That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life...
Philippians 2:15-16a

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Repost: You Won't Lose This Change in the Dryer

The following article is from Truth and Song.  It was a blessing to me when I read it, and with the author's permission I am reposting it on my blog.  When you're finished reading this article, head over to Truth and Song and check out some more of Melissa's writing.  She's got some great stuff over there!  I particularly enjoyed her series on music, which I've linked to from my blog before.

Enjoy :).

You Won't Lose This Change in the Dryer.

I have been known a time or two or three thousand to get so excited about something that I want to tell everyone in the world.  I want to shout it from the rooftops.  This is probably why I have a blog.  It saves all of my friends and family from having to hear the newest thing that I have learned, and it saves me from getting discouraged by people’s responses to my excitement.

There just doesn’t seem to be anything worse than when you share something life changing and the other person gets defensive, annoyed, embarrassed, apathetic or anything but enthusiastic about the idea that this too can change their life. 

There are a couple of specific topics about which I have a great burden.  They weigh upon me so terribly that I have at times been unable to find the words to pray.  I find myself at the hands at the Holy Spirit as I sob to the Lord.  Tragically these are areas that are of such sensitive nature that my husband has given me strict guidelines about communicating them.

I wrestled with the question, “Lord, if no one is talking about these things, than how will anyone ever know?”   I was broken.  I felt no hope.

My dilemma:  How do we invoke change if we can’t instigate it?

The solution:  Grace

Even a month ago, I would have looked at my dilemma and the solution and thought, “Um, these two things have nothing to do with each other.  Lord, could you give me something more practical than that?”

Then He opened my eyes.  He showed me how grace is extremely practical.

1.  Grace and Humility are good friends, and they help restore communication.

Imagine fiery Flesh, beautiful Grace, and quiet Humility walking with fundamental Baptist (Fundie) down the road.  On their way to church they neared energetic Evangelical (Evan).

Fundie slows down because he remembers the last time he bumped into Evan.  Fundie didn’t have Grace and Humility with him last time and things did not go well. 

Evan was excited about a Christian concert that he had just been too and Fundie had started in on how he didn’t agree that “Christian” was an accurate adjective for the group Evan had seen.

Evan, frustrated by Fundie’s typical response, asked him sarcastically, “Well, tell me then what did you do this weekend?  Let me guess: attend a potluck at church?  You know that’s all you Baptists do, right?  Eat. Maybe, you should spend some time studying gluttony rather than preaching to me about my music.”

Fundie grimaced as he remembered his retort to Evan about how he would rather attend a potluck at his own church than sip coffee at the newly installed Starbucks at Evan’s (quote-unquote) church.

A lot had happened in Fundie’s life since that conversation.  He had gotten himself into a terrible mess, because of some hasty decisions he had made.  He painfully reaped the consequences of the seeds he had sown. 

God had really spoken to him about being hasty.  It seemed every time he opened his Bible, God showed him something new about hastiness.

Pro 14:29  He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.

Pro 21:5  The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.

Pro 29:20  Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him.

Ecc 5:2  Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.

Ecc 7:9  Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.

“How humbling” he sighed to God.  With a repentant spirit he pleaded to the Lord, “Please, Lord.  I appreciate your mercy with me that I still have my home and family, but may I ask for one more thing?  I plead with you for Your grace, for something that I don’t deserve?  Could you please use me, even though I screwed up?

He remembered how God had opened up the door for a new ministry that required patience and diligence. Fundie had felt so grateful for the opportunity that he made a practice of searching the Scriptures, praying and seeking out Godly counsel before making any new decision.  He had spent his whole life being hasty, but because God gave him a second chance Fundie determined to change.

Coming out of his thoughts Fundie kept walking toward Evan.

Flesh whispered in Fundie’s ear about how he couldn’t believe what Evan was wearing.  Didn’t he know Christians represented Christ, not the latest fashion craze?

Before Fundie had time to think about that Humility responded, “Yes, but God’s still working in Evan’s life. We all have things to work on, don’t we?”

Fundie was glad Humility had reminded him about that.

Flesh retorted, “Well, God can work with a willing spirit, but will God work with someone who will never change?”

Grace turned to Fundie and smiled.  They both remembered the time when people thought he would never change.  Had it not been for Grace, tragically, he might not have.  But every time he looked at beautiful Grace, he remembered how God had been good to him, even though he had not deserved it.  Fundie had changed because he wanted to give God something back.

Evan seemed to hesitate before coming any closer.  Fundie reached out his hand and said, “Hey man.  I’m sorry for how things went the last time we saw each other.”

Evan relaxed and smiled, “Me too, Fundie.  Me too.”

This leads me to the second point.

2.  People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Let’s go back to the previous illustration.  Let’s imagine that Evan and Fundie got over the past and got along well enough to where they became friends on Facebook.  In fact, they had even taken turns inviting each other over to play games with their families.

 Furthermore as long as Grace and Humility were around, they even enjoyed some good doctrinal discussions.  They began to learn about each other’s hobbies and found that they had a couple of things in common.

And then it happened.

 Evan had noticed in his visits with Fundie that there were some real differences in their Bibles.  Looking for some answers, Evan had gone to Google and typed in, “Why do people say the King James version is a better version of the Bible?”

