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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Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

Loving the differences in other people

Stop what you’re doing right now. Think about someone you know who you don’t understand. Not someone you get who does strange things. I mean someone who you genuinely don’t grasp the way his or her mind works.

We all have these people in our lives, and they come in all shapes and sizes. They’re in every kind of relationship. Close. Not-so-close. Distant. And they’re just puzzling. You scratch your head at them because no matter how you try, you just can’t figure them out.

But just because you don’t understand them doesn’t make them wrong. Have you ever thought about it that way? Sure it’s tempting to just write them off, but that’s not fair–to them or to you. Because if you write off someone with a different life perspective just because you don’t understand them, you’re missing the opportunity to see the world in a different way. And you never know. Maybe his or her different view of God can help you resolve the questions you didn’t even know you had.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

Combine harvesting across the street from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Todays verses are 1 Corinthians 12:14-18.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.

We are all different. All of us. Every one. Not a single person is the same. Find two people who think the same, talk the same, finish each other’s sentences (or sandwiches, if you’ve seen Frozen), and you can still put their brains side by side and their thought processes will be entirely different.

That’s the beauty and the brilliance and the sheer uniqueness of God’s creation.  We are all designed to fulfill different roles. We are meant to do different things, and if we start envying the roles of other people, we lose sight of what makes us unique.

Me with my amazing, beautiful sisters--Jessica Hoover, Kristina Buller, and Katie Morford

Me with my amazing, beautiful sisters–Jessica Hoover, Kristina Buller, and Katie Morford

I thought I’d add this photo in for a laugh. These are my sisters. Not by blood but by choice. The four of us are really odd, and for being so completely different from each other, we have a lot in common. We embrace what makes us different from each other. Where one of us is weak, someone else is strong.

That’s the key. Embracing what makes us different. So you’re good at speaking? Awesome. I’m not, and I’m fine with not being good at speaking. But I’m great at putting words together on a page so you can read them to a room full of people. We can help each other. We can work together to accomplish something awesome for God. Instead of focusing on how our differences separate us, maybe we should focus on how we can use our different talents to bring glory to the One who created us.

But it’s not easy. If you’ve ever tried to understand someone  else who is wired completely differently than you are, you know it’s not easy. And that’s why I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the chapter in the Bible about embracing our differences is followed directly by the chapter about how to love each other.

1 Corinthians 13 is called the Love Chapter. Sounds like a cheesy romance book, I know, but bear with me. 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the greatest chapters in the Bible, and it’s all about the kind of love that only comes from God. It’s the kind of love Christians are to have for each other.

We won’t make it without this kind of love. Without this kind of love, the differences between people will drive them apart. Without this kind of love, a person can’t live. Not really.

So what does this mean for us today? Well, consider that friend of yours, the one you can’t understand. Instead of getting frustrated that they can’t see things from your perspective, try to see things from their perspective. Be kind. Be patient. Love like it says to love in 1 Corinthians 13, and not only will you learn something about that friend, you’ll probably learn something about yourself.

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Some choices are better than others

Are you ever torn between two good options? Do you ever not know how to make a decision, especially when the two choices facing you are both good? That’s one of the troubles of choosing to follow Christ. You have so many good choices you can make, it’s difficult to choose which one. But even in following Christ, there are good choices and there are great choices. It just depends on what your motivation is for making that choice.

Both choices can lead to real happiness as long as both choices are about Christ and not about us. But the truth of the matter is that God isn’t going to bring us home until He’s done with us down here. If we really are following Christ and making a difference for Him in other people’s lives, it’s better for us to keep doing what we’re doing.

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Philippians 1:20-26.

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.

Paul wasn’t afraid to die. He was confident that he wasn’t going to, but even if he did die, he wasn’t afraid of it because he knew where he was going. He had confidence in Christ, and that’s what mattered. Actually, that’s what he wanted. He wanted to go home because if he died he would get to go be with Christ. But if he died, he would be gone from here. And there was still work to do. There were still people to help. And Paul recognized that God had put him in place for a reason. God still had a plan for him, and even though dying for his faith would be a good option, living for others was a better one.

Sometimes I think I get so focused on going home that I forget why I’m here in the first place. God doesn’t make mistakes. He puts us where He wants us, and He moves us when He wants us to move, and we can choose to grow where we’re planted (or transplanted) or not. Many people have been killed for their faith in Christ, not in America but all over the world. And there is always a purpose in that. God always uses that. But you don’t have to die for your faith for God to use you.

Do you know other believers in your church? Get to know them. Are you part of a church? Get involved and make a difference. You never know how God can use you until you decide to allow Him to do something with you.

