When it comes to reading my Bible, I’m being honest in saying that I haven’t always been the most consistent doer of devotions. Like most people, aside from those who are super disciplined and have achieved the routine of reaching for their Bibles consistently (and I know there are some people like that; I admire you!), I have had long streaks of doing daily devotions and then long desert times of neglecting God’s Word. When I come out of my desert and drink from God’s Word again, I always kind of want to slap my forehead and ask “WHY do I stray?! WHY don’t I make time for God’s Word and prayer??!” While the Bible doesn’t address every modern times issue specifically (like should I watch Downton Abbey or not – ha!!! <—reference to a previous issue I wrote about), it gives me hope, strength, and reminders of God’s grace, mercy, and love for every day and every situation I face.
The #1 best thing I’ve ever done to help me to LOVE reading my Bible is this: in January 2009, I decided to read my Bible through – cover to cover, Genesis to Revelation – at my own pace. While I’m sure there is value in reading the Bible through in a year (and now there is even a challenge I’ve heard of where one reads the Bible through in 90 days), I have gotten SO MUCH MORE out of reading my Bible with the purpose of gaining something out of each verse (well, not so much in Leviticus, for example … but you know what I mean!!!). Some days that has been reading only one chapter, some days a few chapters, and some days just a few verses. This is probably why here in March of 2014 (over 5 years later!!), I am just now in Romans chapter 12.
This method of Bible reading has NOT guaranteed that I have read every day … but it has taken the pressure off that I *HAVE TO* – reading my Bible has become my pleasure, my joy – not my OBLIGATION (while I do get there is a duty in staying connected to God’s word whether one “feels like it or not”). God is never far from my thoughts – and I do consciously make it a point to see many situations in light of His plan. God doesn’t let me go … He sends Scriptures to mind daily (the positive result of a myriad of verses I was obligated to memorize as a child!!) and kind of taps me on the shoulder throughout my day. This, in turn, many times leads me to say a quick prayer – and almost always when a crisis (or a bump in my day) comes up, I tend to utter short S.O.S. prayers … or on the other hand, say a quick “thank you, God” when things actually work out okay after all and if I am in the right frame of mind, even when things don’t work out. Of course, my day is far less anxious when I actually devote a specific time and quiet to prayer instead!!
Recently, I’ve been meditating my way through Romans chapter 12. Presenting your bodies a living sacrifice as your service of worship … not being conformed to this world … renewing your mind … proving what is good. acceptable. perfect.
Then starting in verse 4 – reading about the Body of Christ – many members, one body. Each having a value, one’s own gift/talent: prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, showing mercy.
And today, I started to read in verse 9 … actually verse 9a is as far as I got. I want to write this down here because I want to remember this forever; it is a lesson God gave me today – one of those “light bulb moments” that kind of makes you go “oooooooooooooooooooooh!!!!” and for me today, under conviction, also say, “OUCH!!!”
It is a simple statement: Let love be without hypocrisy.
Oh, the talk of hypocrisy that goes on!! From some, “The church is full of hypocrites!” and from others, “take that big, ol’ beam out of your own eye before you judge the teeny, tiny splinter in mine!” (implied: you, hypocrite, you; don’t judge me!)
In loving, one can’t be a hypocrite either. This is where I am the Queen of the Hypocrites. I can be SO NICE to someone’s face and not mean a word of it. I do believe I’m most convicted because of dealing with our neighbors lately. I have helped them and often gone out of my way to do so. I’ve changed my own plans; I have inconvenienced myself and others to do what they needed. BUT some times, I have resented that. And as I once again let my neighbor out of my van after running her all over town again, I say, “Let me know if you need anything … oh, yes … no problem … I am GLAD to help…..” and it is all lies. I haven’t been GLAD, in fact, I’ve been rather put out.
There are a few theories to my issue: one is that I need to learn to sometimes say NO to her demands on me because at this point, I’ve helped her so much that I may enable her to just continue to NOT do things for herself or to rely on me too much to work out HER problems. That isn’t my place … and I need to figure out how to tell her so. But also, there is the fact that IF I agree to help her, change my own plans, and go out of my way, I *can not* blame or resent HER for MY choice.
While my goal here in our new home – tacked upon my wall as a print the first days we moved in – is “…to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39), there should not be a hypocrisy in that love.
I Timothy 1:5 links to this thought as well: the goal of these commandments – these instructions we are learning in God’s Word – is LOVE from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. This leaves no room for guilt. And I feel terrible after I tell my neighbor one thing but know in my heart of hearts that I don’t mean it. I don’t always WANT TO help her – I really want to set some boundaries in how often she calls on me about “an emergency”…. and I can’t continue being a hypocrite in telling her “I don’t mind at all …” when I do!!
This is my lesson for today: Love is a selfless act … and if I choose to be selfless, then I need to NOT resent it.
The resentment not only applies to my neighbor, but even to my own family. These are people I tell “I love you” to every day. And therefore, every act I perform for them should be without resentment, too. If I choose to love them through serving them – for example, doing their dirty laundry late into the evening because I didn’t get it finished during the day or helping with urgent paperwork or homework at the last minute – then I can’t be a hypocrite and do those things with bitterness in my heart. This can become a lecture to myself for the next hour … and I will spare my blog from those personal thoughts …
but for today, the goal is LOVE WITHOUT HYPOCRISY. The reverse of that being LOVE WITH HONESTY.
If I can’t help someone, I must learn to set boundaries. If I need help from my family or am feeling especially overwhelmed, I need to admit it and ask for backup. The false smiles and idle words that “I’m glad to do it” or just believing that I need do x-amount of things to be a “good wife and mother” need to be let go. While there is duty and responsibility in life, there is also an honest, sincere way to achieve it.
I Thessalonians 5:21 encourages us to examine everything we do (and believe!) carefully and to hold fast to only that which is GOOD. And it is pretty plain to understand that being hypocritical isn’t good …