Sanctification

Throwback Thursday ~ Six Ways to Leave Your First Love

Originally published April 29, 2016

6 ways first love

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: “The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: 2 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. 6 Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’
Revelation 2:1-7 (NASB)

Love…exciting and new….

If you’re a child of the 80s, you probably recognize those few words as the opening line of the theme song from the TV show, The Love Boat. It was all about romance, attraction, and the first blush of new love. Perfect strangers met, fell for each other in a matter of days and walked off the ship arm in arm when it sailed back into port. (There was also a lot of fornication, so that’s not an endorsement of the show.)

Anyone who’s ever fallen in love before remembers that excitement, the nearly illicit drug-like rush of those first days and weeks of romance. Your heart and mind are consumed with him 24/7. You can’t wait to see him again. Just having a conversation with him sets your toes a-tingle. You start realizing your friends are constantly changing the subject because he’s all you can talk about.

I remember those days when I first met my husband. After twenty-three years of marriage, that initial seedling of obsessive infatuation has grown into a sturdy, sedate, deeply rooted California redwood of love and trust. Our love for each other may not look like it did when we first started dating, but it’s still there. In fact, that love is bigger and stronger now than it ever has been.

It saddens me that it’s not that way for every couple. Sometimes, instead of puppy love growing into mature love, it’s more like a Fourth of July sparkler that burns brightly at first, and then fizzles down to a smoking ember as time goes by. Couples let things get in the way of their relationship. They pull away from each other instead of toward each other. They stop talking. They stop spending time together. Outwardly, they can be going through all the right motions, but, behind closed doors, their love has died.

And that’s where we find Christ’s bride, the church of Ephesus, in Revelation 2.

This is not a bad church where sin is running rampant and false doctrine is being taught. This is basically a good church. Christ commends the Ephesian church for their good deeds, hard work, endurance, and, especially, their discernment. Outwardly, they were doing all the right things, and doing them well.

But that wasn’t enough for Christ. Just like it wouldn’t be enough for a husband whose wife is simply a good cook, a good mother, and a good housekeeper.

Christ doesn’t just want the good deeds and doctrine of His bride. He wants her heart, too. Not just her labor, but her love. And because you and I are the church, He wants that from us as individuals as well. He wants our love for Him to steadily grow from that first spark to deep maturity, not to burn down to a smoldering wick.

Have you, like the church at Ephesus, left your first love for Christ? It can be so easy for our affection toward Him and our enjoyment of Him to slip away that sometimes we don’t even realize it’s happening. Maybe it’s time for a little evaluation? Got any of these dynamics playing out in your walk?

1. You spend a lot of time hanging out in one particular area of the faith.

It’s no secret that I hang out in Discernment Land a lot. Maybe that’s why this passage in Revelation hits me so hard. First Church of Ephesus spent a lot of time there, too. Discernment and contending for the faith are good things. Christ praised this church for standing strong against false doctrine and comparing every teaching to Scripture.

There are a lot of other wonderful areas of Christianity to explore and grow in, too. Studying theology is a good thing. So are prayer, worship, serving, giving, hospitality, evangelism, Bible study, and so on. But too much of one good thing can squeeze out time and desire for other good things. It can be challenging, but we’ve got to maintain a balance of all the good stuff in order to have a healthy relationship with Christ.

2. You’re in a “perseverance” season of life.

Life as a first century Christian was no picnic. People’s families turned against them, many lost their livelihoods, there was the constant threat of torture and persecution nearly inconceivable to us today, and false doctrine continued to creep into the church and had to be fought off. We get a little hint of this when, in the first three verses of this passage, Christ uses the words “endurance,” “grown weary,” and “perseverance” (twice).

When God is allowing or causing circumstances to occur in your life that put you through the wringer, you can slip into survival mode. But it’s not really survival without regularly communing with Christ. It’s vital that you spend time with Christ during these difficult periods of your life so your relationship with Him doesn’t grow cold.

