Monday, January 30, 2012

Pick a Little, Talk a Little

Do you know that there is a disease that is rampant in the modern Church?  It eats the Church alive, from the inside out; and is like a repulsive decay that destroys so much potential for beauty and productivity.  It kills any godly endeavor one may possess, and is the root cause of an innumerable amount of issues that can take years to recover from.  

It is gossip.

When most people hear the word "gossip", they think of elderly women playing Bridge, teenagers in high school, ladies in the beauty parlor or gentlemen gathering at the local cafe.  But when I hear the word "gossip", I have an instant picture of the Church in mind...and it ought not to be so.

Gossip is like termites.  Everything looks good on the outside, and before you know it, it is all caving in underneath you.  While things appeared to be just peachy, there was a silent killer eating away at anything viable underneath.  This is not what we are called to; THIS, this is what we are called to: 

"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

Are our conversations edifying?  If Jesus was standing in our midst, would He be pleased with the words that are coming out of our mouths?  What if the person who we were discussing were in our presence...would we change the topic of our discussion?  You see, we get so caught up in our selfish motives, that we don't look ahead at all.  We don't care what kind of damage we can do with our words, just as long as we feel good while we are doing it.  

This is tragic!  Look what just a fraction of the verses in Proverbs says about our mouths...

"Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee."  Proverbs 4:24

"For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.  All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them."  Proverbs 8:7-8

"The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate." Proverbs 8:13

"The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out.  The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness."  Proverbs 10:31-32

"An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered." Proverbs 11:9

"He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction." Proverbs 13:3

We don't understand how much power we hold in our tongues.  James says:

"For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.  Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.  Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.  Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.  For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind.  But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.  Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?  Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh."  James 3:2-12

Taming our tongues is vital!  If the world hears our gossipy voices, they are going to be able to see right through us and come to the conclusion that we are just like them.  They gossip and so do we!  Why should they desire a Savior when we have One and indulge in the same sins that they do?  

When we take our words and use them to manipulate others' opinions of each other, we are treading in dangerous waters.  God is not pleased with these kinds of actions.  He has told us over and over again in His word, that we need to use our tongues for His glory and the edification of His Church.  Now, I am not against lighthearted conversations, they can be edifying if they are lifting your spirits and encouraging you to pursue the furtherance of the Kingdom with joy!  That is a great thing!  But if you get joy out of bashing your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, then that is cause for genuine concern.  

When someone does something that rubs you the wrong way, or that just didn't appeal to you, and you go to someone else and attempt to get them to feel the same way as you do towards that person, then you are in sin.  If someone has sinned against you and you go to another brother or sister in the Lord to ask for prayer regarding the scenario, that is a little different; but if you go and ask for prayer just as an excuse to talk bad about someone, then you are in the wrong.  

Gossip will destroy a Church faster than a wildfire.  It divides the Body and wounds spirits.  Going to Church on Sunday merely so you can get the latest "news" or "dirt" about everything that went on that week, is a severe offense in the eyes of God.  We should be using our tongues for something beautiful; not ugly and deceitful!

We as young women fall into this so easily.  Someone rubs us the wrong way and we are on them like flies on honey.  We want everyone else to have a low opinion of them too, we want them to feel less, we want them to be the outcast and we want to feel superior to them in our friendships with others.  It is a dirty business.  It is repulsive and disgusting.  It makes ugly hearts and will eventually show up on our faces and in our actions.  We want to radiate the beauty of Jesus Christ and convey the tender feminine heart that He bestowed upon us!  How dare we pick up something so horrid and wicked and claim that as our prized possession!  

Girls, what are we doing?  

Forming cliques and leaving people out is all worldly!  Why do we do this?  Because we want to feel good.  We don't give any thought about being Jesus to others, we want to feel like the Queen Bee.  What about being a servant?  What about denying our flesh and stepping outside of our comfort zone?  What about confronting the sin of gossip when it is right in front of our eyes?  

Why are we so scared?  Because when people gossip to you, you know they will gossip about you.  We don't want to be gossiped about!  I don't want to be gossiped about!  Nobody does!  But are we willing to give up a seemingly good reputation for the sake of God's glory?  I mean, if someone is going to gossip about you because you decided not to gossip with them, that's a pretty good reason to be gossiped about.  

Part of why girls gossip in particular is that they are immensely competitive.  They see a girl who they think is prettier or smarter than them, or who they feel is getting more attention or the guys like better and they instantly conjure up a complex plot to bring them down in the form of gossip.  They want everyone to dislike them as much as they do, so they go to this person and that person and start a rumor mill that will eventually leave somebody in tears... and it's usually the victim of the gossip.  

Do you see what the common thread is with gossip and rumors?

It is pride.

Someone's pride gets wounded, or threatened, and that's when gossip is at its strongest.  If we could only heed the warnings of pride found in the Scriptures, and put on humility, we could find that avoiding the temptation to gossip becomes a lot easier.

