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Category Archives: Faith & Worship

Woe Is Me or Whoa, This Is Me? Both!

undoneI’ve been thinking lately about how often I feel “undone” in the presence of God. I can be talking in conversation about Him and feel “undone”. I can be reading His Word and something strikes a chord in me and I am “undone”. I can be worshipping or praying and I’m unable to go on because I feel “undone”. I can be teaching or preaching and the reality I get to speak His Word leaves me feeling “undone”.

In those moments, God takes what He created, “me”, and does me in. I can’t move, can’t speak, can’t think; and to be honest, I don’t want to. I KNOW He is the One who does me in and He completely overwhelms my thoughts, heart, and mind and overrides my will and body. At those times I stop everything and let Him do me in! It can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours, but afterwards I am always in awe that He would care to meet with me.

One day after I was undone in God’s presence I thought about what happens in being undone. First I thought of earthly things. For example; an undone piece of meat can be NOT good for us(tasty if you like “rare” but a bit risky). Undone brownies might actually taste good though messy. How about zippers undone on our pants? NOT good and potentially bad! Leaving homework or “work” work undone? NOT smart! These situations show us being “undone” means something is left incomplete, unaccomplished, unfinished; simply not done yet!

downloadBut think about “coming undone” emotionally. We don’t like that thought as much, especially if it happens in public. We can come undone when things don’t go as planned or expected; or when something fails; or when we are superbly surprised. Having an unwelcomed meltdown where we lose all composure or self-control is usually not a favorite for most people.

After all this thinking, it came to me! Being undone in God’s presence can mean all these things AND so much more! Like a piece of undone meat, we are never done! Christians can still be tasty but it’s risky so we need God every moment to keep “doing”! Like undone brownies, we still have an impact in this world even though we can be messy. While being caught with our zippers undone can be embarrassing, getting caught with our spiritual zipper down is quite freeing, cleansing, purifying, and truly, completely amazing! See, there is no “awkwardness” involved with God – just complete transparency before the One who makes all things new. Finally, while it’s not wise to leave school or “work” work undone, letting God finish His work in us is much more productive than striving to do it alone. Plus, He loves the extra time we spend with Him “getting it done”!

Being undone in God’s presence is always unplanned just like being undone in earthly things. I can honestly say I’ve never scheduled a time of being undone in God’s presence. My undone “episodes” range from brief moments of raw exposure, being stunned in His presence, to complete meltdowns, often messy, when I lose all composure and self-control. One thing is for sure; they ALWAYS surprise and humble me. I become acutely aware of God’s presence and the fact He chooses to come and touch His beloved fills me with reverential fear of Him and I think, “Whoa, this is awesome”, as I’m reminded of who I am and more importantly WHO HE IS!

Isaiah said it this way, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5) Isaiah said this after a vision in which he saw the Lord sitting on His throne, high and lifted up and the train of his robe filled the temple while the seraphim cried out “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory!”

You would think after having this vision instead of saying “woe is me” Isaiah might have said, “Whoa, this is me! I must be God’s favorite! I mean, seriously, have any of YOU had visions of the Lord in His temple while angels worshipped Him? Probably not! This makes me super special in God’s eyes. How awesome am I for God to show me this stuff?” You would also think Isaiah would be happier than happy! Instead, he is undone. In the original language, undone means he felt cut off, thinking he would surely die at this sight of the Lord on His throne.

woe_is_meSo…being undone is like being caught with our zipper down spiritually and we realize just how totally obnoxious we are, at least in comparison to our holy God. We sin! It’s bad enough to realize just how much we sin, but to have it exposed, to be undone by and before a holy God, well…THAT is humbling.

The truth is every Christian comes face to face with their sin when undone in the presence of a holy God. The sinfulness of sin by nature is contrary to the holy nature of God, leaving us undone! Sin exposes the vast difference between us and a holy God!

Let’s face it! Just like Isaiah, our lips are unclean. We say things we should never say. We curse, we lie, we gossip, we slander, and we even say terrible things about people we supposedly love. It surprises me how often we accuse family, friends, and fellow members of the body of Christ of being terrible people, or doing horrible things. Of course we say it behind their backs and then are super sweet to their faces. We seem unaware that we are giving Satan legal right to torment our families, relationships, and churches, and even more oblivious that God sees all of it! Friends, we have unclean lips and God’s got a remedy.

coalIn Isaiah, the seraphim took tongs to gather coal from the altar and then touched Isaiah’s lips declaring his sins burned away, purged and he was cleansed. Now THAT is a WHOA and a WHOOHOO! Being undone in the presence of God leads to our sins being done as well. When we’re undone in His presence we can expect to be confess and repent of sin because we see it all clearly AND we are encouraged and lifted up because visions of God’s glory have that effect on us! We have a Mediator, and that, my friends, leaves us undone in the presence of our Lord and Savior, able to boldly and confidently approach Him!

 

a-sinners-prayerWhen our eyes meet the King of kings and Lord of lords, we are undone; we are filled with fear and freedom at the same time! When we truly believe He is Lord, we see His sovereignty and majesty over all and it strikes even greater awe, reverence and godly fear to the very core of our being!

So friends…I pray we are all undone! There is no greater place to be!

 

 

 

 

 

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Is it Another Day of Seeing the Same Old, Same Old Or…

downloadA kindergarten teacher was walking around her classroom while her students drew pictures. One little girl was scribbling so intently the teacher asked what she was drawing. The little girl replied, “I’m drawing a picture of Jesus.” The teacher said, “Oh honey, nobody really knows for sure what Jesus looked like.” Without missing a beat, the little girl said, “They will in a minute.”

