Being Before Doing

In my last post I shared that I had been struggling with physical problems which have caused some mental, emotional and spiritual Yard friend May 2013upheavals also.

Purifying and Refining Faith

I want to be clear:  this has not been a time of abandoning faith, or even doubting, but of purifying and refining…a type of clarifying borne through the instrument of pain and bringing me to a greater understanding of my own mortality.

Contrast Between Being and Doing

So what have I been learning?  The contrast between being and doing in my walk with God.

When you have been in ministry for a long time, it is easy to evaluate your worthiness by what you do.  That mental checklist of ways that you serve God, others and your community can be the measure of personal spirituality.

But as we all know, these ‘things’ can be done with absolutely no heart for God.  A poignant reminder of this type of ‘doing’ is illustrated in Matthew 7:22.  These people who have done many wonderful works are not even genuine believers!

‘Be’ Before ‘Do”

When the ability to ‘do’ much has been removed because of illness, we are forced to look at how important that aspect of our Christian lives really is.  Yes, it’s important to be doing what God directs us to do, but it’s most important to ‘be’ what God wants us to be BEFORE we do.

The most striking biblical example of this for me is the interaction of Christ with Mary and Martha.  Martha stayed busy preparing the meal while Mary sat quietly at Jesus’ feet listening to the Master.   Jesus commended Mary as taking care of the most important thing, even though what Martha was doing was necessary.

What Does It Mean to ‘Be’?

So what does it mean, practically, to ‘be’? It means taking time to read God’s Word and let the thoughts roll around in your mind throughout the day.  Sometimes in our weakened state we can only grasp a word or a phrase to meditate on throughout the day.  How much better it is to think about on of God’s attributes than focus on our own weakness!

Rehearsing hymn texts – the ones full of biblical doctrine – helps us to focus on the Lord throughout the day.  My childhood pastor used to distinguish between good doctrinal hymns and the 7-11 variety  – seven words repeated eleven times with no substance to the song!  I try and avoid the ‘junk food’ texts and fasten on the spiritually uplifting ones.

God has been teaching me that as long as I have mental capacity I can be praying – praying for peace, grace and contentment in my pain, praying for the needs and salvation of others, praying for God to strengthen and bless my family – and more.  I find as I go throughout the day that I comment to the Lord about situations and concerns much more than I used to.

Struggles Have Lead to Spiritual Growth

All of this is helping to grow me as a believer.  As Christians we have a relationship with a person – a personal relationship with Christ.  Sometimes in our busyness we can become robotic – dragging our eyeballs across the page as my former pastor’s wife used to say – in order to check off a list of spiritual duties.  Learning to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’ has helped put those priorities in order.

Next time I’ll share more of what God has been teaching me through my struggles.

 

 

 

 

 

IF by Amy Carmichael

Amy Carmichael’s missionary labours extended over five decades beginning in the late Victorian period and sweeping through the Edwardian period of Britain’s history. Though she began her work in Japan, the majority of her years were spent ministering to women and children in India.

A serious evaluation of her soul’s health was a daily habit with Amy. She understood clearly that to minister effectively to others one must first tend to his own relationship with the Lord. She realized that though we cannot always control what comes into our lives, we can, and should, control our responses to those events as we daily yield our lives to the Lord.

Amy Carmichael wrote profusely about her experiences and the lessons she gleaned from walking closely with the Lord. One of her best-loved books is entitled IF, a small volume that cuts right to the heart of those seeking to show the love of Christ to the world. Some poignant excerpts include the following:

 If I do not feel far more for the grieved Saviour than for my worried self when troublesome things occur, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

 If I belittle those whom I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong points; if I adopt a superior attitude forgetting ‘Who made thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou hast not received?’ then I know nothing of Calvary love.

 If I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, ‘You do not understand,’ or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other’s highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

 If I refuse to be a corn of wheat that falls into the ground and dies (‘ is separated from all in which it lived before’), then I know nothing of Calvary love.

IF is a book all Christian workers should read prayerfully. Out of print blue-covered copies may be found in second hand stores. More recently Christian Literature Crusade Publishers has reprinted a number of Amy Carmichael’s works. IF is well worth reading through from year to year.

 

Renewal

Women today lead full lives. Wife, daughter, employee, sister, homemaker, friend, and church member – these titles only begin to describe our relationships, much less the duties associated with them. Some of us work outside the home, some work from the home, many home school, and each of us has multiple daily responsibilities which keep us very, very busy. It is essential in the midst of such busyness that we pay attention to the spiritual exercise of renewing our minds each day.

