Mud Slinging

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Philippians 2:14-16 (NIV) Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

When I was a little girl, my family spent a great deal of time at the beach. My grandmother and I would sit on the edge of the surf where the water’s edge would almost reach us and the sand was wet to build sandcastles. It was there she taught me to create “drip” castles. Taking a handful of saturated sand, holding it up and letting it drip – you create a sandcastle by moving your hand around to create a monument. It almost resembles a mountain with tall peaks resembling turrets. I have been thinking lately if our words may be the very essence of some of the mountains in our life. Words thoughtlessly released or aimed directly at another that hardened into doubt or even offense. I wonder if the dripping sarcasm or biting dissatisfaction is weighting down the very thing that we are requesting the Lord to remove.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing” is a tall order. Our life is built around convenience, comfort and control. When one of these three are threatened, our pride and selfishness quickly work to construct the foundation as to not interrupt these “vital” necessities of life. Crying out to the Lord to move a mountain, but then firmly packing it in place with words thought to be idle and careless maybe just a release only to stand in frustration before the insurmountable thing which we cannot seem to overcome. What does your mountain look like? Is it made of grumbling, complaining and constant whining?

Pure and blameless” faith comes from a heart that is confident in God’s Salvation and Sovereignty. His Ability to now only save you but sustain you in life. Faith, even in the smallest measure, will move any mountain. I wonder if our faith is being choked out or suffocated by a barrage of worthless banter. If I am complaining about my life as a Child of God, I am telling the world that He is simply not enough. I am confirming their doubt that He is not a saving God full of unconditional love and amazing grace. I am actually feeding the darkness rather than creating new light.

You will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” Jesus is the Light of the world. The Light of the world now lives in us. Is He shining brightly today? Are you confident that He lives in you and works through you? Do you believe that the Lord is working every detail of your life for good as the Word of God tells us in Romans 8:28? Reading just a little further, are you confident that nothing can ever separate you from the Love of God and that you have overwhelming victory in Jesus Christ? See if we believed, our conversation would change. Our way of conversation would shine brightly with confidence that His Love is enough to overcome the mountain of doubt rather than constantly fortifying doubt with mud-slinging words and negative connotation. We give our God and His Son a bad reputation when our words and heart are out of alignment.

Luke 6:45 (NIV) A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

Jesus said, “I tell you that everyone will give account on the day of Judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” What is your daily conversation? Do you listen to the words coming out of your mouth each day? God does. He judges us for the abundance of idle and worthless words that are empty. God has filled us with good fruit. His Spirit gives us the ability and abundance to pour out for others. Love, joy, peace, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and, of course, self-control. Did you think it was for you? The generosity of God is poured into us to be released into the darkness of this world and fill it with the Light of His Love. To feed the hungry physically, emotionally and spiritually with the Word of our testimony. Seed left in the silo will not grow it must be put in fertile ground to grow, develop, mature and reproduce. What is your testimony today? In Revelation, it tells us that we overcome by the Blood of the Lamb AND the Word of our testimony? What are you saying about the Lord? Grumbling, complaining, and negativity are born of a hard heart that has not discovered the satisfaction born of faith and hope. Has fear, doubt and anxiety filled your heart with negativity and doubt?

Ephesians 4:29-32 (NIV)  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

“Do not let ANY unwholesome talk come out of your mouths…” It is my responsibility to monitor the words flowing from my lips. Fresh water cannot come from a salty or even stagnant pond. My words should build and not destroy. Build others up. Build my faith in God. Build a solid foundation of faith rather than adding weight the mountain I am trying to overcome. Faith-full words speak things not yet seen into existence welcoming God’s Spirit to do His Work, not grieving Him, but rather moving “me” out of the way. Bitterness is the root choking out the goodness God is doing in us and through us when we decide that His Word, Will or Way is not for us. It is absolutely for you. Faith makes the unseen hope we have a reality. It moves mountains of doubt out of the way so that we can become one with Christ enjoying all of His Benefits, Promises and Prosperity.