3. Good works are overwhelming your schedule.

The good works God has called you to are a good thing. Just as Christ recognized the “deeds and toil” of the Ephesian church, He has prepared good works for you to do and wants you to do them. But there are those good works that God has prepared for you to do and will provide the time for: serving your family, serving your church, being a faithful employee; and then there can be additional good works you over-extend yourself for. When you are so busy serving – even at church or in ministry activities – that your personal relationship with Christ suffers or your primary area of service to your family suffers, you are too busy. It’s time to reevaluate and cut back somewhere.

4. You’re not faithfully attending church.

If you’re regularly choosing travel, ballgames, birthday parties, sleeping in, shopping, visiting family, or any other non-essential, non-emergency activity over faithfully attending church, you are sinning, and you need to stop it and get your heiney back in the pew every week. When Scripture says gathering for worship with other Christians is your first priority, you need to obey that.

But it’s more than just adhering to some arbitrary rule. God doesn’t make arbitrary rules. His commands are always for our good. When you miss church, you’re missing out on the teaching and proclamation of God’s word, the celebration of Christ with your brothers and sisters, the opportunity to fellowship with and help bear the burdens of other believers, the encouragement and sharpening of running the race with your teammates, and the chance to serve the body of Christ. All of these things direct our focus to Christ, His beauty and His love for us, which, in turn, grows our love for Him.

5. You’re neglecting personal time in the Word and prayer.

I spend a lot of time in and around the Word. I’m normally at church, Sunday school, and Wednesday night Bible study every week. I teach my children the Bible every morning. My husband leads us in family worship. I write about biblical topics, which requires study of the Word. I listen to sermons and Christian podcasts all the time. But even with all that, when I don’t get up and start the day alone with God in prayer and in His word, I can feel myself slipping away from Him. And I know from experience that if I let that go on long enough, there’s going to be a rift between us, I’m going to keep pulling away from Him, and I’m not only going to miss out on that intimate, loving communion with Him, I’m going to leave myself wide open to temptation to sin.

Neglecting your Bible study and prayer time has a similar effect on your relationship with Christ as refusing to talk to or spend time with your husband would have on your marriage. Don’t give Christ the silent treatment. Stay in close fellowship with Him through His word and prayer.

6. You’re cherishing sin.

It’s a sin. You know it because the Bible clearly says so. You do it anyway. You keep doing it because you like it. Maybe it’s something “big” like pornography or embezzlement. Maybe it’s something “small” like coveting or gossip. But every step you take toward that sin is a step away from Christ and your love for Him. Every time you commit that act, you’re saying, “I love my sin more than I love Christ.”

 

Have you left your first love? Are you going through all the right motions outwardly, but inwardly your heart is far from God? Are you committing spiritual adultery with sin, letting busyness crowd out your relationship with the Lord, neglecting time in the Word and prayer? Do you long for that intimate communion with Christ you once had? Great news! He wants that for you, too.

…remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first.

God is gracious and merciful, and He wants your heart, not just your right actions. He stands ready to forgive you, reconcile you to Himself, and restore that sweet love and fellowship.

Poetry, Sanctification

Throwback Thursday ~ How a Little Acorn Helped Reassure a Nut Like Me

It’s a midweek mixup! :0) Due to my family’s schedule this week, I’m changing up the blog schedule just a little. Throwback Thursday will be today, and our 1 Peter Bible study lesson will be Thursday. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Originally published September 27, 2016

acorn-1030819_1280

There are two kinds of people in this world, throwers and savers (or hoarders, if your saving has breached the clinical level). I’m a thrower married to a saver, which means I have thrown out some stuff I later wished I’d kept, and my husband has saved a lot of stuff we haven’t used in ages and probably never will. But, recently, I came across something I’m really glad I kept all these years.

I was going through a box of old papers, happily doing my “thrower” thing, when I discovered a manilla folder marked, in my handwriting, “Michelle’s Misc. Creative Writing.” Whatever it was, I didn’t remember saving the folder, nor what it might contain. I opened it up to find a two inch thick sheaf of, well…my miscellaneous writings from years gone by. Sermon notes, creative writing assignments and essays for English classes, poems, song lyrics, short stories, even what looked like the manuscript to a devotional I’d started on.

