Words

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Let me tell you one of the perils of writing a post. I know what I want to say, but I am seldom happy about the end product.  I suppose it comes as part of the job description and, yet it chafes me to no end.

And, if the truth be told, many others experience the same thing. We really do strive for clarity but end up terribly misunderstood. (I am fairly certain there are those who know this frustration even as they read this.)

Proverbs blares out a desperate warnings to our souls. We must listen to them.

We’re all communicators by nature; some do a bang-up job of it, others, not so much. Being misunderstood is the norm of many, and the strange occupational hazard of the believer.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

Proverbs 16:24

The book of Proverbs speaks directly to this dilemma. Healthy words smash through our issues bringing light and hope to others. It’s clear God wants our words to matter. We learn to share things by His Spirit. How exciting though! To speak love and grace to those who need it most is a rare gift these days.

Then there are those who cause death by words.  We can ‘slice and dice’ people we love. Isn’t it any wonder why people around us struggle so? Many understand the power of evil words and even use them intentionally. (Sometimes I flinch inside when I hear a mother berate her young son in the grocery store.)

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Proverbs 12:18

Here in Proverbs we read of people whose rash words are compared to a bloody sword thrust. They jab, slash and cut. They are malicious and hurtful. We can cause far too much pain. God forgive us. Satan gets his glory by things we say. Lord, have mercy.

Others have the opposite outcome. Their words bring healing. I have known people like this. They have an aura about them–a special superpower. They say profoundly simple things of wisdom. Healing seems to follow them around. (Yet I also have seen other believers stall, because they couldn’t control their mouth.)

When will we understand that words are powerful; they pierce or they can heal? It’s your choice. Between you and me, I want to say and write that which has a lasting and a healing effect on others.

I must remember that I’m the custodian of the words I speak. My tongue speaks only what is going on in in my heart.

Give me a true heart, O God. I want to carry healing to others. Help me to bridle my tongue. Amen.

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The Lord of My Darkest Fear

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“And you will feel secure, because there is hope;
you will look around and take your 
rest in security.”

 Job 11:18

“If you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” 

Prov. 3:24

Bedding down in the ruins of an old adobe church gave me a great deal of apprehension.  I was anxious because at night all the scorpions, snakes and tarantulas do most of their exploring.  Now I have an uncommon fear of tarantulas, at night I have seen them come out and the ground was churning.  But as a missionary in rural Mexico and I guess I figured that I ought not shirk my expected routine.  But I was spooked. I am a true arachnophobiac.

Job and the Book of Proverbs combine to correctly identify the personal security issues for the believer.  We’re most vulnerable when we lie down to sleep.  When you think about it, that’s when we are most accessible and open to assault.

But there are promises that are given to believers that reassure us and secure us.  It is a remarkably basic promise, that we can lay down and God will stand watch over us as we rest.  But I contend that there other times, times when He watches us and guides us through a myriad of unseen difficult things.  He secures us, and then keeps us.

My time in the Mexican desert taught me some incredible lessons.  I must admit though, that sleeping on the ground was an ordeal.  I had to trust that the Lord would take special care over me as I lay defenseless.  I could not defend myself, so I trusted Him and slept. I ‘shut down’ my imagination and trusted Him who I could not see.  (I didn’t even bother to look for tarantula ‘tracks’ around my bedroll in the morning.)

We live in a time of complex danger.  Bad things have become increasingly routine and we have come to the point were we just can’t protect ourselves, or those we love.  Jesus warned us that this would happen.

Paul writes of this intensification of evil things.

We must trust Him who is unseen.  We are to be people that move toward ‘the wings’ to find shelter.  I believe this is a volitional decision.  We make a verbal commitment to our protecting One, that He will shield us from those who are evil and perhaps even deranged.

He loves us so much.  We can trust Him completely and fully. Even in the face of very big spiders.

“The only known antidote to fear is faith.”