Psalm 19:14 (NIV) May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Today I must consider the conversations I will have and monitor closely my communication with others. Every word I speak is important as it tells of the contents of my heart. I have some mountains still to be removed. I have some doubt that must be washed away with the Word. When building drip castles on the beach, I did not see the significance of the lesson the Lord would teach me in that moment. “When I was a child, I talked like a child. I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man (woman), I put the ways of childhood behind me.” (I Corinthians 13:11)

My grandmother is in Heaven with Jesus now. I miss her every day. Soon it will be my turn to build drip castles on the beach with my grandson, I want my conversation be filled with faith that will build him into a mighty man of God – full of life and favor. I must first build that kind of heart in me. I cannot share a faith I do not own for it is not mine to give. My Gram introduced me to Jesus and I hope to have the same privilege with him one day building sandcastles on the beach. Until then, it is up to me to take captive every thought contrary to faith before it leaves my mouth and cast it back where it came from. To allow the Water of the Word to wash away fear and doubt just as high tide melts sandcastles along the beach. It is important in overcoming the fears, doubts and insecurities that compromise my faith and hinder my hope to take make sure my heart and mouth agree on a daily basis. It is no easy task but always well worth the effort. Mud-slinging words filled with complaining and grumbling feel way better leaving me but then harden into yet another weight keeping my mountain from budging an inch much less melting in the sea. We must put away childish conversation and speak the words of our Father each day.

Lord, let every word I speak be pleasing to you. Pull out every root of bitterness and plant a new seed of faith in the void left behind. Strengthen my heart and remind my soul that you are my confident hope. I have new life in you, Jesus and Your Promises are for me. I give You my heart, mind, soul and body to you again. Lord, use me and my words to bring You glory today. You are worthy of it all.

Revelation 12:10-12 (NIV) Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them!

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Stop, Drop and Roll

Stop Drop and Roll

James 3:2 (NLT) Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

I remember as a young child in school learning the technique of “stop, drop and roll” to extinguish a fire. Taught as part of health and safety, a nice fireman dressed in his gear instructed our second grade class on fire awareness. Part of his lesson was what to do if our clothing caught on fire – we were to stop, drop and roll. Consisting of three components as the name suggests, the first step is to stop. Stopping means to cease all movement which may fan the flames or even hamper those coming to one’s aid. Dropping to the ground, lying down and covering the face to avoid further injury. Finally, rolling on the ground in an effort to extinguish the fire by depriving it of oxygen. Even wrapping up in a rug if nearby to further put out any flames. I wonder if we might use the same techniques when putting out the fires started with harsh words and misunderstandings. Is it possible that stop, drop and roll might work in such conditions?

James 3:3-6 (NLT) We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.  

Recently, I have watched a beautiful friendship completely destroyed by careless words and misunderstanding. Burned to the ground as it spread through two families. I am praying for restoration, repair and rebuilding yet I cannot believe the absolute devastation. How many times to careless conversations, pointless debates or one-sided tirades destroy the beautiful harmony and unity that God has ordained for His People? Churches have literally split, divided and died from gossip, slander and malice among close friends now misaligned by the lie of the enemy who is the Father of Lies. Is it too late for grace? Oh man, I hope not. The Grace of God is always enough but like any other building the institution of relationship takes time to reconstruct. Trust is probably the hardest structure to build and maintain so once it is compromised it takes a committed effort by all to restore. How can something so small do so much damage? Why can’t we control our tongues? Why is our need to be right or defended so strong that pride keeps us from humbling our tongue and limiting our words to what is kind, necessary and true? Lord, help us today to examine our hearts, thoroughly inspect our thoughts, and completely control our tongue to bring glory to Your Great Name.

James 3:7-12 (NLT) People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.