Today, are you more like the teacher or the little girl? Really…take a moment and think about that question. I think many of us “get old” in our thinking and because we don’t really know for sure what Jesus “looked” like, we don’t give any thought to what He “looks” like. We’d rather stick with the “facts” than search for the “truth”. We’d rather be “real” than let our spirits soar and our imaginations take us to new heights.

1John29That’s what I think about when reading the BIble. Have I gotten old in my thinking and seeing? For example, John 1:29-31, 35-36 “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” … Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

How do you read that? As some blasé statement like “Oh, look, there He is, blah, blah, blah!” OR do you read it with excitement and urgency something like this; “LOOK! LOOK! EVERYBODY LOOK! THERE HE IS! THE LAMB OF GOD! He forgives the sins of the WHOLE world! THIS IS THE guy I’ve been talking about! I know! You didn’t understand me when I said He is the One who comes after me but is really ahead of me. I didn’t even KNOW Him until I really saw Him! All this time I’ve been washing away your sins so you can start new with God but NOW… now that I see Him, whoa, I KNOW He’s the ONE! And it gets even better…I saw the Spirit flying down out of the sky like a dove, landing right on Him and then it stayed. God, who commanded me to baptize with water told me when I saw this, I would know! And, I’m here to tell you, now I know because THIS is Him…the Son of God, the real deal!”

imagesIf we hear and read God’s Word like this, I think we, like John would get pretty excited when Jesus comes walking toward us, right into our lives! See, every day, we are given the great privilege of experiencing His presence in a very real and tangible way! But, like John, we’ve got to be busy doing our Father’s work, and then, in child-like faith, we’ll look to see Jesus AND He will show Himself to us! Then something marvelous happens in us because Someone magnificent appears! Our spirits soar and confidence rises! Like the little girl in her quiet confidence we can’t wait to show Him to people so THEY know what He looks like too. Like John in his excitement, we exuberantly exclaim “Look, He’s RIGHT here! The One who takes away sin. Come here! You’ve GOT to meet Him!”

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It is true Christians walk by faith not by sight; it is equally true our faith is not blind faith! Seeing the object of our faith, Jesus, with our spiritual eyes compels us to walk confidently IN faith because we “know that we know” this is the One we know! See…John believed in Jesus before he saw Him with his own eyes! He had faith and it wasn’t blind. It was faith coming from knowing Almighty God. So, when he saw Jesus, his faith soared to a new level!

 

Is your faith soaring today? Have you seen Jesus recently? I’m not talking about near death experiences, visions of heaven or of Jesus as though these “prove” His existence. I’m talking about the ability to see Him spiritually! Do you see Him vividly? Does seeing Him make you feel alive? Is your faith invigorated by seeing Him and you can’t keep Him to yourself?

images (1)Whether your answers are yes, no, sometimes, maybe, I don’t think so, or I don’t know, pick up your Bible today and read John 1 with an open, surrendered heart. Let Holy Spirit show you the One who opens the eyes of the blind and lets us “see” in faith. Then, like the little girl, watch out because you’ll likely exude with confidence knowing people will see the Jesus you see. Excitement will ooze out as you tell people, “Look, here HE is. Jesus! The One who takes away the sins of the whole world.”

Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us eyes to see Your Son, Jesus! Thank You for stirring our hearts today in faith, creating a longing to see our Savior Jesus, remembering He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the whole world! That is more magnificent and humbling than words can express. Thank You for cleaning us up and sending us out. Thank You for giving us new vision with fresh faith each day we live here on earth! May we honor You in everything we see, say and do this day and always. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2014 in Faith & Worship, Uncategorized

 

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How “We” Keep “Us” From Moving Forward!

Some churches are known as “answer back” churches. When the preacher says something, the congregation naturally “answers back”. One Sunday, a preacher was speaking on what it would take for the church to move forward. “If this church is to move forward, it must take up its bed, and walk.” The congregation said “Let it walk, Preacher, let it walk.” Encouraged by their response, he went further. “If this church is going to move forward it will have to throw aside its hindrances and run!” The congregation replied, “Let it run, Preacher, let it run!” Now really into his message, he spoke stronger. “If this church really wants to become great, it will have to take up its wings and fly!” “Let it fly, Preacher, let it fly!” the congregation shouted. The Preacher got even louder. “If this church is going to fly, it will cost money!” The congregation replied. “Let it walk, Preacher, let it walk.” Ah…how quickly we change our minds!

moving-forwardWhenever we want to move forward in life we are going to have to overcome “us”! In other words, generally speaking, making progress costs us something personally. If we want to lose weight, it costs us time, effort, and discipline to exercise and make better food choices. If we are training for a marathon, it costs us time, sweat equity, and discomfort to buffet our bodies. If we want to get a higher education, it’ll cost us money and lots of brain power to get the most out of it. If we buy a new house, it costs money. We are usually gung-ho when we start moving forward in anything, but then…when the “cost” gets “real” we can be easily hindered!

keep_moving_forward - CopyAs a Christian, when I think of making progress, moving forward in life, I naturally think of following Jesus! I want to grow in my relationship with Him, know Him more, and follow Him wholeheartedly and unreservedly. But there is a cost for this and if we don’t go into it with eyes wide open, we are likely to be hindered because the reality is, it’s going to “cost” us something to live a sold out life for Christ! That doesn’t really hit until hindrances prevent us from moving forward, and these hindrances always involve “us”! At first we try to avoid or ignore the “cost” but eventually we decide we can’t afford it because we’re tired of the effort it requires. So we settle into a rather lukewarm, mediocre relationship with Jesus.