Fortunately, I had dated most of the papers, so I could see that the bulk of them were written when I was between the ages of about 14 to 21. As I leafed through pages of adolescent script alternating with dot matrix printing, I started noticing a common thread. Nearly all of this writing was about God, faith, the Bible, worship, wanting to know Him more. To be sure, the faith was childlike (if not downright childish), and the theology was often immature and somewhat unbiblical.

But it was there. And all these years I’d wondered whether or not that faith had existed back then at all.

You see, I was raised in a Christian home, and, although I was most definitely a depraved little wretch, my outward behavior was fairly decent compared with some of the other kids my age. I got good grades, never had behavior problems in school, was at church every time the doors were open, never tried sex, drugs, cigarettes, crime, or anything else teens sometimes get into. Overall, I was your basic goodie two shoes. So, when I prayed a prayer for salvation at age 12, there was no great big radical lightning bolt change in my life. Things continued pretty much as usual. Had my heart changed? Looking back all those years later as an adult with terrible recollective abilities, I couldn’t really remember.

But as I skimmed through page after page of longing for God, love for God, wanting to please God, something I told a reader not long ago -who was concerned she might not be saved – hit me like a ton of bricks:

Lost people don’t have that kind of “want to.”

I didn’t have all my doctrine straight or walk in Christian maturity, and I wouldn’t have known an apologetic from an apostate, but I wanted God. I loved Him as best I knew how at the time. I had that “want to.” I was saved. God had used a dusty box of old papers to reassure me and put those doubts to rest. It was one of those precious moments alone with the Lord that you never forget.

So to sort of celebrate that little moment in my walk with the Lord, I wanted to share with you one of the poems I found in that folder. It was undated, but I think I wrote it when I was in high school or college. Now, I’m just going to warn you up front, it’s long and it’s lame and it’s (a)corny, and some of the cadence is off and so is the doctrine, and it just plain needs a lot of editing. But I had a good laugh over it, and I thought you might, too. (Hint- it’s funnier if you read it out loud.)

I Am a Little Acorn

I am a little acorn,
A fact that’s plain to see,
But remember that the might oak
Was once a nut like me.

When I was a baby bud,
I burst forth from a limb,
I grew a little every day,
Out from my little stem.

As I grew older day by day,
An identity crisis hit me.
I searched my heart and searched my soul
To find out just what I should be.

I did not want to be a nut.
I cried, “I cant! I won’t!”
Because sometimes you feel like a nut,
Sometimes you don’t.

I tried to be a button,
And a rolling tumbleweed.
I tried to be a jelly bean,
But still did not succeed.

Oprah, Geraldo, Sally, and Phil*
All let me spill my guts.
“Something other than an acorn?” they asked,
“You can’t! You must be nuts!”

My fame and fortune quickly spread,
I was known both far and wide.
But no one knew my secret dark,
I was lost and scared inside.

Then finally, one day, I turned to the Lord,
And cried out with all my might,
“Why, oh why, do I continue to fail?
Why won’t something go right?”

“Remember to whom you are speaking,” said He,
“I am the Great I Am,
But I’m also the root of David,
And the seed of Abraham.”

“From small beginnings come great things,
This fact is tried and true,
The mighty oak could never be,
Without an acorn like you.”

“All are given different gifts,
And must do as best they can,
To find a way to channel them
According to God’s plan.”

“So cheer up little acorn,
And learn the secret known by few:
Be content with what you’re given,
And let God work through you.”

“I’ll be the best acorn ever!” said he.
“I’ll do as God has led.”
Then standing bold and brave and tall,
The acorn proudly said:

“I am a little acorn,
A fact that’s plain to see,
But remember that the mighty oak
Was once a nut like me.”

(*You’ve probably heard of Oprah. Geraldo Rivera, Sally Jessie Raphael, and Phil Donohue all used to host talk shows, too.)

Don’t despair if you’re still a little acorn in your faith. You keep pursuing that “want to” for God, and He’ll grow you into a mighty oak in Christ.