The complexity of human nature and the war against our flesh makes the products of our lips sometimes uncertain. Romans 7 talks about the war between flesh and spirit that wages war within us. We want to do what is right and try to but still do what is wrong on a regular basis. The need for constant grace is clearly definitive in the simple truth that humans are imperfect and our weakness is sin. We can change our habits. We can modify our routine. We can educate our opinion. Yet in the final stages of release our words are on a mission – to give life or pronounce death. (Proverbs 18:21) To be imitators of God and follow the example of Jesus – there will be times to be silent. To stop talking, drop to our knees in humility and roll out the flames set by the harsh words, judgment or gossip of another. Jesus was completely innocent yet in the midst of His Accusers – our Savior and Lord set forth an example that we are to learn from – He said nothing. (Matthew 27:11-14; Acts 8:32) This fulfilled the prophecy about our Lord and did not further fuel arguments. It would not hinder His Walk to the Cross. In order to fulfill God’s Destiny for our life and walk in His Ways, sometimes that means walking away from a fight right to preserve the relationship or to say, “I’m sorry” even when the offense was against you. The point is to continue to follow Jesus and not be detoured by dysfunction by the lie of the enemy. We need each other despite what the liar has said.

Psalm 34:12-14 (NLT) Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous?  Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies! Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

Perhaps these verses might be labeled the “stop, drop and roll” instructions when it comes to our words. Do you want to live a long and prosperous life? I dare say no one reading this will say, “No” or “I’ll pass” but rather every day it is our goal to live in the promises and prosperity set forth in God’s Word according to the blessings prescribed for us. The scripture is clear. STOP your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Pretty straight forward but not always easy. It is important to think about what we say and how we say it. Being right doesn’t always result in righteousness. It is up to us to condition our heart and soften it with God’s Word. This will change how we think and respond to other people. We must be quick to forgive and stop the progression of bitterness within us that turns into malicious conversation. DROP – Turn away from evil and do good. Repentance is essential in transforming our communication with others. Sometimes we can do nothing more than make things right with the Lord and pray for a severed relationship until the other party softens and accepts you again. Humility brings agreement to a growing, prospering and thriving relationship. As harmony is established and unity maintained the Lord blesses both parties and creates a living flow between them. Is it really worth limiting our godly potential to allow separation to build walls that block His Prosperity in our heart and life? I don’t think so. Finally, ROLL – grace teaches us how to let things roll off of us like water off a duck’s back. We must learn to overlook the careless conversation and decide to love them anyway. We must be the one to extinguish the passionate flames of fear and insecurity that feed our pride. We give power to the words of others in our life and the same words meant to harm us can free us when grace is applied and forgiveness given or received. I want the power of God to be a daily experience all around me. I want love as strong as death to overtake me and filter into every relationship established in my life. To search for peace and maintain it means giving up my way to Christ and others daily. It doesn’t really matter if they hurt my feelings or break my heart. I am called to love them. I am ordained to live in harmony with all my brothers and sisters not just the ones of my choosing.

James 3:17-18 (NLT) But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

I am grieved literally sad in my spirit over the friendship recently destroyed by the enemy. I believe in the Resurrection Power of God that gives new life. As I pray for this friendship, maybe there is a family member or friend that you know of where there is distance in what was a close bond. The enemy hates relationships. He hates when people love each other. Daily satan sows seeds of offense and hurt hoping someone will take hold of them. It is up to you and me plant seeds of peace and reap the harvest of righteousness. It will take effort. You cannot sit idly by when it comes to the words used or conversation allowed. We must take the burden of repentance and give grace even when it is not deserved. There is seldom a disagreement where both parties did not hold their ground. Reconciliation takes both sides coming together as one. Our common ground is Jesus Christ. His Grace is enough for me today and you, too. We can live in love with others because His Love completes us. People are not perfect, but they are not the problem either. In fact, they are the key to a prospering, productive and long life. Praying for the full restoration of my broken friendship today. Can I join with you in doing the same? Let’s pray for protection over our relationships today and that the Spirit of God will tame our tongue.

Proverbs 17:27-28 (NLT) A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.

A Covenant Life

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Hebrews 12:14-15 (NLT) Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.

