When ‘only skin deep’ is a beautiful thing!

Do you know what the largest organ in your body is?

Skin.

Would you believe it covers almost 20 square feet on the average person?

It’s one of those organs that perhaps we don’t give enough credit.  The heart gets a lot of love.  And the brain gets its rightful accolades.  But the skin… well, let’s give it some of its fair shake.

skin deep

It’s good we have skin in the game!  It

  • covers and protects everything inside our body.  Can you imagine the havoc it would wreak on our other organs if it didn’t serve this important protective function?  All kinds of grime and gunk would cripple our other vital organs.  Skin protects from the viruses and bacteria to which we are exposed every day.  It also protects from sun exposure.
  • holds everything together.  It keeps our bones and muscles and organs from hanging out all over the place.
  • allows us to sense touch.  It is allows us to feel loving touch, hurtful touch and pain, fun touch… and play tag! : )
  • regulates body temperature.   It helps control hot and cold to enable our organs to function at their best.
  • kicks the bad out.  Our skin has an impressive 7 million pores through which is expels impurities and enable perspiration.

Skin serves as a protective barrier between our insides and the rest of the world, and it acts as a filter.

And not just physically.  Not just medically.

Skin is also an important protective barrier relationally.  It is an important filter in interactions with others.

A person’s skin is their boundary: it is their protective barrier between their insides and the rest of the world.  It is where they begin.

Let’s say someone makes a comment that is ‘only skin deep.’  So the comment would be simply about what is observable about another’s ‘skin’ – their physical actions.  For example, if a small group member arrives late to their 7:00 small group, the leader may start an inquiry with an ‘only skin deep,’ observable action:

“I noticed you arrived at 7:30.”

We’ve talked before about the importance of communicating about actual, factual actions.  Things that are skin-level observable.  Taking things at face value.  Commenting on things that are observable isn’t invasive because it does not go beyond skin deep.

But what if the leader took a different approach?  What if the leader presumes an interpretation of the member’s action?

“You clearly aren’t committed to the group.”

This goes beyond skin deep.  It delves into the persons heart and head, presuming to know their thoughts and motives.

Maybe the member isn’t committed.  But maybe they stopped to get a snack for the group, and while in line, they shared with another person in line about their amazing small group, which led into a conversation where they got to share about Christ.  Maybe the assumption about motive is completely off.  Maybe the interpretation of the observation is inaccurate, untrue, ignoble, and sinful.  Maybe it is actually the leader who is sinning by thinking things that are not true about the member.

Comments like this feel so hurtful because they go beyond skin deep.  When the leader comments about motives, such as presuming that the person isn’t committed to small group, they are presuming to know what is going on in the heart and mind of the member.  They are presuming to know the member’s motives and thoughts.  They go beyond the member’s boundary – their skin.  They penetrate beyond the boundary of the person.  They are a boundary-buster, and such boundary-busting causes unnecessary hurt and destruction in relationships.

This is why verbal abuse is so hurtful.  Someone presumes to know the precious things inside of you and negatively characterizes them.  They penetrate beyond the boundary of your skin.  It is not acceptable for someone to invade you in such a way; it is violating.   And that feeling is intensified when you are penetrated by someone you trust, someone in authority over you, or someone who should be protecting you.

You begin at your skin.  When someone tries to invade your protective barrier, you mustn’t let them!  It may feel rude to interrupt their sharing of their ‘perceptions’ of you, but interrupting is not a sin.  Verbal abuse is.  Saying things that are untrue about you is sinful.

You have every right to stop their penetration of you… and I would argue, every duty.  The Lord commands you to think on things that are true and noble, and if someone is trying to fill your thoughts with untrue, ignoble things about you, stop it.  Simply interrupt.

Do not let those ‘perceptions’ get under your skin!  Keep that bacteria and grime out of you.  One tiny little bacteria getting inside of you can wreck havoc on your system ~ not only mentally, but psychologically, spiritually, and physically.

So keep those tiny little bacteria out!  If a comment starts to feel like its presuming things about your thoughts and motives – that it’s getting under your skin, interrupt.  Because ‘only skin deep’ is a beautiful thing.

What will God ask me?

