Thursday, December 4, 2014

Joy to the World: A Holiday Devotional

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a  manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7

The Christmas season is upon us, as evidenced by the twinkling lights and ornate wreathes and of course, every radio station's beloved Christmas favorites inundating the airwaves. When I listen to music generally, I'm really a words person. I have to like the message to enjoy the instrumentation. But even I get so used to the familiar melodies that I hardly take time to really hear them now. Yet the other day when I stopped to really listen to Joy to the World, I felt...well convicted, honestly.

Joy to the World
The LORD is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart
prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing

Joy. What, I thought, brings me joy? Particularly in this season? When's the last time I really felt real, deep, genuine, laugh-out-loud joy? I hear tales of hunting for the perfect gifts, exquisite decorations, and lovely and family gatherings and parties and the wonder of it all...and the stress of it all too...and my head spins with the busyness. And commitments as a ministry family are completely separate from that list! Is all that truly where joy comes from?

Aligned next to this beloved Christmas carol... that all seems to be in direct conflict with what it's all about. I think about that simple scene, that manger, the rough textures and cruel elements on bare skin...and yet...perfection...peace...and absolute joy. It wasn't fancy. But it was real and life changing.

Oftentimes, God's joy, what He really wants for us, is simply squelched by the constant filling and stimulation of our culture and pace, by the need for packaging and presentation. So much so that we miss the miraculous because of our obsession with the mundane. Much like the inn-keepers on that fateful night in Bethlehem, we miss out on the presence of our Savior in the midst of all the stuff with which we fill our we miss out on that real joy that we crave and that He offers so freely.

In a culture positively drenched in a lifestyle of consumption and acquisition, this verse challenged me so much. The message is that there is a need to make room, that joy only comes from becoming an empty vessel. What if I sought joy by making room, by being a person who empties, simplifies, prioritizes and surrenders...a person of singular focus on my Savior...rather than of adding, expecting, pursuing, of appointments and obligations and traditions? Then, instead of frantically racing toward my joy (and really finding only exhaustion, disappointment and unmet expectations), it would simply descend, as a dove, arriving in my heart, my home, my the stillness of sitting at the feet of my God, at that manger, on that Holy Night...

Oh, the power that lies in vacated space in our days and our busy schedules, in our traditions and our relationships...because God's presence, peace, hope and joy will come to fill it. Don't miss the possibility of true joy in this beautiful season. Determine what is excess, keep the main thing the main thing, dare to become an empty vessel, and watch God fill you with the gladness, wonder and hope that come so naturally with His presence...the very best - not acquisition - but rather, gift - that could be hoped for in this season and in life. 

Let every heart prepare Him room indeed...praying blessings and good tidings of great joy to all this season...
“Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am
 coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the LORD.
Zechariah 2:10


Friday, November 21, 2014

Finding Purpose in Failure

Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.
Genesis 3:20

In the moment of her great defeat, Eve received her name.

That really struck me today. Why on earth, and in that moment, would Adam have thought to give her a name? A quick look back in my reading revealed that this was not in fact the first name she was given. She had been called Woman, and had been purposed as a helper.

But in that role she had utterly failed. And here they were, cast out and away, heartbroken and divided. With the dawn of their failure and a new way of living lives separated from God's presence, more than ever, these people needed hope. And in this divinely inspired and ordained moment, Eve became a picture of that hope. Mother, bearer of life.

She would bring life into the world with pain and hardship, but it would give way to something greater. A joyful reunion of mother and child after a traumatic separation. She would become a living picture, a prophecy that one day, joy, new life and deliverance from the curse would come. Her descendant would be the Conqueror. His birth would usher in freedom and restoration from that terrible separation and defeat.

You and I, the bride of Christ, experience moments of weakness. We are called...we fail. We are driven by our passion, our desire for possessions, and or yearning for position, just as Eve was. And we give in sometimes. And yet, just as the first Adam, the last Adam, Jesus, from whose side we have been given life, chose to "call" and "purpose" us, even in our frailty.

Be a container of the hope. Be a giver of life. Be a reminder and a picture of the life that is to come through Christ. Remember, that just as in Eve's life, even after our greatest defeat, we can still receive our greatest calling.

Thankful for that truth today.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
1 Peter 3:15

Blessings to you today...


Monday, November 10, 2014

Who's Your Architect?

"For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory."
Colossians 3:3-4

Discovered over the weekend that the word for know, that big boat you're envisioning right now, crammed with elephants and giraffs and Noah's actually the word for "box." In fact, many linguists think that this was a derivative for an Egyptian word that meant "coffin." Yikes! So while we think of God commissioning the building of a boat, the real story is that God commanded Noah to build a box that looked like a coffin. Maybe Noah's peers laughed at him He built. "So...what you're saying is getting in that giant coffin is going to save your family from a flood we haven't seen? Riiiiight." I might have raised an eyebrow myself...after all, it didn't make any sense that this is the way life would be the time, it didn't even seem like a necessity! It was at best ironic, and at worst, insane.

Surrender and obedience can, often, to the world, look crazy and irrational. They can feel like a form of death as we release our vision of our lives, our control, and what makes sense to us. That's what Jesus meant when he said "whoever will save his life must lose it." But more than that, the ark is a picture of Christ's death on our behalf, and our resulting deliverance, eternal security. The door in the side through which they entered symbolizes our doorway through the death and injury of Jesus, the atoning blood and the purifying water flowing from His side...

Though it may not make sense, and relinquishing control may be hard for you (as it is for me!), remember that the place that seemed rational, the plan that didn't include God in the days of Noah, resulted in separation, destruction and death. But there came a time when out of that ark, that "coffin," erupted a new beginning, a people of God, a life and a future and victory on solid ground.

Enter in to that place, as crazy as it sounds...forget about all the things you are building and simply enter in to place and plan commissioned just for you by God. Look up at the window while you rest safely and securely and thank Him in prayer for the light, the warmth and His hand at work in providing that security. And as the waters of confusion and destruction rage all around you, smile, knowing that God's plan and provision and grace always... always ...rise above...always prevail...always lead to life...