Nothing creates division or conflict faster than politics and religion. I avoid both subjects completely when working and socializing due to the usual outcome. Conflict is not the lifestyle of the godly. Our thoughts, ideas, morals and ethics may not be the same as our brothers and sisters in Christ or the world, it is not important that I am right as that I am Light. Living at peace with God promotes unity and is pleased by harmony among all mankind. We have only one enemy. He comes in many shapes and sizes even using people to do his dirty work. However, righteousness offers freedom that ends arguments and overcomes conflict. I have always told my kids that it takes two to tango. Ending an argument is as easy as walking away and choosing not to engage in it. It is important to pick and choose battles. Conflict must end in covenant for the godly to experience fullness of life. Why is living with others so much work? It is a prerequisite to living a holy life. We must look after each other or risk receiving grace. If I am not gracious and forgiving to others, the same is withheld from me. Bitterness has a price. It robs us of God’s Glory shining bright in us. We must learn to overcome pride and pursue peace at all cost.

Genesis 26:12-15 (NLT) When Isaac planted his crops that year, he harvested a hundred times more grain than he planted, for the Lord blessed him. He became a very rich man, and his wealth continued to grow. He acquired so many flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and servants that the Philistines became jealous of him. So the Philistines filled up all of Isaac’s wells with dirt. These were the wells that had been dug by the servants of his father, Abraham.

To set the scene, there is a famine in Gerar, the land of the Philistines like the time of Abraham. (26:1) The Lord tells Isaac not to go to Egypt but remain in the land as a foreigner reminding him of the covenant between God and his father, Abraham. So Isaac stayed. When the men noticed Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, and her beauty fearfully he lied telling them she was his sister. However, King Abimelech called out Isaac on his ruse instructing all the men to stay away from his wife or risk the wrath of God. (26:7-11) So there is already bad blood between Isaac and his neighbors.

The bitterness only grew worse when Isaac planted in famine and harvested abundantly. The Philistines reacted to his sudden wealth and unexplainable prosperity by filling up his wells with dirt. (26:15) The king decided to kick Isaac and his family out of his country. (26:16) So Isaac moved on and reopened the wells his father, Abraham had dug. In addition, he opened a new well discovering fresh water. The shepherds of Gerar claimed it to be their water so Isaac named the well – Esek which means argument. (26:20) So his men went and dug yet another well, but again there was a dispute over it so he named it – Sitnah which means hostility. (26:21) Abandoning that well, he dug another one. There was no dispute over this well so Isaac named it Rehoboth which means open space. He said, “At last the Lord has created enough space for us to prosper in this land.” (26:22)

Genesis 26:23-25 (NLT) From there Isaac moved to Beersheba, where the Lord appeared to him on the night of his arrival. “I am the God of your father, Abraham,” he said. “Do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you. I will multiply your descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will do this because of my promise to Abraham, my servant.” Then Isaac built an altar there and worshiped the Lord. He set up his camp at that place, and his servants dug another well.

Overcoming conflict, arguments, and hostility maintained the Blessing of Abraham on Isaac’s life. When conflict arose, Isaac simply moved on. Not once, but over and over again. The Lord spoke to Isaac reminding him that there was no reason to fear. God was with him as he remained in right standing with God by overcoming conflict in his life. Isaac had every right to fight for the wells his men dug and defend his righto the water flowing from them. He didn’t. He walked away from conflict choosing covenant over conflict will produce prosperity in our life every time. It is by faith in believing that God our Father will meet and exceed our expectation that allows us to stop fighting for our rights and walk away from conflict to maintain our covenant with Jesus Christ.

Genesis 26:26-29 (NLT) One day King Abimelech came from Gerar with his adviser, Ahuzzath, and also Phicol, his army commander. “Why have you come here?” Isaac asked. “You obviously hate me, since you kicked me off your land.” They replied, “We can plainly see that the Lord is with you. So we want to enter into a sworn treaty with you. Let’s make a covenant. Swear that you will not harm us, just as we have never troubled you. We have always treated you well, and we sent you away from us in peace. And now look how the Lord has blessed you!”