There are probably innumerable hindrances our flesh produces to keep us from living fully and freely in Jesus Christ, but I chose just five! If we can admit we let these things hinder our life in Christ, we’ll move them from being hindrances and use them to help us live in God’s grace!

big-mouthsOur mouths can literally decimate intimacy with the Lord! One lady experienced the manifest presence of Jesus during the Welsh revival but let her mouth lead her astray! Here are her words: “I felt as if I must be in Heaven; the cold night was filled with holy gladness, and I sang unto the Lord in an ecstasy of joy unspeakable, and love inexpressible was mine. I knew I had found Him, and He had found me, and the Holy Ghost had come to immerse me in Himself that I might abide in Christ forever. I got out of bed to kneel before Him in worship and adoration. The clock struck twelve, then one and two, and I lived in the glory; my heart was satisfied and His presence filled the little hut. Before breakfast was served the next morning we sat around the table and sang to Him. All our conversation was of Him. In a very real and intimate way He had come to us. The Welsh Revival had reached us. God had spoken to us and was speaking through us to others. Every day we heard of those who were being added to the Church. Conviction of sin was very real; repentance and restitution came hand in hand, and we all felt we had lived for that time, and all my being said, ‘Glory’. We were there for some days, and then a friend called to see me and we began to gossip and criticize others. Something was said that was detrimental to another, and as we talked something happened. I lost the glory from my soul; it just slipped away, and I stood there after the friend left, feeling as if something was slain within me. I went to my grass hut, but there was no glory. I knelt to pray, and I could only cry. I knelt in an agony of mind. What had I done? Nothing very much, I only joined in conversations that led to gossip, making light of another and with drastic swiftness we took away her good name, and the glory I had received departed from my soul.”

gossipGod says in Psalm 101:5 “He that secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will cut off.” We need to move our mouths from being a hindrance to life in Christ to being a help to others! Walk away from gossip; choose not to make light of anyone; leave criticism behind. Though we can’t stop slander or gossip from happening in others, we can surely move our mouths from it! Living in the glory of Christ Jesus is surely worth moving our mouths!

extended-mind-300pxOur minds become hindrances when we think our own thoughts not God’s and see ourselves through our own eyes not His! “For as he thinks in his heart, so he is.” Proverbs 23:7

Left to ourselves we tend to think too highly or too lowly of ourselves. “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18 “There we saw the giants; and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” Numbers 13:33

OpenYourMindWe can convince ourselves we are everything or nothing; then others are convinced by what we think! But our minds can only hinder us if we let them! We can control our thoughts simply by thinking on Jesus instead of ourselves! The Bible says we have the mind of Christ; we are to take every thought captive into obedience to Jesus; we’re above our hindrances, not below; we are more than conquerors; we overcome this world; we are the head not the tail; we are authoritative believers; powerful allies of the most powerful One. We need to think as God thinks!

philippians3_13-14-titleOur memories, good and bad can hinder our future! Wanting to relive or hang on to good memories keeps us from walking into new things. Bad memories can paralyze or imprison us! Memories though, are just memories! Life is meant to be lived TODAY! We must move the past to the past; move memories back to where they belong…behind us, not in front. When we do this, memories stop hindering us because we’re looking forward, not backward!

 “…One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead…” Philippians 3:13 There are two things to glean from this verse. The “forgetting” doesn’t mean we don’t remember; it’s not about erasing our memory banks! It’s no wonder we get so frustrated in life trying to move forward by erasing memories-of-tomorrow_1the past! It can’t be done! This “forgetting” means we no longer care about those things behind and so we neglect them. It is very freeing to know the past is behind so we can neglect to think or care about it because what’s behind only hinders us from reaching forward!

Secondly…notice the “things” are already behind so we don’t even need to move them behind! It’s just our memories we keep bringing in front that hinder us from moving forward toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). Things in life happen; but once they happen, they are already behind us. Only memories can hinder us from moving! Forget what’s behind and reach forward!

37-heart-and-v4Our wrong desires keep us from desiring right ones! When we nurture selfish desires we won’t desire change, renewal, restoration, and growth in Christ! When we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart! (Psalm 37:4) Too often we mix n’ match our desires with His delight! We literally come at this truth from the wrong direction. This is what we do: We have desires in life and even believe God put these desires in us! So we delight ourselves in the Lord, hoping these desires come to fruition. That’s the wrong way! Here’s what we should do: Delight ourselves in the Lord! That’s it! Focus on the delight not the desires. Then, the right desires, His desires are created and birthed and you’ll be surprised by His extravagant desires in your heart!

Our own lack of effort! We can actually stop trying because of hindrances! We get tired so refuse to put the effort in! The Bible tells of a man with an infirmity, just lying on his mat day after day for 38 years, unable to get into the pool of healing! He got so tired of trying he began whining that no one put him in the water at the right time and when he did try, someone else budged in a2523426011_2front of him every time so he stopped making the effort!

Our own lack of effort can hinder us from living fully in Christ! Friends, though we need to “see” things for what they are, we do not need to accept things as they are! Make the effort to move yourself instead of expecting everyone else, including God to put all the effort in while you lay on your mat, pouting because everyone else gets first dibs! Better to try and fail than never to try at all. Of course Holy Spirit helps us in countless ways even providing other people to help. But never forget they are “helpers” who “help” us as we make the effort ourselves.