"But where sin increased, grace increased all the more."
Romans 5:20

"I am the door, if anyone enters through me he will be saved."
John 10:9

Thanks be unto our wonderful Father for His wonderfulword, and His steadfast love...and blessings to you today, sweet friends!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The measure of success...just a thought for today...

"Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up,
and instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up,
and it will be a memorial to the Lord,
for an everlasting sign which will not be cut off."
Isaiah 55:13

I. love. this. chapter. It is all about how reading and seeking to understand God's word, and responding to it in obedience, yields success, abundance and joy in life.

And while it is a wonderful blessing for us to walk through life with those things, the ultimate purpose for that is revealed here in this verse. Jesus, the Word of God, called living water, came down from heaven and walked the earth as a man, teaching, healing, modeling... creating and nourishing life and fruitfulness in us, so that we can become like the cypress tree, known as an enduring and strong tree...and like the myrtle, emitting a beautiful and fragrant aroma, always green and so pleasant.

The effects of our obedience to God's word make us a memorial, proof, that Jesus is God, that He is alive, that that He truly is our Messiah sent from heaven. Our response of obedience proves Christ's identity to the world. In Jesus' high priestly prayer in John 17, he says “I do not ask on behalf of these alone (his disciples), but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me." That's me and you!

It's a reasonable and wonderful thing to want to go to heaven when we die, to have success as we live. But when we surrender to Christ, our lives aren't just about us any longer. Brothers and sisters, let us never forget the vital role we have to serve as living proof of the One to whom we owe it all, to point to His glory, as we walk in newness of life and freedom...

Blessings today, sweet friends and fellow trees...


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Singing in the Rain: How to Experience Genuine Joy in Pain

I get to spend every Thursday night with some of the most amazing young women on the planet. They are high school girls who serve as ministry leaders for children at our church, who asked me several months ago to meet with them on a weekly basis, to mentor and teach them how to walk out God's word in daily life. It's definitely one of my favorite parts of the week!

Not long ago, over a discussion of Romans 8 and steaming bowls of Panera's broccoli cheddar soup, one of the girls confessed, "I just don't understand how I am I supposed to be happy about suffering." The conversation stayed with me long after that night. She had a great point. In Scripture we read passages like James 1:2, calling us to "consider it joy when we fall into temptation and suffering," or Romans 5:3 which tells us to "glory in our sufferings," but I can hardly think of a time when being happy and thankful about turmoil or stress came naturally to me.

I think for most of us, living out these verses looks something like twisting our faces into some distorted version of a smile and, through gritted teeth, uttering the words, "I'm fine," keeping it all inside, when what we really want to do is curl up in the fetal position, eat an entire carton of Blue Bell, tell everyone we know how unfair life is, and cry ourselves to sleep. But...I firmly believe that God calls us to live genuine lives, and He doesn't want or expect us to fake this posture. So how can we obey this command to exhibit joy in hardship?

A few related passages I found recently really helped me to understand the bigger picture here. Over and over what I see in the accounts of the great heroes of the faith is that God promises redemption, salvation, peace and blessing - but that I doesn't mean an absence of experiences that are beyond our ability, frightening, difficult or hurtful. So here are a few passages on which to meditate, so that in the midst of the storm, you will not lose heart or faith, and you might even find yourself singing along the way...

It's All Part of the Plan

Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us.
2 Corinthians 5:20

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
John 10:10

Why does it matter how we feel about our obstacles, anyway? These verses tells us the answer. For one thing, God has a plan. And a huge part of that plan is that we experience life to the fullest. He knows exactly how to orchestrate the events of our lives so that we come to that end - abundant life. And, as much as I hate to admit it, it is in overwhelming circumstances that I learn best how to prioritize my life and how to release things that really don't matter.

We also have to remember that part of that plan involves us - in each new day, every encounter, we have one mission as followers of Christ - to be His megaphone. To tell the world about who He is and how great His plan is. If the world sees us feeling satisfaction and living out joy and trust in the middle of chaos, what better advertisement could that be to a lost and dying world? The question is, do you really believe in your heart that His intentions are for your best interest? To put it another way, is the way your are living and responding to life's challenges showing the world that He is worthy of your steadfast trust? 

Come and see the works of God,
Who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men.
He turned the sea into dry land;
They passed through the river on foot;
There let us rejoice in Him!
Psalm 66:5-6

I find it really interesting here that this word for "awesome," which in our common vernacular means great, wonderful, or positive - in Hebrew actually means "to cause astonishment, fear, honor, reverence." In other words you might say this verse this way: "Come see how God astonishes and surprises us as He works through us, provoking us to honor Him." Has God ever surprised you, in a way that you did not fully appreciate until later?

This is one of His preferred methods, actually - and it's one that the Israelites encountered in the great book of Exodus, chapter 14. Since Psalm 66 mentions this, I think it's worth taking a closer look at what happened, so we can get the full impact of the reference:

Here's the scoop on this story's setting: God had promised release from Egyptian bondage, and He had made good on that promise; they were now making their grand exit, carrying the spoils of the great riches of the Egyptians. Finally, things would be different, they would feel safe, a new life could begin. But then God does something surprising, calling them to turn back and camp by the sea. Then, in another strange move, God actually causes Pharaoh to decide to chase after Israel. And just like that, Israel finds itself between a sea and an army - two enemies that seem completely beyond escape.

Like any rational person just getting to know the Lord would, they panicked. But notice Moses' declaration to them in this moment:

“Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent. 

In other words, here is an opportunity to witness a miracle, God wants to divinely intervene here. All you have to do is stand here, trust Him, and watch Him work. The words "keep silent" literally mean "hold, hold," with the implication of engraving something, like drawing a line in the sand and standing firm.

It is important to remember the outcome of that divine surprise:

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

God did not allow them to fail. And Beloved, no matter how impossible things might seem, He will not allow you to fail either. His provision is without limit, and beautifully orchestrated, causing awe and wonder like walking through walls of water. When we encounter something that is beyond our resources, the psalmist encourages us, "There," in that overwhelming and surprising place, remember who He is, and "let us rejoice in Him." God has decided to let you witness a miracle. Will you stand with Him, draw your line in the sand, and wait with expectation? Or will you retreat into yourself and your need for control, as I often do, forfeiting the miracle God would show you?

