But, as I smile, I know that I have never been one who is good at backing down at speaking Truth, even if it goes against the flow, or rubs people the wrong way. Ultimately, I am not really here to please people, I am to be living my life as a pleasing aroma to my King, and willing to use whatever gifts He has given me, to help speak Truth in love, encouragement, challenges, and a loving desire for my brothers and sisters to grow in their relationship with the Lord.
Being a bit of a “word-buff”, I decided to go to the dictionary and look up a few words that seem to be floating around me recently. Words that said by themselves, seem to be words that we sorta slide over, rush past knowing their meaning isn’t really nice, but not really wanting to spend too much time looking deeper into them, and see the blackness behind their true definition. Now, being a tactile person, words are just words to me, unless I have a way to FEEL them, resonate with them somehow, or have personally seen them played out both positively OR negatively in the lives of my family and friends. So, I want you to, if you will, stop with each word and think. THINK how you maybe have been impacted by them, seen them used in your family or friend’s life, or… if you will be willing to be very honest, be willing to admit that you have been the one to speak them yourself.
Definition of SLANDER : to utter slander against : defame
Definition of DEFAME 1archaic : disgrace; 2: to harm the reputation of by libel or slander; 3archaic : accuse
Definition of DISGRACE 1archaic : to humiliate by a superior showing; 2: to be a source of shame to disgraced the family; 3: to cause to lose favor or standing disgraced by the hint of scandal
Definition of GOSSIP 1: a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others; 2a : rumor or report of an intimate nature
21 years of ministry, and 42 years of living, and I have to tell you I have been on the receiving end of these words on more than one occasion. I personally had great pain from the impact of these words. We have seen loss of friendships, ministries, and family because them. I have seen how turning a blind eye and allowing the cancer of these words to spread, can become so damaging all you long for is Heaven and the perfection of the Holy and Righteous God who Judges according to His goodness, Love and Truth.
And, to be brutally honest, I have been the one speaking these words from time to time. I have done the unthinkable and opened my mouth to speak out against my brother or sister. I don’t approach this subject with a blind eye, or a finger pointing at the splinter in someone else’s eye, when I KNOW that I have had not only logs, but full on forests growing in my eyes!
Our women’s group at Lifezone have been going through the Book of James and we have had 6 weeks so far, of hard hitting words from the half-brother of Christ. He doesn’t seem to mince words, or beat around the bush. He straight forwardly said:
“ Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?” –James 4:11-12
In our study, this was said:
“Judgmental thoughts toward other believers put me at greater risk of trouble with God than those old sins I have committed”. We then were encouraged to go read Luke 18:8-14. I spent time just reading and rereading this passage, particularly verse 14.
I see how these words of “slander, defame, disgrace, gossip” are really the negative outpouring of each of us standing in judgment over each other. I can judge your actions based on my own personal information, and decide that I have the right to be judge and jury in your life. And you do the same in my life. You stand in judgment over me.
I loved that we were hit full force with the clear understanding that God is the only One that is allowed to judge. And what is the coolest thing is that God will judge based on Truth. He sees the past, He sees the present, and MOST importantly He sees the future! He knows what the real motivation of our hearts are, and He will judge accordingly. And when He Judges, there will never be slander or gossip from His Holy lips. He will never disgrace or defame one of His Kids. We are His Inheritance. We are part of His Royal Priesthood and are Princesses or Princes in His Kingdom.
But let me get back to James for a minute. James seemed to be encountering a pretty yucky situation in his congregation, for him to feel the need to speak so strongly to his brothers and sisters. It seems they too, were not acting like Princesses or Princes. They might have let slide the understanding that they are part of the Royal Kingdom, and were allowing the “world’s” standards instead to begin to seep in. They might have been turning on one another, slandering, defaming, disgracing and gossiping, instead of seeking to reach a sick and dying world around them. Was he seeing what I have been seeing? Did he feel the sting of gossip, slander, and defamation too? Was he seeing his family and friends being affected by this cancer?
I wonder if it is that as believers of Jesus, we are seemingly not doing a very good job of loving each other well. Francis Chan’s book “Crazy Love” talks about how if we are loving God with every fiber of our being, we will not have room in our lives to be sinning. We will be so filled up with love for God, that it will pour out of our lives into others around us. And as we are loving God with all our hearts, souls and minds, we will naturally love our “neighbors” (both the non-Christians and Christians alike) as ourselves. That in loving El Elyon with such devotion, that we become aware of how much grace we have been extended, and again, from that place of complete love for God, we naturally pour grace unto others around us.
Funny, as I was standing in the shower this morning, I was thinking about a conversation I had with my oldest on Monday. She has been studying the Fruits of the Spirit, and she was on “Patience”. Sis has also spent some time at the feet of a Bible Teacher learning the importance of having “porcupines” in our lives because by having the hard to love around us, we are being given real life examples of “practicing what we preach”. If I say “I love you no matter what, because God has given me the greatest love of all”, then certainly we should expect He is going to allow us to have people to do that very thing with. Or, if we say “I am SOSO overcome with God’s amazing Grace in my life, I just can’t imagine not showing it towards my brothers and sisters!”, then we should know that Adonai will place people in our lives that we need to give grace, grace and more grace to.