I was talking on the phone with someone I love dearly the other day.  As I’ve mentioned to you, I’m going through a really tough season in a relationship.  And the person on the phone had some opinions about what I should be doing and how I should be handling it.  Including that because I’m a Christian, it shouldn’t be like this.

I tried to kindly reaffirm my boundaries – this is my relationship with this other person, and I am handling it in as God-honoring of a way as I know how.

The response was, “I think I’m entitled to my opinion.”

Hmmmm…..I mean, I guess that’s true.  We are in America.  But something about it didn’t sit well with me.  I don’t know…

I was praying through all of this.  A bit uneasily.  I asked the Lord to show me what I should do in situations like that – Am I entitled to my opinion about what others should do in their lives? The Lord brought this verse to mind:

“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial.  ~ 1 Corinthians 10:23

So it seems like it’s permissible.  But is it beneficial?

This could go a bunch of different directions, so let’s take a quick pause to clarify.  We make a distinction on {double hockey sticks} between sin and personal preference: 

  • Personal preference when *I* think someone should be doing something differently.  Our perspective is that personal preference is just that, personal preference!
  • Actual, factual sinwhen *God* thinks someone should be doing something differently.  If someone is actively, factually sinning, we of course encourage lovingly bringing it to their attention.
  • Perception of sinwhen I think I can see a person’s heart and motives and I think that God thinks they are sinning.  We are *huge* unfans of this.  It can quickly get messy and is destructive.

With that all framed up, our question today pertains to personal preference situations – not sin.  When I have a personal preference opinion about how someone else should be doing something, is that beneficial?

Ok, unpause : )

Now we could run our question through our {dhs} sifter

  • Is what I’m thinking true – meaning do I have all the facts and they are straight?
  • Is what I’m thinking noble – have I considered that there are at least two sides to the story and I know both of them and am presuming the best about both parties?
  • Is what I’m thinking righteous – that my opinions pertain to sin and not just personal preference?

Just to get us started!

Or we can take the shortcut!  Remember what we’ve established – even if you can’t remember all the adjectives at the beginning, we are to think about things that are excellent and praiseworthy as overarching principles.  ‘Excellent’ refers to ‘best in class.’  Are we thinking the best possible things we can be thinking?

Turn my eyes away from worthless things…  ~ Psalm 119:37

Is it straight up sinful to opinionate about others lives?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Some of it may or may not make it through the {dhs} sifter.

But we are commanded to think about things that are excellent.  Is opinionating about others’ lives excellent?

Here’s my best theory so far.  And it revolves around this question,

“What will God ask me when I get to heaven?”

Yikes, right?  How did we get to big heavy questions and the afterlife?  It’s an easy way to get a glimpse of what really matters.  Begin with the end in mind!  So let’s think about the big picture and see how it fits in.

Based on what I see in God’s Word, I personally can’t find any place in Scripture that seems to suggest God will ask me,

  • How do you think that person should have handled that situation?
  • What was your opinion on how my child did that?

I personally can’t find anything in Scripture that supports that God wants us to spend our time opinionating with our personal preferences about how another person handles things.  Remember when Job’s friends did this?  God was none too happy with them!

So is it straight up sinful?  I don’t know – I could see how that argument could get tenuous. But is it beneficial?  If I am trying to focus my thoughts on things that are ‘preeminent’ and ‘excellent in their class,’ to me, that means focusing on things that God wants us focused on – and I can’t find anyplace that suggests opining fits into this ‘excellent’ mold.  As David prays that God would turn his eyes from worthless things, are there more worthwhile things we could be doing?  Is there something more excellent we could be doing?

Based on what I see in God’s Word, what He asks us to do, and what He desires of His children, it seems to me that questions He may ask straight up from His Word would include things like,

  • How did you encourage them?
  • How did you support them?
  • How did you love them?

I see a lot in Scripture that supports that God wants us to love, support, encourage, pray for, and advocate for others.   It seems to me this may be the most excellent thing.

So is opinionating about what other people should do beneficial?  I think our end goal determines this.  When we stand before God, it seems to me that, at best, our opining will be of no value.  It will, at best, get burned away like chaff (1 Corinthians 3:15).But anything we’ve done according to His Word – our prayers, encouraging, advocating – that has eternal reward.   I get goosebumps just thinking about it!!

