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?

With Lifted Eyes and Lifted Hands: A Prayer for Harvest

#FmfpartyFive-Minute-Friday-4

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Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest (John 4:35).

I’m lifting up my eyes, I’m seeing the fields.

But I don’t see a lot of said white. Lord, give me your eyes.

Because what I see…

I see Hindus bowing to golden idols created by skilled craftsman.

I see Muslims faithfully answering the call to prayer.

I see Buddhists running fast fingers along brown beads, lisping secret prayers.

I see broken people torn apart by the sins of their own hands, and, some by the hands of others.

I don’t see hope. I don’t see harvest.

Give me your eyes. Let me see it.

I’ve gone. I’m here. I’m ready to harvest. The reaping day seems afar off, but I trust it’s here as You have said it is.

I’m lifting my eyes. Lord, make them like yours.

I’m lifting my hands, Oh, God, put them to work. Let me harvest something, anything, for You and I’ll be sure to give you all the praise for letting me see the ripe fruit, gather it, and give it back to You.”

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And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together (John 4:36).

Rejoice with me!
Tell me about the harvest on the horizon or the harvest at hand in the comment section below!

Not Enough? Too Much?

I have feared that I am not enough.

Strong enough.
Spiritual enough.
Faithful enough.

And that I am too much.

Too fearful.
Too selfish.
Too needy.

I worry how my involvement will taint the ministry that could be done here. But I comfort myself that, aside from and because of Christ and His work on the cross, God has never required perfect specimens to carry out His mission. In fact, He is often brought glory by showing Himself mighty in the fragile pictures of imperfection rather than in the most qualified characters.

I doubt that Mary felt qualified to mother the most High God. She had no marriage or parenting experience. There is no indication that she was some spiritual giant. She was fearful of this unexpected pregnancy and the repercussions it created in her community.

She was overwhelmed at the thought of this immense responsibility. Like me, she was not enough in many ways, and too much in others. But there’s something so beautiful about how the angel exhorts her.

Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with GodAnd, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JesusHe shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end (Luke 1:30-33).

She wasn’t chosen because she was the prime example of a virtuous woman. For reasons not disclosed, the Lord favored her. He entrusted her with this great responsibility because He would bestow upon her all the grace and gifts necessary to bring it to pass.

I can’t imagine all of the fear she must have had watching this boy grow. Thinking she would, perhaps, mess up God’s great plan. No doubt she wept and worried over her role therein. But she never stopped receiving favor from the Lord.

As she was reminded, “With God nothing shall be impossible” (v38). He assured her that His will would come to pass despite her disbelief. God was not and is not limited by human imperfection. He delights in using His creation to carry out His will.

Like Mary, I must only have a submissive spirit. I must say, as she did, “Be it unto me according to thy word.” I must have a heart of surrender and hard-working hands. Fruitful unto good works but dependent on Him to help me bear them.

Like Mary, I can have joy as I see the Lord work His will in my life and in the world around me through my trust of and obedience to Him.

And Mary said, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed” (v42).

Like Mary, I can see God glorified in my life and will, therefore, be blessed.

Have you dealt with this fear of not being enough or being too much?
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!

We’re not in Kansas Anymore

I have feared the inability to understand my own emotions. One experience in particular stands out among these puzzling periods. One day, we quickly drove past a man walking who from behind appeared to be naked from the waist down. “Surely he just has brown pants on,” I thought, however naively. Before I knew what I was doing, I glanced in the rearview mirror to confirm my assumption. I was wrong.

I quickly averted my eyes and made a half Nepali joke. “That’s a naked manchhe” I said, with an uncomfortable laugh. From afar, we saw people pass him nonchalantly. Later, my husband asked his friend what the police do about this behavior. He shrugged, “Maybe just tell him to button up his shirt.” Sure enough, Paul passed the naked manchhe along the road again and a couple buttons were fastened but he wasn’t in a much more appropriate state.

At home, I carried on my responsibilities but the sick feeling in my stomach lingered. I felt irritable, distracted, and on the verge of tears. Perhaps this was my first major culture shock moment, though we had been here for a few months already.

Later that night I felt like I should explain to Paul why I had been acting so strangely. Though he had seen it too, I assumed he wasn’t feeling quite as “icky” as I was. Reluctantly and a little ashamedly, I told how my stomach felt queazy, my head felt cloudy, and I just couldn’t shake this near-tears feeling.

Thankfully, my sweet man affirmed my feelings. That this reality flies in the face of everything we know to be right and decent culturally and spiritually. Like me, that day, he wanted to scream “What is wrong with you people? Does anyone see this? Why isn’t anyone doing anything?”

For me, it was, possibly, the first time I came to grips with the darkness within which I raise my family, kind of like my “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto” moment. This is the world I have to wake up to every day. A new dependency on the Lord was awakened in my heart. After a good night sleep and much prayer, the heaviness lifted.  Though I pray that I or my family never have to witness such things again, I am thankful we have been brought here to be a light in this dark place.

I know that these times of not understanding my emotions will come again as I am faced with realities of life in this country. While my husband may not always be able to affirm my feelings as he did in this scenario, I know that the God who made me and knows all my inner-workings is not shocked by my thoughts. Though they may manifest from a heart of sin and doubt, He can turn them into something beautiful through His Holy Spirit’s work in my life. Something that can change lives and enlist workers for His kingdom.

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Have you ever come to grips with your confusing emotions with the Lord’s help?
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!

Will I Ever Learn This Language?

I have feared that I will NEVER learn this language. 6 months into my language studies, I can carry on simple conversations, order at shops and restaurants, and ask questions to help me find my way along. I am no longer rehearsing every little phrase in my head before saying it and becoming more comfortable every day. But the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know, and surprisingly, the more discouraged I can become. It is hard to see the progress from day to day, but as I look back further, I can see how far I have truly progressed with the Lord’s help.

But I still fear that I will never grasp this language in a way that is conducive to gospel conversations. The first time I attempted to witness to my neighbor in Nepali, she asked me if we worship 3 gods (God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit). I have a hard enough time explaining the doctrine of the Trinity in my native language, let alone a language I am just beginning to grasp the basics of!

It is hard to wrap my mind around the idea being able to answer questions like this in a culture that has no concept of Christianity and of the one true, living God in my second language. I must continue to keep “plugging away.” Even when I feel like I’m at a standstill, I know the wheels are turning somewhere undetectable. When I feel my brain is fried, God is greater than my frailty and will plant roots of knowledge despite my scattered state. It is only my responsibility to put the time and the work in, to push back the thoughts that are sent by the enemy to thwart my study and future ministry. I can’t make it all sink in. I must only trust that the Lord will enable me to soak up the countless hours of study, to give me opportunities to rest when I need it, and most importantly, to give me chances to share the gospel in this new and strange tongue.

I’ve always believed that the Holy Spirit could speak through me. Why would I think that He would be limited by the Nepali language? Surely the author of all tribes and tongues can help me hurdle the ever daunting language barrier to accomplish His ultimate plan for gospel growth in this needy land.

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Have you overcome a seemingly insurmountable challenge for the sake of the gospel?
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!

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