A Whisper or a Shout

James was right when he said that no one can tame the tongue.  Our words have power for evil and for good. In a shout or in a whisper, each time we speak, we choose whether we will serve darkness or light.

but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,these things ought not to be so.
James 3:8-10

I’ve always been a bold person.  I’m known for it. I’m the girl that says what everyone else is afraid to say.  I call it like it is. And sometimes it has gotten me into a lot of trouble. I speak when others won’t and that can be good thing, but there is a season for quiet as well as for boldness.  The Lord has given us plenty of examples of this. The Spirit is often known for speaking in a still, small voice. Remember Elijah?

11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
1 Kings 19:11-12

So, acting like the Spirit of God is good right? We should always just speak in a whisper, right?  Wrong. While it’s true that a loud voice has the potential to do a lot of damage if it’s not used correctly, it can also strike courage to the masses.  It can pierce the darkness with the light of God’s truth. Boldness can quickly becomes bullying when it tears people down instead of building them up. Or when boldness is not tempered with discernment and fear of the Lord, and becomes reckless and foolish and powerful for all the wrong reasons. But when used in tandem with the Lord’s leading, a loud, bold voice can be the voice of salvation for a frightened and lost world.

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”
1 Samuel 17:45-47

David spoke with boldness in the face of the enemy because of his faith in God.  He trusted in the Lord to see him through to victory. He had experienced so much of God’s power as a simple shepherd boy.  To save one little lamb, the Lord had given David the power to tear a lion apart with his bare hands! How much more would God act in the face of defending His people against a mocking enemy?  The fate of many of God’s lambs were at stake against the ferocious lion named Goliath. David’s confidence in the Lord’s victory was based on experience. His boldness came from trust and faith. He trusted God’s power because he had seen it in action many times for smaller things than this.

When David sees the enemies of the Lord mocking God’s people, he is filled with faithful confidence, and unrelenting boldness, not for himself, but for the Lord!  No spear, no words, no mighty man of war can ever stand against the power of the Lord. David’s boldness came from faith in the Lord and not himself.

As I’ve grown in faith, watching the Lord’s faithfulness in the little things in my life, it has become easier and easier to trust God in the bigger things.  And my boldness stops being about building myself up, and instead about declaring the power of Jesus. Jesus made me bold, so that I would proclaim His Glory!  Like David, we can walk in the bold courage of the Lord when we are focused on Him and His victory, and not on ourselves and the sound of our own voice.

 

The Power in Death

After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5 And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.”
Judges 16:4-5

Dear God, I can’t help but think about all the times I’ve been seduced by worldly desires Like Samson, at times I’ve let confidence in myself be the backbone of my battles instead of You.  I’ve pushed aside Your Spirit’s wisdom speaking warning into my mind, and chose willingly to arrogantly rely on my own tactics to win the battle. You are the giver of all good gifts. Any strategies I might consider come from the intellect You have given me.  My passion, my boldness, my strength, just like Samson, came from Your design. I was made to worship You and be a tool of Your kingdom, yet I have pursued victory with arrogance and trust in my own power.

I know that the lesson here can be that You will still use me, sloppy and self-serving as I am, for Your greater good, because that’s what You do.  You chose to partner with me, knowing my flaws. But Lord, I think the deeper lesson for me is that the enemy is tricky and will beguile me into falling for schemes that cause me harm.  If I would take the time to be vigilant and watch for the attack of the enemy, my defense will be stronger. I would rely on You for my salvation, instead of myself.

You want me to use the gifts You have given me, but under Your leadership and authority.  When You give me power, it must be for Your Kingdom and not my own. I can’t serve myself and also serve You.  That’s Christianity 101. I know that.

So why do I fall short?

I’m so broken, Lord.  

Create in me a clean heart, O God
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

Then maybe we can get some stuff done!  I love you, Jesus. Thanks for taking me broken and gluing me back together with Your Spirit.  I will walk in Your restoration. Only when I die to myself and my own strength, can we truly win the battle for life that is Your Victory.