So are we “entitled to our opinion”?   I suppose.  Everything is permissible.  Including chaff.  Chaff is permissible.  But is that what we want?

It seems to me there is something so much better!

Something beneficial.

Excellent.

What God values and rewards eternally.

To me, it seems encouragement, support, love, and care is the excellent route.

Am I crazy?

Photo credit: Marco Bellucci

one of those 4-word days!

Sometimes my quiet times are simply 3 or 4 little words.

That’s all.

Some people are Bible-marathoners.  And I love that.  It’s awesome to read through the Bible in a year.

But some days, I can’t get past 3 or 4 words.  That’s all.  I’ve got too much to work on – too far to go – to digest much more than that.  And then sometimes I sit on those 3 or 4 words for days.  Or weeks.  Or longer.  This ‘becoming holy’ thing can take quite a bit of work for me (of course with the Holy Spirit)!

One of those days I was happily reading Philippians.  So much good stuff in there.  And I opened one morning and started to pick up where I left off – at Philippians 2:14.  So I’m off and reading.. then {jolt}.  It became a 4 word day.

This is what I read:

Do everything without complaining…

Do you ever want to keep reading and pretend like you didn’t read what you read and look for something else you can work on applying?  : )

It’s kind of weird – there is something about it that feels like we’re giving up so much. It doesn’t say, “Give all your money away and everything you ever dreamed of and go live in a hut in Africa.”  (which would be totally fine if that’s God’s prerogative, of course)  But there is something about it that just feels like it’s challenging us to give up stuff down to our core.  Our thoughts, opinions, perceptions, conclusions – if we truly ‘do everything without complaining,’ these are all affected.

Ugghh for 4 word days!

Now you may be much faster at this whole sanctification thing than I.  If you are, hallelujah!  My 4 word day turned into days.  Which turned into weeks.  Which still gets me sometimes even years later!  So I certainly don’t have this ‘sanctification’ thing down yet, but I am so glad to be on the journey…

Those 4 words completely changed my outlook on so many things.  When I honor them, it truly is like a whole new world.  It helps me in thinking about our current Philippians 4:8 word, admirable.  It helps me abstain from inauspicious words – keeping from saying unfavorable things.  And truly, it helps me with so much more.

I’m excited to share with you some of my journey in applying this – or attempting to, at least!  And I invite you to come along.  Consider if the Lord may be asking you to apply this to your life, too.

It may seem unrealistic at first.  And it begs a lot of questions: I mean, what does that really mean?  Isn’t some complaining ok?  Aren’t your suppressing or squelching negativity?  Isn’t that more destructive later?  How in the world do you do that?  And what do you talk about if you don’t complain?

Those are great questions.  Let’s tackle them!  And I’ll include one more, “Is there anything you wish you would have done differently in your journey not to complain?”  (the answer is yes!!)

For now, I’d love to invite you to consider this question:

Is the Lord asking you to have a 4-word day?

I invite you to noodle and pray on it.  See if this is what the Lord wants you to work on right now.   It does feel a bit counter-cultural at times.  But it is a delightful journey and a wonderful challenge.  When I revert back to my old ways… ughh.  I’ll tell you that story next time!

the teddy bear effect

I’m a little bit excited here.

Ok, maybe that’s an understatement.

Today’s word I.  just.  love.  It’s the next word in Paul’s Philippians 4:8 goodness. We’ve explored thinking things that are true, noble, right, pure, and lovely… all with beautiful goals of honoring the Lord, staying focused on great stuff, and my passion: circumventing conflict before it even starts.

So what’s today’s word? Admirable.

A few fun facts about admirable:

Like ‘lovely,’ it is used only here.

In Greek, it looks like this coolness: εὔφημα.

  • The first part εὔ is the prefix of words like ‘euphemism’ – it means good.