How do I know? Because He’s doing just that for a nut like me. 🌰

Poetry, Sanctification

How a Little Acorn Helped Reassure a Nut Like Me

acorn-1030819_1280

There are two kinds of people in this world, throwers and savers (or hoarders, if your saving has breached the clinical level). I’m a thrower married to a saver, which means I have thrown out some stuff I later wished I’d kept, and my husband has saved a lot of stuff we haven’t used in ages and probably never will. But, recently, I came across something I’m really glad I kept all these years.

I was going through a box of old papers, happily doing my “thrower” thing, when I discovered a manilla folder marked, in my handwriting, “Michelle’s Misc. Creative Writing.” Whatever it was, I didn’t remember saving the folder, nor what it might contain. I opened it up to find a two inch thick sheaf of, well…my miscellaneous writings from years gone by. Sermon notes, creative writing assignments and essays for English classes, poems, song lyrics, short stories, even what looked like the manuscript to a devotional I’d started on.

Fortunately, I had dated most of the papers, so I could see that the bulk of them were written when I was between the ages of about 14 to 21. As I leafed through pages of adolescent script alternating with dot matrix printing, I started noticing a common thread. Nearly all of this writing was about God, faith, the Bible, worship, wanting to know Him more. To be sure, the faith was childlike (if not downright childish), and the theology was often immature and somewhat unbiblical.

But it was there. And all these years I’d wondered whether or not that faith had existed back then at all.

You see, I was raised in a Christian home, and, although I was most definitely a depraved little wretch, my outward behavior was fairly decent compared with some of the other kids my age. I got good grades, never had behavior problems in school, was at church every time the doors were open, never tried sex, drugs, cigarettes, crime, or anything else teens sometimes get into. Overall, I was your basic goodie two shoes. So, when I prayed a prayer for salvation at age 12, there was no great big radical lightning bolt change in my life. Things continued pretty much as usual. Had my heart changed? Looking back all those years later as an adult with terrible recollective abilities, I couldn’t really remember.

But as I skimmed through page after page of longing for God, love for God, wanting to please God, something I told a reader not long ago -who was concerned she might not be saved – hit me like a ton of bricks:

Lost people don’t have that kind of “want to.”

I didn’t have all my doctrine straight or walk in Christian maturity, and I wouldn’t have known an apologetic from an apostate, but I wanted God. I loved Him as best I knew how at the time. I had that “want to.” I was saved. God had used a dusty box of old papers to reassure me and put those doubts to rest. It was one of those precious moments alone with the Lord that you never forget.

So to sort of celebrate that little moment in my walk with the Lord, I wanted to share with you one of the poems I found in that folder. It was undated, but I think I wrote it when I was in high school or college. Now, I’m just going to warn you up front, it’s long and it’s lame and it’s (a)corny, and some of the cadence is off and so is the doctrine, and it just plain needs a lot of editing. But I had a good laugh over it, and I thought you might, too. (Hint- it’s funnier if you read it out loud.)

I Am a Little Acorn

I am a little acorn,
A fact that’s plain to see,
But remember that the might oak
Was once a nut like me.

When I was a baby bud,
I burst forth from a limb,
I grew a little every day,
Out from my little stem.

As I grew older day by day,
An identity crisis hit me.
I searched my heart and searched my soul
To find out just what I should be.

I did not want to be a nut.
I cried, “I cant! I won’t!”
Because sometimes you feel like a nut,
Sometimes you don’t.

I tried to be a button,
And a rolling tumbleweed.
I tried to be a jelly bean,
But still did not succeed.

Oprah, Geraldo, Sally, and Phil*
All let me spill my guts.
“Something other than an acorn?” they asked,
“You can’t! You must be nuts!”

My fame and fortune quickly spread,
I was known both far and wide.
But no one knew my secret dark,
I was lost and scared inside.

Then finally, one day, I turned to the Lord,
And cried out with all my might,
“Why, oh why, do I continue to fail?
Why won’t something go right?”

“Remember to whom you are speaking,” said He,
“I am the Great I Am,
But I’m also the root of David,
And the seed of Abraham.”

