Monday, September 30, 2013
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:9-11
As I was studying this morning, this verse, showing us how the heart and mouth are entwined in our relationship with God, my mind flew back to Retreat last year and a conversation I had with someone who declared that she loved getting angry because it made her feel so much better to have gotten things off of her chest. Suddenly, my heart was broken all over again for her because I know how much God loves her and how broken hearted He is about our angry outbursts.
Jesus made it plain that it is that which is in our hearts that comes out of our mouths. What we store up in our hearts is what we will eventually say. If we store up anger and accusations, we will speak anger and make accusations. We may be introverted enough not to speak these things out loud to the person who brought out our anger, but we will think them or we will speak them to someone else when we just can’t keep the hurt quiet anymore, and need to relieve our pain: But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a person. For out of the heart come evil ideas, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are the things that defile a person;” Matthew 15:19
Several places in the letters of the New Testament it is declared that the heart and mind are filled with evil if we let them be and have not replaced that with the Word of God. And James 3 takes a fiery look at the unruly tongue as a weapon of destruction. He declares that it is killer: It will break others and it will break us in time.
In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Ephesians 4: 26-27 (NIV) or (KJV) Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.
Many people misunderstand this admonition to mean taking care to let the other person know how angry we are and settling the issue with talk before going to bed. Wrong. It means, take it to God until you have wrestled it out between the two of you. I have spent long nights doing just that, but I have also done it wrong and have hurt people who did not need to be hurt. They did not even need to know that I was angry. I am the one who took offense and I was the one who needed to let go of that offense with God’s help.
And, the truth is that I usually came with the normal plea: He/she did this or that to me and I don’t deserve that. I deserve better and I have a right to be angry. But God always pushed back with, “But why are you angry at all? Why did you take offense to what happened?”
What God wants from us is some soul searching, and He is willing to do that in us. Truly, “Why are we angry?” is a very legitimate question. Why have we chosen the path of anger over the path of humble forgiveness and readiness to suffer offense, even imagined offense, at the hands others? Why have we felt it was our responsibility to make sure that every person who offends us at all, let alone 70 x 7 times, has to even know that they did something with which we took offense.
It is not our job to relieve ourselves of the stress of being angry through verbal accusations and screaming. It is our job to seek peace with God through a deep heart search and confessing with our mouths that we have chosen sin over His Peace and Love. Anger in itself is not the sin. It is choosing to be offended in the first place and then choosing to exact the revenge ourselves.
I am not suggesting here that you should “stuff it.” What I am saying is: if the offense is miner; forgive it as God forgives you. If it is serious enough to warrant further attention, get things in order with God and meet the other person on the level of Peace as the subject is discussed and worked out. Trust in Him for the solution, and work with Him as He works out the problem.
May we all learn to recognize taking offense as a choice; and may we learn to deal with that choice as soon as it is made. May we find our faith strengthened every time we take our hurt to you and work it out, rather than blasting someone else, hurting them and ourselves in ways that may not be reparable.
May we rejoice in the Lord always, even when we have been hurt, or even annoyed, so that we may be used as a light and a blessing to someone else each day.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Yesterday I found myself stirred to a boil with confusion and frustration and finally screamed to God that I hated what was going on and I needed Him to reign me in and help me deal with all the changes He was asking of me and that I was fighting, tooth and nail. I won’t bother you with what it all was or is, but I will say this: He answered me and He answered me well.
Perhaps you remember that in a recent blog I suggested that Christian fiction can be a wonderful tool for seeing ourselves as we really are. One book that I picked out of our library came in handy Sunday night when I could not sleep because I simply was not sleepy. I have a new lamp that helps me read at night, so I got up, sat in my reading chair and found myself getting really upset with the progression of the heroine’s life and the “obvious” mistaken choices she was making purely out of grit and self determination. At 4am I put the book aside, thinking I might not pick it up again, and went to bed and to sleep.
But, the truth is that I have been very frustrated about making any decisions at all for quite a while and I was so edgy that everyone around me was tensing at my presence. By last night I knew that the truth was that I was deeply angry. I had become empty of Joy and Peace and Patience which had taken a far back seat to “snarkism” and I just had to do something about it. So, just before bed, I confessed to God exactly how I was feeling; once again confessing to Him that I really did hate being angry and needed His help and guidance strongly and powerfully.
Well - He kept me awake. I tossed and turned and tossed again until finally I got up and came out to read again. I picked up the book and plowed in. Now, I know that many will say that I should have picked up my Bible. But sometimes what I am seeking is not findable in the mood that I am in, so I picked up the book. It also has bigger print than the Bible and is easier to read in artificial light.