These five hindrances can be paralyzing, preventing us from moving forward with Christ! OR we can present our mouths, minds, memories, desires, and effort to God as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13) Practically speaking, we need help to move them from being hindrances to helps and God has provided what we need! He has given His Holy Spirit to help us; leaders to guide and teach us; believers to encourage us as we fellowship together; His body and blood to break together; and intimacy with our Father through prayer! “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:42

Don’t let hindrances of your flesh tell you whether you’ll walk, run, or fly with Jesus! You tell your mouth, your mind, your memories, your desires and your efforts to fly high and continue to rise above the circumstances of this world! It’s a great view from up there…with Jesus!

 

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A Simple Story About Knowing God and Finding Him…Even at Church!

oldshackpicThere was an old recluse who lived deep in the mountains of Colorado. When he died, distant relatives came from the city to collect his valuables. Upon arriving, all they saw was an old shack with an outhouse alongside it. Inside the shack, next to the stone fireplace, was an old cooking pot and his mining equipment. A cracked table with a three-legged chair stood guard by a tiny window, and a kerosene lamp served as the centerpiece for the table. In a dark corner of the little room was a dilapidated cot with a threadbare bedroll on it.

They picked up some of the old relics and started to leave. As they were driving away, an old friend of the recluse, on his mule, flagged them down. “Do you mind if I help myself to what’s left in my friend’s cabin?” he asked. “Go right ahead,” they replied. After all, they thought, what inside that shack could be worth anything?

The old friend entered the shack and walked directly over to the table. Reaching under it he lifted one of the floor boards and proceeded to take out all the gold his friend had mined and kept over the past 53 years – enough to have built a palace. The recluse died with only his friend knowing his true worth. As the friend looked out the little window, watching the cloud of dust behind the relative’s car disappear, he said to himself, “They should have gotten to know him better.”

couiza_church_interiordrumheller-little-church-interiorDo we ever treat God and His Church this way? Do we think of Him as some old recluse living in the deep recesses of heaven? Do we just go to church to see if there is anything valuable worth collecting? Maybe you go to a fancy church with chandeliers and the latest, greatest of everything; new chairs with cup holders, a star-studded praise and worship team, a charismatic preacher, people laughing and conversing everywhere, a coffee shop, and lots happening! Or maybe you go to an old shack of a church with a bunch of worn-out stained pews, a ragamuffin praise team, a depleted and washed-up preacher, a couple of families just “hanging in there”, some grumpy old men, stale coffee, and a whole lot of things “not happening”. Or maybe you go to a church somewhere between these two extremes!

It doesn’t matter; many people go to Church just to mosey around, look at everything, pick up a few things here and there and then leave. They might find some things they like, especially in the “awesome” churches!  But unfortunately, we base so much of what we “want” out of church and what we think we need from God on what we can see by perusing our churches, failing to see past the “stuff”! We miss the value behind the chandeliers, comfortable chairs, shacks, outhouses, fireplaces, pots, cracked tables, windows, and lamps as centerpieces. All we see is “stuff”!

We saunter in and then out of Church without even noticing Holy Spirit waving us down saying, “Hey! Do you mind if I help myself to what’s left inside?” We dismiss Him quickly and casually saying “Go right ahead!” After all, we think, what’s inside worth anything we didn’t already take?

Holy Spirit enters our churches and walks directly up to the cross grabbing one of the many Bibles just lying around on His way! He opens it and kneels at the altar! For the umpteenth time He rediscovers the riches hidden in the pages of time; handles the treasure buried for those who take the time to dig; holds the prize concealed for those who want to know Him. Then He rises, looks out the door and windows and says “They should have gotten to know Him better.”  

The relatives knew about the old recluse; they knew they were related; they knew he lived where they didn’t want to be. They could have gleaned so much while He was alive and so much more after His death. As followers of Christ, we know about Jesus; we know we’re related! We know He lives where we want to be one day, but “not yet”. We can glean so much from Him but do we? Has He become an old recluse to us? Are we missing God’s valuables by living a distance away from Him? Have we undervalued His value to us? Have we undervalued His Church?

Matthew 13:44 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

TheJesusYouShouldKnowUnlike the relatives, we still have time! We can get to know Him; the One who lived and died! We can be amazed by the treasures He has buried for us to find! We can dig for His valuables and find He has put everything away just for us to find! All we need to do is come to Him! He’s not so much interested in what we can see but in what we can’t see. When you go to church, look for the hidden treasures! Don’t just settle for the old (and new) relics of no value, the “stuff”! Don’t just check in with Him at church and then check out! Get to know Him better; in the simplicity of His life! Let’s commit to never hearing the words, “They should have gotten to know Him better!”

John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

 

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Trouble With Our Untameable Tongues! What We Can Do!