Woodrow Kroll

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Quotes on Being a Disciple

Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Take the words of Jesus and let them become the Supreme Court of the Gospel to you. –John G. Lake

Some wish to hear the word of God, others wish to receive it.–Anonymous

Understanding is the reward of obedience. Obedience is the key to every door. –George MacDonald

In the spiritual life only one thing produces genuine joy and that is obedience. –Richard Foster

The level of our obedience is most often determined by the behavior standard of other Christians around us. –Jerry Bridges

Many Christians have what we might call a “cultural holiness”. They adapt to the character and behavior pattern of Christians around them. As the Christian culture around them is more or less holy, so these Christians are more or less holy. But God has not called us to be like those around us. He has called us to be like himself. Holiness is nothing less than conformity to the character of God. –Jerry Bridges

Holiness has never been the driving force of the majority. It is, however, mandatory for anyone who wants to enter the kingdom. –Elisabeth Elliot

The dullness that overshadows a passive person is increased by the mounting number of times one doesn’t respond to the promptings of God. –Greg Manalli

Whatsoever one would understand what he hears must hasten to put into practice what he has heard. –Gregory the Great

I know the power obedience has of making things easy which seem impossible. –Teresa of Avila

Let this be thy whole endeavor, this thy prayer, this thy desire,–that thou mayest be stripped of all selfishness, and with entire simplicity follow Jesus only. –Thomas à Kempis

No man has the mind of Christ, except him who makes it his business to obey him.—George MacDonald

One can believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ and feel no personal loyalty to Him at all – indeed, pay no attention whatever to His commandments and His will for one’s life. –Catherine Marshall

I defy you to read the life of any saint that has ever adorned the life of the Church without seeing at once that the greatest characteristic in the life of that saint was discipline and order. Invariably it is the universal characteristic of all the outstanding men and women of God.—Unknown

The strength of a man’s virtue should not be measured by his special exertions, but by his habitual acts.–Blaise Pascal

He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much. –Jesus Christ

If Christ does not reign over the mundane events in our lives, He does not reign at all. –Paul Tripp

Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself. –Abraham Joshua Heschel

Maturity doesn’t come with age; it comes with acceptance of responsibility. –Ed Cole

To be converted to faith in Jesus Christ is to return to the worship of the true God, and to dethrone all rivals to his authority. –Graham Kendrick

We must assess our thoughts and beliefs and reckon whether they are moving us closer to conformity to Christ or farther away from it. –John Ortberg

Jesus tapped me on the shoulder and said, Bob, why are you resisting me? I said, I’m not resisting you! He said, You gonna follow me? I said, I’ve never thought about that before! He said, When you’re not following me, you’re resisting me. –Bob Dylan

There is no peace in the border lands. The halfway Christian is a torment to himself and of no benefit to others. –Earnest Worker

The characteristic of holiness, which is the outcome of the indwelling of God, is blazing truthfulness with regard to God’s word and an amazing tenderness in personal dealings. –Oswald Chambers

Christianity does not consist in any partial amendment of our lives, any particular moral virtues, but in an entire change of our natural temper, a life wholly devoted to God. –William Law

Those who teach by their doctrine must teach by their life, or else they pull down with one hand what they build up with the other. –Matthew Henry

…Christ did not appoint professors, but followers. If Christianity … is not reduplicated in the life of the person expounding it, then he does not expound Christianity, for Christianity is a message about living and can only be expounded by being realized in men’s lives. –Soren Kierkegaard

A holy life has a voice. It speaks when the tongue is silent, and is either a constant attraction or a perpetual reproof. –Hinton

Preaching is to much avail, but practice is far more effective. A godly life is the strongest argument you can offer the skeptic. –Hosea Ballou

No one can sum up all God is able to accomplish through one solitary life, wholly yielded, adjusted, and obedient to Him. –D.L.Moody

I surrendered unto Him all there was of me; everything! Then for the first time I realized what it meant to have real power. –Kathryn Kuhlman

I dare not say with Paul that I am the slave of Christ, but my highest aspiration and desire is to be the slave of Christ. –George MacDonald

Nothing is really lost by a life of sacrifice; everything is lost by failure to obey God’s call. –Henry P Liddon

Nothing disciplines the inordinate desires of the flesh like service, and nothing transforms the desires of the flesh like serving in hiddenness. The flesh whines against service but it screams against hidden service. It strains and pulls for honor and recognition. –Richard Foster