And it is true that the answer I was looking for was exactly the same as the answer which came to the mother in this story: I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13) Plus: But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory (vs. 19).
She had been tossing away her life, and the ability to influence her daughter’s life by working, working, working and forcing her life into a box which God never planned for her. I have been making plans and decisions for my life without really giving God a voice in the matter. I was doing what seemed right according to Christian custom, rather than giving all my needs to Him to handle. And, here, I mean ALL my needs, not just financial or physical comfort needs, but my spiritual and mental and heart needs as well. I had a list longer than my arm that I felt needed to be addressed and I constantly laid plans to achieve those things. And I constantly fell on my face.
It was no wonder that I was so critical of this fictional woman. She was me: Different setting; different world; same stupid decisions. This morning - well late this morning - I had a wonderful time with my God as we reviewed Sunday’s sermon in Judges. I loved every minute of it, for a change. There, in Judges we will be seeing the circle of sin, brokenness, repentance, God’s forgiveness and full assistance, peace for a time, then sin again as it occurs over and over and over during these many years of life in the promised land. And I witnessed my own circle of sin as I take the reigns of my life back from God and crash and have to return to Him again and again repenting and asking for help in walking a straight path with Him once more. It is a little “dizzifying.”
As I see it, the hope we have in this life is that our walks with Him will be longer and longer before we turn away and take over the reigns again, falling into old patterns until we crash and burn. And our hope in Him, that we can absolutely count on, is that He will always pick us up, dust us off, and help us walk at His side once again, when we come confessing and pleading with Him to do so.
The turning and asking is so very important. God did not refrain from refusal to help the Israelites – and His actual plotting against them – until they cried out in their pain, confessing their sin and asking for His help. That is really not too much for Him to expect of us, is it?
After all, we are sinners, and we will be until the time when see Him face to face. So we better keep that in mind and keep turning to Him with confession and surrender if we desire any peace and comfort in this walk through time on this earth.
Father, may we recognize our jitters and frustrations in daily living to be signs of trying too hard to accomplish the walk of our life on our own, in our own minds and with our own strength. May we always turn back to you to find the peace, comfort and strength we need to be useful to you as a light in the world around us. And may we be blessings to others today, in Jesus name. Amen.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Recently I heard a very fruitful servant of God say, “No. God didn’t speak to me. He doesn’t speak to me….” It got my full attention because God does speak to me and I was aghast at the thought that he thinks God does not speak to him. I realize that saying “God spoke to me about this or that” sounds very peculiar and sounds like boasting and makes some people cringe, but I think there is a great misunderstanding going on here and I thought that maybe I would try to explain a little about how I see God working in our lives.
First, let me say that I believe that God does speak to this man. But I think that he has confused the verbal heaven bound voice of God with the voice of God in our hearts and heads.
In the O.T, God did often speak verbally, and the sound sometimes carried to people who knew it was God speaking, but could not comprehend what He was saying. That was kept to the person He was speaking to, as with Abram and Moses.
Other times God spoke so exclusively to prophets that not a sound was heard by anyone else, but the prophet heard a very verbal voice. When John was taken into heaven, “whether in body or in spirit” he did not know, he literally heard the sounds of God speaking and angels speaking to him. God is verbal. He always has been verbal and He may always be verbal.
This is not the kind of speaking God does today. Though many would have you think that only the highly anointed can hear the voice of God, the truth is that we can all hear it, if we are listening. That is because that Holy Spirit dwells within us and is capable of using our own faculties to help us hear what God has to say. He is our Counselor and there is not a counselor anywhere that I know of who can counsel without words. Think about that. Words are the essence of communication; spoken, written, or even signed.
In today’s reading of Secrets of the Vine, the subject is of us abiding in Him, and He in us. We never get over the need to abide in Him and to recognize Him abiding in us. The sad thing is that many Christians have never recognized this relationship. They do their duty and show up for “devotions” and church and Bible classes; but they never quite get acquainted with their God on a personal basis. They never quite enjoy His friendship, let alone His Fatherhood. They never quite realize that the Holy Spirit within us can carry on an informal conversation with us all day, everyday, and never tire of it. They never quite realize that this is the very essence of abiding in Him, and He abiding in us.
But, the thing to remember and respect is that God uses words; the words and thoughts that He has planted in our hearts while we read and study His words. People often jest about that “light-bulb” moment or of having an epiphany when they suddenly catch on to something they have been trying to understand. In the lives of Christians these moments of understanding can be directly attributed to the Holy Spirit doing His job, using our own thoughts to bring us to realizations or discernments that we might otherwise overlook. He is our teacher. Why should we deny any level of that since He actually is teaching us as we go along?
