Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ring Out!

O God, You know my foolishness;
And my sins are not hidden from You.

Let not those who wait for You, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed because of me;
Let not those who seek You be confounded because of me, O God of Israel.

~ Psalm 69:5-6

 Let not those who wait for ashamed because of me. These words lodged in my mind and heart when I read them several weeks past. Several phrases from Scripture are giving me pause to consider my actions this summer, but this was the first. As I read this section of Psalms, I questioned whether my actions made other Christians ashamed. I know for a fact that the ignorance, ingratitude, and thoughtless words of many other Christians makes me cringe to be numbered among them. Little wonder that those who do not know Jesus think Christians are wacky and ignorant! Yet... Am I numbered among those who confound non-believers, or shame fellow believers?

The on-line etymology dictionary defines confounded thus: an intensive execration, "odious, detestable, damned..." Our actions, flowing from our ideas, have consequences. Our actions can be either life or death to others. My attitude about many things this summer has proved odious and detestable - is it possible that my attitude, my words, my actions have turned someone away from seeing Jesus? Have my actions made anyone 'an enemy of the cross'?

Attitudes and actions do not simply 'fall upon' a person. They are conscious choices. Sometimes factors beyond our control do push certain buttons inside of us. However, our re-actions to those circumstances, hormones, people, and so forth determine where our minds and hearts really are. Are we marinating our minds in the word of God? Are we daily asking the Holy Spirit to lead us out of sin and into right-wise (the Old English meaning of righteousness) living? 

I, for one, know that I am often undisciplined. At various times I lack discipline in going to bed before midnight, or getting up when my alarum sounds, or in eating healthfully, or making time before work to meditate on God's word, or a number of other things. Yet I always have time to check my e-mail (though I do not always reply to it very quickly), eat food, or do something I want to do. However, without discipline, we lack freedom. Put positively, when we live disciplined lives we are made free.

As I sit here in the window of this cottage I can see a sailboat skimming silently along the horizon. It is a beautiful, image of freedom. But the freedom of the sailboat to move so swiftly and beautifully is the result of obedience to laws. 

The builder of the boat had to know the proper ratio of beam to keel and mast. The one who sails the boat obeys the rules of sailing. A ship tacking against the wind moves deviously, but when she runs with a strong tide or a following wind she takes, to herself the power of tide and wind and they become her own. She is doing the thing she was made for. She is free not by disobeying the rules but by obeying them.
~ Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be A Woman

 If you read nothing else of this post, read, re-read, that bit by Elisabeth Elliot. We are made free by obedience to our design, to our Designer. A sailboat is no more free to sail down the street than I am free to be fit if I do not eat well and exercise often. 

I am free to have a right heart to direct my thoughts and attitude only if I make wise choices to be disciplined. I am free to respond graciously if I have spent time meditating on the forgiveness and kindness Jesus has shown me. I am free to think of others as persons, not objects, when I have spent time in prayer for them as individuals. I am free to love others only by being willing to give up some of my own time or other resources to listen to them. Doing one thing means the exclusion of doing all other things. Are the things I am doing worth giving up time to listen to others, time alone in thought or prayer, time spent reading or writing?

Are my actions, are your actions, as stumbling block, a damnation to others? Or are our actions, in public and in private, an aroma of life to others, a sweet smelling offering to our good and kind Father? Is our love for God and for others (in the form or kindness, graciousness, right-wise living, etc.) a beacon for others to see by? Is it a clarion call to them to come further up and further in?
"And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere...for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it..."

~ St. Paul (I Thes. 1.8, NLT)

~ Johanna

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