Two months and counting

Two months ago, I had dinner with a long time friend.  While she thought it would just be two friends getting together to enjoy food and small talk, I freely admit I had ulterior motives going into this.

There were some things that had been eating away at me for a while and I had finally worked up the courage to follow the prodding of that little voice in the back of my mind telling me that something needed to be said.  Whereas I will generally run away from any kind of confrontation, (especially any that does not directly involve me,) this time I was walking right towards it.

I’ve known her since elementary school.  We used to be in the same Girl Scout troop, and went to the same schools all the way through High School.  While we were not always the closest of friends, we were always able to talk to each other.  After High School, as oftentimes happens, we lost track of each other for a number of years.

Over a year ago, she tracked me down on social media and we started talking again.  Messages soon turned into texting which soon turned into regular phone conversations.  We caught up on what we’d done in our lives since High School and where we were now, what was going on in our daily lives, and all the small stuff in between.

It wasn’t too long before she mentioned that in the intervening years she had come to be a follower of Jesus, sometimes went to a good Bible teaching church locally to her, and when she was in my city, attended a church that my husband and I had been attending for a while before falling away from it for, (among other reasons,) a lack of content.

Awesome!  Someone else that I could talk Bible with and get a female’s perspective of different things on.

Several months ago, she ended up relocating to my city.  It took a while, but I was finally able to get her to come out to check out the church that my husband and I had found in the interim; an honest to goodness Bible teaching church with some amazing people to boot.  She was all smiles after as the three of us had lunch together, saying that she had enjoyed it and would “definitely come back again.”

Then she and a guy that she had been on-again off-again with, started talking again and soon, were ‘dating but not going to talk about it because that creates issues.’

Without going into all of the gory details, they were soon involved in a very dangerous relationship and soon essentially living together despite them both possessing their own apartment leases.  Not surprisingly, she suddenly had no time for church.  The amount we communicated dropped dramatically and it became clear that, in her mind, since she had a guy, everything was perfect and she neither needed anyone else, nor especially, God.

Therein lies where the feeling that came over me sprouted from concerning the need to talk to her.

As I mentioned before, I have been working my way through the Self-Confrontation course compiled by the Biblical Counseling Foundation for a while now.  During the few weeks leading up to the eventful dinner, verses kept jumping out at me and bringing to my mind my friend.  Eventually, I started writing these verses down on a note card.  Before long, I had a list of more than twenty verses and could not shake the feeling that something had to be said.  She professed to be a believer.  She was currently living in a very un-biblical way, and I felt as though I would be remiss to allow her to continue down this path without trying to help her turn back to God and do things His way.

And before you cite the core verses of the course, Matthew 7:1-5 asking who am I to say anything about how she lives her life, let me assure you that I have been there, done that, bought and then burnt the shirt.  I am not proud to admit it, but I have been where she is, and know too well the damage that comes from it.  Thankfully, God was strong when I was weak and has helped me past it.  Once I finally accepted that my attempts to run my life were in fact just ruining it and surrendered completely to His will, things began to fall into place.  I soon realized that I may think I know what I want, but He has better than I could ever dream planned.

So anyway, I continually prayed about this impending dinner and studied the verses I had on my note card.  It was clear there was a theme.

“But why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and not do the things which I say?
Luke 6:46

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We dwell come to him and make Our home with him.  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.
John 14:23-24

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him.
1 John 2:3-4

And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
1 John 3:22

They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
Titus 1:16

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Romans 8:5-8

And the list goes on.

I had over 20 verses that I kept seeing over and over that did nothing more than bring her to mind.

So I tried as best I could to discuss with her that I was not judging either her or her boyfriend, but rather, doing my best to be a fruit inspector and that I felt there were several things that she should take a look at, pray about, and seriously consider.  I started by mentioning to her the fruit of the spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

I explained the importance of the fact that the word is fruit, singular, not plural.  That when the Spirit is present, all of those are as well.  Not just one or two.  And then I mentioned what she had told me about her relationship and how nothing pointed to any of the qualities of the fruit of the Spirit.  What she had told me about were lusts, strife, arguments, self-seeking, and the list goes on.

I told her that I had been where she was.  That I had thought I was doing fine running my life on my own, finding my own happiness, but that eventually I came to realize I wasn’t running it, but rather ruining it.  I pointed out to her that it’s not always that you immediately get what you want, but that by following God’s commandments and serving Him, He does provide what you seek.

