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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Baby red panda forging his own trail at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Should a child challenge an adult?

Have you ever seen a child trying to tell an adult that they’re wrong about something? Sometimes it’s obnoxious. Other times it’s funny. But the child rarely gives correct information. Most of the time when children try to correct adults it’s because children don’t understand everything that an adult understands, which is the way it’s supposed to be.

It’s similar in a working environment. Usually the veterans of a company are the ones who garner respect, and it’s the new hires who go to them for help. But not always.

Sometimes a newer employee has a different perspective that older employees could find very useful if they’re willing to listen.

Today’s verses are Galatians 2:11-14.

Baby red panda forging his own trail at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Baby red panda forging his own trail at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow Jewish traditions?”

It can be intimidating if you are a new believer and you’re in a room with a bunch of other believers who’ve known Christ longer than you. I’ve been there. I know what it feels like.

You feel alone and isolated and uneducated. You feel like everyone else in the room is having a conversation above your head, and if you stopped conversation to ask what they were talking about, you’re just sure they’d laugh at you. Or they’d feel obligated to explain it all over again in small words.

But you shouldn’t feel that way. Sure, it’s probably a good idea to listen when someone who’s been a believer for years talks about what they’ve learned from following Jesus for so long. But just because someone else has known Jesus for a long time doesn’t give them authority over you. And it doesn’t give them the right to look down on you either. We’re all equal under Christ’s blood.

God doesn’t love someone more because they’ve been with Him longer. That’s not how His love works. He doesn’t love someone more because they’ve done more for Him. Just like He doesn’t love someone less because they haven’t done as much.

What I’ve discovered more often than not is that new believers often look at faith and their walk with God in a completely different way than I do. And their perspective helps me see God more clearly, usually because I’ve gotten so set in my ways that I’ve forgotten what He looks like.

I truly value having relationships with new believers because they ask the questions I don’t ask. They see the holes I step over, and they challenge the verses I think I already understand.

Take Paul and Peter for example. Peter was one of Christ’s original 12 disciples, hand-picked by Jesus Himself. Pretty brassy of Paul to call him out in front of everyone, wasn’t it?

Well was Peter being stupid? Was Peter doing something he knew he shouldn’t have been doing? Absolutely. And where were the others to call out the bad behavior? No, Paul did it.

And that’s been my experience with new believers. They are hungry for knowledge, and once they absorb it, they want more. And they’re not afraid to live by it. They’ve left their old life behind recently, and they have no intention of going back to it. Those of us who’ve known Christ for so long don’t even remember a time when we weren’t following Him. Or if we do, it’s so far behind us, we don’t even think about it.

So if you’re a new Christian, don’t hesitate to challenge an experienced believer on what he or she thinks or says. I mean, do it kindly, of course. But don’t be afraid. They need you. They need you to see things differently. They need you to keep them on their toes. They need you to ask the questions they’ve forgotten how to ask.

And in return, I bet you’ll learn something. And you might even make a lifelong friend in the process.

Dirty dishes in the kitchen of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Being honest with God

Some days I get tired of responsibility. I’ve always been a responsible, mature person. Even when I was a child, somehow I still ended up as the adult in the room. The grownups always looked to me to keep things in order, to keep the other kids in line, to be the one who took care of things. As an adult, it’s the same way. Responsibility just tends to gravitate toward me, and most of the time I’m fine with it. But I have some days when I just want to shirk all of it.

I think maybe that’s why I hate doing dishes. It’s my own way of rebelling against being a mature, responsible adult. I just leave the dishes rotting in the sink and go watch a movie.

Responsibility is exhausting. But if you look at my responsibilities versus the responsibilities of people in history, I really don’t have that much. I mean, it’s not like I’m leading a country or a nation. When I think about responsibility, the first person who comes to mind is Moses. Now that was stress.

Dirty dishes in the kitchen of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Dirty dishes in the kitchen of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Deuteronomy 34:10-12.

There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. The Lord sent him to perform all the miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, and all his servants, and his entire land. With mighty power, Moses performed terrifying acts in the sight of all Israel.

Moses was responsible for leading the nation of Israel out of captivity. How many million people? I can’t remember. But it was a lot. And they were difficult. But if you read Moses’ story, you’ll see how God helped him.

What I find ironic about Moses is that he didn’t consider himself leadership material. He looked at himself and his abilities and told God there was no way he could be of use, but God saw something else in him. And through God Moses became one of the most successful leaders in history. Even the secular world will admit to that. It’s not every day that one man can lead a nation across a desert for 40 years. That takes a special leader–and a special God.

I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for Moses to have to undertake that level of responsibility. I’m sure it exceeded anything he ever thought he’d have to deal with, and maybe he thought it would be done in his lifetime. But it wasn’t. Even so, he never gave up. Granted, he wasn’t perfect; nobody is. But even to this day, if you want to know about leadership, Moses is a good person to study.

But what do you do when you’re so weighed down with responsibility that you can’t focus? How did Moses handle those days when he was exhausted by the weight of the responsibilities he had to carry? I haven’t studied this like I should, but I do know that Moses got frustrated frequently. And I don’t blame him for that. The people of Israel were frustrating people. But I’m not sure they’re more frustrating than people we work with or live with or deal with on a daily basis. People are people, no matter where you are or when you are.