Isaac’s commitment to covenant rather than embracing conflict allowed him to have great influence over King Abimelech and the people of Philistine. The same ones who threw his family out of their country came seeking a covenant with him. By choosing to embrace our covenant more than pride offers us influence in this life that bickering and bitterness never allow. “That very day Isaac’s servants came and told him about a new well they had dug. “We’ve found water!” they exclaimed. So Isaac named the well Shibah (which means “oath”). And to this day the town that grew up there is called Beersheba (which means “well of the oath”).” (26:32-33)

Galatians 3:26-29 (NLT) For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.

Jesus Christ brought us the new covenant. The old covenant made complete by His Sacrifice for sin. We have but one new law to live by. Love. “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35) How does Christ define love? “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) What is love? “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (I Corinthians 13:4-7) Love is not lust. Love is not emotional. Love is messy. Love is hard. Love is a commitment. Is the life that I live demonstrative of true, real and authentic love as defined in God’s Word? Does the world know me by my talk, walk or religion? Or are they fascinated by my love and commitment to others? Conflict has no place in covenant. If we are in covenant with Christ, it means the end to all conflict. Pride must be crucified in covenant. Covenant is the end of self to choose a new union. Those who believe have entered a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. This covenant should be evident in every attitude and action in life. The life of the godly is full of light and joy, but the light of the wicked will be snuffed out. Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise.” (Proverbs 13:9-10)

2 Timothy 2:1-6 (NLT) I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For, there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.  He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.

Conflict usually stems from pride. Pride is a faith stealer and joy killer. It tells us that our expectation will not be met if fully reliant on Jesus Christ. It gives us an inner need to be right. God didn’t tell us to change the world. He called us to be Light that shines in the darkness that draws people to the Love of God fully expressed in our life. Conflict leads to dysfunction, division and death. It is not enough to forgive and forget. We must remain in covenant with all mankind to be firmly established as God’s People. This begins at home and also includes friendships, work, and church. Disputes do not honor God. They place our faith in someone or something else to satisfy, bless or prosper our life. Complete unity with Jesus Christ makes Him the Mediator of the new covenant in life. It means when I am wronged, hurt, abused, betrayed, lied about, disregarded, ignored or put out that He is all I need to forgive every offense, hurt and devastation because He is enough. He is more than enough. When I reconcile my life to Jesus Christ the result is peace with God and mankind. All people. The good, the bad, the ugly. I am free to love without expectation because I am fully loved.

Ephesians 4:1-4 (NLT) Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.

My husband and I have been married a long, long time. The early years were tough. Marriage is work. It is the commitment to love one another until death. Those years included some knockdown drag out fights, loud arguments, and many disagreements – but our covenant of marriage meant that after the dust settled and tempers cooled coming back together and working it out. You cannot ignore these issues or they become roots of bitterness that rise up and overtime will suffocate love. We chose to honor our covenant more than our feelings or need to be right. There were times when forgiveness was not based on agreement but commitment. Our marriage to Christ partners us with Him and secures our membership in His Body. To live a life worthy of such, we must live a life worthy of our calling. It doesn’t matter how much we do, how loud we preach, how right we are, how committed we seem, or how devout our church life – if we do not learn to love each other choosing covenant relationships over conflicted emotions – our light will go out. A marriage cannot survive when threatened by pride. Each must give up their way to pursue one way. The same is the truth of the Body of Christ. If the members of a church meet in agreement, forgive one another, and establish healthy godly relationships – how can we every become disciples of Christ who love completely, fearlessly, selflessly and sacrificially as Christ first loved us? Thank you Jesus for new mercy that allows me do-overs when I mess up or miss it. Lord, teach me to love like you do. Show me the way. Examine my heart and remove all pride and bitterness by covering it in Your Blood and washing it with Your Word today. Thank you Jesus for this new covenant. Lord, I want to live a covenant life. Teach me to always choose covenant over conflict so Your Spirit may move freely through my life. Show me the way! I want to experience Your Glory and be the Light called Love that attracts others (all others) to You!