And whatever we ask we receive from Him because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
1 John 3:22

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Matthew 6:33

But of course, she didn’t want to hear any of this.  So far as she was concerned, they were going to continue their relationship as they were regardless of what anyone else had to say about it.

I conceded that in the end, it was ultimately her choice and I could not change anything, but that I would have been remiss had I not spoken up, and that I would continue to pray for her.

She stated that they were going to proceed with their intents to purchase a house, (all on her credit,) and would likely at some point get married.  She said that she was perfectly fine with her and her boyfriend seeking out their religious paths together and attempting to find their own way; that they didn’t need help.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:23-25

But by this point, it had become abundantly clear to me that she wanted nothing of what I had to say.  I will, however, give her credit for at least attempting to make it look as though she was listening and containing her eye-rolling for the most part.

As we parted, she said several times that she was not mad at me, and that the way I had addressed her was okay because I had not come off as “preachy and judgmental” as she alleges someone else had done with her when addressing the same things.  But I could see the truth.  She was pissed.  Maybe even livid with me.  But walking in, I knew that this was the likely response.  At one point, I had even addressed that with her stating that I knew what she was hearing was upsetting her but that in reality, she wasn’t mad at me but rather, mad at God.

So a few days ago was her birthday.  I hadn’t spoken to her in any depth since that dinner, and part of me wanted to reach out to he and offer to take her out to dinner for her birthday.

But I didn’t.

The lesson that I began, just days before her birthday, (which curbed my desire to reach out to her to take her out,) was on biblical responses to the sin of another.  Yeah, pretty directed, huh?

But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner- not even to eat with such a person.
1 Corinthians 15:11

But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.
2 Thessalonians 3:6

And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.  Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
2 Thessalonians 3:14-15

So needless to say, I left it at a message wishing her a happy birthday and nothing more.  I know that when this relationship inevitably combusts I will hear from her again, but until then, I can only sit and pray.

 

CPB

 

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Ouch

My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor detest His correction;
For whom the Lord loves He corrects,
Just as a father the son in whom he delights.
Proverbs 3:11-12

So during my daily devotional this morning, (been working my way through a Biblical Counseling Foundation course,) I was the recipient of a not so subtle smack upside the head.

See, the more you spend time in the Bible and draw near to God, the harder it becomes to write much of anything off as coincidence.  Instead, everything seems to become clear and you are able to discern more of the why behind just about the smallest occurrence in your life.

This morning’s reading was all about whom to speak to and when to speak, (how to speak is tomorrow.)  I lost count of the number of verses I read today that basically got me to sink down in my chair, hang my head, and think, “guess I really screwed up, huh?”

Do not speak in the hearing of a fool,
For he will despise the wisdom in your words.
Proverbs 23:9

“He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself,
And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself.
Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you;
Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.
Proverbs 9:7-8

It is honorable for a man to stop striving,
Since any fool can start a quarrel.
Proverbs 20:3

I could post more, but I think that gets the point across fairly well.

I failed.

I sinned.

Despite my attempts to seek out the best verse with which to make my point, (the one time I did respond by verse to an antagonizing post,) I should not have done so and should have walked away.

Rather than allowing him to feed off of my posts and thereby justify to himself posting more lies on his page, I should have stopped it long ago.  Justifying my continuing to post by the fact that mine were public and his were not was wrong.

While attempting to show him what a true believer thinks and does, I may have done nothing more than give him reason to harden his heart even more, driving him further from the Lord instead of bringing him closer.

With today’s post, I remedied that.  I once again altered my posting methods.  No longer will he see any verses that I post as they are now set to be blocked to him.  I will not be dissuaded from posting verses that speak to me, but I will no longer feed into his justification for spreading lies which could place stumbling blocks in the path of others.

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
2 Timothy 2:24-26

One time in the Bible that “if” nearly leapt off the page at me.

So yes, while I am quite aware of the fact that I can be rather dense at times, (not something I am proud of when it comes to hearing the Lord,) I got today’s message loud and clear.  Yes, every verse here, save for the very top one, was in my reading today.  Hard not to miss the correction taking place there.

Another day studying His word, another day growing.  Even when it stings, I am thankful for it.