Medical advances allow us to look inside the human body but there are things we can’t see: we can look at the heart but we can’t see the soul or spirit; we can look at the throat but can’t see the voice; we can look at the brain but can’t see the mind with its thoughts; we can look at the tongue but can’t see intentions or words. Medical science has made great gains in keeping our bodies going; glasses for diminished vision, dentures for bad teeth, aids for hearing problems, transplants for failed organs, and replacements for worn-out joints.

tongue-healthBut the tongue! A member of the body that never gets stiff or tired out; we never need to put a splint on it to fix it up; it cannot be enhanced, transplanted, or replaced with an artificial one. And the tongue gets us in all kinds of trouble. We say something without thinking and we can’t take the words back. Generally speaking, we let our tongues run wild causing havoc every place we take them.

lava-detail-2Growing up, when my tongue got me into trouble with Mom, (lying or talking back) the grainy Lava soap came out, (or should I say went in) my mouth. Then masking tape OVER my mouth so I couldn’t spit it out!  And then I had to stand in the corner for a decent amount of time (aka, until I “had” to swallow the soap) and she would remove the tape, expecting an apology for being naughty. Some people today might think this punishment was extreme but hey… it accomplished its’ purpose and I got the message loud and clear…be careful with my words. And so, I’m thankful for the discipline!

Most people know the damage we can do with words but still seem to think we can say what we want, when and to whom we want and if that means we need to apologize or explain it away later, we will. Unfortunately by then, the words have penetrated deep within like a sword or arrow causing hurt, anger, or worse. It is pretty natural for us to say anything we want without thought to the consequences, including complaining, gossiping, slandering, lying, backbiting, grumbling, exaggerating, and criticizing.

tame3In the Bible in the book of James, the tongue is described as small but boastful; like a rudder on a ship or bit in a horses’ mouth, (small but turns the whole body) a fire, a world of iniquity, untamable, and a restless evil full of deadly poison. It is used to bless God and curse men which simply shouldn’t happen!  In fact, God tells us this is as unnatural as fresh and bitter water coming from the same spring, olives coming from a fig tree, or figs from a grapevine. Blessing and cursing simply should not come from the same source!

bacioWe can try to stop speaking negatively but it won’t happen! That’s because we have to change our hearts first. Our words originate in the heart so if we take care of what goes in our hearts that’s what will come out our mouths. Matthew 12:34-35 “… For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” The heart engineers what we’re going to say and our tongues “showcase” what’s in our hearts, literally showing off what’s inside.

There are a few things God has told us to do to make sure we bless Him and stop cursing men with our tongues. If you ever have a problem with your tongue, with what you say or how you say it, try these out!

1. Don’t be too quick with words. Proverbs 29:20 “Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” There is always a “space of time” between something happening and our response. All we have to do is widen the space – give it some time before we talk so we can choose our words wisely. Expand the space and listen for God’s voice!

Widening the space of time helps us to walk away from gossipy conversations; not retaliate when verbally attacked; praise instead of complain; give thanks instead of grumble; let God defend us instead of being defensive; tell the truth instead of lie or fudge the truth. Basically, put your tongue on a “time out” so God can steer your speech in the right direction when you time in again!

muzzle2. Put a guard or muzzle on our mouths. Psalm 39:1 “I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me.” Muzzling seems extreme but extreme is necessary when it comes to this little unruly member full of deadly poison. We can’t let our tongues have their way or deny its power, going through life thinking we can say what we want, when, how, where, and to whomever we want. Put a muzzle on it!

3. Let our words be few. Proverbs 10:19 “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” It’s simple; talking too much produces sin. One pastor suggests limiting our casual conversation with Christian friends to only about 10-15 minutes a day. He says without a plan or purpose for conversation we undoubtedly we turn to talking ABOUT people (called gossip and slander), OR we complain, grumble and then rationalize it all! Talking too much leads to saying something wrong. This principle applies to our conversation with God too. Ecclesiastes 5:2 “Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few.”

4. Say what you mean and mean what you say, no more, no less. Jesus said in Matthew 5:37 “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes, and your ‘No’, ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” Jesus’ words speak for themselves!

complaining5. Stop complaining and grumbling! 1 Corinthians 10:10 “Nor let us complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.” James 5:9 “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door.”

Being destroyed and condemned are pretty serious consequences for complaining and grumbling, yet they seem so integrally woven into life, we don’t even hear ourselves do it anymore. If we don’t have jobs, we complain about our need. If people don’t meet our needs, we complain they don’t care about us. If we do have jobs, we complain our employers expect too much of us, work us too hard, aren’t fair, or don’t pay us enough. We complain about our health, our spouses, our neighbors, our government, our kids, our school, our church, our pastors, well… we complain about most everything because after all, life is all about us right? Wrong! If we complain we aren’t considering what God hears or the effect we have on others because truth be told, complaining brings everybody down!

A father came home after a hard day at work. Sitting down with the family at the supper table, he gave thanks to God for the food before them and for His goodness and mercy! As they began to eat, he complained the food was lukewarm and tasteless. He asked his wife what she did to ruin the meal. He complained about his boss who expected too much from him and grumbled about the customers being nasty and unappreciative of his work. His young daughter interrupted him saying, “Daddy, do you think God heard your prayer before we started eating?” He said, “Of course dear! God hears everything.” “So he hears everything we say whether we pray it or say it?” Not knowing where she was going with this he agreed with her that yes, God hears them whether they pray or say. She continued, “Did you really mean what you prayed Daddy”? Her father replied, “Of course honey. I wouldn’t have prayed it if I didn’t mean it.” She said, “Did you really mean what you said about our food, mommy, and your job too?” This made the father hesitate without answering. So the little girl finished.  “I was just wondering if God believes what you prayed or if He believes what you said.”  

stop_complainingSaying a prayer of thanksgiving means nothing to God if we follow it up with complaining! FIND a reason to give thanks in all circumstances instead of complaining. Matthew Henry, who wrote a commentary on every book of the Bible, was once robbed. The thieves took everything of value he had. Later that evening he wrote in his diary these words, “I am thankful during these years I have never been robbed before. Also, even though they took my money, they did not take my life. Although they took all I had, it was not much. Finally, I am grateful it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.” Matthew found several reasons to give thanks instead of complaining. Can we?