“From small beginnings come great things,
This fact is tried and true,
The mighty oak could never be,
Without an acorn like you.”

“All are given different gifts,
And must do as best they can,
To find a way to channel them
According to God’s plan.”

“So cheer up little acorn,
And learn the secret known by few:
Be content with what you’re given,
And let God work through you.”

“I’ll be the best acorn ever!” said he.
“I’ll do as God has led.”
Then standing bold and brave and tall,
The acorn proudly said:

“I am a little acorn,
A fact that’s plain to see,
But remember that the mighty oak
Was once a nut like me.”

(*You’ve probably heard of Oprah. Geraldo Rivera, Sally Jessie Raphael, and Phil Donohue all used to host talk shows, too.)

Don’t despair if you’re still a little acorn in your faith. You keep pursuing that “want to” for God, and He’ll grow you into a mighty oak in Christ.

How do I know? Because He’s doing just that for a nut like me. 🌰

 

Sanctification

Six Ways to Leave Your First Love

6 ways first love

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: “The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: 2 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. 6 Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’
Revelation 2:1-7 (NASB)

Love…exciting and new….

If you’re a child of the 80s, you probably recognize those few words as the opening line of the theme song from the TV show, The Love Boat. It was all about romance, attraction, and the first blush of new love. Perfect strangers met, fell for each other in a matter of days and walked off the ship arm in arm when it sailed back into port. (There was also a lot of fornication, so that’s not an endorsement of the show.)

Anyone who’s ever fallen in love before remembers that excitement, the nearly illicit drug-like rush of those first days and weeks of romance. Your heart and mind are consumed with him 24/7. You can’t wait to see him again. Just having a conversation with him sets your toes a-tingle. You start realizing your friends are constantly changing the subject because he’s all you can talk about.

I remember those days when I first met my husband. After twenty-three years of marriage, that initial seedling of obsessive infatuation has grown into a sturdy, sedate, deeply rooted California redwood of love and trust. Our love for each other may not look like it did when we first started dating, but it’s still there. In fact, that love is bigger and stronger now than it ever has been.

It saddens me that it’s not that way for every couple. Sometimes, instead of puppy love growing into mature love, it’s more like a Fourth of July sparkler that burns brightly at first, and then fizzles down to a smoking ember as time goes by. Couples let things get in the way of their relationship. They pull away from each other instead of toward each other. They stop talking. They stop spending time together. Outwardly, they can be going through all the right motions, but, behind closed doors, their love has died.

And that’s where we find Christ’s bride, the church of Ephesus, in Revelation 2.

This is not a bad church where sin is running rampant and false doctrine is being taught. This is basically a good church. Christ commends the Ephesian church for their good deeds, hard work, endurance, and, especially, their discernment. Outwardly, they were doing all the right things, and doing them well.

But that wasn’t enough for Christ. Just like it wouldn’t be enough for a husband whose wife is simply a good cook, a good mother, and a good housekeeper.

Christ doesn’t just want the good deeds and doctrine of His bride. He wants her heart, too. Not just her labor, but her love. And because you and I are the church, He wants that from us as individuals as well. He wants our love for Him to steadily grow from that first spark to deep maturity, not to burn down to a smoldering wick.

Have you, like the church at Ephesus, left your first love for Christ? It can be so easy for our affection toward Him and our enjoyment of Him to slip away that sometimes we don’t even realize it’s happening. Maybe it’s time for a little evaluation? Got any of these dynamics playing out in your walk?

1. You spend a lot of time hanging out in one particular area of the faith.

It’s no secret that I hang out in Discernment Land a lot. Maybe that’s why this passage in Revelation hits me so hard. First Church of Ephesus spent a lot of time there, too. Discernment and contending for the faith are a good thing. Christ praised this church for standing strong against false doctrine and comparing every teaching to Scripture.

There are a lot of other wonderful areas of Christianity to explore and grow in, too. Studying theology is a good thing. So are prayer, worship, serving, giving, hospitality, evangelism, Bible study, and so on. But too much of one good thing can squeeze out time and desire for other good things. It can be challenging, but we’ve got to maintain a balance of all the good stuff in order to have a healthy relationship with Christ.