Today, even amongst Christians, there can be found much of that spirit that wants to give as little as possible to the Lord, and yet to get as much as possible from Him. The prevailing thought today is of being used, as though that were the one thing that mattered. That my little rubber band should be stretched to the very limit seems all important. But this is not the Lord’s mind. The Lord wants us to be used, yes; but what He is after is that we pour all we have, ourselves, to Him, and if that be all, that is enough. –Watchman Nee

The decision to grow always involves a choice between risk and comfort. This means that to be a follower of Jesus you must renounce comfort as the ultimate value of your life. –John Ortberg

The Christian ideal has not been found tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried. — GK Chesterton

If thou art willing to suffer no adversity, how wilt thou be the friend of Christ? –Thomas à Kempis

There is no success without sacrifice. If you succeed without sacrifice it is because someone has suffered before you. If you sacrifice without success it is because someone will succeed after. –Rick Joyner

The Bible parable says that while men slept, the enemy sowed tares among the wheat. A boy who rises at 4:30 to deliver papers is considered a go-getter, but to urge our young people to rise at 5:30 to pray is considered fanaticism. We must once again wear the harness of discipline. There is no other way. –Leonard Ravenhill

To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. –Simone Weil

Knowing that we are fulfilling God’s purpose is the only thing that really gives rest to the restless human heart. –Chuck Colson

The invitation is not, “Give Me thine head.” The invitation is, “My Son, give Me thine heart.” –John G. Lake

At the back of it there lies the central citadel of obstinacy: I will not give up my right to myself–the thing God intends you to give up if ever you are going to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.–Oswald Chambers

Whatever God’s dream about man may be, it seems certain it cannot come true unless man cooperates. –Stella Terrill Mann

Let no one imagine that he will lose anything of human dignity by this voluntary sell-out of his all to his God. He does not by this degrade himself as a man; rather he finds his right place of high honor as one made in the image of his Creator. His deep disgrace lay in his moral derangement, his unnatural usurpation of the place of God. His honor will be proved by restoring again that stolen throne. In exalting God over all, he finds his own highest honor upheld. –A.W Tozer

It is the Father’s life, and the Father’s life alone, that ever lives the Christian life. It is the Father’s life, and Father’s life alone, which will live the Christian life in you. Embrace a formula or a list in order to “live the Christian life,” and you are doomed to frustration. –Gene Edwards

If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead. –William Law

Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self… –C.S. Lewis

It is only by a total death to self we can be lost in God. –Jeanne Guyon

All we have—ourselves–to Him, and if that be all, that is enough. –Watchman Nee

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More Current, Please!

angel1I have always had a crazy connection with electricity. As a young boy of six or seven I started to push nails into the wall outlets of our home. My mom would come in to find me in a heap, with the nail still in the outlet. It would blow me backwards, and I remember “smelling the ozone” from each experience. I did this fairly often. Mom grew very concerned about me.

Then I discovered the shocking world of electric fences. Most were “pulse” currents, which meant they were alternately energized– and then off. If you grabbed it at the right time, you could beat the fencer and not be shocked. Of course, complicating things would be standing on wet grass. But bringing your little brother meant you could grab his hand, touch the wire, and he would get the full voltage. This was always fun.

Coming into the presence of a holy and loving God should be a powerful jolt. But it needs to be real– never theatrical or showy. Whether it is prayer or worship, we reach into a real world. While electrical shock is detrimental, the Holy Spirit is always strengthening and affirming. My prayer the last few months has been this: “May it be the real me who connects with the real You.”

In a nuclear power plant the workers clearly understand the nature of fission. They can’t see it, or feel it. They must take precautions, because what they handle is really dangerous. In 1 Samuel 6, we read of the time when the Philistines controlled the Ark of the Covenant. But the power they received was not anything they could handle or manage. They finally sent it back. “But the Lord killed seventy men from Beth-shemesh because they looked into the Ark of the Lord. And the people mourned greatly because of what the Lord had done. “Who is able to stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?” they cried out. “Where can we send the Ark from here?”

God is dangerous, “my Bible tells me so.” My thinking often would regard Him as docile and tame, but I challenge you to understand differently. I submit to you that our faith should put us into a perilous place– one in which we are asked to do outrageous things. Like building an ark, or going from a slave to a prime minister, or getting out of our boat and walking on the sea. Furthermore, the Book of Revelation is John’s account of being in God’s power and majesty (Rev. 15).