 And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.
Judges 16:30

Samson did so much for You God.  He judged Israel for twenty years.  But He didn’t truly have victory until He’d experienced the truth of his power: that all his power was from God and not from himself.  He had to die to himself and live for Your Victory, knowing that only His death could bring victory.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
2 Corinthians 4:7

Jesus said it best:

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Matthew 16:24-26

 

Jesus Wept for Me

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Luke 19:41-44

Dearest Lord Jesus, how great is your love for us!  Sin had filled the minds and hearts of your people when You came to them and it broke Your heart.  In another Gospel you said you wished you could gather them up like little chicks beneath your wings.  But your people refused to recognize You. They refused to acknowledge Your complete sovereignty. They wanted to worship themselves.  They wanted to worship their own filthy rags of righteousness.

Thank you, Lord, that You weren’t content to see us die that way.  Thank You Lord that you wept for us, and walked the road of suffering into Jerusalem and onto the hill of Calvary’s cross so that we could have our sins paid for.  

And thank you, Lord, for Your Holy Spirit, that finally gave us the help we needed to see You for who You really are.  Even amidst the cacophony of sin that drowns out Your truth in our lives, Your Spirit makes You known to us. Without Your Spirit we would never know You.

So, thank You, Jesus.  Thank you! I worship You and the Spirit of God within me by Your power!  Thank you!

Dealing with Offense

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
   Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
   and speaks truth in his heart;
3 who does not slander with his tongue
   and does no evil to his neighbor,
   nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
   but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 who does not put out his money at interest
   and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
Psalm 15

Recently a couple whom my husband and I lovely dearly, and who dearly love us but don’t know us very well, approached us to discuss their concerns over a recent set of back to back crisis that had occurred in our family.  While their intentions were honorable and intended to encourage and help us, they had the opposite effect. And I’ve been hurting over it ever since.

It’s easy to say, “Forgive them.”  And it’s easy to say, “Have mercy.”  And I know that I have tried to have both for them as I’ve contemplated their words and tried to humble myself to receive them.  Yet, my heart was not following the truth in my soul. I felt so much shame and condemnation, though our friends intended neither.  

Why did I feel like that?

After processing our feelings with each other, with God, with my counselor, and with some trusted and close friends, I realized something.  No matter what your intentions are, correction should never come at the cost of injury to another person. As verse four above says, it’s better to take on a hurt yourself, than to hurt someone else.  

Because our friends love us, and because they were concerned for us, and because they didn’t know us well enough to really know what was fully going on with us, they took it upon themselves to discuss the matter with people who they thought might have more insight into our circumstances.  This became the source of my first wound. Talking about the trauma in our family with other people only lead to more supposition on our situation, and offered no actual truth. Unfortunately, because the people they spoke to also didn’t know our situation very well, they were unable to offer a very accurate picture of our hearts.

Talking about the trauma in our family with other people only lead to more supposition on our situation, and offered no actual truth.

My second wound came in the translation further inaccurate suppositions.  Our friends, likely became more and more concerned for us as they spoke to more and more people who had witness glimpses of our recent trials, and perhaps glimpses of our past actions, and then drew conclusions about us regarding those glimpses.  Again, honest love and concern, led to an inaccurate transcript of all that had transpired. So, when our friends met with us, they had already established in their own hearts a general idea that there were certain issues and were then seeking to help us draw out those issues in confession and repentance.

This was a bad idea.  

They had formed an agenda based on love and concern, that had been built upon conjecture.  

Therefore, while their intentions were honorable, their method had been so tainted by poor information that they were unable to approach the situation with us in a way that truly expressed the love that they have in their hearts for us, and the genuine desire they had to help us walk through correcting bad behaviors.

