The Scum on the Surface: Our Sin & God’s Sanctifying Work

I have a friend who has always said, “The mission field brings the scum to the surface.” It is true that sress brings out whatever lies inside of the cross-cultural worker. What is ugly and hidden comes into plain view as life and ministry become more challenging. When I got to the field, I found out she was right! I had been confident in God and in the role He had given me to play in His kingdom prior to our big move. but not one thing went as planned. Facing lies I long held and sin I harbored was painful, but God meant it for my good.

The scum scares us because we know its potential for disaster. It can spread, touching every corner of your life. It can spill its poison on all our relationships. At the will of our Enemy, the scum can demolish our testimony and take down our ministries, but we are not helpless! We have a choice to rip it from the devil’s grip and thrust it into the hands of our Savior who does all things well.

Scum becomes a tool in our lives to make us more like Him — more pure and more fit for His service. The Lord can transform the scum into a cleansing scrub digging deep into our pores pulling all the toxins out. The rubbing is rough, and we walk away sore and scathing but healthier for it. What is dirty, rough and scrapes you till we are bloody is the best thing for us. There is no risk/benefit assessment with God. All His work in our lives is for our good. Do we believe it enough to surrender to the work — even when it stinks? Even when it hurts?

We can do a few things to aid God in His scum-sanctifying work:

Fill Up on God’s Word

First, we can be diligent to fill ourselves with the truth of God’s word. When we face the horror of our sin erupting from within, we anchor ourselves with what we know to be true, good and holy. We remind ourselves that the scum is not who we are but evidence of our brokenness. The scum shows our need for God and the areas in our lives that have been weakened by the world’s lies. We can arm ourselves against the enemy who threatens to bring death from our diseased state. What is intended to harm brings healing through the knowledge of God and submission of the scum into His hands. If we are not intentional now to seek and study Scriptural truth, we won’t have anything to grasp at when our sin steps up to take us down.

Repent of Your Sin

I love this quote from Rosaria Butterfield, “Repentance is bittersweet business; Repentance is not just a conversion exercise, it is the posture of the Christian, much like ‘tree’ or ‘full lotus’ is the posture of the Yogi. Repentance is our daily fruit, our hourly washing…” Every day as we sense the scum rising, we must repent of every ounce of it and then ask the Lord to reveal everything we’ve missed. By His grace, we rebound from repentance, ready to do the work before us with diligence. Minutes later, when the scum begins to bubble up again, we can stop its poisonous spread by the power of the knowledge of God.

Be Filled by the Holy Spirit

We fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit so that our weakness is upheld by the power of God. I have not borrowed a phrase here from our idolatrous culture encouraging you to wield some innate power residing inside of you. If you are a follower of Christ and have called out to Him for salvation you have the power of God working working His will within you. When the pressures of life and ministry blow up a scum-storm, the Holy Spirit is able and willing to stir the whole of it into a healing potion for God’s purposes. We receive this command to do nothing but open our hands and hearts to to the Giver of good gifts as we obey the statutes of Scriptures. He does not fear the scum so we don’t have to run away from it either. 

Submit to God’s Healing Work

The scum is both the breaking down and the building up. The scum is not the enemy, though it can be a tool for the Enemy. We must give God our scum and allow Him use for our sanctification as He works His perfect will out of the mess we bring Him. He never scoffs at the unfit components because He is the master of all mediums. Give Him all of you today. Don’t hold anything the back. He will use all of it for His ultimate glory. Submit yourself to the healing, cleansing work today. We have no power in ourselves to scrub away the scum, but we can surrender it into the Lord’s hands. He has never failed to do good to those that love Him, and He won’t start with you or me.

What is God using in your life to bring the scum to the surface? 

What steps can you take to surrender it to Him today?

Discontentment v. Biblical Progress

Our family has started pulling away from social media over the last year as we have seen its constant influence become toxic to our thinking patterns. Perhaps the filters are falling off as sellers push harder and our guards have been let down by idleness and pent up frustration with current events. The pendulum swings from nauseatingly fake to “too real” and I have whiplash from scrolling sessions. At one time, I reached a point where I had to delete all my apps. I knew that my discontentment and influence-ability was off the charts, and I was not in a good place to be browsing around the web where the Enemy lurks behind the grid seeking vulnerable prey.

Discontentment Sells

Discontentment is one of his most utilized weapons. Sadly, discontentment sells. It sells in America. It sells in my host-country and all over the world. Our hearts are unknowable, both deceptive and easy to be deceived. Discontentment is a lever on our backs effortlessly manipulated, forcing our hands to reach for more. A well-targeted ad, a craftily worded blog post, pro-level photography of happy families in matching pajamas. We are being sold dissatisfaction over and over again, and we don’t think anything about it until we are sick with buyer’s remorse.

