together with specific gifts, talents, skills, and abilities that we are to use to bring glory to His name.  Some people just haven't been shown love in their lives and they haven't been brought up in the teachings of God's truth, so they believe Satan's lies and they seem to treat others any way they want, instead of in love.

So, that was my problem.  Matthew describes my childish mentality this way:  "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, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (7:3-5).  I was a hypocrite!  The irony that I found in my attitude was that the faults and problems I saw in others were actually things that I did myself!  That's why I was a hypocrite.  That was a difficult truth for me to face--to clearly see the hypocrisy in my life.  I hated hypocrites!  (Ha ha!  More irony!)  When I was confronted with that fact, I knew I needed Jesus to help me and to purify my life so that I could be used by Him.

Consequently, I started to focus on my own problems, my own flaws.  I started to read God's Word intently and pray for my areas of weakness.  I prayed and memorized Scripture related to each weakness I had identified and recited it throughout the day.  Very slowly as God changed me and helped me overcome my own areas of weakness and fault, God has shifted my paradigm.  I no longer see others the way I used to see them when I was a child.  I love people!  I love learning about people, about their talents and skills and learning from them as well.  God has created everyone so uniquely that no one else could have created us this way.  God is perfect and has created each one of us to do great things in His name--He made no mistake when He made you and me.

The ultimate irony in this lesson is that when I followed the advice of Matthew to first take the plank out of my own eye before removing the speck from someone else's eye, I learned that removing the specks from other people's eyes isn't even important, nor is it what life is about.  When we focus on our own planks, the specks in others' eyes get smaller and smaller.  God taught me that life is about loving others through service.  "Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another."  It is not up to us to change others, but just to love them.  God will change them, and if there is someone in our lives that we think needs changing, pray.  Pray to God for them.  We need to diligently pray for our enemies, friends, neighbors, and family, then God will show us how to show them love effectively.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Speech As a Stumbling Block in the Home

One of the hardest and fiercest battles I fight in my life is against my tongue.  It really does seem to be its own entity.  In my mind, I don't want to say some of the things that come out of my mouth, but my tongue does otherwise.  James, in the Bible, describes the tongue's character this way:  "Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts...the tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by man can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison...With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing" (James 3).  I cannot tell you how many times that verse has convicted me.  My tongue is a restless evil!  As a Christ follower, how can I win the battle against it, then??

As God works within me to purify me and make me new each day, Satan is right there, too, fighting against Him.  I can feel Satan's attacks in my life.  Lately, he has used my tongue to attack my family.  God has grown and matured me in many areas, but Satan seems to always know where we are weak. My husband and decided for me to quit my job to stay at home with the sole purpose of discipling our daughter.  As her parents, we are around her the most and our lives are the ones that most need to reflect the life of our Savior.  Recently, God has put my speech in the spotlight.  I have noticed that my tone of voice and the words I speak to my family are not always in love.  When I feel overwhelmed or sense a deadline approaching, I get stressed and start to take it out on my family, complaining about our situation, my daunting task list, or just life in general.  Sometimes my words are "reckless and pierce my family like a sword," as Proverbs 12:18 describes, instead of "bringing healing" to my family.

During my devotion a couple of weeks ago, I was meditating on 2 Corinthians 6:3-7 and God showed me that Satan was using my speech as a stumbling block in our home.  I am supposed to be discipling Nora-Kate and helping to raise her to be a godly woman, but that passage in the Bible tells me that if I put any stumbling block in her way (such as my speech), then our ministry will be discredited.  Wow!  To think that the entire reason for me staying at home could be discredited because of a lack of discipline in the area of my speech really stung.  I am disciplined in so many other areas of my life, why can't I be disciplined to speak in love to my family at all times?

Since then, God and I have had to make some changes in me to help me become more disciplined in that area.  First, God showed me that my speech originates way earlier than the time the words actually form on my tongue; my speech originates in my heart.  Luke 6:45 says that my words are formed "out of the overflow of my heart."  Wow--that's scary.  If I were a stranger and heard the way I spoke at times, especially to my own family, I would think I was a bitter individual.  My speech didn't reflect the love I felt for God or my family.  So, the first thing that had to change was my heart, which meant I had to change my perspective.  Instead of focusing on negative things, I focused on positive things.  Instead of praying more for things/situations I didn't have, I started thanking God for EVERY blessing, small and big.  Instead of focusing on what I see as weaknesses in my husband, I started encouraging him and praising his strengths (he has so many!), and when I started doing that, I started to see what an abundant life God has give me.  Consequently, the joy, love, and happiness God put in my heart started to overflow into my speech and my attitudes.  Praise God!  Our home and conversations are so much more pleasant and are "full of grace and seasoned with salt" (Colossians 4:6) because we are focused on God and his unconditional love, mercy, and grace, and the many blessings He bestows in our lives on a daily basis.  Our God is good and He always provides for His children.  We don't have to be afraid or worry about anything, and I don't have to become ugly when I feel overwhelmed.  I just have to rely on my God and communicate effectively to my family so they can help me though it.