“We worship a dangerous God and He is coming to threaten every area of your life.  God is a loving God, do not be mistaken about that.  His love, however, is unlike any human love; its chief concern is not to make you comfortable, but to make you free and to be free is dangerous and the act of making us free is dangerous.” Joe Spann (and below)

electric-shockPlease don’t try to domesticate God.

He is wild and pretty much unpredictable– and we will not ever tame or teach Him. You can’t manage Him, or train Him to use a box. (He will defy this.) If we are truly going to draw close it will be like stepping into a spiritual reactor, or sticking a figurative nail into a metaphorical wall outlet.

“He is about to become dangerous to your everyday trappings, dangerous to your comfort, dangerous to your retirement plan, dangerous to your schedule, dangerous to your social standing, dangerous to your secrets, and dangerous to your religion. The good news is, He is also dangerous to your limits, dangerous to your fear, dangerous to your addictions, dangerous to your sickness, dangerous to your unforgiveness, dangerous to the chains that bind you chains that you have become way too comfortable with.”

The end result of this is that He wants to make you dangerous again; dangerous to your neighbors bondage, dangerous to the pain in the people around you, dangerous to the generations of abuse and pain in your family and the families you know, dangerous to the culture you are in every single day. And He wants to make us dangerous again. Dangerous to our neighborhoods, dangerous to our friends, dangerous to our culture, dangerous to the kingdom of darkness.”

I would like to make a toast, “May you see God as He is truly, and may you stick your nail into direct contact with Him. May you never settle for less, or want for anything more.” Amen.

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Nothing But Leaves [Self-Deceit]

“Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.”

Mark 11:13, NASB

Perplexing isn’t it?  I personally have lived with a certain amount of ambiguity with this passage.  I have questions that I’ve swept under the rug.  Why did that poor tree get cursed?  It wasn’t the trees fault, after all.  And didn’t Jesus realize this?  So why go through the theatrics?

I don’t know if this is the case with anyone else.  I hesitate to ask around.  But recently have come to a better place about this entire event.  The traditional view is that it comes immediately after “the cleansing of the temple” and that explains a lot.  The fig tree is always emblematic of Israel.  (The Old Testament is well populated with these references.) Mark adroitly organized his account in order to connect both events.

Jesus has no issues or vendettas against trees.  But He does take an issue with things that claim fruit, but really have nothing.  There is nothing but leaves. I’ve been told that the figs do grow, almost as fast as leaves.  The lush greenness is the prime indicator of the succulent fruit. At least, it has the potential.

The beautiful leaves announces its fruitfulness.  This tree was loaded, but had nothing to show but leaves.  Within God’s plan for Israel was for fruit.  Enough to feed the nations that would stream to Jerusalem.  Instead, it was worthless.  There was nothing to be had.  Loads of leaves, and the promise of an incredible harvest, but zilch, zero, nothing.

Hypocrisy is a deadening experience, with a certain sterility in it.  Israel was finding this out, and Jesus is now declaring it to the nation.  A corrupt temple, and a fruitless tree; this were all indicators of hypocrisy and showiness.  The luxuriant leaves loaded the tree, but ‘where’s the fruit?!’

Sometimes we declare that we are fruitful, on the mere basis of our leaves. 

At times we can be a wonder, and make an exceptional statement.  But when He comes, and looks up at our limbs and out to our branches, will He find fruit, or just lots of green?  Leaves are pretty much all we can do.  And we do it quite well. But the fruit is from the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22.)

Israel failed God.  They became religious and neglected mercy, and justice.  Humility and graciousness.  The widow and the orphan were not part of their personal equation.  They produced leaves by the wheelbarrow load, but were missing out on the authenticity to what was true, and what really mattered.

Pharisees will do this, and they turn into hypocrites who do not possess what they profess. A hypocrite values true godliness, but he personally falls short of all those things he admires. But he will never, ever admit it to anyone.  And even we who struggle so, must continually admit that we stumble and falter as we try to follow.

