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Not What I Thought You Said

9 Jan

Sometimes it’s better to just smile and nod your head… especially when your hearing starts to fade.

One place you’ll always be a captive audience? In the dentist’s chair.  

CaptiveAudience_LOLwithGod_pixabayWith my mouth wide open, I couldn’t reply to anything my dentist said. But then, I don’t know if he was asking me questions or just making small talk.

So I just grunted “uh-uh” and hoped he wasn’t talking about my bill.

(It’s hard enough when a person speaks quietly, but he was wearing a mask too, and it muffled the sound!)

To be honest, I’ve never been known for hearing right.  (Just ask my brother-in-law who repeatedly asks, “Whose feet stink at 10,000 feet?” It’s something I apparently said a long, long time ago.)

But I’m not sure I want to get a hearing aid. Then people might actually expect me to listen.

I’ve been in many, “Oh, that’s not what I thought you said” situations over my lifetime. But seldom when God was talking.

God is clear when He speaks. Oh, I may not completely understand, in my humanness, what the Lord means. But I hear Him!

Although there are many things that might be disputed in scripture when it comes to the “how to” of God’s words, but the “what”? Seldom. God says what He means.

I mean, how many ways can we interpret these?

“…“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

Love God completely and out of that, love others unselfishly!

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10).

Ditch the pride; it’s for God to lift us up.

“…Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13b).

We’re responsible to honor/respect/worship God and obey our Maker.

“…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Pretty clear, isn’t it? God tells us exactly how to be “saved” … how to become His children. 

And when Jesus is Lord—meaning “master”—He will always have the right to tell us what to do.

The problem, most times, is not that we don’t understand what God is saying. The hitch is, we don’t want to do it. We don’t want to obey.

When we get to heaven, we won’t be able to say, “Oh, that’s not what I thought you said.”

God says, if we seek Him, He will be found (Jeremiah 29:13), and if we ask for wisdom to understand the scriptures, He will supply it (James 1:5).

God told Isaiah,

“I am the Lord, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right” (Isaiah 45:18b-19).

Yes, the God who desires to be known can give us a heart to know Him and understand what He expects (Jeremiah 24:7).

Are you willing to ask? And when He speaks, are you willing to obey?

– Dawn

Graphic of dentist from pixabay

Two Steps from Stupid

11 Apr

ImWithStupidWhiteTeeI recently scanned a subjective list of the “50 Greatest Living Geniuses”—people like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and others who were/are “geniuses” in various fields, including the arts, sciences, sports and so on. I wondered if geniuses ever think, “Boy, that guy is really stupid!”

I imagined a shirt something like the one on the left, but worn by inventor Thomas Edison. His shirt might say, “I’m with Stupid,” but the arrows I'm with stupid_Amazonwould point left and right! And then I found this Einstein t-shirt on the right at Amazon! LOL!

I thought I was stupid for most of my life, even though I got good grades. It all goes back to a third grade teacher who made it her mission to humiliate me in front of the class. (Her actions would be called child abuse today.)

Nobody wants to be called stupid. But we frail, fleshly humans are really closer than we realize to doing something stupid! Sometimes I wish I had a “stupid meter” that would warn me when I’m about ready to do something I’ll regret later.

I’ve been writing a book lately about the importance and blessing of Christian friendships. It was easy writing about the positive aspects to friendship . . . like encouragement, praying together and helping each other. But there’s another aspect that doesn’t feel so positive. In the book, I’m calling it a “Learning” friend. But it’s really Accountability.

It’s important. It’s necessary. It’s biblical!

When Alvin Reid, in an article on Church Planting,* wrote about the vital importance of accountability in church networks, he said,

“Left to ourselves we are all two steps from stupid. We need each other.”

Christians, in particular, need to understand this. Christians are interconnected in the community of the Body of Christ and the Bible presents accountability as our duty to each other. Part of our responsibility as brothers and sisters in Christ is building each other up (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Accountability has two sides. One is encouraging: “Spur one another on in love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). The other is challenging: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently” (Galatians 6:1). That restoration presupposes sin being exposed. But it might not even be an overt sin. It might be something left undone, or something we can’t see ourselves but it’s obvious to others. It might be as simple as challenging us to keep our own commitments!

When we are accountable to someone, we humbly choose to be responsible for our actions. People who refuse accountability are often proud. They think they can do as they please without answering to anyone. They unwittingly set themselves up for Satan’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Peter 5:8). We’ve got to drop our pride, because so often it takes a caring accountability partner (which I’ll call an “AP”) to see our blind spots.

As a teen, I embraced Jiminy Cricket’s advice: “Always let your conscience be your guide.” But as a maturing adult, I realized my conscience might not always be the wisest adviser! I need a Holy Spirit-controlled conscience.

(By the way, I mentioned earlier wanting a “stupid meter.” I’ve learned my most trustworthy “stupid meter” is the Spirit of God who uses the Word of God to alert me to foolishness. I can know the truth. I can know God’s will for me on earth. And I know I need the Spirit of God to help me make the wisest choice too.)

But as Reid said, “We need each other” . . . meaning we in the Body of Christ. We need flesh-and-blood “APs” (and mentors) who will walk alongside us—sometimes telling us a truth we’ve forgotten . . . and sometimes a truth we don’t want to hear.

Two scriptures highlight this beauty of accountability.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22, ESV)

The writer of Proverbs says we are meant to “sharpen” each other as we live the Christian life. This is true because we may not realize where we’ve become “dull.”