I was captured this morning by Psalm 15.  It’s all about abiding with God and what dwelling with the Holy One looks like.  And David spells out what that looks like. It is walking blamelessly, doing what is right, speaking truth in his heart, not slandering, not doing evil to his neighbor, not taking up reproach against a friend, who despises evil, honors those who fear the LORD, who takes on hurt himself rather than hurt another, who doesn’t put out money with interest, or take a bribe against the innocent.  But, the fact remains that we can do none of those things on our own. Only with the Holy Spirit of God, the Salvation of the Hand of God through Jesus, by the power of God the Father, can we even begin to mirror these things. Sure, we can try. But if we start to source our thoughts and actions on the opinions of others, we head down a road that leads to nothing but hurt, and the ramifications of that can be devastating.

I was devastated by the encounter we had with our friends, even though I know that was never, ever their intent.  

But because they had come by their information about the situation from others and not from us and from God, it was doomed from the start.  Fortunately, our Lord is a reconciling God. He is a God of healing, love, and restoration. So, even through the pain of that conversation and the subsequent days that followed, my husband and I began to find peace.  

We gained a deeper insight into how to walk the path of “speaking the truth in love” with a much deeper understanding of what that should look like.  I learned that how I source information is vital to reconciling a situation. My source must be the Lord and the people directly involved alone, not the opinion of friends or family, or even my own!  

I also learned that without a personal experience in a situation or deep relationship with someone, I’m not capable of bringing specific instruction or correction to a situation without first talking to the people involved.  Our friends sought advice from too many people before they spoke to us, and unfortunately that skewed the entire outcome. Am I saying we shouldn’t take counsel from trusted friends in the faith who have wisdom and experience?  Of course not! But, counsel must be sourced from the Word of God, and not the opinions of the people who have witnessed the incident. When our friends sought counsel, it should have been about how to approach the situation, not about the situation itself.  

How many times have I fallen into gossip by seeking counsel from someone I trusted and then falling into the trap of the enemy to start basing my opinions on a person without knowing all the facts?  How many times have I spoken to someone just to express my frustration or concern, when I should have just given it to God, or spoken directly with the person that offended me?

I’ve also been humbled, which I am in constant need of learning.  I’ve gained practice in patience and endurance when I’m misunderstood.  And I’ve learned that how others see me and interpret my actions is usually wrong, so I better be as “above board” as I can about my intentions, my actions, and my complete dependency upon God and not myself (or others.)  And that even when I think I’m right, I could actually be wrong.  Shocker!  I need to be humble enough to let the Lord show me things, without beating myself up or walking in shame or condemnation.  And if I start to feel shamed or condemned by another person, I need to speak up, instead of silently suffer.  Once I go there, I’ve lost touch with the Spirit of the Lord within me because of my hurt.

Most importantly, I’ve gotten the sharp reminder from the Lord, that my value cannot be measured on a man’s scale.  I’ve always tried to honor the Lord in my actions, and raised Him up when I’ve been called to account for myself, but I’ve also made excuses for bad behavior.  And I’ve allowed my heart to be swayed by pride, insecurity, and a desire to be accepted.  Of course I should always lift up the Lord.  I should always testify to His power at work in my weakness.  I just need to make sure that when I do that I am speaking from my weakness and not my pride.

I am accepted by God.  That’s all that matters. So, I will try to speak the truth to others with more love than I have in the past by trying to source my love from the Spirit of the Living God within me, rather than from any power of my own.  And I will try to receive the truth spoken to me in love, even if it is poorly executed, by sourcing my translation of those words through the filter of the Holy Spirit instead of my feelings.

Man, Daddy, that’s some deep stuff.  Thanks for helping me figure it out. I love you, Holy Spirit, for giving me peace.  And Jesus, you are my greatest delight. Because of You, I can do all things through You.  Even deal with hurt feelings. I feel much better, now, God. Thank you.

 

No Other Love Compares

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-41

Lord, You don’t look at me the way I look at myself.  You see the labels I put on myself as a distraction to me that keeps me from sitting at Your feet and worshipping You.  It’s humbling to be reminded of how often I get distracted and side tracked by my own opinion of myself, or even worse, the opinion that others have about me.  I get caught up in what I think I’m supposed to do. I worry about obedience to what You want from me and don’t stop to listen to what You are saying.