A Place of Abundance

Bless our God, O peoples 
And sound His praise abroad,
Who keeps us in life
And does not allow our feet to slip

For you have tried us, O God;
You have refined us as silver is refined.
You have brought us into the net;
You have laid an oppressive burden upon our loins
You made men ride over our heads;

We went through fire and through water,
Yet You brought us out into a place of abundance.
Psalm 66: 8-12

These verses have revolutionized the way I see all manner of challenges in daily life. This is the testimony of a person who has been through some tough times, but declares that we should trust in Him in tough times, for on the other side of them are a treasure. He tells us not to resist God, because, from the common annoyance to the big life or death challenges, they are all like little tributaries that pour out into an ocean of blessing.

Being "tried" is receiving an opportunity to apply the things we commit to doing for the Lord. "Refining" comes when the heat gets turned up in our lives and we feel the pressure of deadlines, decisions and conflicts. "Nets" are situations where we feel trapped or aren't sure what to do, or maybe circumstances where we feel discontent with where God has us. "Oppressive burdens" might come in the form of illnesses, losses, heartbreaks, disappointments, or seasons of waiting. And men riding over our heads are just dealing with other people, especially those who attack or oppress us, put us down, betray and disrespect us. I think this pretty much captures every kind of problem we might face. And yet, through all that, the writer tells us that on the other side of those things are abundance.

That word, abundance, is a great word. In Hebrew it's revayah. It means to not only drink your fill but to be completely saturated, having more than you could ever drink. It's also, if you remember, the purpose that Christ said Himself that he came to achieve in you. So in other words, trials, conflicts and struggles are often the very vehicle that get us to the abundance God has for us.

How you ask? This has come in four main ways in my life - maybe you can relate:

Increased Self awareness. Often when things don't go my way, certain character traits that are not very godly bubble to the surface. Sometimes, God simply throws us a curve ball to let us know that a change in our heart is needed.

Increased Faith: When I get to the other side of my mountain, the view is so gorgeous. I can see all the ways God provided along the way. And going forward, I can rest a little easier in my God's ability to see me through the dark times.

Increased Dependence on God: In the moments of being overwhelmed, I am reminded that I am a person of limited means and resources. I simply can't do it all. So, I reach out for my Abba and my prayer and intimacy in my relationship with Him dramatically improve. Here is His gentle reminder that this is the way it should be every day.

Increased Sense of Purpose & Passion: There's a prophetic passage in Ezekiel 39 that I adore about a war with a formidable enemy that God will defeat on Israel's behalf in the future. When the battle is over, the weapons that were meant to harm Israel will be used as an energy source, a fire that will burn for seven years. It works the same way for you and me now. When God fights a battle for me, all that it seems was meant to hurt me actually ends up fueling me. You can use the mistakes of your past for ministry, you can share your testimony to show other's God's power. Trials can be a valuable tool to help you find your gifting and calling.

So, next time you find yourself in the midst of a sticky situation, try to resist the gut reaction to retreat into what you can do, or to rebel against what God wants to do. Remember that these situations are God's vehicle, driving us toward something amazing and supernatural. We can rejoice because God brings us to our obstacles deliberately, so that He can bring us out triumphantly. We can wait expectantly to see big things. I wonder what it is that God wants to show you today...Don't forfeit your miracle, Beloved...embrace it with courage and joy. Let's go dance in the rainstorm...



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Stay in the Battle! A Note of Encouragement

The Lord is a warrior... Exodus 15:3

And My holy name I will make known in the midst of My people Israel... Ezekiel 39:7

Why does it feel like every day is such a battle? Well, because it is. We get hurt, lose things, people disappoint us, things change unexpectedly...and we nurse our injuries, our egos bruised, plans blown to bits - we fight through tears in valleys of hunger and thirst of ...spirit...we navigate minefields through the unknown, valleys and darkness, we feel the spiritual tension and sense the nearness of the enemy encampments all around. And it's so easy in these raw, vulnerable easy to forget that our major battle is not to overcome our circumstances... it's not about gaining the high ground, finding the resolution, receiving the cure or even relief, not really.

"Therefore," our predecessor Paul notes, "we are ambassadors for Christ - as though God were making an appeal through us" (2 Corinthians 5:20).

What is He calling you to show to the world about Himself through your unique situation? And what is He trying to reveal to you about Himself in it? His sufficiency? His forgiveness? His peace? His holiness? His faithfulness? What a novel, beautiful concept that sometimes, our circumstances are not about failure or success, but rather an opportunity for God to define Himself through them - and us.

Let us embrace, and not resist, our circumstances, even with gratitude and trust, lest we forfeit our great calling. In the midst of my own heartwrenching struggles, and even in the superfluous ones, through the noise and the tears, I see My God ever fighting alongside me, heming me in before and behind, and I hear Him saying to us, "Do not be discouraged, precious ones. Stay in the fight, do not give up!" And I do not intend to.



Thursday, May 15, 2014

Counting My Omer: A Survival Guide for Seasons of Waiting

In case this is the first time you've read my blog, one thing to know is this - we observe the biblical calendar in our home. Not to appear hyper-spiritual, and not because we believe it has anything to do with salvation - We do it because we find that beneath these observances, there are pictures of God’s character, of His redemptive plan, amazing and insightful principles that reveal His nature and ours only as they are lived out... and that helps us to honor Him more fully. These "moedim," appointed times, have blessed and challenged us for the last several years as we have walked through them with open minds and hungry hearts.

These days, I find that the biblical calendar eerily - yet not surprisingly or even for the first time - aligns directly with my own personal hurdles in life and faith. In all ways, I am living in a season of waiting, hoping and longing for a harvest - and that's exactly what "counting the omer," as it has come to be called, is all about. From First Fruits to Shavuot, also called Pentecost, this fifty day period doesn't take up much explanation in the scriptures. The days are simply to be counted off, numbered. And honestly, I never paid quite so much attention to them. Until recently...