In case its helpful, a euphemism is substituting a favorable word in place of an inauspicious one.  And don’t you love definitions that need to be defined!  Inauspicious means unfavorable {it pops up again below}.  So it’s substituting a favorable word in place of an unfavorable one.  (examples: ‘passed away,’ being ‘let go’)

  • And actually, the second part, φημα, also aligns with euphemism.  It means fame or report. It’s from the word φημί, meaning to say, declare, or make known one’s thoughts.

So admirable (εὔφημα) is also translated ‘of good report.’  It is making known your good thoughts.

It includes ‘keeping a holy silence.’  So it includes abstaining from inauspicious words {there’s that ‘inauspicious’ word again!} – keeping from saying unfavorable things.

But these aren’t just ‘euphemistic’ good thoughts.  It’s not just saying something nice even though you’re trying to cover for something less nice.  They are at least positive and constructive rather than negative and destructive.  But it’s more than that.  It goes deeper than that.

I love this:  Admirable (εὔφημα) is described as ‘implying essential worthiness.’

Don’t you just love that?  Can you imagine if all our comments about one another implied essential worthiness?  If they implied the essential worth that each believer has as the son or daughter of the King!  If they implied the essential worth that Christ implies – or more than that, enacts, embodies, exemplifies… bought!  He bought each and every believer with His. own. blood.  That is the essential worthiness of every believer (and those not yet believers!).

It’s like a tattered teddy.  There are plenty of negative or critical or lacking things to observe about him.

But can you imagine being critical about the bear to its owner?  Can you imagine telling its precious owner that this bear is ratty and a piece of trash?

Yikes.

Instead, how does the owner perceive the bear?  If we think about him through an admirable lens, how would our description of him change? What would we say if we thought about him through the lens of ‘implying essential worthiness’?

Valuable.  Precious.  Useful.  We’d look past the tattered parts – not because we ignore them, but because we see them differently.  They’re not inauspicious things to critique; instead, they give the bear some of its worth and identity.  They speak of memories and camaraderie. They are part of its essential worthiness.

It might be kind of how God sees us…

And how we could choose to see each other!

The “How” of How to be Right!

So we’ve concluded that there is one – and only one – way to be right: to agree with God.

Everything else? Well, the obvious opposite is that if it disagrees with God, it’s wrong. And all the other stuff? Well, that’s personal preference, or a current best suggestion based on current best knowledge and understanding. Which can, of course, change in no time flat.

But I digress! If the way to be right is to agree with God, how do we do that?

Well, for the stuff in Scripture, we simply agree with it! We study it, know it, memorize it, align with it, practice it, implement it, reflect it, live it… and live by the Spirit in doing the best we can with it!

But what about the types of things Job’s friends were saying? How do we know if those are true of us? How do we come to right conclusion? A humbly right one, that is! We of course want to be open to sin in our lives, but we are in dangerous, destructive territory if we open ourselves to others’ inaccurate perceptions of sin in our lives. Because ‘inaccurate perception’ is simply seven syllables for a very destructive one: lie.

So what do we do about judgments? Paul talks about this in Galatians 6. He begins by talking about someone caught in sin.. that we should *restore* him *gently* (I feel another digression coming on!). A few sentences later, he gives this important instruction:

Each one should test his own actions…for each one should carry his own load.

It’s similar to the beloved Psalm 139:23-24:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

What emphasis do we see? It’s all about our relationship with the Lord and the Lord’s examining us. It’s all about personal responsibility. It doesn’t tell us to search another person’s heart – it tells us to search our own. It tells us to carry our own load. It tells us to mind our business! And that doesn’t just mean to stay out of other people’s business (with of course the loving exception of actual, factual sin) but to actively mind our own business. We are not told to search other people’s hearts, but we are told to search our own! Are we applying that in the right proportion?

{step off of soap box : )}

So how do we do this? I mean, really, truly, how? What specifically do we do?

Well, we’re in luck! And *free* luck at that – my favorite kind! : ) ChristianAudio’s free audiobook download this month is all about Hearing God. After all,

“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind.” ~ Jeremiah 17:10

It is God’s job to search our hearts. We mustn’t give that responsibility – and privilege – to a lesser being.

How to be Right

How can we be sure we’re right?

I mean – if I perceived something one way, and someone perceives it another – who is right?  Or if I think something should be done one way and someone else thinks it should be done another – who is right?  Like do you wake the sleeping baby to feed him, or do you never wake a sleeping baby?  Or there is always the age old over/under debate!  Who is right?