Psalm 133:1-3 (NLT) How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.

Eat My Words

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Luke 6:44-45 (NLT) A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thorn bushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

One of the perks of the holidays in our office are the many gift baskets and plethora of food sent to us by our clients. Breakfast is catered. Gift baskets carrying many delicious delicacies. One sent a case of chocolate covered strawberries although I am not sure that we have been that good this year. Digging into the boxes, there were a variety of berries large and small covered in milk chocolate rolled in chocolate chips, white chocolate rolled in sprinkles and more chocolate drizzled in with red and green frosting. The presentation was perfect. Carefully packaged to maintain their appearance. Packed with ice packs to stay fresh and keep their form. Such temptation could not be avoided. Biting into the first one it was so sweet and rich the chocolate melting in your mouth followed by the ripe, sweet strawberry. It was heavenly. So much so that I had to try just one more. The covering just as yummy as the first one, but the berry inside was sour and disgusting. Soft and nasty – it was beginning to rot ruining the experience entirely. I had to get it out of my mouth.

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart. What is the production of my heart that is flowing from my mouth? What is the flavor of my lips? When speaking to others, is it life or death? Do I nourish their soul or condemn their life? Our words reflect the cultivation and production of God’s Word in our heart. Barren conversation filled with gossip and bitterness only signifies a lack of growth and prosperity. When I have a tough piece of meat like a London broil, I usually take a meat tenderizer that looks like a torture device and plunge it into the cut of meat over and over again. This separates the muscle from the meat. Those veins of marrow they cause tough gristle to form is torn and severed by the sharp points as they pierce it. Afterwards I take the manhandled piece of beef and I marinate it not only to infuse flavor but to soften the meat so it is edible and delicious. After a while, I cook it at the right temperature for the right amount of time and it becomes a delicious meal. Hear me men and women of God. Hear me woman of God. Our words require no less. Our heart must be tenderized and marinated to produce the words that God desires of us. To present the message of the Gospel it must be covered in love and presented with perfection. I wonder could I eat my words today. Would they be palatable?

Psalm 19:14 (NLT) May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

“I am a sinner. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Caught up in words, tangled in lies” (Brokenness Aside) I love this song. I can identify with it completely. I AM a sinner. Though I try and try I still sin every single day. I used to think being a Christian and growing in Christ meant rising above sin and living a better life. What it really means in drowning in His Grace every single day in humility at the realization that apart from being totally absorbed in the Lord – I am desperately lost every day. One sin would have nailed Jesus to the Cross just the same. I think this is forgotten by those who know their Savior more than one day. To rid one’s life of certain sins means nothing. You and I are still sinners just as much as the one who comes in to church reeking like the club and accidentally throws a free drink ticket into the offering plate rather than the dollar they were digging for. The only difference is that I believe the one who was out last night is more honest than the prideful one condemning them one row over.

After enduring a season where lies, rumors and hurtful words cut to the heart of one of my children, I should not have been surprised to hear the rumor mill begin to stir about another. One would only hope that in the aftermath of hurt, separation and bitterness – Christians, believers, leaders, teachers, members and congregations would learn that words are power. Words will infuse life in a church or tear it down person by person. Not the case, hurtful words about others who need the Lord and are in the constant prayers of others. Torn apart and judged only because in this particular instance you made a better choice. Shame on you. Shame on me. Shame on us. The cancer of the church is found in conversations filled with words like “bless their heart” and “I will pray for them” only trying to disguise gossip and insecure people who think Heaven is earned and grace is not enough.