6.Stop gossiping! Proverbs 18:8 “The words of a gossip are the choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost part.” Proverbs 20:19 “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.”

People must not think gossip is all that bad or else we think talking about people really isn’t gossip. But it is and it burns deep within our hearts, deadening us to sin and leading us further from the heart of God. We can just stop gossiping and let our hearts burn with love and devotion for Jesus – then our speech will burn with love and adoration FOR Him instead of talking about others!

Six simple remedies to make sure we use our tongues for blessing and not cursing. Try them! You might like them – But for sure – others around you will!

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When Perfect Love Was Born – Fear Was Overcome!

fearOne of our biggest problems in life is our tendency to foster fear, even getting specific with what fears we possess. We have fear of heights, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of intimacy, and the list goes on. What we often forget is fear of “anything” comes out of our imagined perception of reality, not reality itself. Fear is the preamble to negative emotions like worry, anxiety, jealousy, bitterness, anger, and envy. Yet, it is simply an anxious feeling caused by anticipation of an imagined event or experience.

fear telling selvesThat’s not to say we won’t feel fear! We will! But the problems really get going when we choose to own, befriend, embrace, or decide we should live with fear. We often convince ourselves fear can work “for” us instead of against us. We believe there is such a thing as positive fear! Or we think fear is necessary for protection or to shield ourselves “just in case” we get bad news. For example, maybe fearing a doctor’s report before going in helps us handle or not be surprised by bad news or we’ll be relieved when our worst fears are put to rest.

The Bible is chock full of truths about fear! Other than the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom, we are told NOT to fear! Unfortunately we forget we have nothing to fear when we have faith in God. However, the Word DOES speak boldly to the reality of feeling afraid of people and circumstances! Then it tells us NOT to fear!

Psalm 56:3-4 “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

faith overcomes fearsFear is ALWAYS overcome by faith in Jesus Christ. We can’t and won’t do it alone! One of the simplest things we can do to help ourselves out is be careful not to parade what life, people, the devil, and even “we” do to bring fear into our lives. Instead we need to boast in faith in Jesus Christ and His blood and how He overcame fear so we can overcome it today! Remember there is no way God will ever forsake, abandon, or leave us and though He won’t take trials from us, He will walk us through them, take us to higher heights, and make us more than conquerors through Jesus!

Fear is simply not a good motivator though it is the one we often turn to. For example, people scare their kids into staying out of the street by saying they can get hit by a car and killed. Or scare their kids into staying close to them in a store saying if they don’t, someone might take them. Though it may be true fear will keep them on the curb or next to us, it does far more damage than good. They don’t need fear to be kept safe. They need to know the potential dangers of running into traffic or being out of sight of parents, but they need to believe their parents love them and always have their best interests in mind, and then trust and obey.

feed faith starve fearAnd though we certainly can use fear to motivate, it is extremely unhealthy and our minds get messed up when consumed with thoughts of fear! Thinking on what COULD happen in any given situation gives birth to words. If we believe fear is helpful we’ll attend to THAT belief, followed with words and actions founded in fear, not faith. How much wiser it is for us to fear God knowing He loves us and has our best interests in mind all the time! He doesn’t scare or threaten us to protect. He simply tells us the truth we need to trust and obey Him. Hearing how He loves us cause us to attend to THAT belief, followed with words and actions founded in faith, not fear.

Do Not FearAnd let me tell you here, there are no loopholes in the Word about fear, no suggestion we should learn how to live with it, and no implication fear works “for” us!  Instead the Bible shows when the people of God feared anything in this world they were overcome by those things. When they feared only God then they trusted only in Him. They also acknowledged fear when exposed, believed God when He said “Do not fear”, embraced this truth, and obeyed Him! They overcame fear!

perfect loveIf we know all this, what can we do when fear happens, when it fills our senses? First, we acknowledge and call fear, fear! Second, we believe fear is not of God. And third, we agree with God that His perfect love casts out fear by faith in His truth and let it happen! 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

Christmas is our time to celebrate perfect love coming to earth as our Savior, Jesus was born! In His birth narrative, some of the people had troubled thoughts, and they were all fear related. They just didn’t know it was fear until God sorted out their thoughts by telling them the truth. When their worst fears were exposed they were set free from fear words and the unknown.

Zacharias was father to John the Baptist! He was troubled hearing he was going to be a Dad and his son was going to prepare the way for the Lord! That would trouble most people. Luke 1:12-20 “And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ And Zacharias said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.’ And the angel answered and said to him, ‘I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.’”

Notice fear FELL on him! That happens! We don’t always open a door for fear and say “Come on in!” It often just drops on us unexpectedly though it almost always STARTS with a troubled heart. When we hear something questionable, we start entertaining troubled thoughts, try to figure out what’s going to happen, and maybe feel anxious, or worried, and THEN, fear falls!

Zacharias was immediately warned not to be afraid and he had a choice to make at this point – believe the angel and let God’s perfect love cast out fear OR not believe and let fear stay. Even though he was told straight out not to be afraid, he doubted and said “How?” He DID NOT believe! Fortunately, his unbelief didn’t keep God from fulfilling His plan though Zacharias did have to deal with the consequences of fear leading to doubt and unbelief.

do-not-fearFriends, when troubled thoughts come and fear falls, listen for God to say “Do not fear” and then listen and believe Him. Doubt and unbelief have no place in our lives because if our Father in heaven says something, we can trust Him!