A Season of Waiting...

An Agricultural Event
This season of God's calendar is one of waiting. In its original observance, Israel spent these days waiting for the harvest to fully ripen. They had seen the barley harvest begin to bud. Now they waited for the promise of that first fruit growth to fully bloom into a harvest that would feed and sustain. Their survival in the year to come would depend on whether or not God brought it all to fruition. Had they not trusted God completely, it could be a very frightening time, a time when they focused on what wasn’t there, when they became negative or even lost faith.

A Historical Event 
In addition to an agricultural season, the feast is also a commemoration of a historical event in Israel's history - it marked the time between Israel's redemption from Egyptian bondage to their first direct encounter with God Himself - on the mountain of Sinai. It is believed that from their departure to the giving of the 10 Commandments, 50 days elapsed - and at that moment they heard God's voice, and a great gift was given from Him to the people.

A Pattern in God's Word
You may be more familiar with New Testament repetition of this pattern, found in Acts 1. From Christ's resurrection to the moment when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples in that upper room and history was made there was a waiting period of 50 days.  So again, we see a picture of the first of a great harvest promised (Christ resurrected to eternal life), a waiting period, and a fantastic and powerful encounter with God Himself among men (the baptism of the Holy Spirit) - which rendered 3,000 souls for the Kingdom that day.

I often wonder what life must have been like for those men and women of God during these periods of waiting. The Israelites left home and all that was familiar to wander in the desert with a man they didn't really know. The disciples watched the man who had become their friend and mentor brutally murdered. Was the movement over? Who would lead them now? How long would they have to wait? What would a baptism of the Holy Spirit look like?

One thing was clear: there was no going back - they would simply have to trust and obey.

Counting My Omer...

I don't always let down my walls to let readers peer in to my life and heart, but I feel that in this case, it's important to share that I am in that "50 days" season. I am counting my omer. There are first fruits of a harvest in my life that I’m waiting for God to bring to fruition – longings and gifting and promises and seasons of life that I yearn for, that I feel are necessary to my very existence here on this planet – and yet I have no idea when my 50 days will end. I’m like those scared Israelites in the desert, those frightened disciples – maybe some of you can relate with me on that….

Aren't we all waiting for something? Longing for things? Whether it's healing from a broken heart, waiting for circumstances to change, hoping for an answer to prayer or just wishing Jesus would hurry and come back, we are all craning our necks with hopeful expectancy for what lies next. And in the waiting, l
ife is happening: hearts are breaking, hopes are dying - because we have not learned, as a people, how to thrive in seasons of longing. But despite our instinct to clutch and control, there is a way, a biblical model, for how to long for something in a way that honors God and brings peace to our lives…

 Let it Go... 

 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”  He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:4-8

I can certainly relate to the disciples in this moment. Here is this culmination of the ministry of Christ, in which He is sharing this wonderful promise and giving them His last words... and all they want is the inside scoop. They want to know what He's up to, to have their hands in it, their minds wrapped around the purpose of it. Fredrich Nietzsche once said, "He who has a why can endure almost any how." Yet notice Jesus' response. It applies even today - it's not our concern to know the big picture. Instead, it's our job to focus on being the witness we've been called to be.

That's a tough truth for me. We have a desperate, carnal need to know, to understand, as if the criteria for validity is that we 'get it.' Even typing these words I feel how saturated they are with pride. But, friends, our calling is not defined by our knowing and agreeing. When we stop trying to figure out the plan – make the plan – run the plan – help the plan happen in a way that makes sense to us  - then we can focus on what our call actually is - to simply be His witness.

If God has given you a call, a desire, if he has set you on a course and promised you something, simply walk in that identity! You don't have to worry about placing yourself in the right circumstances or creating the perfect conditions. You don't have to map out your course...or justify His call on your life at all -  simply take possession of the promise and watch Him exceed your expectations as He paints your life into His masterwork. Sometimes in submission and surrender we will not fully understand, and that's okay. The important thing is that we know - and reflect - the Who. So choose to walk by faith.

Go Back to the Upper Room...

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying...
Acts 1:12-13

It’s interesting to me that "counting the omer" is what time and tradition have titled this season. An omer was a unit of measure and changed from one time period to another. But there’s an occurrence of the word omer in Exodus 16 that I can't help but bring up. Here we read about the Israelites crying out for food in the desert as they travelled to what, at the time, was an undisclosed location. They were frightened, they were tired. And they were worried they wouldn't have food to live in the wilderness. Then, God provides a miracle...bread from heaven. They called it manna. The Israelites were instructed to go out and gather their manna - guess how much they got each day? You guessed it. An omer.  

God still continues to provide His manna  for us every day. It's not laying out on the dew-covered grass every morning outside our homes. Instead, it's sitting on our bedside tables, hiding in drawers and on bookshelves. His Manna is His living Word - the Bible. It's Jesus, the bread of life, who fills and sustains eternally. Are we gathering our portion daily?

The holy scriptures were not accessible to disciples in that day. So they went to the place that they had experienced intimacy and the presence of their Savior. To the Upper Room. They went to the place of breaking the bread, the exchange of His words, to remember their story and His life. Since you and I do, let's be intentional about taking in our own God-given omer every day. Let's spend time, real time, with Him in honest prayer, intimate communion. Let's continue to cultivate our own Upper Room experiences by sitting at the table of the Lord, every single day.

Don't Wait Alone...

These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
Acts 1:14

I have the sweetest husband in the entire world. He also happens to be one of the strongest individuals I know - not a complainer, and an excellent listener. When you're talking to him, it's as if you're the only person in the world. And he's never once diverted the topic of conversation to himself while I was in the middle of a story or a thought.

While this is a beautiful gift and such a blessing to me, as a pastor, he's always so busy taking care of everyone else, listening to everyone else, that every now and then, he simply reaches his limit, plops down on our couch after work without warning and says, "Honey, I'm no good." It's then that he begins to unravel the burdens and worries and challenges that he has carried around, alone, for weeks, sometimes months. And I'm always astounded, being a talker and someone who has to process my feelings vocally, at how much a person can carry alone.