Dull = Compromising. . . Hypocritical. . . Lazy. . . Indulgent. . . Sinful.

Caring, challenging support might be just the thing we need to fight against the enemy. And our godly “advisers” can help us walk in line with God’s Word when the world encourages us to tread a crooked road.

Accountability partners challenge us to live in truth—to practice what we preach to others. They also help us make wise choices. A good “AP” has our back, keeping us from doing (or continuing in) something stupid.

We see examples of accountability throughout the scriptures. One of the strongest examples in the Old Testament was the prophet Nathan, coming to King David, to confront him over sin (2 Samuel 12:1-13). Nathan used a powerful story to first capture David’s heart, then ZING! And David got the point.

In the New Testament, Paul challenged Peter for hypocrisyfor being a two-faced believer (Galatians 2:11-13). Paul also (acting something like an accountability partner for a whole congregation) confronted the Corinthian Church over complacency in dealing with members’ immoral behavior (1 Cor. 5:1-13). His words reflected his heart of loving concern for the Body of Christ.

I discovered a few things in relating to my own “APs” over the years:

  1. A good accountability partner loves you too much to allow you to get away with being sincere and serving . . . while willfully sinning.
  2. A good accountability partner won’t allow you to “keep the rules” while maintaining a heart far from God.
  3. An accountability partner should want you, above all, to become more like Jesus.
  4. Accountability should include intentional, specific, regular plans to meet and encourage each other . . . a time, a place, a purpose.
  5. Times of accountability should involve prayer, challenging questions, practical encouragement and, when appropriate, loving nudges to confess sin (James 5:16).

Every Christian, whether a new believer in the pew or the most seasoned pastor, needs an Accountability Partner. We all need someone to pray with, confide in and be honest about our struggles with sin. After all, we’re only two steps from stupid, right?

Do you have an accountability partner? If not, will you pray and ask God to show you a wise, godly person to approach about this vital issue?

* Alvin Reid, “Networks Work, Especially for Church Planting,” 2-16-15

– Dawn

 

The Buddy System

1 Aug

As a young mom of two boys, I often wondered why socks were missing. Now I know …

I saw a funny comic by comic artist Lonnie Easterling. Matched sets of socks approached an open washing machine. On the wall behind the machine was a sign that read, “Field Trip Today!”

The first set of socks looked back over the group and said, “Okay! Everyone remember the Buddy System!”

LOL.

When my in-laws and I went on vacation last year, we left our dogs at a kennel … together. They are doggie buddies and loved their time together. BuddiesAt the window_2013

Beau, a chihuahua-terrier mix, and my maltipoo, Roscoe, have been buddies since puppyhood, and they still love to get together for a few days. When Beau stays for a while at the “Wilson Doggie Resort,” these pals are inseparable.

This photo shows them sharing the platform by my desk, peering through the screen, under the blinds, to see who might be passing by.

For better or worse, they lead each other into all sorts of escapades.

Buddies can do that. That’s why the Bible tells us to choose our friends carefully (Proverbs 12:26). Wrong buddies can lead us astray

When I lived in Iceland as a teen, there were days that got “blizzardy,” and we were told not to venture out into the snow alone. “Take a buddy with you,” I heard. “If you fall into a deep drift, your friend can help you get out … or if you fall in together, you can stay warm until help arrives.”

Now I never knew whether to take that “buddy system” advice seriously, but the concept sure did stick.  And later I found out it’s biblical. Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 says,Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?”

We need buddies for the tough times. They can help us, or they can at least comfort us until the tough times pass.

The biblical patriarch Job didn’t have comforting buddies. Oh, they wailed with him over his circumstances, but I don’t remember too many encouraging words. And his wife didn’t help much either. (Of course, I was reminded she went through those trials with Job too — many of the same losses!) I would hope that Job, being the spiritual leader of the family, could counsel her with the same counsel he ended up giving his own heart.

But I know I need “buddies.”

I didn’t always believe that. I was pretty self-sufficient.

I thought I’d only need buddies for hard times. I didn’t have a clue.

I didn’t realize I need buddies for growth, challenge, accountability, encouragement, vision and a whole lot of other positive things.

We were never meant to exist or function alone. God knew Adam needed a partner (Genesis 2:18). And He knows we need buddies (I call them my Sister-Girlfriends); we were created for community. The Bible says the disciples were sent out in twos (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1). Probably for encouragement, but also because they likely had different gifts and skill sets!

I don’t consider God my “Buddy,” as many Christians do. No, he is my Father God – the Sovereign Ruler who loves me. But one of the truths I learned later in life is the concept of the strength of a “threefold cord” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). While this may be talking about a third person coming alongside to help two people, I also like to think that the Lord is the third partner. He is the partner in my marriage – the glue that made my Bob and I stick together in tough times. He is also the partner in many of my other relationships.

Yes, I need people. I don’t want to do life alone. And I don’t have to. My Father God is always with me (Deuteronomy 31:6; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5b; 1 Corinthians 3:16). I have the privilege to live for Him and bring Him glory – to live for His purposes – but it’s wonderful to know He cares about my needs too.

Knowing Him beats the Buddy System any day.

Who is your best earthly buddy? Have you told your buddy lately how thankful you are for her (or him)? Have you thanked the Lord today for His constant presence in your life?

– Dawn

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