“Get a better body in 8 weeks,” or “Transform your home with 1 can of paint” — no matter the tagline, the message is the same: your life and the person behind your feed is not acceptable as is. We don’t want who you are so you better change. I’m not immune to this message living overseas because it’s everywhere and it’s effective. 

Biblical Progress Gives

Progress is the key word of this DIY culture. Every purchase decision and lifestyle change is inching us closer to an illusive perfection. Discontentment fuels economies and fills bank accounts, but it does nothing for the soul. The Scripture is anti-discontentment, but it is pro-progress. Biblical progress is vastly different than what the world teaches us it is. Knowing we are fully accepted as we are frees us to live the counter-cultural life — a higher and better life to Him, through Him, and for Him.

Biblical progress is growing in grace and brotherly love as we are truly satisfied in Christ. It is completely the opposite message than the one we gulp down like Gatorade with the rest of the thirsty world. The Biblical message seems harder to swallow, but it is life-giving rather than soul-starving. We are challenged not to DIY our way to an enviable life but to surrender to being unseen by the world but intimately known by God. We are to commit ourselves to live in contentment the calling to pursue Jesus and love others well.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.And having food and raiment (clothing) let us be therewith content”

1 Timothy 6:6-10

“…but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.”). 

1 Thessalonians 4:9-11

The word study here tells us that this endeavor does not happen without concentrated effort. It is a discipline that must be cultivated, and we are to work at it every day. Social media, streaming channels, or inspirational bloggers may be enemies to Biblical progress. We may need to do the difficult task of rooting these influences out of our lives because the stakes are higher than we realize. Discontentment pulls our hearts away from the giver of all good gifts and bows our hearts to things and to people so sadly undeserving of our worship. Discontentment breeds idolatry.

The rewards of our diligent efforts to live a counter-cultural life of contentment are many. Beyond the joy of growing in communion with God, Biblical progress provides a testimony of godliness to unbelievers giving us more influence for the cause of Christ. Biblical progress stirs up good works among the people of God. As we delight in the Lord and live peaceably with one another, our fellowship brings glory to Him. Finally, Biblical progress holds promise for the peace we pursue in each one of our failed DIY efforts. 

Content in Christ, we can see that we lack nothing. Only then, will we abound in all we truly need. Only then, will we not have much use for influencers. We finally won’t be buying what they’re selling. 

Have you been sold discontentment?
What steps can you take toward Biblical progress?
Talk to me in the comment section below!

I Accidentally Bought a Crop Top

Mom of three. Missionary. Owner of a crop top. Thank you, Target for making me an anomaly.

I’m not knocking your love of shortened blouses if that’s your thing. It’s not mine, yet here I am with a midriff baring t-shirt I have no use for. “Well, why did you buy it, Amber?” I’m glad you asked.

I was shopping with a friend who graciously took me on a fully-funded Target run when we landed Stateside. Our needs at the time were overwhelming. I had been sharing with my family that we were “unraveling.” Our daughter landed in America wearing socks provided by the airline because she was in possession of no pair of her own. The sandals she stuffed them in were no better as sequins dangled on loosened threads, the pink pleather straps barely hanging on. Our clothes were golden evidences of curries consumed long ago and the muddy waters which fled rusty pipes and flowed into our washing machine dying threads to match our surroundings.

I chose bedding for each of our three children to make our temporary living arrangement feel more like home and also because I was not yet in the emotional state necessary to navigate shopping for children’s clothing in this unknown territory. I tossed some makeup, shampoo, and a LEGO puzzle into my cart — because what is a Target run without an impulse purchase? We circled around to the women’s section where I passed flowing skirts and trendy tie-dyed sets in search for the perfect pair of sweatpants. I thumbed my way through stacked hangers to find my size which had become considerably smaller since the last time I lived in the US (I trust my time here will send my hips back in the other direction). I began looking for a tee to match the joggers in which I had no intention of exercising.

I pushed my cart from table to table, pulling out t-shirts and holding them up to examine. 1/3 of each shirt was mysteriously missing. Emerging from my jet-lagged stupor, I understood the 2/3 length t-shirts were actually crop-tops as images of Pinterest #ootds flooded my memory. Fashion trends were of no relevance to me when we lived a world away, but now I felt particularly victimized by them. I just wanted a whole t-shirt. By this time, exhaustion and confusion had taken over, and I added a boxy black tee to my commercial collection. Maybe it’s longer than it looks, I thought. It wasn’t.

I wore this top for the first time in two months of ownership with a camisole tucked in at the waist. While I’m certainly fond of the marks that represent the children I’ve brought into this world, I have no interest in sharing them with the general public. My look isn’t worthy of imitation, but I remain thankful to be wearing clothes fully raveled. I looked in the mirror and shrugged, grabbing my keys to jump in the van to commence my next crazed shopping experience.

