Is it confrontation or just plain criticism?

Has someone ever confronted you? If you’re a Christ-follower and you’ve made some really unChristlike decisions on purpose, has anyone ever come up to you and challenged you?

I know people who have experienced that, and I can’t imagine it’s pleasant for either person. And I think it’s important, especially if that person is a Christ-follower. If you’ve given your life to Christ, you shouldn’t look like everyone else. You should look like Jesus. And we may never get there, but that’s our goal. Or at least it should be. And that’s why we have each other–to help keep us accountable.

But what about for other issues? Has another Christ-follower ever confronted you about your lack of one-on-one time with God? Or about how little time you spend reading the Bible? Or about how often you volunteer to help others? Has anyone ever confronted you about those things?

If so, what did it do to your heart? Did it make you want to go sign up to volunteer right then because you love God so much? Or did it just make you really, really angry?

pedicure2Today’s verses are Romans 14:1-4.

Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.

Confrontation is essential in our lives. We have to know how to do it, otherwise we’ll constantly be stepped on and undervalued. We’ll never stand up for the things that matter, because believe it or not, the world doesn’t much care for the things Jesus does.

But more often than not, I really think Christians take confrontation to the extreme. Granted, I know Christ-followers who have confronted believers with their sins, and it’s turned them around completely. But it isn’t the confrontation that did it. And it isn’t the person who spoke up. It’s the Holy Spirit in that believer’s life Who made the difference.

But what about those Christians who are trying to get the basics down? Do they need to be confronted? Or does your confrontation look and sound like criticism?

We mean well. I think we truly want to help other believers, because we have found such amazing joy in our own walks with Christ that we want others to share it too. But I think we forget that God made us unique, and that means we all serve Him differently.

It’s you know they’re sleeping around or abusing people or living a life that God says is wrong, that’s different, of course. But for a Christ-follower who is doing the best they can with what they have, please, just remember who you are and who their Father is.

It’s like the thumb criticizing the big toe because it isn’t doing a good enough job. But if you work an office job, of course your thumb gets more use than your toe does. You sit down all day. What matters is that when you stand up, your big toe holds its weight.

We’re all a part of God’s body. Some of us have been here longer than others, but we’re all one body. And criticizing each other discourages and demoralizes the members who are doing the best they can with the time and opportunity they have.

If someone wants to get closer to God, they’ll look for a way. If they want to know the Bible better, they’ll ask. If they want to serve, they’ll step up. God works in different people’s hearts in different ways, and that is between that person and God.

Don’t be afraid to invite people. Don’t be afraid to include others in what you’re doing. If you’ve got a great Bible study, ask others to come with you so they can hear what you’re learning. If you work in a ministry, invite others to come with you so they can see what you’re doing. But don’t tell them they aren’t working hard enough for God. That’s not your judgment call to make, and all you’ll do is hurt them.

Keep yourself in line. Be willing to share what God is doing in your life. And, honestly? Just chill out. God is responsible for helping people grow. Not you. If you get to be involved, it’s because God has invited you.

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The wheat field to the far west of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Seeds will grow without your help

For the last few weeks, I’ve been walking 4 or 5 times a week after I get home from work. Not much. Only about 45 minutes. If I were able to stay home and work on the farm all the time, I wouldn’t need to exercise, but I work a desk job. A whole 8 hours or more can go by in a day at my office, and I’ll realize I’ve only gotten up to go to the bathroom twice. And that’s the only time I’ve been out of my desk chair.

So I decided that I needed to do something about that. And walking seemed to be the only option available to me with my schedule. When it was hot, I’d walk 45 minutes on the treadmill, while I streamed episodes of television shows off Amazon. But since the weather has been so nice in recent weeks (and because my parents are at home with me now in case something unforeseen happens out on the road), I’ve been walking outside. The view is so much nicer (and besides, I’m running out of free episodes of Bleach).

I walk from one section line to the other and back, which works out to be 2 miles. Not much. But not bad, considering I’m just starting out. And I can do it about 45 minutes. As I walk, I usually get to see the sun set or tractors out in the fields or sheep grazing. But last night I saw something that surprised me.

Safe Haven Farm, my home, sits at the south end of a 640 acre plot of wheat and alfalfa, none of which is ours sadly. But it’s surrounded by farmland–mostly wheat. But this time of year, it’s all just dirt. Dirt fields as far as the eye can see. I walk right past a couple of them every night now. Except last night, the dirt field west of Safe Haven Farm had developed green fuzz.

Yes, I’m being silly. It’s winter wheat. But what struck me last night was that the farmer sowed that crop of what in the dark a few days back, and all it took was a weekend and a few days for it to cover the entire field. He didn’t have to babysit it. He didn’t have to watch it. He didn’t have to water it. He just planted it and let it go.

And I think that’s an important lesson I need to learn.

Today’s verse is James 5:7-8.

The wheat field to the far west of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The wheat field to the far west of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

I’m not a micromanager, but I am a control freak. I like to know what’s happening and when and how I can help it be more efficient. But what I’ve learned in life is that the more I interfere, oftentimes the more I slow already-existing processes down.

This verse is directed at people who are getting impatient for Jesus to return for His people, and that’s definitely what it means. But it applies in other situations too. Just because you’re given the opportunity to plant a seed doesn’t mean you’ll get to see it sprout, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’ll get to harvest it.

Most times what happens is you plant a seed in someone’s life–a good deed, the love of Christ, whatever–and you never see that person again. You may never know how your actions affected that person. You might have to wait till you get to heaven to learn what difference you made in someone else’s life.

And that’s okay. Or at least, it should be okay.

But there’s something in us that wants to do it all. Or maybe that’s just me. If I’m the one who starts something, I want to be the one to finish it. I want to start with that open, empty field and plant the seeds and watch it grow and harvest it for Christ. Me alone.

But that’s selfishness talking. That’s me focusing on what I want and not necessarily what God wants–or what God says is best for me or for the person in question.

The point is this: We all plant seeds. Every day of our lives, we’re planting seeds. I hope it’s all good seed, because good seed produces a good crop. But regardless whether it’s good seed or bad seed, we all plant. But that seed doesn’t need your help to grow.

If a seed is planted, it will grow without you. That’s how God set up the law of planting and harvesting. That’s a natural law. True, some plants need our help to survive, but not all of them. Most plants will go on living and growing whether we’re there to water them or not.

So don’t despair if you plant a seed in someone’s life and then you aren’t able to oversee it. Don’t worry if you’ve planted a seed and you haven’t seen any growth. Seeds will grow on their own, and someone will always be around to harvest a crop that’s ready. You don’t have to do everything.

So embrace the role of seed planter, knowing that what you’re doing is starting a process that God Himself will oversee. And if you’re fortunate enough to get to watch a crop grow–if you’re fortunate enough to be the one who gets to harvest–be thankful.