Lord, help me to listen.  Help me to stop putting pressure on myself to do what people expect of me.  Instead, let me fall at Your feet and worship You. Teach me to lay aside the world and the constraints of my own sinful pride and a misplaced desire to serve You in a way that I have decided I am supposed to.  I just want to hear your words teaching and guiding me.

I want to wash Your feet with my tears, Jesus.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

Holy Spirit, move in me.  Humble my arrogant heart. Temper my human longings and create in me a clean heart.  Guide me in the ways of Your thinking and desires for me. Drown out the sounds of my human will and the demands that the world has placed on me.  I long to be in Your right mind and not my own. I long to be true to Your definition of who I am and what I am to do. I long to worship You with humility.

39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.
Luke 11:39-41

I don’t want to be like the Pharisees who puffed themselves up on the outside with their dependence on praise and obedience to the Law.  I don’t want to be honored by men or even know what they think of me. I don’t want to care, dear Jesus! I don’t want to care! Let me be a fool or a loud mouth.  Let me be brazen or unrefined. Let me be so aware that there is nothing good in me, that I all I can see is Your grace lifting me up! Let me choose the better portion in You, my Love!  

Sweet Holy Spirit, let me hear Your whispers.

I will submit to Your love for me, my Lord Jesus.  Only in You am I free. And no other love or praise can compare.

Good Fruit

For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:43-45

If my mouth is praising You in all things and if my actions are full of mercy and love for everyone around me, my fruit is good!  It is abundant and full! It is reassurance, dearest Jesus, that the abundance of my heart is your love and mercy. I don’t need to worry about what people think of me, or even what others expect of me.  All I need to do is focus on You, Your Word in my heart, and the offerings of Your love and mercy that flow through me. I know I’m not going to get it right all the time. But I see You working, God. I see Your hand gently guiding me and faithfully teaching me to “bend the bow of bronze”.

He trains my hands for war,
   so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
 Psalm 18:34

I found myself praying this morning very deeply for someone who had hurt me.  Lord, I know that’s nothing new for You, but I know I don’t do it enough. My logic and understanding of your Word tell me to forgive and show mercy to those who hurt me, but in the moment, I’m often so hurt that I spend all of my energy focused on just speaking love and speaking from the abundance of my heart.  But prayer needs to be the further fruit of those words. Thank you for reminding me of that this morning.

Lord, help me to be more focused on You so that I continue to produce good fruit.  Let every thought be held captive by Your love, Your grace, Your Spirit.  That is where my treasure is. That is where my story leads. That is all my heart desires.  Let me honor You and serve You in all things. It may look strange to the World. It may even look strange to Your children.  But I know that Your Spirit will use me. Your Spirit will guide me. And Your Power will seap out of me to the world around me, without me even saying a word.  That’s just who You are. And You are in me so I can be confident in that.

And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.
Luke 6:19

Use me God.  Though I am a woman of unclean lips, You have made me clean and Your power is made perfect in my weakness.

Favored by God

Trust is a gift from you, God.  Zechariah and Mary both received unbelievable messages from the angel Gabriel about giving birth by a miraculous act of God.  Both received the fulfilled blessing that had been promised to them. But only Mary trusted the promise. Zechariah doubted the promise and suffered the personal consequences for it.  

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
Luke 1:5-7

Your word says that Zechariah and his wife were both righteous before you and “walked blamelessly in all the commandments”. Yet, because of his doubting, he was silenced.  This silencing kept him from sharing in the blessing that he had been given, but it didn’t stop the blessing.

So often I’m ready to doubt your promises, God.  I get so used to calling them promises that I forget that they really are promises and you are faithful to fulfill them!  Help me to trust you, God. Help me not to doubt the blessings that you are sending to me. I think Zechariah doubted because Elizabeth was barren.  Instead of remembering that you fulfilled your promise to bring a child to a barren woman with Abraham and Sarah, he was stuck in the current circumstance of Elizabeth’s inability to conceive.  