What some do not realize is that God is a great conversationalist. The best. We do not have to depend on great revealings, light bulb moments or epiphanies. We just have to listen to Him and talk to Him and discuss, pray and watch for answers to prayer, trusting and waiting while continuing our walk with Him.
But we also have to be there, every day, to soak in what new things He has for us to discuss and think over together. We have to be there with Him as we start our day, spending time with Him. Not just a moment or two, but many, many moments, even if we have to start earlier than we would like to; even if we need to stop what we are doing and let Him know what is going on in our life that we need His help or encouragement with. It really isn’t painful. In fact it is pure Joy to be a child of the Father, a brother and friend of the Son and a student of the Holy Spirit. What more could we ever need than that.
As an example, let me share my “epiphany” moment when I realized, finally, who my Mother really was: I was in the middle of my reading and studying and got up to go in the bathroom. Suddenly, someone yelled very loudly, “So you think you had it bad? What about your Mother? What about her pain?” I actually grabbed the sides of the door to steady myself and then proceeded to sit and think for several minutes.
Was it the “Voice of God speaking from Heaven?” No! It was the Holy Spirit, within me, pushing a very loud thought into the front of my mind from the hiding place I where I had shoved it so that I didn’t need to think about that. That’s “all” it was, but that was everything. It was God speaking to me through my own heart and mind. I know it wasn’t a “sound” from Heaven, because God has told us that He will speak to us in a still, small voice (even if it has to be a “little” loud, just to get my attention.) :)
God, may we be alert to hear, and not afraid to know, your Spirit speaking to us though our own thoughts. And may we become wiser and wiser at knowing your directives over our own plans and desires. We love you, Lord. Make us a blessing to others and a light for you every single day, Lord! Amen!
Friday, September 6, 2013
I have approached this “title” before in a very different way. This time I am concerned about jumping into things that seem to be right, but should be held off in favor of quietness. We must not throw ourselves into service or personal improvement programs when what we need is healing and growth.
I have been traveling through some serious pruning these last few months. It has been an eye opening blessing to read and study the work of the Vinedresser as He cuts away at the branches in my life that hinder me from producing more fruit. They were not evil branches, just unnecessary ones that took up too much of my time and focus.
I have also mentioned pruning before and I know how much I pruned my roses in order to keep them blooming all season and again the next season. Every fall it looked like I hated them, but I loved them and that is why I pruned away in early fall and kept them tidy through out the spring and summer. The Vinedresser does not prune us to keep us weak; He does it to make us stronger for what He has in mind for our current and future service for Him. And to make more room for the fullness He offers us.
Frankly, I have had this problem since the day I started back into my walk with Him. Do this, do that, make yourself useful here, or there. Get involved. Be a good servant in the church. The call was loud. But it was not from God. And He knocked me off my feet several times over those years of growth and told me over and over again to “Be Quiet, and listen.” “Walk slowly into growth,” He said. “Don’t rush.”
But rush I would and down I would go. Like when I tried helping in the nursery and got so sick I had to ask for help to see a doctor, then found out I was a Type-2 diabetic. Like the time I joined a food group to be up to snuff on a current food trend and got knocked back to worse than square one due to the very fussiness of the whole thing. Or, like last fall when I decided to try to be like others and joined a fitness program that cost me a lot in gas money (going 3 days a week, eight miles each time.) And which also cost me time away from what I was really supposed to be doing: writing.
Writing? Really? God, you know that I am not a writer. What in the world are You thinking? I have a hard time with this, Lord. How does this work as service for you? What blessings or fruit come from It? “That is not for you to know, dear. That is my business, my job. You just be quiet and listen to what I want you to say. Then write. If no one reads it, or if many read it, that is my work. You just write, and pray for blessings to come from it. Yes, Lord.
And then He sent me another blogger who just keeps feeding me courage after courage. She will never know just how much God is using her in my life. She has thousands of followers and books and speaking engagements. But she is affecting the lives of many people because that is her place in God’s will and she is willing to be there for whatever He has for her to do, big or small. I am very thankful that He sent her words my way through someone else who shared her blog one day. I hope I am listening more carefully these days because of what has been going on for such a long time now.
But I am also concerned for others: Those who scurry to get involved because they think they should. Those who see following Christ as ALL or NOTHING, not in surrender, but in busily meeting expectations they carry in their minds over how to live for Christ. Having this compulsion to meet the “standards” of what a Christian life should look like is almost as frightening for me to watch as to watch those who have no compulsion at all to live for Christ, even though they know Him.