"The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate."  Proverbs 8:13

"Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom."  Proverbs 13:10

"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."  Proverbs 16:18

"A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit."  Proverbs 29:23

Gossip is so dangerous.  It comes from a place deep within ourselves.  It isn't like children throwing toys at each other, it is deeper than that.  We are attempting to hurt people and cut them in their souls!  We are trying to would their spirits and make them feel less than ourselves.  That is not what we were called to do!  We were called to put others before us.  Gossip is a reflection of the ugly reflection of the heart.  It also show a real lack of compassion and empathy.  Listen to the words of Jesus with regard as to what comes from within:

"And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:  All these evil things come from within, and defile the man."  Mark 7:20-23 

*emphasis mine

If we could only obtain a birds eye view of the damage that is done on behalf of gossip!  Why is it so hard for us to understand that it is a reflection of what is in our hearts and it isn't pretty?  Gossip is a venomous plague that leads to brokenness and destruction.  We need to be evaluating our hearts and make sure that we are actually being light, not just reflecting it.  This life isn't about how good we felt or how popular we were, it is about something huge, something glorious!  It is a tiny window in the vastness of time, and it is so short.  Why would we waste our opportunity to further the Kingdom, on something as silly and superficial as gossip?  It certainly isn't a Gospel mindset.  If our conversation would make someone think that we might not be a Christian, then we ought to be ashamed.  We need to repent and beg God to forgive us for wounding others with our words, and to give us the grace to seek repentance from those we have hurt.

May God soften our hearts and show us our sin!  May He pour out an abundance of grace so that we may keep our eyes on Jesus.  And may we always have an eternal perspective in our minds, rather than just always living in the moment and pleasing ourselves.  

"...and be clothed with humility, for 'God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.'  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."  1 Peter 5:5-8

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Conundrum

I have had this blog for over a year now, and have finally mustered up the courage to tackle a subject I have been long avoiding.  Not because it is bad, but because it is so sensitive.  Opinions are rather intricate and stepping on toes cannot be avoided.

It is frightening, intimidating, can lead to sudden anxiety attacks and is 90% of the cause regarding girls' heartaches.

Relationships!  Oh yes!  But not just any kind of relationship, guy/girl relationships, specifically.  While I have vaguely alluded to them in the past, I have not ever devoted an entire blog post to the tender subject. 

But why is it so hard to address?  Because us girls tend to be rather emotional about it all.  In fact, we can tend to get so emotional, that we endanger our hearts.  Guy/girl friendships can be hard to navigate if a worldly mindset is in place.

It is so important for us to remember that God gave us these kinds of relationships for our edification, sanctification and the furtherance of His kingdom.  (1 Timothy 5:2) I learn so much from my brothers in the Lord, but much of this learning would be inhibited if a flirtatious attitude were in place.  A really good way to determine whether you are being appropriate with your male friends, is to ask yourself if you are being more "friendly" and familiar with them than you are with your girlfriends, or your own brother.  I have seen so many instances where young men and women enter into circles and are friendlier with each other than they are with their own siblings.  It isn't right!  This leads to an enormous amount of problems, not to mention the message it is sending to the world.  We need to tread with caution and make sure that the world sees something different in our relationships with young men than they would see in their own.  We are not like the world, how dare we act like it?!  So just as a general rule of thumb, ask yourself if you are being friendlier with you male friends than you would be with your own dear brother(s). 

The other factor that plays into a large quantity of obstacles that proceed the attack of girl/guy issues, is competitiveness among young women.  Didn't think I would ever have the guts to admit it, did you?  Young women are immensely competitive!  Let’s just be totally honest…you know you want your cookies to taste better than Susie’s!  I mean come on, she uses a bagged mix!  Can you believe it!  And the dust that inhabits her home…my goodness!  You would be perfectly mortified if anyone ever saw your table tops with a week’s worth of dust on them!  You serve the best gourmet food on fine china, in an immaculate home, that smells like a primitive d├ęcor store, and you do it all while wearing the extravagant taffeta dress that you just happened to finish sewing and embroidering last Tuesday. 

We all do it! 

We want to be better than our fellow homemaker competitors.  We are women!  You think men get competitive!  HA!  Look at Rachel and Leah.  They were sisters who were in a birthing battle to conjure with.  Women are immensely competitive with each other.  It is in our nature…it is in our sinful nature.  It isn’t a good habit, and it certainly isn’t a healthy one.  We are not like the world in that we compete to be the homecoming queen or cheerleading captain.  We don’t compete to get our master’s before our highschool friends and earn more money than they do.  But we do take our competiveness and exercise it in our domesticity. 

We want to be the youngest one married, or the first one to have a baby.  We want to be known for having the most “healthy” habits and the most prepared wife and mother that anyone has ever seen.  “You say you were eleven when you could run a home on your own?  Well I was TEN!”  This attitude is contrary to the scriptures...