I go through seasons of involvement at my church. I used to be involved in every ministry that was available, but that was back when I was younger. Looking back on that time, I don’t know how I did it. Six years of non-stop craziness, plus school, plus working practically full time. It makes me tired just thinking about it. And I burned out. I ran myself ragged and painted myself into a corner and came crashing down. And that’s not what we’re supposed to do.

If you work yourself to death, maybe that brings glory to God too. I don’t know. But once you’re dead, He can’t use you down here anymore. And burn-out is about the same.

So, yes, I had to step back and recover, but I never stopped investing in people one at a time. And that’s the difference. God puts people in our path for a reason, and if you know Him and you know others who are searching for Him or who need encouragement, why would you refuse to offer it if you have it? You don’t have to be involved in every ministry under the sun. You can just help one person at a time.

And I’m not talking about non-believers right now. Yes, we have a responsibility to reach out to people who don’t believe, but we are also here to build each other up. We’re also here to support each other and hold each other accountable and pray for each other. It’s uncomfortable at times. And it’s usually inconvenient. Satan will make it even more so because the last thing he wants is for believers to show love to each other, because that’s how we show everyone else that we’re different.

It’s one of our purposes for being here. And there’s nothing that brings joy in my life more than when I can fulfill a purpose that was intended for my life. So if you have the opportunity to encourage another believer, if you have the chance to help another believer, do it. Most likely, God brought that person in your path for that specific reason. Maybe the happiness won’t come right away as a result of helping another believer, but it will come.

You want to make a difference for Christ? Yeah. Dying for your faith is a good choice. But living for your brothers and sisters in Christ, showing Jesus’ love to those who believe the same way you do? That’s a better choice.

Flamingo at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Gifts are for helping each other

What would you do if you saw a giant eyeball rolling around downtown? Or a tongue hopping its way down the street? I would be pretty disturbed. That sounds like something out of a horror show.

But actually that’s something that comes out of the Bible in 1 Corinthians 12, specifically verses 14-17. Actually, the whole chapter is pretty amazing, talking about the different parts of a body and how everything works together and how one part isn’t more important than another part.

Flamingo at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Flamingo at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 12:7.

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.

As Paul talks about in the rest of 1 Corinthians 12, the Church is called the Body of Christ, and we are all members of that Body. If you believe in Christ, you are a part of something bigger than yourself. As it says in 1 Corinthians 12:19 (The Message), “But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of.”

Every part of the Body is important. Every part of the Body is necessary. And if one part isn’t functioning the way it’s supposed to, the whole Body suffers or the whole Body isn’t as effective as it could be.

The first part of 1 Corinthians 12 talks about gifts. If you have accepted Christ, the Holy Spirit has given you a gift. It could understanding. It could be communication. It could be compassion. Or any of the gifts mentioned (and maybe some of the ones that aren’t). But no matter what your gift is, you are expected to use it to help the rest of the Body function. That’s why the Spirit gave it to you.

But like any expectation of a Christ-follower, it’s not required. You can sit on that gift all your life and no do anything with it, and nothing bad will happen. Nothing good will happen either, but you’ll be perfectly safe.

But then why did God give you that gift to begin with?

We are here to help each other. The Church is here to spread the Good News to the farthest reaches of the world and the closest corners of our home and also to encourage fellow believers. But if the Church isn’t functioning like it should, how can it do the job Christ has asked of it?

Just like a body made up of just an eyeball would be distressing, a body that doesn’t have an eyeball will be less effective. A body that doesn’t have a tongue has to learn a new way to communicate. A body without hearing has to find a new way to listen. A body is supposed to have all of these parts, and if we’re talking about a real person, yes, they can find a way around it. But this Body shouldn’t have to.

So why are Christians afraid to use their gifts?

I’ll tell you why I am. I’m a perfectionist. And it’s very difficult for me to share my gifts with anyone because I’m terrified that if I don’t get it 100% right, I’ll not only make a fool of myself but I will also make a fool of Christ. So in my mind, it’s safer to just sit quietly in the corner.

Maybe it is safer. But how much of my fear is really valid? And how much of it is our enemy telling me I can’t do it?

Check out verses 4 through 6:

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

If you’ve got a gift and that gift allows you to worship God and lead others to worship God, it comes from the Spirit. And if you keep yourself out of it and if you keep your heart set on bringing God glory, it doesn’t matter if your performance is flawless. It doesn’t matter if your grammar is perfect. It doesn’t matter if your song is pitch perfect. God will be glorified. He’ll be glorified in your perfection (if you can ever achieve it); He’ll be glorified in your lack of it. And that’s what matters.

