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.

The Gift of Closeness with God [Day 31: CLOSE]

My husband/our pastor recently preached through has preached through both Romans and Hebrews in the two years of our little church plant’s existence. It seems he is forever drawing parallels between the believer’s relationship to God and the union between a man and a woman in marriage. In some ways, it’s sort of humorous because the majority of our congregants are unmarried. But I think it’s safe to say that we all have an innate idea of how a healthy marriage should look and operate.

For instance, I think we would agree that it would be a tragedy for me to tell everyone how great my husband is but not experience true intimacy with him. I could work myself to death in efforts to please him, but if I do not take the same efforts to know his heart, I have failed in my marriage. If there is no love in my marriage, my efforts are in vain. I am failing my husband and myself because we don’t get to experience the fullness of what marriage is intended to be.

In Romans 10:1-4 the apostle Paul expresses his longing for certain Jewish people to be saved. He says they have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge. They work for God and even strive to make His name known — but the tragedy is, they do not know Him. They do not experience closeness and intimacy with God. Their hearts remain far from Him even as their lips proclaim His name.

I fear that, too often, something like this could be said of me. Efforts to teach and disciple are acts worthy of devotion, but if my devotion is misplaced then my service is meaningless. My devotion first and foremost must be to the Lord. I must devote myself to drawing close to Him each and every day of my life — even moment to moment. I can do this because of the work of Christ that abolished my sin and made a way for me to experience closeness with God. It is the most precious of gifts yet one I take for granted to much of the time.

I’ve said it throughout this series — He wants my heart. He has proven it. With the same zeal I serve Him, I must express thankfulness for the opportunity to be close to God by taking advantage of it. I can approach each day with the goal to know God more and draw ever more near to Him.

I want that closeness. I don’t want to suffer the tragedy of a lost opportunity to experience the relationship God longs to have with me. So, I will work at knowing Him for the rest of my days.

I “make” God big in my life when I practice more zeal to know Him than I do to serve Him. He wants my heart.

How do you practice zeal to know God?

Talk to me in the comment section below?

 

The Perks of Serving a Living God [Day 30: VOICE]

The nights and mornings have turned cold. We’ve retired our ceiling fan for the season, but we let a little stand fan run pointed at a wall that it may drown out the sounds of barking dogs. Our headboard lies against a large single-paned window. Across our driveway and outside our gate lies a small Hindu temple. The bells starting ringing a few minutes before 5 a.m. each morning. The ceiling fan drowned it out all summer so its significance feels new to me as the peals break the through the crisp morning air and past my unfortunately thin window panes. These attempts to wake sleeping gods and gain favor or riches are all vain — they only wake up light sleepers like me. Each time I hear the bells ring, I have an opportunity to pray that the souls that stoop before idols would one day bow before the living God.

I also have an opportunity to express thankfulness for our living God. I don’t have to ring bells or blow into seashells to get God’s attention. His eyes are ever watching me, and the Holy Spirit is deciphering every sigh of my heart in communication with the Father. He is actively seeking me, vying to capture my heart and drawing me into intimacy with Him. Not a moment of my little life goes unseen by Him and not a detail of my days are missed. In contrast with the idolatry I witness every day, I appreciate the vastness of this gift.

But not only does He hear and see me — He speaks to me. God invites me into community through the local church and speaks to a gathered body through the exposition of His word. Beyond that, every time I open my Bible I can hear His voice. The words held within have been preserved for me. As I give my attention to its truths, the Holy Spirit works within me to grant understanding and truly help me hear the voice of God.

As my daily duties pull me away from corporate worship and quiet time, I can still hear the voice of God. I can speak with Him when I am folding laundry or walking to the fruit shop, and I can expect to hear from Him as I do. The Spirit brings discovered truths from communal worship and personal Bible study and plants it as new on my heart.

I’ll never forget that when we lost our son Ezra, and I couldn’t bring myself to open my Bible that God still spoke to me. I daily heard His voice even though though words from the pulpit were drowned out by louder voices of grief and guilt. The Spirit brought years of Sunday school lessons and simple learned truths before me every single day of that grieving period. He heard my unintelligible groans, and I heard His loving assurance each and every day.

At the same time my heart breaks for those just outside my gate who have no such experience, I am thankful that I have been introduced to a God who hears me, sees me, and speaks to me every moment of every day.

I “make” God big in my life when I remain thankful for His care in my life and remain perceptive to His voice as He exercises authority in it. 

What is sweetest to you about serving a living God?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

 

Back to Top
Customized Social Media Icons from Acurax Digital Marketing Agency
    Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On Pinterest