Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Scribbles and Scrambles - Spiritual Toe Jam

(a devotion I wrote for my church newsletter)

Flesh has been on my mind.

I guess that's makes sense since someone I loved recently left his tent of flesh and entered into glory and into what no mind can imagine.

God didn't heal Bob's flesh. But He healed Bob fully and completely. What a blessed hope that is, to know that one day the things that make us crazy about ourselves and others, while we are struggling through the sanctification process, will be healed completely in Christ.

As wonderful as the hope of perfection is... as a follower of Christ, I don't think it's an option for me to say, "I am who I am", and be content to remain untransformed.

And if you don't want a poke in the flesh, you might want to stop reading right now because if you are anything like me, you probably won't like what I'm going to say.

Still reading? Good for you.

Reality in the church of Jesus Christ isn't even close to paradise. Reality is that people get their toes stepped on and their feelings hurt and they tend to want to be right, even at the expense of a brother or sister in Christ.

Can I go out on a limb, can I step on some toes, including mine for a minute? Toes are flesh. And what does God say about flesh and offenses and stepped-on toes? Exactly what I don't want to hear.

I'm not talking about black and white sin and righteous anger. Those are all about God's righteousness and His clear repeated teaching. And those are the unique passions that are His that He reveals in us as passionate desires to grieve over, and to strive to bring healing, restoration, and rightness to us and our broken world. He uses those passionate sorrows to remind us to speak truth and as reminders that sin hurts and steals and kills. He places people in our paths and He places calls on our lives to be part of the solution rather than the problem. These are the unique good works He created for us to walk in before the foundation of the world. Those are not what I'm writing about. They are the business of God and uniquely ours and His.

I'm writing about simplier issues that can become inflated above the passions and the lives of those around us. I'm talking about being easily offended, easily wounded and, when it's all boiled down, self-centered. These are the attitudes that we shine-up and paint whitewash over. What I'm talking about are the things that offend us about a brother or a sister. Those things like personality differences, ownership issues and hurt feelings. Things like placing our thoughts as higher than another's thoughts, considering ourselves more important than another Christ follower. Things like the type of music we "should" play during God's worship time, things like colors and walls, things like calendar conflicts and things that end up becoming about being right over being loving.

If someone is struggling with offense or defensiveness over another person's actions or words that can't be labeled as sinful...I want to throw this out it possible that that offended feeling is a flesh wound? If it's not the Word of God which is a living active truth that strips us open and slices and dices us so the festering pockets of infection can be healed by the light, love and truth of God's Word...then the wound that's inflicted has to be a flesh wound. Our body of flesh is not something we are to live our lives from. If we are gathering flesh wounds from different people and situations we are going to be infected and it's going to go systemic, all through the body and soul. If we own an offense, embrace it and call it our right when someone doesn't behave as we think they should, we have the opportunity to bristle, fluff-up our flesh and to let that become an infected flesh wound that will poison us and those around us and the ministries that we have been called to do.

If we are bought by the blood of Jesus, then we need to be about the business of letting go of, and shedding those deeds of darkness that we don't call dark at all, the hurt feelings, the preferences, the "I deserves," the "you shoulds," the "my way or the highways."

Are you offended by someone in our body? Is sin involved? Is the issue that offends you a personal "right" that got stomped on? Please prayerfully consider letting this offense go, forgiving the person involved and not considering that issue/hurt again.

We can choose to show grace to an offensive person. We can overlook an offense or issue. We could understand that people are often immature and selfish, sometimes in different areas that are works in progress. My blueberry bushes have teeny, tiny, bitter green "berries" and fully ripened sweet berries at the same time. Can you encourage the offensive person in their walk with Christ? Can you pray for their walk with Christ? Possibly they have a crushed toe or two that hinders them and prayer or encouragement could end up making all the difference in the world for all involved.

God wants us to be free from our fleshly, emotionally-charged reactions. He wants us to live by the Spirit and produce the fruit that is only provided by the Spirit. If we could just grasp the truth in that and know that flesh wounds are a sign that it might be time for a good pruning we could experience the delicious fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And the fruit will bless our lives and the lives of others, allowing us to dance in freedom instead of limping because of crushed toes.

This body, these emotions, our experiences...they are vehicles to bring us closer to Christ and to be used by Him to save the lost, one person at a time. Use these gifts well, they are powerful.