My friends, God has not intended for us to carry burdens alone. That is why the body exists. To edify, strengthen, help and support in the bonds of Christ's love. It's one of the great perks of being a King's kid. Yet it's one of those privileges that is so often misused, because of corruption in the church, or even worse, unused, because of pride.

It's vitally important for believers to not only carry burdens but also to share victories together. John 4 recounts Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well. I love the end of the story, and I envy their Samaritan community in a way... because they celebrated her story, through it the faith of many was ignited and bolstered. Rejoice in the victories of others, remembering that this God is your God too! The more you encourage a sharing within your circles, the more you will see Him moving, and ultimately you will believe that He is, He can and He will do for you too.

Forward Motion...

From Israel to the disciples to the countless other individuals in the Bible who waited for a promise to be fulfilled - one thing in their stories remains constant - no matter how long they had to wait for what the yearned for, they all kept walking. The biblical principle is that in seasons of waiting, we go to the harvest, it doesn’t come to us. From Acts 1:15 on, we see Peter take the lead in continuing the work that had been entrusted to the group. And we must do the same. Continue the work you’ve been given – build the team, hone the skill set, carry on the work, be present in the tasks at hand rather than dwelling on what may or may not be part of the future.

Let me emphasize, also, that by forward motion, I mean - don’t get stuck. It is so easy to get mad, to grow bitter, to lose hope and focus. Many times rather than continuing to walk, we sit down and build fences, count our grievances rather than numbering our blessings and cry out "Bring it to me or I won’t take another step with you, God!"

But that is not the way it works, Beloved. There is no pattern or story in the Bible that justifies us stopping and demanding for Him to bring the harvest to us. It's His harvest. We must labor in the vineyard, keep walking on the road to the places He calls us, holding on to the promise of the Word:

Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting
Psalm 126:5

So walk steadfastly and obediently toward your God in your season of longing. What do I mean, you ask? I mean what we do while we wait matters – actions count!

Leviticus 26 sheds some light on what I verse three, God says, "If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out..." and finishes the thought all the way down in verse 12, "I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people." Sandwiched in between those bookends are the blessings, what happens when you walk in God's direction and He dwells among you. Now these are not conditions of salvation. These people were already redeemed at this point. This is all about how to live with peace and quality of life. God says if we concern ourselves with getting to know Him, learning what He loves, valuing what He values, and responding to that by acting in a way that honors Him - walking uprightly - then you are going to experience peace, abundance, fulfillment. It doesn’t mean the circumstances are perfect. It means regardless of the circumstances, those things can be yours. 

So are we constantly fixated on what we don't have? Resentful of others and always comparing ourselves? Living with anxiety? with pain? With constant fear and paranoia? Beloved, this is a sign that we are not walking in obedience, but rather sitting, pridefully and stubbornly. Nothing good can come of that, we'll never get where we desire to be if we refuse to move. It's time to get up and begin to walk toward Him once again. When we live “as though God were making an appeal through us,” as Paul says, then the fulfillment and blessing and joy and peace are just the natural result.

Speaking from Experience...

All the things I write today are lessons learned tearfully, painstakingly, slowly...I have longed, waited and yearned...I have cried out for the answer, for the all of you have...

For instance, it was not easy to hear words like "cancer" and "hysterectomy" as a newlywed and before the age of 35. They were big, scary words. Words that change courses and expectations for life. Thankfully, one was very manageable and the other unnecessary...for now. But they set my life on a trajectory of  manmade timelines and unnecessary fear that have recently collided into a new scary word... "infertility." The details are still nebulous and we are only at the beginning of a journey to I don't know has been frustrating and unexpected, and many, many times over the last two years I have sat down, shaken my fist at God and refused to move. I have allowed my faith to be shaken, have tried to control the plan, I’ve been fearful and completely focused on the obstacles rather than the carefully selected divine plan for my life. However - just because I can't see how the story ends, doesn't mean hope is lost. 

The fact of the matter is this: everyone has their own "scary word." No one knows what the future holds and we might not ever get to hear the why. We can use those as excuses to number our grievances, sure that God is spitefully interrupting our plan, or they can serve as reminders to count our blessings, to live in the present, to enjoy and be filled by our Omer each day, come what may. In my powerlessness and now my surrender, I have been challenged to accept that dying daily means to really give over my vision for my life...and to embrace His with gratitude and perfect trust.
I've learned, as I hope to impart to you, that to take hold of peace and satisfaction in the face of longing and hoping are to reflect our Savior. It's a divine call to become acquainted with grief, suffering and sacrifice and to still reflect joy and obedience. And through my own experience with those dark places, I have discovered Who Christ is in a powerful new way - I have become a daughter acquainted with her Father's sorrows. More than I want, more than I hurt, more than I hope - He wants me to trust His plan; He hurts when I rejected it, when I accuse Him of not giving me what I need. He hopes that today will be the day His daughter will finally stop fighting against Him and see that He is trustworthy and good. He can't wait to show us the harvest...He waits too. So every longing, for the human being created in God's image, is a way to connect and relate with the Creator.

Can you hear Him calling to you in the midst of your dark places and scary words? Can you hear His promise? Just keep walking, waiting in faith, counting your omer...and the harvest, my child, WILL be yours...

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
So you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
And he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord
Trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your vindication as the light
And your righteousness as the noonday
Psalm 37

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Words to the Wise: A "Proverbial" Study of 10 Best Practices

There's an expression I've come to love...

Words create worlds.

This life is absolutely saturated in them. And as we go through our days, doing the business of living and working and playing, they are ever at work, affirming ideas and shaping realities. It mostly happens to on a subconscious level each day, as we turn up the song on the radio and sing along, listen to the daily news, have a casual conversation or enjoy a leisurely read.