Well, we’re hanging out with Job, and he was right.  So how can we be like Job?

Now granted, the Lord had some things to say to Job – four chapters worth!  And Job had some repenting to do (Job 42:1-6).  But the Lord affirms that Job was right.  The Lord says to the three friends about Job,

“I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”  ~ Job 42:7

We covered the three friends‘ being really wrong last post.  So let’s focus on Job – he was actually right!  Because why?

Because the Lord says so?  Well yes, that is a fine answer.  God says it so we believe it!  But in a similar three-friend-like situation, how would I know if I am right?  After all, I’m not in the Bible – I don’t have any inerrant Word of God written about me!

Let’s try the same answer from a different angle.  Job isn’t right simply because Job is right – Job didn’t come up with some random things and then God decreed that Job’s thoughts are right and the friends are wrong.  Job is right because the things he said agreed with God.

That’s what makes a person right.

When they agree with God.

Because God is always right.

It’s a bit Lincoln-esque:

“Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

If our thoughts for sure don’t agree with God, then of course we’re for sure not right.  While the extreme is obvious, the middle ground is important to remember: if we’re not sure if our thoughts agree with God, then we may not right.

This applies to so many things!  My perception of another person – if it doesn’t align with what God knows of them and their heart, then I’m not right.  The tone with which I think a person wrote an e-mail – if it doesn’t align with what God knows of them and their heart, then I’m not right.  How I think a person should have responded – if it doesn’t algin with what God knows of them and their heart, then I’m not right.  The decision I think a person should make about a non-sin issue – if it doesn’t align with God’s plan for them, then I’m not right.

So how do I know?

How do I know if my thoughts about another person align with God’s?

How do I know if I’m right?

Just a warning here that you may not like this answer.  I mean, how could we possibly know what God wants for them?  If it’s in Scripture, we totally in love and with care share with them our understanding of what the Lord desires.  But if it’s not in Scripture, how do I know if what I think aligns with God?  How do I know if I’m right?

The answer?  I don’t.

I don’t know if I’m right.

And to pretend like I do?  Well, to Job’s friends, the Lord called that ‘folly.’

My heart?  My motives?  My tone?  My decision about a non-sin issue?  I’m not that old!  They aren’t in Scripture!

So unless it’s in Scripture, we best not act like we’re right.

(More specifics on How to be Right next post!)

What I would love to change

I so wish I could change it.

I so wish I could change one of the recurring themes in interactions involving judging.  I just love thinking about how much cheerier the world would be if it were different!

This is what I wish we wouldn’t miss out on ~

Judging misses an opportunity to care.

Take this story, for example…

Mindy is hanging out in the church lobby waiting for service to start.  Oh yeah!  she thinks.  Here comes Sarah, my small group leader! 

Um… but wait. 

Sarah races by Mindy with her hand up covering her face.

Um, really?  Mindy thinks.  How rude!  She’s my small group leader, and she didn’t even have the common courtesy to say hi.  And then she put her hand up to cover her face?!  I’m not two years old.  I know you’re still there.  If you don’t want to talk to me, then just tell me.  If you don’t want to be friends, there are more mature ways to let me know than to pretend like you don’t see me and that I can’t see you in the church lobby.  You clearly don’t want me in your small group. 

And on top of all that, Mindy thinks, you’re my small group leader!  This is no way for a small group leader to act.  I should find a staff person and let them know how rude my small group leader is being.  She is certainly not reflecting Christ’s love.

So that’s what Mindy thinks.  Now this is what’s going on in Sarah’s world…

Sarah is on her way to church.  She’s putzing along in traffic, all the while praying for the girls in her group.  She adores those ladies.

As she walks into church, she greets the guy cleaning the windows.  He gets startled, and oops!  Window cleaner spray goes right in her eye.  She jerks and rubs her eye… but apparently too harshly.  Her contact lens scratches her eye, and as she’s rubbing, it goes who-knows-where on her eyeball.  Ouch!  Her eye is on fire from the combination of the chemicals, the scratch, and now the super awkward – and painful – location of her contact lens.  With her hand clutching her eye, she races towards the bathroom hoping to get some relief by flushing her eye out with water.  It’s kind of hard to see and navigate through the crowd.  She prays, Lord, it would be nice if someone saw me and could come help.