The dictionary definition of renewal is: “to make like new: restore to freshness, vigor, or perfection. Renew implies a restoration of what had become faded or disintegrated so that it seems like new.” (m-w.com) We are commanded in Scripture to renew our minds: Ephesians 4:23 “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind” and to do it daily: 2 Corinthians 4:16 …”but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.”

In I John 3: 15 – 17 we are reminded that the enemies of our souls are the world, our own flesh, and the devil. Influences enter into our souls which weaken our fellowship with God, dampen our fervor, and cause us to sin. Maintaining a daily practice of renewal can help us stand against these influences as well as strengthen us in our Christian walk. We can restore the freshness of faith by paying attention to those things which enhance and build our relationship with God.

Renewal is accomplished through the regular practice of Bible reading, private prayer, and fellowship with God’s people. Accessing these means of grace helps keep us in touch with what God expects for His children. Other practices such as singing godly hymns, or reading Christ-centered literature, or memorizing Scripture can help encourage and strengthen us as believers.

Not only do we need to pay attention to the maintenance of daily renewal, we need the renewal that comes after confessing and forsaking sin. David prayed for this renewal after confessing his sin with Bathsheba. Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” John reminds us in I John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Renewal is necessary to restore us to proper fellowship with God after we have sinned.

As we are occupied with our busy schedules, let us review and remember our need for personal spiritual renewal from day to day, so that we may walk as children of light in a darkened world.

 

This Plague of Mosquitos

So what’s with all of the mosquitoes lately?  Yes, I know it’s been raining…..a lot, and I’m told the larva lie dormant in the ground until the right conditions allow them to hatch (don’t quote me on that…I haven’t verified it.) But honestly, I’ve never seen them swarm and congregate and CHASE people as they have been these past weeks.  Doing almost anything outside requires a liberal application of bug repellant and finding somebody to help with weeding is next to impossible under current conditions.  My beautiful annuals and perennials unleash an entire scourge of the nasty critters each time I walk past, much less try and water my flowers. (And yes, I did look it up.  A group of mosquitoes is called a scourge or a swarm.  Scourge describes it better as far as I’m concerned!) Several friends have mused about why the mosquitoes cling to our doors, and I certainly cannot provide an answer to that one.  The pesky, pokey, pirates (they steal our blood, after all) lurk and attack whenever we go in or out of our doors.  It’s like we have a plague of mosquitoes.

The idea of plagues caused my mind turn to Moses and the children of Israel in Egypt as recorded for us in Exodus chapters 7 – 12. Four of the ten plagues brought inordinate infestations of creatures – frogs, lice (or gnats,) flies, and locusts.  The frogs hopped into every bed, every oven, every bathroom.  They covered the floors and jumped through windows so that one could not walk, sit, or lie down without a frog being there first.  Tiny bugs (there’s some question about what the term lice means) crawled into every crack, every surface so there was no escape. Buzzing, annoying flies swarmed people, places, and countryside so thickly that they covered the ground. The crepitatious cacophony of copious, teeming locusts deafened the Egyptians while darkening the ground with a seething blanket of movement. Their relentless devouring destroyed all vegetation.  We’re blessed to live in a farming area.  It would be personally and economically catastrophic for folks in the area to be hit by a plaque that destroyed all vegetation.

So what have I learned from all this musing? That God is always in control.  No matter how clever, or how smart, or how conniving someone may be, God is still in charge.  How many times did Pharaoh “repent” and give his permission for the Israelites to leave before hardening his heart and changing his mind? He would see the destruction God brought on the Egyptians in each plague and he KNEW God had told him that plague was coming if Pharaoh would not allow God’s people to leave as God had commanaded, yet he persisted in demanding his stubborn way.  Scary, isn’t it?  Do I do that?  If I’m honest I have to answer that I do at times. So meditating on the plagues has caused me to evaluate my own thoughts and actions.  Do I truly want God to have control in my life?  Then I had better hear what He has to tell me and obey His loving leadership.

Just because a “plague” comes into my life doesn’t mean that it’s a result of disobedience.  But we all have blind spots so when troubles come on us we should, we need, to earnestly ask God to show us if we’re missing something He is trying to tell us.  God removed the plagues when Moses asked him to.  We need to ask for God’s help when troubles come into our lives.

Oh, and I’m also praying that these mosquitoes go away too!