Do the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart reflect the Love I have been given and the Grace that I have received? What makes you or I more deserving of God’s Grace, Love and Favor than anyone else walking on the planet? He loves us all exactly the same. The one who is working and striving to build the Kingdom must never think it is okay to tear a single person down or condemn one of their choices without refuting God’s Word that promises He will work every detail out for those who love Him. The more I know Jesus and spend time in His Word the more I realize that there is nothing that I can do to earn His Love or deserve His Grace. I am a sinner. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

Caught up in words. Tangled in lies. Women by virtue of numbers, it is our distinction to speak about 10,000 words a day – some more and seldom less. What am I saying? Do my words build others up? Do they tear them down? It doesn’t matter WHO we tell them to – it is what we release in the atmosphere. Have you heard of acid rain? Water is drawn into the sky and forms rain. If the source is tainted, it becomes acid rain that moves in a cloud and kills whatever it is released upon. We get caught in our words. We get tangled in lies. Have you ever heard the expression “enough rope to hang yourself”? Well…the enemy convinces us that our words don’t matter. Or even that because we add something like “bless their heart” or “I need you to pray for” that it somehow changes gossip to gospel. It doesn’t. I promise you that what is spoken in darkness will make its way into the light.

Proverbs 26:22-26 (NLT) Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart. Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot. People may cover their hatred with pleasant words, but they’re deceiving you. They pretend to be kind, but don’t believe them. Their hearts are full of many evils. While their hatred may be concealed by trickery, their wrongdoing will be exposed in public.

Have you ever wondered why your ministry is not growing? Why prayers for revival are not answered? Could it be that our words are not cultivating seeds of faith? Maybe it is our overflow of senseless and thoughtless words that is quenching the fire? Rumors kill churches if entertained. People are the Kingdom. Build up the people and churches will grow. Tear down sinners and there will be no one left. I wonder what might happen if we removed all the stages and platforms from church buildings. What if all church leaders and teachers were stripped of titles and there was no one left to cater to their office? What if the pastors in our congregations would be simple shepherds with a rod for instruction and a staff to guide with humility, gentleness, grace and love? Would the Holy Spirit do the rest? Could we trust God’s to take the Word and by His Spirit change hearts and lives?

Our pastors cannot lead churches and build the Kingdom because their schedule is full of appointments mediating members and settling issues with their leaders. Our congregations are caught up in words and tangled in lies. Rumors have sunk into hearts and killed those who came to be saved. Not able to live up to our standards, they thought that Jesus required the same. No love. No problem. I will just sleep in on Sunday. Oh, how I love sleep. Christianese covers the death sentences dealt behind doors and when we think no one else is listening. I do not want to be a glazed pot. Beautiful on the outside but worthless on the inside. I do not want my heart to deceive and my words to deal death. Lord, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit. I do not want to be part of the death and destruction of others but offer life in every conversation.

I John 3:1-2 (NLT) See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. 

I have five beautiful children. I have some who live to please me and maintain a right relationship with me at all times. I have others who must test every boundary and find their own way. They argue among themselves that I have favorites. I let them think what they want. The truth of the matter is that I love them all the same. I would lay down my life in second for any one of them without a moment’s hesitation. They are my children not because they make good choices or do the right thing. They are my children. (Period) When will we realize as individuals that this is the Heart of God for His People? We cannot build a Kingdom until it is understood that there is absolutely no condemnation in Jesus Christ. It is by His Grace that we are saved by faith in Him alone. We are family. Equals. Brothers and sisters no matter what because it is His Will and His Plan.

Religion is man’s way of seeking after God. God wants us to establish a relationship with His Son, Jesus. Once this is accomplished, Jesus tells us to create the same connection with everyone else. How are we doing? Not very well…no revival means no relationship. Early believers did not have time to tear each other apart because of their relationship and unity revival broke with thousands coming to Christ at a time. It can happen. It will happen. Are you willing to take a long hard look at your heart? Do you think it might be possible to go to those you have condemned with words and ask for forgiveness? Is it even thinkable to exalt another before our pride today and overcome insecurity to establish a bond with others? If we can’t get it right in our families, friendships and congregations…why would He give us nations? Why would He send our community? Why spark revival that will quickly be drowned in worthless words? Where the Spirit of the Lord there is freedom. Don’t get caught up in words and tangled in lies. Speak life today. Speak love. Give them Jesus in every conversation. And for goodness sake, if you have nothing nice to say…say nothing at all.