Yikes, right?

Mindy feels like she has quite the case.  But does she?  When she runs her thoughts through Philippians 4:8, how will she fare?

Now what if Mindy – instead of judging and critiquing – chose instead to take captive her thoughts?  What if she chose to consider palliating circumstances?  What if she chose to not let judging and critiquing distract – or usurp – her love for her sister?  What if she had chosen instead of judging to care?

We have such a powerful opportunity as believers for our love for one another to be a testimony of Christ.  Yet judging or critiquing often causes us to miss an opportunity to care.  It can be such a sinful distraction from Christ’s call in our lives to love one another!

Simply being aware of this can keep us watchful for sin and Satan’s sneaky ways!  It can be a reminder when a judgmental thought enters our mind to ask, “Is there a way I could show love here?  Is my judging causing me to miss an opportunity to care?”

The Lord was gracious to use this in a powerfully humbling way in my life recently.  I can’t wait to tell you about it next time!

Whose team are you playing for?

The answer may not be as obvious as you think!

In my seven years of seminary, there is one moment I remember so clearly.  It was one of the most poignant gems.

I mean, it was a gem in the sense that it was a treasure – a phenomenally helpful paradigm for my relationship with others, our thoughts about one another, and our reflection of the Lord.

But I must say, my initial reaction was a bit incredulous.

At first, it seemed so strong that my natural, sort of knee-jerk reaction was to want to think it wasn’t true.  To try to think of a way it couldn’t be true.  Or perhaps, it was to *desire* that it wasn’t true.

But I kind of think it is.

I was sitting in a counseling class.  In a very average spot – middle desk in the middle row.  The professor was talking and teaching, and we were discussing and note taking. It seemed like a normal class on a normal day. And then, in the midst of the ordinary, he asked an intriguing question,

Do you know why it is such a heinous sin to falsely accuse your brother or sister in Christ?

Wow.  That really got my attention.  If I’d been daydreaming, I certainly wasn’t anymore.

Heinous sin?  Wow.

Now granted, any good philosophy student or any good logic student would have a heyday with that question.  Yes, it is a loaded question.   It carries very loaded assumptions.

The question first assumes that people falsely accuse fellow believers.  Maybe it’s not as egregious as a total, out-of-the-blue, radical sin – I don’t know many of us who walk around falsely accusing people of murder.  Maybe the false accusations are more subtle: “You were selfish when you did this.” “You acted entitled when you did that.” “You expect us to serve you.”  “You were arrogant when you made that comment.”  I mean, those things might be true.  But they might also be false.  There are many reasons why a person may have done what they did or said what they said.  And to presume to know the motive of a man’s heart – Yikes.  That’s way above all our pay grades!

So maybe such ‘false accusations’ are simply just mistakes.  Maybe they’re really just mistaken accusations.  Or misperceptions, perhaps.  Should we really be calling them heinous sins?  I was intrigued to see how my professor was going to answer it.

We all sat there sort of like deer in headlights processing this hugely loaded question.  Would the response justify its wording?

And this was his answer:

Because that’s what Satan does.

Um, yikes.

That had to sink in a bit.

The devil is the false accuser of the brethren.

Wow.

I mean, that’s true.  I can’t argue with that.  That’s how he’s described in Revelation 12:10.  In fact, that is what his name means: devil means ‘false accuser.’  He attacks people’s character as he did in Job 1-2.

But the implication?  Wow.

So the devil is the false accuser of the brethren.  That’s true.  He attacks character.  And as the rest of the chapters in Job illustrate, others can quickly follow suit.

When they do… when they join in being a false accuser of fellow believers… um, whose team does that most resemble?

  • Christ’s – our advocate before the Father
  • Or Satan – the accuser of the brethren

It’s a bit stunning.