I happen to love reading. I live for Saturday mornings when I can sit in my new study, surrounded  by the smell of the hundreds of ancient volumes from our inherited pastoral library, my hands cupped around my warm coffee mug, my legs draped over my antique armchair... I love the inspired and labored-over art of crafting a sentence, developing a thesis, sharing an idea or a viewpoint. It totally inspires me. And so often I find myself completely lost in the world of the story I'm reading. I build visual ideas around the words on the page that I can see, hear and smell. What I read can make me laugh out loud, it can make me weep with compassion or causes me to bend to fit that mood or ideology. It's powerful stuff.

Words Have Power

I've heard all my life the expression that "talk is cheap." But I find that worldly expression to be in direct conflict with what God says about words. He chose to use speech as the vehicle through which He created all that is in existence. With a word it was all set into motion. He spoke - and it was.

As creatures made in His image, there is, then, power in our words too. Just think of the many examples in the Bible of this- Abraham's uttered prayer saved Lot from the destruction in Sodom. Elijah's words held back rain. And Jesus tells us that, with faith, if we but speak to a mountain, it will move.
I recently spoke at a conference for teens about the power of words, and I thought it was very important to have a practical example. I conducted, in the safe and very scientific confines of my kitchen, The Rice Experiment. For three weeks, much to the enjoyment of my husband, I talked to rice in glass jars - to one, words of love and affirmation, and to the other, unkind words. And, despite how far fetched it seems, my words did have a visual effect on that rice. The thing I found most interesting was that from the outside, my jars looked pretty much the same. It was only in opening the lid up to see what was inside that I found the most damage was being done. My conclusion, then, became a question: if words caused the decay and destruction of an inanimate object like rice, how much more do they affect living, beating hearts, minds, lives?

A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city,
And Contentions are like the bars of a citadel.
With the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach will be satisfied;
He will be satisfied with the product of his lips.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue
And those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 18:19-21
This passage in the great book of Proverbs tells us that words are powerful because they have consequences, they inspire action, reaction, and determine the course and outcome of our lives. In verse 19, we see that they cause people to put up defenses. I have felt, all too often, the bars and walls rising up around my heart in an effort to protect myself from further damage after an unkind word was spoken over me. Recovering from verbal scars has been one of the great battles of my adulthood. It has taken years for the Lord - and my husband too - to slowly break down that citadel around my own heart so that I could be effective, transparent and genuinely loving in marriage and ministry.
I believe that every person reading this will be able to easily recall an occasion where a word broke their heart or their spirit. We bear the scars of abuse, bullying, carelessness, being the butt of jokes, teasing, comparing - of words misused. These words resonate in our minds, sometimes for decades or even lifetimes, conveniently raising their volume as we encounter new challenges and unfamiliar territory. We have seen dreams, callings, and reputations rendered lifeless in their clutches.
And most tragically, we have seen that words can push some so far over the edge that, broken and battered, they determine that life is no longer with living, the emotional death becoming a lost physical life. It's absolute tragedy, and I tearfully write this, having seen it happen in my own community. That is why the ancient sages refer to lachon hora, evil speech, as murder. Yes, they are powerful indeed. Which is why we've been given a scriptural standard, a kind of siphon through which all our words must be filtered:
Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God...
1 Peter 4:11

Words are Tools

In Ephesians, Paul challenges us, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to use in edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers." That word, edify? It is a building word. Think construction. So when we open our mouths, we're building up something, creating something. So...we must look inwardly and ask the question: What are my words building? What kind of tool could my words be likened to?


EVIL SPEECH is kind of like a hammer and nails…with it we build prisons and walls that shut light out and isolate people. The worst part is, often it's often spoken in carelessness and we don't mean it - but once that nail goes in, the damage can’t be undone. That heart will always bear the hole, even if the nail is removed.

GODLY SPEECH, on the other hand, is a lot like one of my very favorite things, Mod Podge. It enhances what it touches, making everything pretty. It fills holes, smooths rough surfaces, and best of all, it preserves and protects. That's the effect our words should have on the lives we touch - enhancing and healing.


So, where do we start if we want to understand how to be good stewards of the breath which God has given and the platforms on which we've been placed? How do we get to the point where we master our words, and not the other way around? Read on, dear friends. I've scoured the amazing book of Proverbs - the ultimate guide to success on earth - and boy, does it have some helpful, practical counsel!


Best Practices Tip #1: Silence is an Option

I read a news story from a few years ago that followed research at University of Arizona. Scientists recorded how many words a group of people spoke each day for almost a decade. Ultimately they concluded that people, on average, speak about 16,000 words per day. That's a lot of talking! And I'm guessing that doesn't include all the unspoken words through emails, texts and social media. So you can pile that on too. Is all that really necessary?
He who restrains his words has knowledge,
And he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise;
When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.
Proverbs 17:27-28
He who guards his mouth and his tongue
guards his soul from troubles.
Proverbs 21:23 

When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.
Proverbs 10:19

When we read proverbs, we should really settle in and mull them over in our minds. As you look at these verses, you see a common thread: there are consequences for the words we speak - or don't speak. Sometimes there is value - for ourselves and for others - in choosing silence. Especially when we are feeling particularly emotionally charged. I heard one of my favorite teachers say once "emotions are not bad, but they should always be the caboose, never the engine." So the words we speak should never be in response to an emotional reaction. I don't know about you, but that alone would cut out about 8,000 of my words per day.
How does silence guard our souls from trouble? Jesus answers that one for us, actually, in the Gospel of Matthew:

But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.

The other day my husband told me that he was looking through an old laptop, trying to clean out old files to loan it out to a friend. He was amazed that, having had this computer for many years, there were still records of activity and downloads from his college years - files and records he thought had been deleted. There was still a record of what had been long forgotten. And in the same way, we may move on, we may forget - but every word we speak on this earth is recorded in the heavens, and we will one day have to discuss all the words we ever spoke. I don't tell you this to make you feel shame - for those of us who are in covenant with the Lord, it will be a valuable conversation with Him about how far His grace reached to cover us, one that leaves us feeling gratitude for His beautiful gift. But I feel my cheeks blush in embarassment when I think of some of the utterances from my mouth...knowing that there is always, always someone listening, that our words are lasting, eternal, and that they will one day be revisited. That, for me, is a game changer.