 

CPB

 

Of grace and salt

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:2

It’s easy to give in to the social pull to become just another face in the crowd, to blend in and essentially disappear.  But as a follower of Jesus, we are called to stand apart from the world.  From the moment one surrenders to the Lordship of Jesus, we are sealed for the day of redemption by the Holy Spirit and the slow, sometimes painful process of being transformed begins.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 3:18

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Ephesians 4:30

For whom He foreknew, he also predestined to be confirmed to the image of His Son, that He may be the first born among many brethren.
Romans 8:29

That transformation is all encompassing and is not something that can be hidden.  As Jesus is the light of the world, we are therefore becoming His lights in the world by following His example for us.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
John 8:12

“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
John 9:5

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

That means not hiding.  That means accepting the fact that as a follower of Jesus you will get attention, both for good and bad.  Being confirmed, slowly, to the image of Him means that it will both draw people to you and turn them strongly against you.  But when you see that happening, rather than pulling away for fear of alienating people and offending them, take heart that there is a change taking place, and have faith that He will continue the good work that He has begun.

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
Philippians 1:6

The reason all this is forefront in my mind tonight?  It’s been confirmed by others that every time I post a verse to social media, someone responds with either an atheist post, or one that is just anti-Christianity.  This has brought several things to my attention.

Namely, it shows me that someone that God has been trying to reach is getting a daily dose of the word of God whether it is being looked for or not.  Before one can believe, they must first hear the Gospel.

What it has also brought to mind, though, is that I must regularly check myself in this situation.  In order to properly serve the Lord, I am to show love to all, especially those that He is trying to reach.  While there are numerous verses that come to mind that I could post to my wall, being forceful about his need for salvation isn’t a way to show kindness to him, and certainly not God’s love.  My goal is not to make other believers that see the exchange wince at the verbal smack-down given by verse, but rather to make clear to even them, patience, strength and most of all love and caring.

If my response to his critical posts are not seen as attacking but rather standing my ground and defending, than I have chosen my verses well.  The moment, however, that I chose a verse with the intention of stinging him, I fail to shine the light of Jesus into the world and have sinned, not only against him, but most importantly, sinned against God.

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
Ephesians 4:29

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each one esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interest of others.
Philippians 2:3-4

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
Colossians 4:6

 

CPB

Romans 12:18

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
Romans 12:18

In today’s world of social media, it is not uncommon to have “friends” or those in your “circles” that are more truly acquaintances, or possibly even complete strangers.  I know I certainly have a handful of people on my lists that I have never actually met in person; some of whom I have only ever interacted with through various online games.

If there is one thing that social media has reinforced, it is my belief that people truly thrive on drama and where none exists, they will seek it out or create it from nothing.  What I mean is that people have a tendency to assume the worst; to think that things someone posts are targeted at them,  (Course, this goes hand in hand with our tendency to also fixate on self as well,) and then often respond accordingly whether on their own wall or by commenting directly back to their perceived “accuser.”

It would seem as though I encountered just this situation earlier tonight, though I am fully aware that I cannot see the full picture and know that two events which appear as though they could be related could in fact, be just two completely random events that fell into close proximity with one another.

What did I do?  I posted a verse to my wall.  What did I post?

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

James 4:8

So yeah, it just so happened to be one of those many verses that can easily convict a person, and yet one that reassures to the believer.

So mere moments later, someone that I have never actually met in person posted an image from their favorite atheist page presumably trying to paint Christians as whiners.  I cannot say for certain what the pie graph was attempting to depict as there was no title on it, but it showed a full Pac-man portion of the graph as Christians and distributed the remaining between non-religious, other, and Jews in decreasing order of the size of their slices.  The only thing to indicate what the graphic was attempting to show was a speech bubble coming off of the Christian portion stating, “Help! We’re being oppressed!”

To be honest, I think this is the first post he has shared from this atheist page that I actually agree with.

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth.  I did not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’
Matthew 10:34-36

As the pie graph did not have a title on it, it can be interpreted two very different ways.  While I am fairly sure that they intended it to show that Christians are the largest group of complainers, it could also just as easily signify that Christianity is actually the most persecuted religious group.

Unsure if that’s a valid statement?  Just run a Google search for “most persecuted religion,” and check out the results.  We all know that Christianity is punishable by, (at the very least,) prison time in numerous Arab nations and more commonly, punishable by death.  I don’t think I could actually think of another religion that I know to actually be punishable by death in any other nation aside from Christianity.

So as soon as it popped up, I figured it was a result of my earlier post of Scripture.  Knowing that the poster frequents atheist groups and has posted items that have targeted Christianity specifically in the past, I understood the intention of the image, but also soon saw the truth in the image as well, whether intended or not.  It wasn’t long before I wanted to either post a reply to the image stating that I agreed and the image was not far from the truth, or to post a new verse, namely either Matthew 10:34, or John 16:33

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

In the end though, I didn’t post anything else tonight.  The fact that Christians will be persecuted isn’t something that needs to be debated.  It’s seen in the news, and experienced even in small amounts in day to day activity, not to mention that we’ve been warned it will happen in the black, white, and red of the Bible.  But the truth behind that persecution that we don’t often remember is that we’re to take pleasure in them.