Then there was Joseph! He was in a predicament and was giving a lot of thought about what to do about it. He found out the woman he loved and planned to marry was pregnant, not something any man wants to hear when he knows he is not the father. We have a hard time imagining how disgraceful this was because of what we’ve done to sex, intimacy , and the marriage bed today, but this was not good news for Joseph nor would it be for any of us. Mary’s pregnancy was scandalous so though Joseph loved her, he tried to figure out a way to disengage from Mary without it being embarrassing for either of them, and without publicly humiliating her.

Matthew 1:20-25 “But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us.’ Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.”

We can only imagine the thoughts flooding Joseph’s mind in discovering Mary was pregnant. But I’m guessing Joseph didn’t think it was fear motivating him to disengage Mary. Maybe anger, hurt, betrayal, rejection, humiliation, or embarrassment, but not fear! Yet, the angel of the Lord would not have said “do not be afraid” in a dream if Joseph was not afraid. So when the angel said he should not let fear keep him from pursuing the one he loved, he listened, believed fear was the root of his thinking, and came into agreement with God by acknowledging fear and being willing to get rid of it. God’s perfect love cast out fear.

Though Joseph knew what the Old Testament said about the virgin being with child and bearing Immanuel, we can be sure he never imagined that virgin would be his beloved Mary, nor that the man to raise Jesus here on earth was none other than himself. But the amazing truth is when Joseph was aroused from his dream, he woke in faith. He left fear behind and walked right into truth! We overcome fear by listening, hearing and doing what the Lord says! We stop our own contemplations of fear and pay attention to what God says to us and then we walk by faith not by sight!

perfect_love_casts_out_fear_print_poster-re600940da6564d2ebab51df5c454fccb_wvf_400When we are in predicaments, we should expect God to show up and speak truth to us. Jesus is perfect love who casts out fear!

Then there is Mary, mother of Jesus! We read her story in Luke 1:29-35 “But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her,  ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’ Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’”

Mary was troubled by the angel’s words but he immediately told her FEAR was at the root of her trouble. She let the perfect love of the Holy One cast out her fear. Like Zacharias, Mary questioned how this would come about but unlike Zacharias, her question was not with unbelief. He was well advanced in years but he and Elizabeth were still having sex so the “how” was obvious even though she was past child-bearing years. But Mary had never slept with a man so for her to ask how she was going to conceive in her womb was inquisitiveness, not unbelief.

We learn once again fear is not of God and so to overcome it we simply need to listen carefully FOR and TO God and then believe and do what He says. Inquiry is cool with God, doubt or unbelief is not!

Finally we look at the shepherds in Luke 2:9-15 “And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’ So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.’”

What beautiful imagery! They were told not to be afraid because of joy, plus they were given a sign when a multitude of angels suddenly joined the one. Fear was swallowed up in awe! After the shepherds enjoyed an angelic praise service they said to each other “Let’s do this” heading to Bethlehem to find this baby in a manger. The great news friends is we get to celebrate life with the same great joy because when the Lord makes things known to us, fear goes as perfect love casts it out!

mary_and_joseph_and_baby_jesusAs we prepare to once again to celebrate this miracle of the birth of Christ, we remember it is through Him only and always that we overcome fear. Perfect love casts out fear and always remember… perfect love has come!

 

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The Winter Trip Reminding Me of Where We Belong!

While a lot of people in the Midwest look to get away someplace warm in the winter, especially those over fifty years old, my husband and I chose to take a brief three-day trip up to the Minnesota North Shore of Lake Superior. Even though I’ve been going up to the Shore for over four decades, because of ministry demands, Christmas activities, sermons, extra services, and preparations, we have never went up in the winter.

Layne-Kennedy-Grand-Marais-2_LCK0205It’s about a five-hour drive to reach our final destination but 2 ½ hours into it gives our first glimpse of the Great Lake where I immediately get this overwhelming sense of joy and peace. I breathe easier, smile more, and simply feel at ease when “I’m back” at the North Shore. Another two hours of driving brought us to one of my favorite cities, Grand Marais, where we hit up our usual eating establishment for front_imagelunch, the Blue Water Café, known as “The Meeting place in Grand Marais”!  It always feels like we step back in time; people engage in intimate conversation; the atmosphere is relaxed; no one grabs a quick-lunch; and no phone orders are called in! It has a hometown, home-cooked feeling where everyone is welcome.

We heard soft Christian music in the background with one of our favorite songs “Where I Belong” playing as we settled in. Coincidence? I think not! The waitress kindly waited for us to finish singing before taking our order. An Advent book sat on the table so my husband read the days’ devotion to me. We prayed before eating and shortly after the owner came over thanking us for taking time to thank the Lord! Now THAT is COOL! He said it meant a lot for him to see us pray. Well, it meant a lot for me to witness his boldness in sharing our common faith in Jesus in his restaurant. If our get-away would have ended right then, it would have been perfect!