I must say that I think my professor’s question is merited.  It seems indeed to be a sin if we’re rallying on the wrong team.  But ‘heinous’?  Oh yikes.  Yet I think even this word is merited.  Playing for the wrong team is indeed dangerous – and has potentially been called worse.  Traitors – whether intentionally or unintentionally – give a path for the enemy to advance.

Such a stunning question with such convicting implications.

And such revealing implications as well. Committing to a singular conviction of challenging people according to God and His Word – not speculated motives – is a huge threat to the devil.  He likes it when he can trick us into taking jabs at other believers.  He loves the help.

So whose team will you play on?  You may get a little pushback from the weakening devil.  But squashing heinous sin is worth it - Amen?

Buy a saddle?

Ironically, just a few days after my conversation with my friend, someone told me an interesting saying,

If one person calls you a horse, buck it off.  If three people call you a horse, buy a saddle.

It’s catchy.  But given my friend’s recent points, I wasn’t at all convinced.  What if three people tell you you are a horse, but three people tell you you aren’t a horse?  Who’s right?

Well, God is.  Ask him.

I started to think about people in Scripture.

  • More than three people told the prophets that they were crazy.  I’m glad they didn’t believe them.
  • More than three people told Paul via beatings and imprisonments that he shouldn’t go spread the gospel.  I’m glad he didn’t listen to them.
  • More than three people challenged Jesus that He wasn’t the Messiah.  I’m REALLY glad He didn’t believe them!

Three people saying something makes it three people who say something.  Three people will tell you you’re a horse for believing in Christ.  Three others will tell you you’re a stallion for believing in Him!

It’s three people.

I think my greatest concern with the concept is that it sets a really low threshold for Satan.  We’re telling Satan that if he can get three people to believe something about a person – if he can mess with situations such that three perspectives get swayed – that that makes a truth?

That. is. dangerous.

Lest we forget – a whole *nation* got behind Adolf Hitler.  So three people – cake!  Satan can certainly sway their perceptions.

Lest we also forget – when there were only two people on the face of the earth and only one thing they weren’t supposed to do, Satan batted 1.000.  If he can convince two out of two people that their perception of a perfect God is wrong, surely he can convince three out of seven billion people that their perception of a sinful human has merit.

So what makes a truth?  Not some silly threshold.  GOD makes a truth.  So ask Him to examine your heart.  Examine your life against His Word.  If you stand in peace before Him, you needn’t buy a saddle.  Go shop for something else : )

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.  ~ 1 Corinthians 4:3-4

My heart

As we were boarding our flight to come back from the beach, we met some of the dearest people.  A group of caretakers from an adult group home took the group homies (is there a proper term?  idk, but this one is kind of fun!) on a cruise.  How precious is that!

Now the group homies were of various ability levels.  Many were in wheelchairs, many were nonverbal… and all were just precious.  The caretakers looked exhausted – just one more leg to get home!

God was gracious to plant one of the gentlemen next to me.  He wasn’t communicative, but oh how he communicated so powerfully to me a message I needed to be reminded of that day at that particular time.  His rocking and swaying kept me vigilant of his presence – and I needed that constant reminder.  I needed the reminder of God’s gracious love for His precious creations.  I needed the reminder that He is perfect and His plan is perfect – He doesn’t make any mistakes!  And I needed the reminder that I am blessed abundantly – He has given me gifts and abilities even in daily life, and I oft forget to remember their privilege.

Oh, how I needed those reminders that day at that particular time!

You see, we were standing in line for quite a while as the plane was loading.   With many passengers of various ability levels, it took a bit to load.  We were all lined up in that tunnel thing to get onto the plane (like my terminology? : )) just a-chilling.  The family in front of me I unfortunately didn’t speak their language, and the woman behind me was in high complaining mode.  That’s totally not my cup of tea, so I prayed, “Lord, what shall we do while we’re a-chilling?”

He brought to mind something that I’ve been told by some wise people a few times along my journey.  I’d kind of pushed it aside when they mentioned it because… well.. in all honesty, it seemed a bit much to me.  And… truthfully…I didn’t want it to be true.  But multiple people have said it – and they are people for whom I have great respect.  So I busted out my iPhone.  I’d been intending to research it for a while ~ apparently now is the time!

And oh. my. goodness.  My heart just broke.