 This search led him to a Christian forum, where he asked the same question.  A well meaning pastor who didn’t know Evan’s history jumped in and started in on him.  The pastor assumed that Evan was a liberal, King James hater and started in by saying that only heretics would question God’s pure word. 

Taken back by the pastor’s offensive monologue, Evan got on Facebook and updated his status to say, “King James only people are so judgmental.”

Fundie logged in later that day and saw Evan’s status.  After having a particularly exciting Sunday at church that week that had focused on the purity of the King James version, Fundie jumped in and started commenting about this, that, and the other thing.

26 comments later from anyone who had ever heard of the debate, Evan was so disgusted that he deleted his original status update and went to bed.

The problem here was again, the lack of grace.

How many of us have left a conversation with the following verses ringing in our hearts.

Pro 10:19  In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.
Eph 4:29  Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 

We often forget the process of edification when we get talking about areas in which we know we are right.  If you want people to know that you care about them rather than that only care about being right remember these two things:

  • DO edify grace to the hearer.
  • DON’T use sarcasm and personal cuts. 

This becomes really obvious in discussions between husbands and wives, in-laws, and teenagers.  My how our conversations would change if we would not talk until we asked the question, “How would this make me feel if they said these exact words to me?”

 No one finds it easy to learn or change when they are reeling from a passive aggressive cut they received. Instead they often stop listening entirely and usually come back with a not so passive blow aimed directly at you.

These rules are especially good to follow on places like forums and Facebook where you may just be blowing off some steam.  Our steam should be released to God alone.  Satan can’t use it if it isn’t out there to be used.

3.  People change from within.

There are two major reasons people change:

  • They are so uncomfortable in their current state that the prospect of changing seems like the lesser of two evils.
  • They want to please someone.

I have noticed a pattern.  It does not matter how many times the discussions of separation, dispensationalism, music, eternal security, birth control, or finances come up,  the same people always chime in with their same opinions every time.

 Yet, it is so natural to try to get people to change.  My absolute favorite comic depicts it so well.

I heard a pastor say in a sermon once, “I have heard many good sermons on bitterness and forgiveness, but the only time I seem to see people change is when God humbles their hearts and brings them to the point when they get their eyes off of themselves and on to Him.”

We spend too much time trying to change our spouses, church acquaintances, and sometimes even our pastors.  We try to manipulate outward circumstances to cause inward conviction when instead we should be working on our own lives and allowing God to change theirs.

 Mar_9:50  Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.

This brings me back to my original dilemma.  My life had been changing and I experienced so much joy from it that I wanted to share it with everyone.  I wanted everyone to change.

 What happened though when I started to do the job of the Holy Spirit was that people did more than not change, they resisted the message. 

What’s a well meaning person to do?

  • DO pray, pray, and pray some more.
  • DON’T push, push, and push.

    God is many things.  He is the Potter who puts His vessel through the fire. (Rom. 9:21) His Word is a hammer. (Jer. 23:29) Still, many times God is like a clock maker.  If He finds that the clock is not working properly, He doesn’t start right away hitting at it with the hammer.  He gently takes it apart until the fault is exposed.  Once the clock is open and the flaw is available to fix, He is able to do His best work.

     When we pray that God will convict someone’s heart, He will hear our prayer.  When we pray that God will use us as He desires, He will hear our prayer.

    This is where my fourth point comes to play.

    4.  We are a tool in God’s tool box.

    Now, I do not know much about mechanics, but I know enough to see the difference between a plunger and a plumbing snake.  I know that a flathead screwdriver will not work with and Philips head screw.  I know that a chainsaw and a sawsall serve completely different purposes.

    The same is true of a body.  A foot keeps us moving forward.  A hand keeps us productive.  An eye keeps us from harm.  The list can go on and on.

    When God looks at the body of Christ, He sees tools gifted with individual skills.  When He is ready to repair one of His workmen (or clocks in my example), He chooses specifically the tool best suited to restore His handiwork to its proper use.

    What I needed to learn from Humility was that I was not the tool that God wanted to use for everyone.  I needed to sit back and wait until I was chosen.

     What exactly does that mean?

    I have seen in my own life that when God starts taking me apart and causing me to be open and vulnerable, when He reveals within me an area that needs to be changed, I am compelled to find a solution.  I start asking questions.  I seek people out who seem to have succeeded in the area that I am failing.  I look for people who exude grace and kindness and who will not scold me for my failures, but encourage me in my growth.  Those are God’s chosen tools for me.

     What do we need to remember as tools?

    • DO be a useful tool, filled with the fruit of the Spirit.
    Gal 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, V23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

    • DON’T abuse your gift.

    This may sound crazy, but did you know that the gift of giving can be misused.  You can actually over give. 

    Rom 12:6 - 8  Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; V7  Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;  V8  Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

    Why did God make a point to express this?  Because you can become an unuseful tool when it is your opportunity to be used.

     My pastor said the other day that what often happens in marriages is that both parties have walls built. Finally one decides to take down their wall and be vulnerable; willing to change.  Sadly, rather than taking down their own wall, the other party stands behind their line levels their shotgun and blows the other person down.

    A person seeking to change knows they are wrong.  They know they are undeserving.  God has done that internal work.  They need unmerited favor.  They need to know Grace.  Be a tool that ministers grace.

     Let me leave you with this passage.

     1Pe 4:7 – 11,  But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. V8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.   V9  Use hospitality one to another without grudging.  V10  As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  V11  If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveththat God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

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