Therefore I take pleasures in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distress, for Christ’s sake.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10

 

CPB

 

The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart

Judge not, that you be not judged.
Matthew 7:1

For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.
1 Cor 11:31

So tonight is one of those nights that I am sitting here, attempting to analyze my own thoughts in an attempt to try and determine my true motives.

In an age driven by social media, it’s hard not to end up with more information than is either needed or desired in the lives of both friends and acquaintances, all dependent upon their security settings, of course.  By looking at little snippets of their lives, it’s hard not to come up with an idea of the person behind the posts, whether you’ve met them or not, and regardless of any attempts one may make at not jumping to conclusions.  Between image uploads, status updates, and the various memes, quotes, and likes someone has on their page, they create within social media a sometimes, fairly clear image of who they are.

Anyone that happens to find me on social media quickly discerns that I have a weakness for felines, (yes, even those that seem to have less than desirable English skills,) that I enjoy Star Wars and Iron Man, and that I enjoy a healthy debate.  More than anything though, I hope that they realize that I am a follower of Jesus and consciously try to inject, so far as I am able, positive things into the world of social media.  (I am not beyond hiding or removing posts that contain foul language or questionable content.)

So what am I getting at?

There’s an individual that shows up on my feed quite regularly, that I have never met in person.  The only interaction I have had directly with them was either accepting or sending them a friend request; honestly can’t remember which it was.  But just from their posts alone, I feel as though I know them fairly well.

I don’t agree with a lot of what I see, and I am not talking personal taste; (I don’t hide the fact that pink is far from my favorite color, but that’s beside the point).

After a particular post showed up on my feed earlier today, I had to stop and think, and question my motives.  I sought counsel, (something I have no problem doing now that there is good counsel in my life,) and analyzed some more.

The post that brought all this about?  A simple share of “Keep calm, sit back, and let karma **** them up.”

Due to at least a shadow of context from the other posts I have seen recently, my knee-jerk reaction was a desire to comment to that image with Matthew 5:44

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use and persecute you.

But then I put on the breaks.  While I had a desire to post this, I was unsure if that desire was coming from the right place.  This individual is a professing Christian so I know that a Bible verse would not have been deemed offensive to them, but at the same time, was my desire to respond in such a way judgement, or was it a desire to correct and edify?

I will be the first one to freely admit that I don’t know what’s in the heart of another.  Nor do I have a desire to when it comes right down to it; it’s hard enough keeping up with my own.  But when presented with something that I myself would never consider sharing, was my immediate response to judge?  To somewhere in the back of my mind, try to make myself feel better because, ‘look how mature I am when compared to their emotional outbursts and delight in ill befalling another’?

I would like to be able to unequivocally say that was not something that went through my head.  While it was not a conscious thought, I cannot rule out that that is what the heart of the desire to respond with a Bible verse was based upon.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?

Jeremiah 17:9

While I know from my own history that such a response would have ended up as a private message as opposed to a comment for all to see, that doesn’t answer the underlying question of why did I wish to post it, even if just for a moment?

Eventually, I came to several realizations.  While the post itself presents something of an antithesis to what it is to be a follower of Christ since we’re to be known by our love, (John 13:34-35) there was something far more to it than presenting a conflicting public image.  What I saw behind it was the bitterness that it takes to not just observe ill befalling another, but more so, to sit anticipating it and to delight in it.  Then when one also considers that merely being angry with another can be on par with murder in one’s heart, (Matthew 5:21-24) what may have seemed like an ‘innocent moment of venting’ becomes something that could easily grieve the spirit (Ephesians 4:30).

While I would love to say that these realizations are the true and complete motivation that overcame me in a single moment when I wanted to respond with Matthew 5:44, again, I cannot say for absolute certainty due to the mess that is my very own heart.

In the end, all I can do is ask forgiveness for any sin, whether conscious or not, that I may have committed in immediately wishing to virtually throw a verse at her, and continue to pray daily that God fix my heart and bring it into alignment with His desires, and that he control my tongue so that I may be a blessing to others thereby bringing glory to His name.

…and add in that He also control my fingers.

 

CPB