What I love about Moses is that he was never fake with God. He struggled. He sinned. He fell on his face, and God helped him back up again. Moses told God exactly what he thought, and God listened. God never gave up on him, never stopped helping him, never turned His back. And that’s what I struggle with the most–being real about my failings. I’m a perfectionist. I want to do everything exactly right, and I don’t like it when people know I make mistakes. And there’s something in me that says if I don’t tell anyone about how frustrated I am, those frustrations will just go away.

The irony? God knows it all. He knows already. If you’re frustrated with the responsibility you have, He knows it. Don’t try to hide it from Him. Hiding it will make it worse. Just tell Him how you feel. There’s something awesome in the freedom to vent to God, knowing that He knows your heart better than anyone else.

Want to know how to endure responsibility? Don’t hide it. Don’t hide the frustrations you feel, not from God. Maybe you don’t need to share your frustrations with the people you’re responsible for; they probably won’t understand. But you don’t have to hide from God. It’s actually a bad idea to hide from God. It’s actually stupid. So don’t even try it.

Be honest with Him. Be honest about what you think you can’t do, and you will be shocked what happens. Because when you start being honest with Him, you’ll feel peace. It’s happened to me before, where I’m ranting and raving to God about the things He’s gotten me into and all of a sudden, I just feel better about everything and He gives me the answer I need to deal with whatever situation I’m facing.

Responsibility is exhausting, but God is greater than any responsibility that’s on your plate. He’s waiting to help you face it. You just have to ask Him for help, and you have to be willing to listen to what He’s trying to tell you and do it. But whatever you do, keep up the conversation. Moses knew God face-to-face, and while none of us have that, we do have God’s Spirit in us.

Be honest. Be grateful. And He’ll help.

Cow in the back pasture at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Chew on this

There’s a wonderful Amish dairy a few miles down the road from me, and they sell old fashioned cheese and butter and raw, unpasteurized milk. It’s pretty fantastic, actually. I love milk and milk-related products. But what if you tried to live on a diet of milk? Just milk. Nothing else. Yeah, you’d get a lot of calcium, but what about all the other nutrients you need? And, yeah, real milk tastes great but wouldn’t you get tired of the same thing over and over again?

Milk is good for you. It’s essential, especially for infants. But God gave us teeth for a reason, and milk isn’t generally something you chew.

Cow in the back pasture at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Cow in the back pasture at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Peter 2:2.

Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment.

Babies need milk. If they don’t get it, they won’t grow. And they need to ask for it, cry for it. It’s an absolutely essential part of their diet, and if they don’t receive it, they will grow up unhealthy.

But what happens after they grow? What happens to babies after they are no longer babies? Adults need more than milk. Adults need proteins and fibers and complex carbohydrates. Adults need to eat vegetables and fruits and meats. If an adult tries to survive on milk, he or she won’t be very healthy because milk won’t provide the nutrients than an adult requires.

So, yes, babies need to cry out for milk. But adults are a different story. And it’s the same with our faith.

There is Scripture that is easy to swallow. There are some truths of the Christian faith that are easy to digest, that you can wrap your head around. Basic, fundamental principles that you need to absorb if you’re going to grow any further.

God loves you. God sent Christ to die for your sins so you can have a relationship with Him. God wants to have a relationship with you.

Easy stuff. Awesome stuff but easy. Of course, God loves us. Of course, Christ died for us. Of course, God wants to have a relationship with us. That’s the foundation of the Christian faith. That’s the part everyone focuses on.

Milk.

Those are the basics. But if all you hear and all you believe and all you think about and all you try to understand is that God loves you, Jesus died for you, and they want to be your friends? Yes, it’s a wonderful message, but don’t you want more? As an adult, don’t you want deeper knowledge? Don’t you want your questions answered? Don’t you want something to challenge your mind and keep you thinking? Don’t you want something to chew on?

That’s meat.

The trouble comes with the fact that some Christians look for their “meat” outside of Scripture. They’re satisfied with the milk part because it’s easy and it doesn’t require them to question beliefs they’ve held for years (evolution, dietary requirements, clothing restrictions, etc). So they drink the milk from the Bible but they go to the world to find their meat in other religions or in social circles.

You want something to chew on, Christians? Anything you pick up outside the Bible will eventually break down. Either you’ll get tired of the taste or you’ll find that you eventually are able to wrap your head around it. I saw an article yesterday about how science is pushing God out of the way because eventually since we will be able to understand everything through science, that means we don’t need God anymore. That’s meat somebody bought in a market.

The beauty of Scripture is that is never gets old. It never breaks down. It just grows more interconnected with every puzzle piece you snap in place. You and I will never reach the point where we can understand it completely.

If you really want to challenge your mind, if you really want something to think about that will make a difference in your life and in your choices, try chewing on Scripture for a little while. Try thinking about the verses that challenge your long-standing comfort-zone beliefs, like what you eat or what you wear or why you skip the third verse of hymns. Some Bible verses will change your thinking completely. And other verses, well just because someone told you they are in the Bible doesn’t mean they actually are. Think about it. You could be basing your entire religious faith on a verse that doesn’t actually exist.

But how will you know unless you read it?

Here’s what Hebrews 5:13-14 has to say:

For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.