I’ve waited quite a while to type this story for fear my tears would fry my motherboard.

{oops}

As I’m typing, I’m not sure I’ve waited long enough.

When I googled, this is what I found:

a negative defining statement told to you or about you.

Another website stated it similarly:

a lie told to you or about you.

Also,

defining people by telling them what they are, what they think, their motives, and so forth.

And my heart. just. sank.  I’m not sure I knew it could sink so heavily.

This is exactly what we’ve been talking about on {double hockey sticks}.  Exactly.

  • To stop, drop, and roll to be sure we’re not convinced that we think we know what people think, what their motives are, and what they are.
  • To forgo perceptions to avoid inaccurately defining people.
  • To think things that are true – actually, factually true to be sure we’re not creating negative defining statements.

I. was. stunned.

Stunned.

Why?

Because of the term I looked up.  I had thought for sure that applying this term to my journey was overstated.  For sure it didn’t apply in the mature Christian kingdom.

Oh how I wish that were true.

The term?

‘Verbal abuse.’

Yikes.

Can I tell you the part that makes me the saddest?  It just grieves me to my core.

So often in the Christian kingdom, we do this:

  • We tell people what we think their (sinful) motives were in a situation.  We tell them what we think they think.  We tell them what we think they are.
  • Then if they don’t ‘own’ the things we think about them, then we tell them they aren’t teachable, they aren’t willing to own their faults, they aren’t submissive.

We start by defining a person, telling them what they are, what they think, their motives.  That is the definition of verbal abuse.  Then when they don’t own our verbal abuse, we further define them by telling them what they and their motives are.  We start with verbal abuse, then we pile more verbal abuse onto it.  Uck!

And the part that just grieves me to my core?

We say we are “speaking the truth in love.”

We baptize it.  We baptize verbal abuse.

Oh – I just grieve thinking about how that must grieve the heart of God.  Oh goodness.  How it must grieve Him that we talk to His precious children that way.  How it must grieve Him that we view His precious creations that way.  How it must grieve Him that we sin by thinking things about His precious creations that aren’t true, noble and right.  How it must grieve Him that we blame *them* when they don’t own *our* sin (of not thinking things that were true, noble, and right). How it must grieve Him that we then pile on more verbal abuse.  And oh how it must grieve Him that we sin and verbally abuse one another under the guise of God’s Word!

Oh how it must grieve the heart of God!

No wonder it causes so much destruction in God’s kingdom.  And no wonder it hurts so.

So here I was, standing in the tunnel thing to board the plane, dumbstruck and grieved.  I’ve been trying on {double hockey sticks} to cast vision for people to live a calling of thinking things that are true, noble, and right about others.  But really, all we’re trying to do is not verbally abuse one another.  That’s all.

Amen?  Can we make a pact on that?

No verbal abuse.

And *especially* no verbal abuse baptized as ‘speaking the truth in love.’

Uck.

So I boarded the plane grieving.  Grieving what we do to each other.  Grieving what we’ve done to the Lord.  Grieving how we’ve misapplied His Word.  Hurting anew at some parts of my own journey.  Grieving.  And angry.

And the Lord in His good pleasure placed the most perfect person next to me.  As he rocked back and forth uncommunicative, oh how he communicated God’s love to me! God’s plans are perfect. He has unique journeys and challenges for each of His creations.  And they are all perfect in His plan.  His creations are perfect.  His blessings are abundant.  Oh how He reminded me of things I needed to remember that day at that moment.

We are blessed – abundantly.  We are loved – fully.  He has us each on a journey – purposefully.  He is a God of Victory, and He will bring us through – victoriously.

So as we consider thinking things that are pure – things that are holy – let’s make a pact to be set apart.  Set apart for the Lord… and far, far away from verbally abusing one other.  Set apart for pure, holy, joy-filled relationships in God’s kingdom.  Set apart for His blessed glory!  Amen?

a little ol’ note
If you’ve been following this blog, you know this well: My husband is my biggest fan, and the most caring, godly, wise person I know.  Just to be abundantly clear – the grief and hurt I mentioned about my journey has *not* been caused by him.  The Lord has been very gracious in our marriage.  For that, I am blessed.