By no means should he have been putting his faith in Elizabeth’s body!  But instead he should have trusted in your power! He was a man who knew you!  And yet his fear and the sorrow of his current circumstances kept him from trusting You.  He was well versed in the knowledge of your faithfulness and yet the familiarity of his personal troubles kept him from fully trusting in the message that he had been given.

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
Luke 1:28

How favored indeed was Mary!  Her childlike faith and trust in Your message were evident in her from the start.  Her circumstances were simple and humble. She was favored by God, because she didn’t put her trust in her humble circumstances.  Sure, she questioned Gabriel when he said she was favored, but when he told her what that favor was going to give her, she recognized her place as Your servant.  If you wanted to call her “favored” that was good enough for her. So she trusted you.

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
Luke 1:38

Lord, I am highly favored by you.  I know this because of what you have done for me.  You gave me your Son as a ransom for my life. And you gave me your Spirit as a deposit of your promises to be fulfilled in me.  Lord, let me trust you. Let me walk in the favor you have pronounced on me. Let me know Your promises are true and walk in that truth instead of the turmoil of my corrupted circumstances.  

Oh, Jesus!  My love! Help me trust You so that I can share with the world the blessings You provide instead of being silenced by the doubt in my own heart.

Not by Power, Not by Might, but by the Spirit!

Lord, you are so pleased to reveal your wisdom to your children!  What an honor and privilege to have the mind of God imparted within me to know your heart and your plans for me!  So often I struggle and stumble around, blind to your wisdom, deaf to your voice.  You hold my hand and yet I still stray, wobbling around from side to side, straying this way and that.  I trip over rubble and cry and you kiss away my tears and bandage my bruised and bloodied knees.  And your thoughts remain within me.   In the book of James you show me why I’m always stumbling and falling away from you.  I get doubtful.  I lose faith.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

James 1:5-6

So, God, I’m asking for wisdom.  I’m asking for faith.  I’m asking you to remove the blinders that I’ve put over my own eyes.  Remove the deafening roar of worldly longings and fears.  Let me receive the generous and loving gift of your ample wisdom, freely offered.  Let me take that wisdom with us much freedom as you offer it!  I’m tired of trusting myself!  No matter how smart I think I am, my wisdom is pure folly without the importation of Your thoughts and heart!  I want to trust you!  I don’t want to lean on my own ideas.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

I want to walk with confidence along a straight path, with my fingers interlaced with yours, and my head held high with the pride that comes from standing with you in the righteousness you have made me.  I want to walk in laughter, listening to your voice and seeing all the beautiful sites you have laid out before us.  It’s not just a straight path, it’s a beautiful path.  So, God, I’m asking you to renew my mind.  Take away my focus on the world and the death that it brings to everything, and focus my whole being on You and the life that you offer!

9 But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:9-13

Thank you, God, that all this has been made possible to understand and digest because of your Spirit in me.  Only your Spirit knows your heart.  And you have given me your Spirit so that I can freely know the deepest thoughts you have about me and about the world around me.  I can see what you intended with eyes that are no longer blinded by sin.  I can see the incorruptible!  I can see life as you always intended and hoped.  

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

1 John 4:13

It’s so crazy to me God!  You’ve given me eyes to see the world as you see it!  To see the life you intended in all things.  Satan is such a liar!  He convinced Adam and Eve, the stewards of your creation, that they would be like you by receiving the “knowledge of good and evil”.  But evil is not from you and its only job is to bring death and pain!  To know you is to be brought back to the Garden in the Spirit, where we can walk with you and talk with you about the wisdom and beauty and light of all the things you have made.  All good things.  All life giving things.  I no longer need to be ruled by the knowledge of evil.  It will only bring death.  While you are the bringer of life.  

Thank you for being the Life Bringer, the Life Creator, the Light of the World,  and thank you for being my friend.  I love you, God.  I love you so much!