I’ve come to terms with my life in the States or in my host country never being a perfect fit. It almost feels normal and right. I almost belong in Nepal when I am there, and I almost sense that I fit in the States when I am here. Yet, there is always that last little bit that doesn’t feel quite comfortable, forever a nagging notion that I’ve changed too much to truly find something that wholly suits me. The moments are many when I am vulnerable and exposed like the flab of flesh at my waistline my kids like to grab and squish around.

Any sense of belonging is an illusion at best and at worst a red flag that I have become too close a companion to the world. Here or there, an ill-fitting life is a good sign that I am mimicking the life of Jesus who I so long to be like. Jesus left a royal throne to walk dusty streets among humans who did not care to His message. He shed His divine beauty as He wrapped Himself in human flesh, reported to be of no particular physical appeal — no doubt a poor fit. That did not stop Him from carrying out His mission, stretching shaking arms to become a banner of love nailed to a sinner’s cross.

A Savior who is willing to do that for me is also eager to help me as I cope with the parts of life and ministry that do not suit me. I can depend on Him to mold me into His image as I seek to do His work of reconciliation wherever I am. When I feel vulnerable, exposed, and lost I can trust Him to pull me in, covering me with His perfect love. Even when I am just lost on a Target run, suffering the particular persecution of material overwhelm, I can count on His comfort and peace.

He has used an accidental crop-top purchase to remind me of my need of Him, and that’s what I need most of all.

Courage to Live a Quiet Life

We don’t travel to the post office in the middle of the city much, but when we do, I can count on a few greeting cards for the last few holidays (significant or not) from two of our supporting churches who regularly send us notes of encouragement. More often than not, there is also a postmarked gift of love all the way from Middletown, Ohio. I smile while I read over the small, formerly blank card scripted in perfect penmanship with nothing but Scriptures to encourage my soul. There are very few words other than an “I love you” or “God bless you” — the sweet woman of God lets the Word of God speak for itself. I am always amazed at how spot on some of the chosen passages are for what I am currently dealing with in life or ministry.

I picture this precious silver-haired lady who spent what should have been her child-free moments when her own were at school caring for me as a baby and long into my childhood. She always reminded me when I complained about any particular set of circumstances that, “Some days are like that.” Her TV tray always had an open Bible, notebooks, and note cards at the ready except for when she loaned it to me to color on while putting the time in potty-training. I didn’t know then how special these things were.

I’ve been thinking lately how, all my life, the women I have admired the most were those quietly serving Jesus in their corner of the world without fanfare or even recognition most of the time. I saw the depth of their character ooze out in small bits of Sunday school lessons and crockpot hospitality. I was encouraged by faithfulness exemplified in folded arms cradling feverish babies and stolen opportunities for sharing the Good News. I greatly admire the Nancy Leigh DeMosses and the Katie Majors of the world who steward large ministries in incredible ways, but there is something particularly moving about the unrecognized saints quietly doing the Lord’s work wherever their daily paths take them.

My desires to love big and serve God with my life are clearly not wrong desires, but I so often long for them on a scale that may be beyond what God has for me. Can I be content with my quiet life while also preparing my heart for whatever else He has for me?

These desires are from God, and I must allow Him to be Lord over them just like the rest of my life. Whether He ever extends the borders of my sphere of influence is completely subject to His divine discretion. He will enable me to complete each tiny task or insurmountable agenda through His power alone, and I must train myself to be thankful for each and every good work He springs up in my life.

As I advance in age, I hope I lose any ambition to be something other than smitten with the Savior. I pray I’ll have the courage to quietly tend to the work He has given me to do no matter how insignificant it may seem when stacked against what someone else may be doing. And I hope if there is some younger gal looking into my less-than-mind-blowing life, she will be inspired to glorify God in her own quietly faithful way.

We can teach and clean and care and serve until God takes us home to begin our full-time worship. Because we know and trust Him, we can be sure He will tell us, “Well done” for our faithfulness on a small scale. When He does, all we will be able to say is, “You’ve done great things.”

 

 

Different for the Right Reasons this Season

Five Minute Friday: DIFFERENT

00:00

When I walk around this city, I carry with me an unrelenting awareness that I am different. Even though I’ve learned this language and have adapted to the culture in many ways, I still speak differently and do a million and one things differently from the way I dress or wear my hair, relate to my husband, and raise my kids. With the Christmas season upon us, that awareness has become stark and severe.

I don’t want to be different, but since that is inescapable I will say this: I don’t want to be different because of my skin or my hair, the way I celebrate holidays, or make my home. I want to be different because I am a woman that loves and fears God. I want to be different because His name is continually on my lips, sharing what He has done for me and that His love is big enough for the whole lot of us. I want to be different because the focus of my life is Jesus Christ.

But I don’t want to remain different for long. I long to see God change this country and change the people I love and live each day with. Not to be more like me but to be more like Him.

05:00

 

Merry Christmas from the Taube Family

 

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