2. You’re in a “perseverance” season of life.

Life as a first century Christian was no picnic. People’s families turned against them, many lost their livelihoods, there was the constant threat of torture and persecution nearly inconceivable to us today, and false doctrine continued to creep into the church and had to be fought off. We get a little hint of this when, in the first three verses of this passage, Christ uses the words “endurance,” “grown weary,” and “perseverance” (twice).

When God is allowing or causing circumstances to occur in your life that put you through the wringer, you can slip into survival mode. But it’s not really survival without regularly communing with Christ. It’s vital that you spend time with Christ during these difficult periods of your life so your relationship with Him doesn’t grow cold.

3. Good works are overwhelming your schedule.

The good works God has called you to are a good thing. Just as Christ recognized the “deeds and toil” of the Ephesian church, He has prepared good works for you to do and wants you to do them. But there are those good works that God has prepared for you to do and will provide the time for: serving your family, serving your church, being a faithful employee; and then there can be additional good works you over-extend yourself for. When you are so busy serving – even at church or in ministry activities – that your personal relationship with Christ suffers or your primary area of service to your family suffers, you are too busy. It’s time to reevaluate and cut back somewhere.

4. You’re not faithfully attending church.

If you’re regularly choosing travel, ballgames, birthday parties, sleeping in, shopping, visiting family, or any other non-essential, non-emergency activity over faithfully attending church, you are sinning, and you need to stop it and get your heiney back in the pew every week. When Scripture says gathering for worship with other Christians is your first priority, you need to obey that.

But it’s more than just adhering to some arbitrary rule. God doesn’t make arbitrary rules. His commands are always for our good. When you miss church, you’re missing out on the teaching and proclamation of God’s word, the celebration of Christ with your brothers and sisters, the opportunity to fellowship with and help bear the burdens of other believers, the encouragement and sharpening of running the race with your teammates, and the chance to serve the body of Christ. All of these things direct our focus to Christ, His beauty and His love for us, which, in turn, grows our love for Him.

5. You’re neglecting personal time in the Word and prayer.

I spend a lot of time in and around the Word. I’m normally at church, Sunday school, and Wednesday night Bible study every week. I teach my children the Bible every morning. My husband leads us in family worship. I write about biblical topics, which requires study of the Word. I listen to sermons and Christian podcasts all the time. But even with all that, when I don’t get up and start the day alone with God in prayer and in His word, I can feel myself slipping away from Him. And I know from experience that if I let that go on long enough, there’s going to be a rift between us, I’m going to keep pulling away from Him, and I’m not only going to miss out on that intimate, loving communion with Him, I’m going to leave myself wide open to temptation to sin.

Neglecting your Bible study and prayer time has a similar effect on your relationship with Christ as refusing to talk to or spend time with your husband would have on your marriage. Don’t give Christ the silent treatment. Stay in close fellowship with Him through His word and prayer.

6. You’re cherishing sin.

It’s a sin. You know it because the Bible clearly says so. You do it anyway. You keep doing it because you like it. Maybe it’s something “big” like pornography or embezzlement. Maybe it’s something “small” like coveting or gossip. But every step you take toward that sin is a step away from Christ and your love for Him. Every time you commit that act, you’re saying, “I love my sin more than I love Christ.”

 

Have you left your first love? Are you going through all the right motions outwardly, but inwardly your heart is far from God? Are you committing spiritual adultery with sin, letting busyness crowd out your relationship with the Lord, neglecting time in the Word and prayer? Do you long for that intimate communion with Christ you once had? Great news! He wants that for you, too.

…remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first.

God is gracious and merciful, and He wants your heart, not just your right actions. He stands ready to forgive you, reconcile you to Himself, and restore that sweet love and fellowship.