Best Practices Tip #2: Practice Direct and Discrete Conflict 



He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets,

But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.

Proverbs 11:13

At first, this verse may conjure up images of little girls on a playground telling secrets as they pick flowers and braid each other's hair. It seems like by adulthood, we should have mastered that if someone entrusts something to us in confidence, that the right thing to do - unless someone's life is in danger - is to honor that request. But I think this goes deeper than that. 

The adult version of this problem is when there is conflict among us, we fail to minimize the collateral damage. When we have a disagreement or witness some wrongdoing, we are tempted to vent to anyone who will listen and make our case and develop our thoughts aloud, maybe in an effort to garner support or feel justified in our opinion. So, rather than dealing directly - and only - with the person involved, we "leak" information to people. Rather than dealing discretely, we spread the gossip, the drama, and the shame of others. In other words, we create scandal.

A fantastic biblical example of someone who learned the hard way about the destructive nature of slander and gossip is Miriam, in Exodus 12. In a careless and (so she thought) private remark, she criticized Moses and questioned his God-given authority. Ultimately, God showed her what this type of talk looks like to him by afflicting her with a physical disease - leprosy. So, rest assured, being a gossip is is not a becoming look for a follower of Christ.

Beloved, the Word is very clear that there is absolutely no place for this kind of behavior among God's people. In Matthew 18:15, we are told that if we have an issue with someone, we are to make our case to that person alone. So a good, biblical rule of thumb is that if what we have to say is not worth taking right to the source, it's probably not worth saying at all. And better yet - if it's not your issue, redirect, redirect, redirect! Refuse to be part of scandal. And don't be caught involving yourself in a situation that brings someone else shame. That's not the method of a godly word user.

Best Practices Tip #3: Be a Fire Extinguisher 

For lack of a wood the fire goes out,
And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.
Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire
So is a contentious man to kindle strife.
Proverbs 26:20-21
A worthless man digs up evil,
While his words are like scorching fire.
The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels
And they go down into the innermost parts of the body.
Like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross
Are burning lips and a wicked heart.
Proverbs 16:21-23

Burning words, like the ones mentioned in verse 23, are driven by emotion...often pride. We might consider them a harmless aside, or a "much needed" diagnosis of a situation. We may even convince ourselves that we have a piece of "helpful" information that simply must be shared. After all "we would want someone to tell us," right? Wrong. When we pass along gossip, we allow ourselves to be manipulated, functioning as conductors for the negative piece of information. The effect is much like adding gasoline to a fire -anything but helpful, often causing emotions and malice to burn out of control. Rather than diminish the drama, we fan the flames of anger and hurt feelings into outright forest fires.  

Our call is to be firefighters instead of kindling. If someone approaches you with a hot little tidbit, choose to redirect the person, or to say nothing at all. Don’t be manipulated, or be fooled into thinking it's at all helpful. It makes us look sick, unhealthy, it's infectious and it holds up the progress of all those around us, just like Miriam's leprosy did. So as much as we like to have the inside scoop and feel an urge to share, next time, let it stop with you instead. Remember: our heavenly command to love our neighbor does not change despite the information we hear and pass along. So be the one to foster and protect that love in yourself and others. Put out the fires and become a real life (and heart and relationship) saver. That's what a real hero would do.

Best Practices Tip #4: Be Real

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
He who conceals hatred has lying lips
And he who spreads slander is a fool.
Proverbs 10:11,18
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord
But those who deal faithfully are His delight.
Proverbs 12:22

When it comes to being a godly communicator, genuineness and truthfulness count. We should be real with people, and that means no pretending. Most of us don't go around flat out lying...but it should be fairly obvious that we shouldn't do that. The grey areas where I often find myself are things like these:

• False Promises – We have no intention of doing what we say.

• Flattery – We use empty words to manipulate people in our favor.

• Half truths – Truth twisting, exaggeration, omission, it takes many forms.  

• Hypocrisy – We pretend to believe something we don't, or to be something we aren't.

Ouch. That's a little closer to home. You might be thinking, but these are harmless, aren't they? Why should we not participate in these things? Scripture gives us a pretty compelling reason, actually:
Truthful lips will be established forever,
but a lying tongue is only for a moment.

Proverbs 12:19

The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom,
But the perverted tongue will be cut out.
Proverbs 10:31
There is no legacy for those who gain using deceptive words. Take, for instance, the queen of ulterior motives and ingenuine speech - Delilah. In Judges 16, we read about her modus operandi. She is paid to use the love of her man in order to give him over to his enemies. She uses her words to manipulate him, all for her own selfish gain.

You know, I assume Delilah got her money when the Philistines drug Samson away in bonds, betrayed and heart-broken. But interestingly, we never hear anything about her again. All we will ever know is in her name. Names have great significance in the Bible as the legacy of a person. What does Delilah mean? Weak, feeble. And so the lesson she leaves us is this: it takes no real strength to manipulate others and twist the truth to get what you want. And there's no long-term gain in it. So, let's be strong, and even when it's tough, be honest. That's the honorable and godly way to be, and it's leads to a great legacy in the Kingdom of God.

Best Practices Tip #5: Timing is Everything

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances
Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold
Is a wise reprove to a listening ear
Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest
Is a faithful messenger to those who send him
For he refreshes the soul of his masters
Proverbs 25:11-13
A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word!
Proverbs 15:23

How do we know when it's the right time to speak? It's not always a simple answer, but one thing is for sure - we must consider the circumstances and the readiness of the listener to hear. When I read these verses, I think of Queen Esther, the girl who never dreamed she's be royalty, who found herself as the only Jew who had the ear of the king in a moment when her people were about to be slaughtered. She chose her moment very carefully, passing on more than one opportunity to present her case.
There are times that the Spirit indicates that someone needs an encouraging word, a truth that they are ready to hear that they may not have been before, and impresses that on us. He makes us very aware that the time ripe for it.