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

This kind of attitude is so often carried over into our guy/girl friendships.  It isn't that girls necessarily care about whether so and so is going to court them; but rather, it has to do with that they want to be the one all the boys pay attention to; they want to be the center of attention and be the one that everyone wants to court.  They want the notoriety the world promises, but with the stamp of "holy" on it.  

We don't want to become so consumed with avoiding inappropriate friendships that we avoid friendships altogether.  Trying to avoid any interaction with young men can lead to viewing them all as potential suitors...and that is wrong too.  Staying away from young men isn't going to make anybody's sinful nature dissipate.  Kneeling before the throne of the Lord and seeking His will and being sanctified is what will conquer our burden of sin. Be careful that you don't develop a religious spirit about it.  Staying away from young men and having no friendships with them at all doesn't make you holier; it can potentially inhibit your edification by limiting you to only a female perspective on things (with the exceptions of your own family members who happen to be men) and by giving you a pharisee like attitude towards young women who embrace the beauty that can lie in these edifying relationships.  Avoiding one extreme is no excuse for fleeing to another.    

Bad views on guy/girl relationships are everywhere.  One side says avoid them altogether and the other says to embrace like the world does.  A competitive spirit appears to be the driving force behind a lot of ill actions towards both young men and women.  Young women end up hurting each other for the sake of getting a guy's attention.  It makes me laugh...but then it makes me cry.  "Why does it bring you to tears, Shelby?"  Because I see it tear apart the body of Jesus Christ.  I see it rob young women of their potential to do great and wonderful things for the kingdom of Heaven.  I watch young women lose their identity in Jesus and seek it on an alternative front that promises nothing but despair.  

That is why I weep!  That is why the keys on my keyboard are getting worn out and my voice becomes weary from shouting off of the rooftop.  My hearts passion consumes me and it has caused me to become grieved over some of these issues.  If only we could have the ability to look past what we desire right now and see the consequences our actions could produce.  The thing is that God has given us so many examples of decisions and their consequences in His Word...we don't need to experiment to find out what is going to happen when we misbehave or indulge our flesh and fall into sin.  God has told us and that should suffice any thirst we have to dabble in the world's philosophy regarding anything...but in this post, regarding guy/girl friendships.  

Another good way to maintain healthy friendships is to make sure they're edifying.  Sure, it isn't bad to have lighthearted conversations; but are the lighthearted conversations appealing because they are secretly satisfying a craving for attention?  Or because they are lifting your spirits and encouraging you to fight this battle for the kingdom with a joyful heart?  Ask yourself why...why does this make me happy?  Why does this appeal to me?  Making sure our heart is pure and we don't have an ulterior motive, is vital! 

"Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith..." ( 1 Timothy 1:5)

"To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.  They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work." (Titus 1:15-16)

 You see, as hard as it is to believe, we are flesh and blood human beings; and also fabulous architects!  All of us!  Didn't know that did you?  That's right, we are masters at building!...ego building that is.  We love our egos! (my mother has always said that "ego" stands for Edging God Out)  I have always wondered if Eggo waffles didn't formulate their name from the human "ego" just to make us love them more!  We love to have our ego's stroked and empowered!  We think we deserve to feel special.  We are amazing people, of course everyone loves us, right?  Wrong!  We're not amazing, Christ is amazing!  Christ is what makes our lives worth living!  Sure, you feel like you are on top of the world when you have all attention on you, but what if you woke up tomorrow and there had never been a Savior to rescue you from your wickedness?  What if you found out that God didn't really love you, or that you had no part in the beauty of eternal life?  What if you found out that once you died you would be sent to burn in eternal anguish and misery for the rest of your life?  What if you stood before the throne of the almighty and perfect God and the demons came upon you and drug you to hell, while the beauty of paradise faded from your view and the heat of sin and terror fell upon you?  

Would your thoughts be on how much you loved testing the boundaries with the young men?  I don't think so.  ;)  See we need to have an eternal perspective in mind.  I'm not saying that if well fall, we will be hell bound, but I am saying that we need to focus our attention on what we have been given!  We have been given something beautiful that will last forever!  Wow!  I get goosebumps thinking about it!  Do we understand it?  I don't think we comprehend that this life WILL pass away.  This?  This right here?  This isn't going to make us happy.  What we are fighting for here is what should make us happy!  

If we feel the need to procure our happiness from others and our relationships with them, we are going to make them, ourselves and others surrounding us, utterly miserable.  We were meant to be fulfilled in Christ, not human beings.  It all comes down to being content.  

As of this moment in time, I am so happy that God saved me, that I don't care if any living soul accepts me or likes me.  I don't need that.  I don't need to be loved or admired; I don't need a husband or children; I don't need someone to build up my ego and tell me how wonderful I am.  None of these things will make us happy.  Only the Lord will make us happy!  Understanding that we are part of something so gorgeous and that we belong to someone who is perfect, should make us smile and then pick up our swords and fight for whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure and whatever things are lovely.

Now let's see if I feel that way tomorrow, shall we?