Put a Sock in It!

I used to smoke cigars. Does that shock you? Didn’t we all do something destructive to ourselves before Jesus cleaned us up? I loved cigars, craved them and relished my time sitting in the garden relaxing with a big fat one! I mean, I really loved my cigars.
I’m free now, free of addiction to nicotine and of destructive behavior. Jesus freed me with His blood, mercy and grace. But what am I afflicted with now? Do I gossip? Do I use my spirituality to hurt others with kind sounding words that actually rip the heart to shreds? Do I reject people because of the way they look or dress or think? Do I fail to love purely like Jesus did? Am I jealous of another’s accomplishments?
Talk with me about what’s on my heart today. I know a person who purports to be a Christian. It’s hard to watch her squander the gifts and talents God has given her. She appears to choose unrepentant evil over freedom. I’ve watched for years as she wrestles with her own pride and false humility. It breaks my heart that freedom is only one short step away, yet she prefers to purposely make elaborate plans to set up and then tear down people. She speaks softly and sweetly yet her words absolutely rip people apart. She could rely on Jesus to elevate her, but chooses to do it herself by throwing others under the bus.  It’s ugly, it’s icky,  and you know you are in the presence of evil.
As the Church, are we guilty of that? I wonder, do we cause people to leave church on Sunday feeling depressed and in bondage? Do we ensnare others with unkind words, condemnation and guilt? Jesus doesn’t reject, He loves. Love covers a multitude of sin. Love conquers all. Yet the world seems to think we Christians are evil. Why do you think that is? We are accused of being judgmental and critical. Now look, I am not saying we cower and submit to political correctness. We have to take a stand against evil. But God tells us to love the sinner and hate the sin.  It doesn’t tell me to convict someone of my idea of sin, the Holy Spirit will do that in truth.  I want to take me out of it.   I’m willing to be persecuted for the gospel. But maybe that means I need to keep my mouth shut about my own personal biases and prejudices, and just love instead. The Bible doesn’t instruct us to beat people up with man made rules.  Maybe that means we are to persecute our own flesh. My motivation must be love, not fear or prejudice. Maybe we all need to ask God if we have an agenda to lay down at His feet. Is our way of thinking wrong in any place at all? If we have a prejudice, we might want to consider asking God to change our wrong thinking. We might take a look at what causes us to form an evil opinion, and get free of that. He is the one who has the plan for our lives, He might just be waiting for us to get on the road to success instead of the detour to misery.
Maybe we just need to press into Jesus instead of our agendas and thinking errors. If you have an evil thought come into your head about someone, who put it there? It wasn’t Jesus! We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Give yourself a break, you have the gift of self-control, so use it. Paul laments the evil of his flesh in Romans. I kind of think it’s part of picking up our cross daily and following Him. We need to die to self, shut down the flesh, and live to the Spirit. We need to seek unity, not division.   We need to seek God’s intended freedom and joy for our lives.
So the next time I want to criticize something or find fault with someone or speak negatively about anything, I think I’ll put a sock in it. I think I’ll seek the Lord for His will and His reaction. I think I’ll claim the scripture that says I have the mind of Christ, and I will just keep quiet. I will pray and seek righteousness and love for every person and every situation, and then speak the life that I hear the Spirit whisper to me.

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I’ve been observing people lately; all kinds of people in all kinds of situations.  One thing that stands out to me is that people look down.  They look down at their phones.  They don’t listen fully, they are easily distracted.   If you sit in the balcony at church, you see bowed heads perusing phones.  We used to have nothing in our hands to take our attention, so we engaged fully in conversation.  We didn’t expect a text because it didn’t exist, and the phone was tethered to the wall so we didn’t depend on them for anything but verbal communication.  There was no social media; no abbreviations for laughing out loud.

With that, there’s also no lively debate.  There’s no confrontation, there’s no human empathy save for a quick emoji.  I’ve observed strong opinions about things that are futile, unloving haughty judgmentalism, and unbridled nastiness doled out in a few keystrokes.

I’ve also seen unselfish sympathy, exhortations of encouragement and time given to cheer another up with kind words of support.  With innovation, comes both good and bad.  It’s up to us to choose life and maintain relationships.  My high school class is the very definition of kind, loving people.  They choose to love and to encourage one another.  They fiercely support one another and play together like kids.  We graduated 46 years ago, and still stick together because we invest in each other.  We use social media to stay connected and it’s an amazing use of technology.  I can hear the heartbeats.

I think we have to choose to invest in each other.  You can’t get a true feel for what another is saying without looking them in the eye.  If someone trusts me enough to pour out their heart to me, I want to listen with everything I have.  I want to make an investment into relationship with that person.  I want to be in a three way conversation with that person, with Jesus, and with myself.  How do we feel, what wisdom will each of us inject into it, and what experience will we share that brings light.  We have to choose love, just like we chose Christ,  God gave us free will, we can chose to spend that on sin or on righteousness.

So while I am grateful for the wonders of technology, I think I have to be careful to use it but not be carried away by it.  I have to purposely put my phone down, and look at the person in front of me.  I have to project love and caring, just like Jesus does.  I want to hug them and hold them close, and know their heart.  Lord, create in me a clean heart, and keep my wisdom steadfast in you.