I may be a ‘screwy’ excuse of being a disciple, but I have decided I don’t want to deceive people.  God, help me.

“This year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour we expect from other people.”  

C.S. Lewis

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Making Pain Work for You, [Trials]

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“Then they went back to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in Pisidia. 22They encouraged the followers and begged them to remain faithful. They told them, “We have to suffer a lot before we can get into God’s kingdom.”

Acts 14:21-22, CEV

Paul and Barnabas, together are perhaps the most gifted men ever to minister the Gospel.  They have an amazing love for the Church.  They operate out of great difficulty, but the deep work they do, proceeds out of encouragement.  I looked at a dozen or so translations of the Bible–all of them translate this, “encouraged.”  Every single one!

Earlier in chapter 14, we can read about the brutality and ugliness they had to walk through.  It was very bad, beyond belief.  But these two never ever lose their love for the Lord, and for His people.  Their ministry continued to be full of optimism and comfort.  They simply can’t be poisoned by the nastiness and bitterness just days before.

They understand something.  What they have to say (as they minister that comfort) kind of boggles everyone’s thinking.

They said, “We must suffer many things to enter God’s kingdom.”

Comforting and strengthening, isn’t it?  Sometimes when I read this passage I can’t believe what they are saying!  It doesn’t make any sense at all.   I believe there are three things we must process to fully understand these verses.

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1)  What comforts us is not always comfortable.

 I’m slowly coming to the place of accepting pain and sickness as my personal doorway into the Lord’s kingdom.  I know my mental illness has opened an entrance into something wonderful.  My months of being institutionalized in different hospitals has seemed to have filled me with grace, gentleness and love–in other words, the kingdom. At least that is what I think.

2)  What we think is the best way often is not.

No one chooses one’s particular path.  If we could we would all be driving a BMW and our homes would be palaces, we would win the lottery on a regular basis.  Our children would be little angels.  We would never be sick, or have a chronic illness.  But–we can’t enter His kingdom, unless there are trials.  They have to be there, they must.  Somewhere it says,  if we suffer, we will reign.

3)  What we need from our elders and pastors is the truth.

 Often the leadership of the Church keeps this one in the closet.  They communicate very well other subjects that are enjoyable.  And we pressure them to do this, gently and subliminally of course.  And everyone wonders why we don’t mature in our faith.  Paul and Barnabas are tremendous leaders, but they don’t roll things in sugar, and their ministry carries on the sufferings of Jesus.

Often it seems, when God chooses to bless a man or a woman greatly, He will send a trial to prepare them deeply.

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Caving Into the Presence

 

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“Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.”

Hebrews 10:22

 I have never really understood “caving”.  Some consider it a sport, but I guess I really don’t see the athleticism of it.  People actually seem to derive some satisfaction and thrill from exploring muddy caves in the dark.  I guess I can try to grab the basic idea of it, but to me it’s a whole lot like “parachuting”.  Why jump out of a perfectly decent airplane, when you can sit in a Starbucks with a vanilla latte?  It doesn’t compute.

But there is a sense about caving that resonates with the hunger in a man’s or woman’s heart.  Hebrews tell us that we are to enter the presence of God.  The keys will be sincerity and trust.  In other words, a honesty, and a trust that will open up the passage.  Spiritual spelunkers in a quest for His glorOUCC-Cave-Climbingy.

Sometimes something will block a person.  Depression is a barrier for us.  Essentially it effects our passion and strength.  Our pursuit of God is nullified by the corrosive facets of depression and melancholy.  There is no longer any zip or zeal for His presence.  The fire of zeal we once had just fizzles out.  But to reach our goal, we need to squeeze beyond the blockage. There is a spiritual resistance.  Our infernal enemy is working against any progress.

So much involves patience and humility.  A person must continue to probe ahead but slowly and patiently, taking their time and monitoring their progress.  Humility is necessary.  An awareness of self and our dimensions in tight spots.  “Am I small enough to squeeze through that hole?”

Our scripture tells us that we have a key to the throne room of God.  Our guiltiness and our defiled conscience have both been cleansed or sanitized from anything that would corrupt us.  We haven’t done a thing.  And we are exhorted to be very bold.  Jesus has made us pure.  We are clean.

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