252209_10151280674188147_1179379133_nAfter a home-cooked lunch we meandered through the town unhindered by the swarm of tourists we’re used to. Many of the shops were either closed or emptied out, but there were enough open ones still so as not to leave empty-handed. Though the streets were practically deserted, and the cold air palpable, we still felt the warmth of this very special place; it’s innocence tangible as we passed the community board where two hand-written signs were posted, “Please use push pins” and “Please don’t pin the wood, use the board”. Simple, direct, kind, trusting requests making me smile, thinking we wouldn’t see that in the big city!

photo (8)We drove another half hour to Hollow Rock resort where we unloaded the car and were immediatly struck by the noise of the thunderous waves, much different from what we hear in the summer, especially since there was no wind. The Great Lake waters were heaving, wave after wave crushing the shoreline to the point of being ominous. It was so intriguing we ventured out to the Hollow Rock in the lake even before unpacking inside, risking the violent waters as we leapt onto the rocks and climbing to the top. Once there, we gingerly looked down over the raging waters below, amazed by the sight and sound of so powerful a body of water, deafening but oh so beautiful! At that moment, all I could think is how much noisier and greater God is than the waters He created!

Psalms 93:4 “The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, than the mighty waves of the sea.”

8234629491_2bfd03f469The next morning we bundled up with boots, snow pants, coats, mittens, scarves, and hats for a chilly hike, eager to climb boulders, cross creeks, skip stones, and see all the sights God had ready for us this day! As we maneuvered the rock formations we discovered winter hiking is a bit trickier than summer hiking, not just because of the thin sheets of ice covering some of the boulders but also because of the cold temperature effects on our bodies. I would definitely insist winter hiking is all about “mind over matter”, in this instance, the “matter” being our knees! As we trekked up, over, and down enormous boulders, our limbs stretched to their limits, sometimes beyond what we thought was possible especially with all the extra clothing binding us!

It didn’t take more than a few jumps down from platforms to discover the shock absorbers in our knees weren’t absorbing the shock because of cold. It’s one thing to watch each other scale the huge north shore boulders but a whole other thing to see us come OFF those platforms! Let’s just say we didn’t “stick” many landings! Humorous just begins to describe what we must have looked like! I’m just glad no video cameras were around to capture our inelegant boulder dismounts!

The challenge and laughter were evident as we had several opportunities to “take one for the team”, stumbling forward to keep our balance. But I can proudly proclaim we both managed to walk away with no falls, even though it wasn’t pretty! And through it all, I still find the North Shore mesmerizing; the beauty of God’s creation breathtaking, the waves crushing the shoreline fierce and formidable; the surroundings giving a sense of being lost in space!

photo (7)One time while taking a breather, sitting on a fallen tree, stripped of its bark over time and wear and tear of the waves, I closed my eyes and turned my face to the sun while soaking up the greatness of God, losing myself in the sounds of many waters! Then, I remembered my husband was along so looked for him only to find he had hollowed out a place in the rocks to lie down and take a snooze, soaking in the warmth of the sun as well. Though our winter clothing was adequate in protecting our bodies from the cold, the sun did a far better job, and the warmth of Jesus on the inside was better than those two put together!

I had this tremendous sense of completeness sitting by the Great Lake soaking in the Son/sunshine and wondered how I could take this back with me to the hustle and bustle, demands, and simple necessities of life! As I pondered this, Holy Spirit reminded me I could and I can! This “completeness” can be a lifestyle no matter where I am or what I’m doing. He reminded me of the beautiful Psalm I had just used in a message on overcoming worshiplessness. In an age where we are so consumed with “stuff”, worship is often relegated to thoughts of “going to worship” or “attending a worship service” instead of being a way of life!  Completeness though is found in the Lord, wherever we happen to be in life!

309bPsalm 95:1-6 “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it; and His hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”

I was experiencing the Rock, the greatness of God, the deep places of the earth, the heights of the hills, the sea and the dry land right there in Northern Minnesota! I was in His presence, worshipping and bowing down, kneeling before the Lord my Maker! And that’s not the only place I can come into His presence! I can worship and bow down anytime and anyplace! I can kneel before the Lord my Maker all the time! I didn’t need to leave this peaceful, serene feeling on the North Shore! I could take it with me! Of course, I already knew this but suddenly it was real and tangible!

I also knew it wouldn’t always be easy. But then again…climbing rocks on the North Shore wasn’t easy either. My muscles were pushed, flexibility tried, and endurance tested by climbing and exploring. At times it was exhausting, painful, and took effort. But I didn’t give it a second thought because I wanted to do it! I wanted to climb, to search out hidden treasures in the crevices of the rocks and in the woods along the lake. I wanted to scale the highest peaks of the rock formations and walk to the edge with that slight bit of trepidation, looking over at the water crashing far below. I wanted to take the risk to see beauty where those who aren’t willing will never see it.

Turning away from the things of this world capturing our attention won’t be easy. But then again… experiencing the greatness of God isn’t always easy either. As we exercise our spiritual muscles, push on in faith we get stronger, more flexible, and our endurance knows no bounds. Sure…it can be exhausting, painful, and requires great effort but we won’t give it a second thought when we want to do it! When we want to scale the heights of faith, practice being in His presence, seek His face, study His Word, and walk to the edge of ourselves, we will see everything crashing beneath us. We’ll see beauty others won’t see just by our willingness to risk losing “us” by dying to ourselves!

The pain in my body was swallowed up by the experience, the soreness gone in a couple of days while the memories stayed! Likewise, all the pain we experience in this lifetime is swallowed up in the journey we take with God; all soreness goes as we learn life lessons which transform us to live in His presence! Walking in faith requires some effort but where there is faith in Jesus, there is peace, hope, serenity, and everlasting joy!

Wherever you are in life – risk it all to live for Jesus! You won’t be sorry!

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