My 25 Planks – 1 to 5

 

Earlier this year I wrote something huge. I wrote down a list of 25 planks I have stuck in my eye. (Matthew 7:3-5). I wrote down my planks and then promptly hid them in a file on my computer vowing to never show anyone. Well, “the time has come” as Effie Trinket says. God is nudging me to confess my 25 planks to the world. So here is my list exactly as I wrote it a couple months ago, yet ever-pertinent to my life. 

 

Early January, 2012
          As I was praying last night, I was struggling with a topic that would be good for my first blog post of the new year. I have been flying through the writing of my book recently, so I haven’t devoted much brainpower toward a new blog post, but I still want to write something meaningful. I was stuck on what to write about so I prayed that I would speak God’s message and I would know what to write next in my blog, but would remain passionate about writing my book as well. A clear, unadulterated phrase entered my mind 25 Things Christians Should Stop Doing Now. 
          Earlier in the day I had come across a post entitled 25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing (Right Blanking Now). There were good points about motivation and procrastination, but the post was littered with profanity, so I will not link to it here. (I’m talking, if you do the stats, it was probably around 50/50 on the use of soapinyourmouth words versus normal words. That’s a pretty high ratio.) I read a couple of the points on my phone while waiting to get my car repaired and then forgot about the post entirely, until the phrase 25 Things Christians Should Stop Doing Now popped into my head. 
          Now most days I would be hard pressed to make a list of 5 things toward a given topic, let alone 25. But as I lay in bed and the thought marinated in my brain, I became more certain this should be the topic of my next post. I was overwhelmed with the feeling the list needed to be written right then. I turned the title over in my head again, and began to hear the list unfolding in my mind. I threw off the covers and went in search of a pad of paper large enough to make an adequate list, and began listing. In one minute I was done. All 25 Things Christians (or I, HayFarris) Should Stop Doing Now were right there on the paper in front of me. 
          It was easy to write a list of things I need to stop doing when thinking of my own bad habits or behaviors. The resulting list was directed toward myself as I wrote it, which made the daunting number 25 much easier to attain. Maybe you want to read this all in one sitting, maybe you want to read one a day and study the corresponding scripture. Maybe you don’t agree with me on any of these, and that’s okay, because these are my 25 planks, not yours. It’s easiest for me to write conversationally, so I wrote this list to myself conversationally.  Writing this as a guideline to myself has already helped me to see how I can improve for God this year. When you read this, it may help you to picture me talking to and about myself. 

          Confession is an important part of the Christian walk, so here are my 25 confessions, my 25 planks. Throughout this year I will post 5 more of my planks. They are not ranked in numerical order. Every plank is as important to remove as the others. This week I will begin my conversation with myself by delving into planks 1 through 5. Please don’t forget the “you” in the following list is me talking to myself, trying to get my own attention.
So without further explanation, I give you my take on the 25 Things Christians (or I, HayFarris) Should Stop Doing Now. 
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1. Stop Judging. 

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
   3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.  
Matthew 7:1-5  
41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Luke 6:41-42
          I know we all are guilty of this one, perhaps more than we realize. Kudos to a superficial plasticisbest culture, I have been trained to judge others by outward appearance as my default mechanism of judgement. I addressed this in greater detail in my I am the sinner I am the prostitute post. 
          Whether intentional or not, my brain has been trained to think, blonde = dumb and fancy brands = successful. We have been trained to make assumptions like fat person in wheel chair = lazy, or turban around head = terrorist, or trailer park = poor, or ghetto = dangerous, or even suburbia = cookie cutter. It’s sad. It is sad to think that even as a Christian I instantly judge when I come across a naked prostitute in front of an angry mob about to stone her. It is sad that I judge when I see a worker outside of McDonald’s taking a cigarette break. It is sad when I judge a person driving a car that doesn’t look as new.clean.pretty as mine. Christ didn’t judge anyone before He showed them love. Christ showed most people love before He even met them. I need to stop judging. I need to stop judging and start loving without judgement. Today, when an assumption pops into your head, recognize the thought as an assumption, as a judgement, and change your thinking. Spread love.  

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2. Stop Hating. 
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48

          A lot of what I do is hateful. Not intentionally, but the outcome is still hate. Think before you speak. Hate can be as obvious as racism in the sixties, as subtle as a facial expression or as simple as shaking your fist at a driver who cuts you off. When Peter acted by anger, he hatefully sliced off a man’s ear. Even though Jesus was about to be beaten by members of the same group as that man, Jesus healed the man and chastised Peter for his action of hate. (Matthew 26:50-54, Mark 14:46-49, Luke 22:49-51, John 18:10-11.) Hate is anger. Hate is ostracizing. Hate is something the devil loves. Today, when anger tries to give birth to hate, recognize the process and abort. To put it simply, Love.

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3. Stop Ignoring. 

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:27
9 If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction,
even their prayers are detestable.
 Proverbs 28:9

         Stop ignoring the needs of others because their reality makes you uncomfortable. Stop ignoring the injustice happening around you. Stop ignoring the bullying that happens at your work/school/church/home. Stop ignoring the social outcast. Stop ignoring the opportunities God is clearly placing around you to spread His word. Stop ignoring what God really called us to do: spread His love, share Jesus, care for widows, care for orphans, help those in need. (Matthew 28:18-20; Matthew 25:34-46) Stop ignoring and start acting. Today, make an effort to see through the Holy Spirit. 

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4. Stop Passivity. 
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
James 1:22-25

          Stop allowing injustice to happen in front of your face. Just like those popular bracelets of the 1990’s, look around and ask yourself What would Jesus do? The imperative part of this question hinges on ACTION. The question is not what would Jesus think … the question is What would Jesus do? Jesus was all action, all the time. In my Being Jesus – Love is active, not passive post I touched on this point. 
Love is active. Jesus’ love was certainly active. Jesus didn’t just tell people He loved them, He acted on it. 
Everything from healing people to washing feet to dying for us–everything He did was active Love.” 

Today, stop being passive. Start acting.

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5. Stop Silence. 

8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Proverbs 31:8-9
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. 
Matthew 28:18-20
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 
James 1:19-20

27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.

 Proverbs 3:27

          The Bible doesn’t say, “Be quick to listen, DO NOT SPEAK.” The Bible says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” Being slow to speak means we are EXPECTED to speak. We are EXPECTED to speak up about Jesus, about God, about scripture, but we are to be thoughtful in doing so. If we are to accomplish the goal set for us in the Great Commission (make disciples of all nations, baptize them, teach them…) then we are going to have to speak up at some point. What relationships has God placed in your life that are possibilities for Him, but you have failed to seize the opportunity to speak about Jesus? Prayer is a powerful tool. Pray to see the opportunities He gives you, and pray He will guide your words when opportunities for Him arise. 
          Remember to speak for God, speak for Christ, speak for love and speak for justice. This does not mean argue for the sake of arguing. Proverbs 26:17 “Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.”
          Have you witnessed someone doing a good deed, or treating someone exceptionally well, but they receive no recognition for their good works? Good souls can tire of doing good when no affirmation is present to fill up their gas tank. Proverbs 3:27 “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” 

Sometimes praise for a deserving soul is as powerful a spark as intercession is for a victim of injustice. 
          
          This means, speak up when someone is doing a good job, not just when they are doing a sorry one. And MOST DEFINITELY speak up when you witness an injustice. Proverbs 31: 8-9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” 

Today, Stop being silent. Start speaking up, but pray before you speak.
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Stay tuned next week for my planks 6 through 10. 
All verses quoted are from the New International Version of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.

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