If other people don’t appreciate your gift and you are obviously using it for God, ignore them. Remember who it’s about. It’s not about you. It’s not about them. It’s about the Church as a whole (which doesn’t mean the grouchy person who always sits in the same pew). It’s about helping the Church function the way it was meant to.

We don’t have a lot of time left, and the Church needs every part working together in harmony if we’re going to reach the rest of the world before Christ comes back for us. If you’ve got a gift and you’re scared to use it, buck up. Get busy. Just do it, like that old Nike commercial used to say. Don’t be afraid and don’t be a perfectionist; both of those things are about you. Do your best, but keep your eye on the target and remember who your gift is about — helping each other.

 

 

Splinter in the toe? Just chop off your foot, right?

4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. Romans 12:4-5.

Today’s verse is one of those that is used over and over again in the church, always focusing on how every member of a church has different skills and gifts. Some of this concept is continued in 1 Corinthians 12, talking about spiritual gifts.

For instance, one person may be very good speaker. He would represent the mouth. Others might be very strong at skilled labor or outdoor work–that could be the back or shoulders. Others might be compassionate and kind in serving others by doing housework for the elderly or making meals for the sick; they would be the hands.

Every person in a church has a different set of skills or a gift that God has given them, and no one should look down on someone else’s gift. Because they’re all important. One of the best lines in the King James version of the Bible comes out of the passage in 1 Corinthians 12:

 17If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?  

(Sorry. That verse just makes me giggle.)

I love thinking about the church as being a unified Body. I think that’s one of the reasons I love the Judgement House ministry at NewSpring so much. It uses every gift a church body possesses, whether it’s acting or praying or standing all night long or organizing or counseling or being able to ladle chili and cheese over fritos. It doesn’t matter what your gift is, there’s a place for you in Judgement House. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Body of Christ more engaged than in this crazy, awesome ministry. And I don’t think it’s ever been more obvious how important even the “small” roles are; because Judgement House doesn’t work if one of its parts is missing.

But as I was reading this very this morning, a part stuck out to me that I hadn’t thought about before.

“. . . we all belong to each other.”

It’s true, of course. I mean, look at a body. How could I say that my hands belong to someone else? Or that someone else’s feet are mine? Granted, in American idiom we say that we have our mother’s eyes or our father’s hair, but those are figures of speech. I mean, I know people who have organs who were donated (right, Gramps?), but even if those aren’t the organs we were born with, we still consider them ours, don’t we?

It should be the same in a church. If we’re all called to work together to accomplish something for God, we can’t be divided. God left us all here for a reason, and we have to work together with Him to get it done.

There may be people in the church who you don’t get along with, but they are still a part of the body of Christ . . . and they belong to you just like you belong to them. We need to get our heads around this concept because Satan is ever trying to divide us. He makes us focus on our differences and on how much we disagree with each other or what we disapprove of in others–but if we all believe and follow Jesus Christ, we are called to unity.

We need to keep the main thing, the main thing. Jesus is Who is important. Not our pasts. Not our preferences. Not our appearances.

Now am I saying that we need to make allowances for the sins of other believers? Absolutely not. Sin is sin and should be treated as such, but how do you treat a believer who has sinned? Do you shun them? No. You confront them lovingly, realizing that but for the grace of God go you. No one down here is immune from sin, and the only reason you aren’t in their place is the grace of God. So don’t cut them off or think badly of them. You aren’t in their shoes. So how do you know where they are in their walk with God? If they say they believe in Christ, treat them like your brother or your sister and pick them up and help them get back on the path.

If your hand is wounded, do you chop it off? No. You put a bandaid on it. You stitch it up. You put oitments and salves on it so it doesn’t hurt anymore.

Wouldn’t the same thing be true for a fellow believer?

And this is getting more and more important the further time goes on, the longer we’re here. We can’t afford to keep lopping off parts of our body and expecting that we will be able to accomplish the same amount of work. That’s psychotic. If you chop off your leg, you won’t be able to walk well. It’s the same with the church. The church–meaning Christians–can’t alienate people just because they don’t agree on a simple irrelevant point. It would be like cutting off your own thumb or your big toe; they may be small parts but try picking stuff up or walking without them and you’ll see how important they are.

We’re all in this together. And we belong together. And we belong to each other. And if we can wrap our heads around that, imagine what God could do! Imagine what God can do with a truly unified Body of Christ, not divided by denomination or preferences, but united in Christ, the one Person who really matters.