Tuesday, April 17, 2018
“Oh, Lord,” I breathed as I sat on the platform at a meeting. “Look at that chic speaker three chairs down. Why did I wear beige? They won’t be able to see me against the curtains!”
I’ve always struggled with comparisons. I had a sister I adored and I wanted to be just like her. I had a friend with cute freckles on her nose and I wanted freckles too. I played tournament tennis and I wanted to perfect my backhand and make it look like my Wimbledon idol.
It didn’t help when I became a Christian either. In fact it grew worse. I looked around the new friends I had made and found an inordinate desire to walk like them, talk like them, witness like them, pray like them, and know the Bible like them. It was a trap?a comparison trap- and this little church mouse was caught securely in it.
Half of the problem was my own insecurity. Another piece of my problem was a sincere desire to be the very best for God, and when I saw someone doing that, I tried to copy her. Comparisons usually lead to copying and that is not all bad if you copy the principles and not the particulars.
You can’t copy spiritual gifts, however, even if you have gifts in the same area. God has made us uniquely and intends for each of us to be ourselves. Escaping the comparison trap is a question of being sure of your own identity.
The most freeing thought for me has been, “If I were them, who’d be me?” Why would God make me one of a kind if He wanted me to try being a clone? Over the years, I’ve noted that the worst group for falling into the comparison trap is ministry wives who find themselves following a perfect predecessor. No matter what, just smile and insist on being you!
In His Love,
Just Between Us Magazine
Monday, April 9, 2018
Isaiah was a great prophet. His messages brought comfort to the few among God’s people who were true believers. He constantly reminded them of the “covenant of grace.” At the same time, he brought a message of severe warning to those who refused to listen to the doctrine of life. When the Lord called His rebellious people to “reason together,” He did not call them to debate, but rather to agree with His verdict. He wanted them to acknowledge that their actions had not been in accordance with reason.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” ~ Isaiah 1:18
All sin is unreasonable. The people’s sin is described as scarlet in contrast to the stark whiteness of snow and crimson as opposed to the whiteness of wool. When yarns were dyed crimson in biblical times, the process required two baths or double-dying. When Christ forgave my sin I was very conscious that grace invited not a dialogue but a reasonable confession of the “double-dyed” mess I had made of my life. God wanted me to agree with His verdict and submit to His decision concerning my sin. I felt like a small ship whose wool had been dyed crimson by wrongdoing, and I was pretty red-faced about it all.
What joy to enter the “covenant of grace” and experience the whiteness of the soul that coming to God brings! Have you come to the point of accepting God’s verdict of your life, or are you still arguing your case?
Just Between Us Magazine
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
We can learn from the Bible what strengthens relationships and what kills them. For example, taking offense easily kills friendship. Amy Carmichael, in her little booklet If, says, “If I take offense easily–if I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” Again Amy says, “If I do not give a friend the benefit of the doubt but put the worst construction instead of the best on what is said or done, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” And, “If I can hurt another by speaking faithfully without much preparation of spirit and without hurting myself far more than I hurt that other, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”
Ruth Bell Graham is often quoted as saying, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” Good forgivers make good friends too. This is not contradicting what I have said about saying things that need to be said. Remember, “faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6, KJV). But when necessary hard things are said, afterward forgiveness is needed to heal the rough edges of those painful conversations. Sometimes we even have to forgive our friends for being faithful friends and telling us the truth!
David had two good friends, Jonathan and Nathan. Jonathan loved David to death. In Jonathan’s eyes, David could do no wrong. We all need that sort of friend. Nathan loved David too. But when David did something wrong, Nathan called him on it! We need a “Nathan” too.
Encouragement isn’t always “soft.” I well remember a great friend of mine listening to my litany of woes and then saying firmly but kindly, “Have a good cry, then wash your face, get up, and get on with it.” It worked. The word “encourage” means to “put courage into.” She surely put it into me!
We also need to be a Jonathan and a Nathan for others, as well as looking for those types of friends for ourselves. In fact, if we try to offer these two elements of friendship we will probably find the friends we are looking for. In other words, be a friend and you will find a friend!
A friend loves at all times, and it is this element of “Calvary love,” as Amy Carmichael puts it, that helps us listen to our friends’ loving encouragement and act on it. Paul said, “I have you in my heart” (Phil. 1:7) and then proceeded to correct and rebuke his friends. When you know someone loves you and has you in their heart, you can hear their words of correction. It’s called “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) or sometimes we call it “leveling in love” but when it happens you aren’t “leveled.”
Friendship needs to be based on biblical principles, and it also needs to be practical. For example, we can offer words of encouragement but we also need to think of concrete ways to help. It’s more than talk–it’s offering a meal if your friend is sick, a ride in your car if she needs it, help with her kids if she is exhausted and needs a break. Sometimes your help will be verbal. As Ecclesiastes warns, however, there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak” (3:7).
A friend of mine took a risk on our friendship by talking to me about a problem that had arisen. First (she told me afterward), she fasted and prayed about whether to talk to me at all. That is a good start. Second she told me she decided she would not say anything more than she had to say. The old saying, “The less said, the sooner mended” is a very sound principle! My friend did it right, and said it right, and I was pleased to respond to her. What does “Calvary love” mean to you? What are some ways you can make this a reality in your life and relationships?