And the result of waiting until that most appropriate moment is the best part. In Proverbs 25:13 above, we see that the one sends the messenger is the one who is refreshed when we deliver the message faithfully. In the same way, the Lord is honored and glorified when we choose our timing well, when we obey His prompts. Well-timed words are valuable, helpful, and they bring praise to God. Is that the result you see your words having?

Best Practices Tip #6: Serve and Protect


Open your mouth for the mute,
For the rights of all the unfortunate
Open your mouth, judge righteously
And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.
Proverbs 31:8-9
Sometimes, there is a need for us to step out in boldness, to speak up, even when the circumstances are difficult, intimidating, or even dangerous. 
There has always been special provision for the poor, the powerless, and those with no one to care for them. The Lord takes the care of these groups very seriously, and there has always been biblical provision designed to protect them - namely, us. 
In a sense, this means that we are also called to open our mouths when someone is poor in the area of information, too -for example, if someone is being verbally bashed and they have no knowledge that it's happening. The image that comes to mind from the Bible is Jesus, standing with the woman called an adulteress in John 9. I often wonder where this woman's husband was at that moment, since legally he would have had to be the one to accuse her. She had no one by her side - until Jesus, in an act of love and care, stood with her and deflected those accusations. Sometimes, for the sake of the kingdom, we must do what's hard: we must intervene to serve God's purposes - and defend and protect His precious sheep.

Best Practices Tip #7: Give Verbal Hugs

Pleasant words are as a honeycomb
Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Proverbs 16:24
She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
Proverbs 31:26
Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.
Proverbs 12:25
In Luke 2, we read about one of the most profound acts of female friendship, and it takes place between Elizabeth and Mary. I relate to Elizabeth a lot, because she was a ministry wife and she had to wait for a while to have the child she longed for. What a wonderful moment it must have been for her when God finally granted her request. And her child would have a great call, as well! It was definitely a pinnacle moment in her life.
Then, out of nowhere, news of Mary's pregnancy erupts. Teenage, unwed, unprepared Mary. And her son would be the son of God! Talk about a situation when you may feel indignant and one-upped. She could have compared herself to Mary and backed away in jealousy. She could have been irritated at all the attention she was getting. But that's not how she chose to respond.
In a moment when Mary was understandably terrified and unsure of her future, Elizabeth gave her one of the highest compliments shared between two women in all the Bible. She chose to celebrate her friend's victory. She chose to be an encourager. She pointed out the great things about what Mary was doing, she praised her, and soothed her anxieties about the future. That's what godly people do. They let the spotlight shine on someone else. They celebrate the victories of others. And they give affirmation when it's needed.


Best Practices Tip #8: Build Bridges 

He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than He who flatters with the tongue
Proverbs 28:23
When I think about it this proverb, I am reminded of Nathan the prophet, who, despite great fear and respect for King David, boldly relayed the message of truth from the Lord that his affair with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband was known to God and very, very wrong (2 Samuel 12). The result: David was restored and God was praised because the information came to light. When God places us in view of a friend or family member who is about to make a huge mistake, sometimes it is because He desires that we take action in addressing it, like Nathan.   
Sometimes it might take the shape of mediation, and wise counsel, like Abigail's interaction with David on behalf of Nabal in 1 Samuel 25. Abigail saw a bad situation, she saw two men reacting emotionally, and she stepped in to plead with David to think about the consequences of his actions. She saved the lives of many people because she was willing to selflessly step in to bring unity back to what was broken. And consequently, she became a queen.
A word of caution on this one: whenever we step in to correct or rebuke, the motive matters. As God's ambassadors, we are to help, to heal, to bring unity and to stand in the gap. We are never to assert our views in a posture of self-righteousness, annoyance, or to hurt anyone. If we are feeling the need to "bring someone down off their high horse" or "put them in their place," then our hearts are not right for the job, and we need to leave it alone. Only when we have a burden that comes from a deep care and love for the recipient and for God can we truly give helpful correction.

Best Practices Tip # 9: Send Candygrams

A gentle answer turns away wrath
But a harsh word stirs up anger
Proverbs 15:1
A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit. 
Proverbs 15:4
Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
Proverbs 15:21b
Some of use really need to hear this one. No matter how right you are, or how perfect your timing, if what you say comes across as harsh and critical in your delivery, chances are you are not going to be heard. No one likes to be attacked. The best way to be effective is to deliver news with gentleness, kindness, and self control. In other words, you must say what you need to say completely filled up by the Holy Spirit - for these are His fruits.
If you are experiencing trouble with others hearing and heeding what you say, maybe you need to take note of your tone and volume of your voice. Some of you out there are just plain direct. Wonderful! Just know that there are softies out there (like me!) who desperately need you to soften it, in order to not feel totally violated and defeated. So, pour on the sugar, 'cause as Mary Poppins said best, it makes the medicine go down - in the most delightful way.  


Best Practices Tip #10: The HEART of the Matter

The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters.
Proverbs 18:4
Most likely, none of this information is new or shocking to any of you. We understand the right thing to do. So why do we have such a hard time with our words, despite our good intentions? The simple answer is revealed in this proverb - our words are the evidence of our heart's condition. If we struggle with words, the problem really goes much deeper. Jesus said, "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart[a] brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." So what that tells us is that we can't simply decide one day to stop being a gossip,'s going to take more than sheer will power.

Jesus said that if any man thirst, to come to him, and out of his belly (inward parts) would flow rivers of living water. That, in part at least, means one's words. Are our words rivers of living water? Soothing, refreshing, good, life-giving? If not, dear friend, don’t pray for God to simply help you treat the symptoms, and don’t buy in to the idea that you can fix it on your own. Instead, ask Him to heal and inhabit your heart, and give Him the authority in your life to really do it - let Him fill you with those rivers of living water. The better language, pure intentions, and soothing manner will naturally follow a true filling of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

So my challenge to you, and from the book of Proverbs, is this...

Let’s give our words over as a tool for God, and not for the enemy. Let’s be mod podge, not nails, and begin to build with intention, something that is good. Let's get to the work of encouraging, truth-telling, peace-making - and watch the walls of the Kingdom of God magnificently erected in our families, our churches, and our circles of influence. Let’s bring heaven to earth.
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