Christian women, Church, Discernment, Sanctification, Women

Throwback Thursday ~ Sacrificing Truth on the Altar of Tone

Originally Published April 17, 2014

truth tone

Ladies, do you believe in woman’s intuition? Do you have it? I’m not talking about premonitions– having a feeling that some future event is going to take place- I mean intuition. Being able, for example, to sense from a friend’s tone of voice that she’s having a bad day, noticing from the body language of two people who are “just friends” that romance is brewing beneath the surface, or discerning the tension between two people who are seemingly cordial to one another.

wonder-woman-552109_1280Maybe men have this “super power” too, but I’ve noticed it more with women. I believe it might have something to do with the way God has hard wired us. Nothing against men here (y’all are awesome in your own masculine way), but we women generally tend to be more sensitive to and concerned about other people’s feelings, we listen “between the lines,” and we hear and analyze tone of voice more. It’s one of the great things about the way God has created us that helps us as we nurture, comfort, and care for others.

But lately, I’m noticing that this “super power” of ours can also be a super problem.

Our sensitivity to tone (of voice, of writing, someone’s demeanor, etc.) is a hindrance rather than a help to us when we refuse to evaluate the content of what someone is saying to us simply because their manner of speaking, writing, or behavior has offended our sensibilities. This is especially harmful when that content is biblical truth.

I have recently observed several instances of this, all involving women who, at best, found it difficult (with some outright refusing) to put aside their feelings of offense at the writer’s or speaker’s tone in order to compare the content of his speech or writing to Scripture to see if it might be true. (And, by the way, the speech and writing I’m referring to here are sermons, commentary, and articles, not someone writing or speaking to these women personally.) I can sympathize. It’s happened to me plenty of times.

Often, when we hear a fellow Christian put biblical truth bluntly in black and white and it rubs us the wrong way, our first reaction is to quote part of Ephesians 4:15 and chastise him for failing to “speak the truth in love.” But is that the only point of Ephesians 4? Let’s take a look at it in context:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16 (emphasis, mine)

When I was in elementary school, one of the reading comprehension tasks we were often assigned was to find the “main idea” of a piece of writing. So, what is the “main idea” of this passage in Ephesians 4? I’ll even make it multiple choice (my favorite!).

Is the main idea of the passage:

a) Teachers and preachers should speak the truth in love so that they will not offend anyone.

b) A discussion of the different types of leadership roles in the church.

c) Christian leaders are to equip church members to grow to spiritual maturity which builds spiritually healthy and unified churches.

While the passage touches on some of the ideas in a and b, the main point is c. We’re to grow up. We are to listen to preachers, teachers, and writers who rightly handle God’s word, even if we come across one every now and then who steps on our toes with his demeanor or tone. Look, I know it’s hard. There are people out there who offend me sometimes, too, but persevering through the offense will grow us into mature women of Christ and make our churches healthier.

Statistically speaking, more women regularly attend church these days than men. And when I say “more,” I mean 61% women to 39% men. Can you imagine the impact it would have on the health of our churches if all of those women were pursuing spiritual maturity through biblical truth and sound doctrine?

Instead, we are often like a little girl in a burning building. The fireman is vehemently insisting that the little girl come with him to escape, and she refuses to move because he hasn’t said it nicely enough.

Ladies, I say this to all of us (including me) in love, because true love is desiring what’s best for someone:

It’s time for us to grow up. It’s time to stop taking our dollies and stomping home from the playground in a huff every time somebody speaks or writes strenuously. It’s time to stop crying about our hurt feelings, put on our big girl panties and be women.

Discerning women. Berean women. Women of God’s word. Women who can handle having our feathers ruffled and come out on the other side stronger for it.

9283e86a7bd7185b880df318c7681846Too often, we make the mistake of equating a soft tone of voice and a sweet disposition with “love”.  But many of the people who speak with this kind of “love” are not speaking the truth. They are smooth talking, charismatic con men selling snake oil for our souls.

If we’re not careful, we can become people who “will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4), or “weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:6b-7), or even “children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; who say…“Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions,” (Isaiah 30:9-11).

We forget that our Master, the perfect embodiment of love, didn’t always speak softly and act politely when the gospel was at stake. Because there are things out there that are much more important than our feelings, and biblical truth is one of them.