Peppa said her Bible Teacher encouraged us that we need these people to help us learn how to “die to self”. The world says “if someone is making you miserable, get rid of them”, but God’s standards are different. If someone is in your life that allows you “practice what you preach”, then maybe you and I need to spend more time thanking El Roi, who sees it all, and knows what the outcome of this situation will be. He is desiring to refine us, and that by turning up the fire in our lives, He wants to allow the imperfections to come to the surface so that He can scrape them off and we will become more and more in the image of His Son. Instead of fighting with His kids, and judging each other for this or for that, He wants to show the world that He is a God of love, and wants to use us to do that.
So how do we do that? Because, let’s be honest, there are people and situations that in my 42 years of living, that even now, in my mind’s eye I want to line up in front of a nice good old fashioned firing squad and will happily jump up to be the commanding officer that gets to count down the rifle bearers to shoot. Come on, as you read this, I hope some of you are smiling and murmuring an “amen!” under your breath. I HOPE that I am not the only one…. I see them as my “porcupines” and I struggle to WANT to love them, to extend grace to, when it seems like I have some deep wounds from their involvement in my life. So, I go back to the only source that I know will speak Truth and be reliable to show me how to live in a such a way that won’t grieve the Spirit that is in me. Because the reality is, the Holy Spirit really isn’t One to encourage firing squads! I know that…….
“Obey the Word of God. If you hear only and do not act, you are only fooling yourself. 23 Anyone who hears the Word of God and does not obey is like a man looking at his face in a mirror. 24 After he sees himself and goes away, he forgets what he looks like. 25 But the one who keeps looking into God’s perfect Law and does not forget it will do what it says and be happy as he does it. God’s Word makes men free.
I have seen this pattern in my life, where I will emotionally connect with a passage of scripture, or a message being spoken and go “Wow!! That was really good! I should try and remember that.”, but walk away and never seek to put into practice what I have learned. James speaks to this… Being a “hearer” or an actual “doer” of the Word.
So, why does it seem like I am walking around in circles and not really “getting to the point”?? Let me try now to tie this all up by offering a personal testimony. 17 years ago, I was really burned by those words that we started to look at in the beginning of this blog. Being a “artistic” person, and ADD to boot, music has always had great impact on me. Words sung from a heart with different instruments used to add emphasis resonate deeply to my core. A song that I would listen to over and over again during that painful time, was from a band called White Heart, entitled “Seventy Times Seven.” I just would sob, sing, sob, sing and sob some more. I was young and naïve. I was completely bowled over by the knowledge that believers in Jesus could so deeply wound one another. People that I had respected, considered friends and counted on, left me bleeding in the dust. I don’t for a minute believe that it was a coincidence that White Heart’s song was the newest released song getting massive air time on the Christian radio stations. And whilst that song helped me cry out my pain in the moment, I don’t believe I did what Scripture says. I didn’t really forgive seventy times seven. I just simply moved on from that pain, allowing the “past to be the past” and not ever really wanting to open that door to my heart again.
I have come full circle. This morning I created a new play list on my Praisepod. It’s simple title is “Forgiveness”. The first song to go into that play list was White Heart’s song from so long ago, with several other new ones that K-Love is playing right now. “Losing” by Tenth Avenue North, and “Forgiveness” by Mathew West just to name a few.
The point I am trying so desperately to make as I seek to close this circle of thought is that choosing to forgive is at the heart of being on the receiving end of all those awful words.
Definition of FORGIVING 1: willing or able to forgive; 2: allowing room for error or weakness
Definition of FORGIVE 1a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for forgive an insult; 2: to cease to feel resentment against
This time around, I want to do differently than I did 17 years ago. I want to forgive. I want to give up resentment, and I want to allow room for error or weakness in other people’s lives. I want to turn up my Praisepod, sing the songs as my hearts cry, and stand in front of my 1 Corinthians 13 passage taped to my bathroom wall and choose to pray love into my situation. I want to love as God has loved me. I want to offer grace, to the same measure that I have been given. And I want to forgive to the same measure of which I have been forgiven. I think in doing that, I am doing what James has said. I am looking into that mirror, and NOT walking away this time as if nothing is different. I want to wake up tomorrow different. I want to be dead to myself, and have more of Christ shining out of me. I want to be one that the sick and dying world can look to and see someone that has offered grace and forgiveness to, NOT in my own strength, but because I am represent a God that has done it for me.
And I never again want to allow slander, gossip, or defamation to come from my mouth. Words hurt deeply. Careless words spoken, divide. And slander will destroy friendships and trust. I don’t want that to be part of my list that God speaks to me about on my day of reckoning. I have enough other issues we are still working on.
So, I will end this with a “Thank You”. With not one little bit of sarcasm or bitterness in my voice (I pinky swear!) thank you to each one of you who have allowed me the opportunity to die to myself. I have chosen to take Paul’s words one step farther, and say “I thank God for my remembrance of you”. I can sit here this morning and think of each of your faces. If I didn’t have you “porcupines” in my life, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be refined. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to grow in Christ. I really do need you. Each of you have taught me more about myself, and shown me how much I long to be a girl that through thick and thin, good and bad, happy times and painful times, is growing to become more Christ like.
I will end with some of the lyrics from Mathew West’s song, “Forgiveness”Show me how to love the unlovable Show me how to reach the unreachable Help me now to do the impossible Forgiveness, Forgiveness Help me now to do the impossible Forgiveness It’ll clear the bitterness away It can even set a prisoner free There is no end to what it’s power can do So, let it go and be amazed By what you see through eyes of grace The prisoner that it really frees is you Forgiveness, Forgiveness Forgiveness, Forgiveness