Both need to do some serious listening. Both need to be quiet and allow God to enter their lives in thoughts that they otherwise would never have. Both need to breath and relax and let God rearrange their hearts and minds to fit His chosen tempo for their lives. Both need to stop trying to live up to, or avoid, the standards they think they are supposed to meet; instead they need to start letting God retrain them into the beautiful people God sees in them.
Like it or not, we really can be too busy in trying to serve God and we can also be very lazy about trying at all. God is not in a hurry, but neither is He happy with slothfulness. To find our place in between, we must, first, be quiet. And as we get moving along, we must continue to take time to “Be quiet and know that [He] is God.”
May we all be listening for that quiet, but sure voice within us that is the Holy Spirit speaking God’s directions to us through our own minds and hearts. May we all learn to treasure each and every word. And may we all be willing to let those words become a blessing to others along the road as well. God, may we be a blessing to someone today. Amen.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
I recently read an apologetic “7 Reasons” summary of the answer to this question. Talk about dry and uninspiring. It was all about technicalities of there being things in the O.T. that would help us see the Son more clearly. That is important. It is important that we remember that the O.T. is about Jesus and the O.T was the teaching tool that Jesus and Paul and Peter and all the Apostles used in the beginnings of the church. Our roots are firmly planted in the Old Testament. And theologically there are many reasons why we should not only read it, but study it.
However, this particular discourse, and others I have read had no heart. It had no emotional tug to it at all. And I happen to be very, very emotional about the Old Testament. My heart bursts with Joy when I read it and study it. It is just as living as the New Testament and it provides us with the strongest picture we can currently hope for of the Holy Trinity, the Almighty God; and, especially, God the Father.
I LOVE GOD THE FATHER! I love to hear about Him, I love to know Him, I love to see Him in action; suffering the pains of watching His children constantly rejecting Him; and Him warning them about that with hard words of coming punishment; and those ALWAYS followed by LOVING promises that He will always love them and will always be there for them—and us—when we turn from our sins, confess, ask for forgiveness and ask for His help.
Yes, the O.T. is the story of redemption through Jesus Christ. Yes, the O.T. is a road map to the Savior. But the O.T. is also a history of God the Father and the Holy Trinity at work. And it is exciting. It is thrilling! It is glorifying to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is the heart of our genealogy as adopted children of God.
Jesus told His followers that if they had seen Him they had seen the Father, but he never suggested that we not get to know the Father. Seeing and knowing are two different things. He told His followers to pray to the Father, rather than to Him, because the Father gave us to Him as friends and siblings.
In this day of so much excitement about our human genealogies, we need to see the value of tracing our heritage in Christ back through the O.T and up to the end of Revelations. Our heritage is as old as the earth itself.
Refusing to read and study the O.T. is like refusing to care about who your own parents, grandparents and great grandparents are; shrugging and saying I don’t want to know anything about my family before the day I was born. I am sticking to only those things which happened on and after that day. That is not even an option in most cases. Those people are there in your life and they have a history.
And as a sibling of Christ, His Father is in our lives whether we want Him to be or not. We pray to Him, in Jesus name, because He has given us to Jesus and He sees us only through Jesus blood. We need to know all that we can know about who we are praying to. We need to see and know His patience, His great love and His great promises as they are confirmed over and over in His words and actions with His people. And we need to see that, we need to feel that and we need to know that deep in our hearts. He is our Father. He is the only real Father I ever had.
I love Him as passionately as I love Jesus. He knew me and loved me before I was born. He knew who my parents would be and never interfered because He had plans for me. He brought me into His family, through Jesus. He rejoices that He did that. And I shout Hallelujah right back to Him.
Jesus and the Father are One, but I do not see them as the SAME. They are different. All three of the Holy Trinity, God Almighty, are different and have different assignments in our lives, but they are all ONE. And if we fail to know and appreciate any one of them, we fail. We come short of full Joy and Peace. We come short of sharing the whole story. We come short of knowing the fullness of our God.
I encourage every one of you to read the books of the O.T. with the goal of learning to love the Father as much as you love the Son. He is our Father and our heritage. We deserve the pleasure of getting to know Him and to know more about who we are in Him.
May we go to read that huge part of the Bible that we like to touch only now and then, but avoid getting too involved in because it is hard. And may we let God Himself change our minds about that. May we let the Father into our lives. May we quit avoiding our History and fall in love with our full genealogy in Jesus. And may we depend on the Holy Spirit within us to guide us through what we think we cannot handle.
And may God bless each of us today with the power and ability to be a blessing to someone else in Christ’s name. Amen.