Colossians 4:6 (NLT)  Let your conversation be gracious and attractive[a]so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Heart Failure

heart-failure

Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV) Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Really? Forgive as I forgave you. Come on Lord, you know what they did! Forgive as I have forgiven you…Okay fine. The conversation in my mind continues to go in circles. What happens when you want to forgive but can’t seem to find it in your heart? Or when the offender doesn’t have any remorse and continues in their plight? What then? We must forgive them anyway. I know not as easy as it sounds even to the “best” Christian. There are many perceived enemies and threats all around you in any given day but people are not one of them. We may call them our enemy but really they are our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Sibling rivalry is raising a ruckus in the Kingdom and will continue to cause division as long as we don’t really dig down in our heart and find the faith to forgive others as God has forgiven us through Jesus Christ. I am guilty of unforgiveness. Clothing myself as a Child of the Living God includes compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, of course, but without forgiveness I exempt myself from God’s Grace, Mercy and Love. We cannot withhold that which God so graciously gives us and think to become one of His Kingdom. Unfortunately…or maybe fortunately it just doesn’t work that way.

Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV) Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

In Matthew 18, Jesus shares a parable with Peter concerning forgiveness to reinforce the importance of forgiveness. A king decided to settle accounts with his servants. A servant was brought to him that owed him a significant amount of gold. The servant begged and pleaded with the kind promising that if he would patient with him that the servant would pay it all back. The king let him go. The servant was wicked and grabbed one of his fellow servants who owed him less than what he owed the king demanding immediate repayment. But when this servant begged to be allowed time to pay it back, the wicked servant refused to do to his peer what the kind had done for him throwing the man in prison. When the king heard the news, he had the wicked servant apprehended, thrown in jail and tortured until the debt was repaid in full. The parable concludes with this verse – “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35)

Forgiveness is a matter of the heart. It has nothing to do with being right or being wrong. It is not contingent on the repentance or repayment of the offender but rather a release of real estate in our heart for the Lord to fill with more of His Grace, Mercy and Love. It is uncomfortable to learn that when you think you have it all together in God that He allows us to be shaken a bit so that voids may be discovered in our life. I am a forgiving person when it comes to me. Maybe it is because I know who I am and what I have done and how much I need God’s Grace. However, there is always more that I need to learn and the Lord is faithful to teach me those things. I share this with you from the bottom of my heart which clearly needs just a little more love.

Recently my mother had open heart surgery, I have spent time with her as she recovered. A home health nurse indicated on a visit that she could hear a slight rattle in mom’s right lower lung. This is of note in a patient especially a heart patient because that could indicate fluid in their chest which can lead to congestive heart failure. If fluid builds up around your heart, it can keep the heart from pumping blood through the body sufficiently. As the pumping power is affected, the body will begin to show symptoms of distress such as shortness of breath, swelling, fatigue which will worsen over time until there is irregular heartbeat and chest pain, etc. The next day I took my mother to get an x-ray. Walking into the clinic, she indicated that she felt weak, tired and a bit short of breath. This would not be alarming if it was part of her continued recovery but up until that day she was slowly increasing her activity so I became alarmed. The radiologist showed her some fluid built up in her chest. The nurse called that evening but did not address the fluid so I asked her about it including running down the symptoms that I was seeing as mom lay in her chair becoming weaker throughout the day. Within minutes, she called back with a whole list of doctor’s orders to address what now appeared to be the early stages of pneumonia. God is so good! Within 24 hours mom was recovering quite nicely.

I share this to story with you today because we must pay careful attention to the signs and symptoms of unforgiveness in our life. It will begin to manifest things in us that are not Christ like. To forgive another person from our heart opens our life up to harm again so it is human nature to forgive but never forget. This impacts our heart and ability to love others as the Lord has instructed us to. I am guilty. During the time with my mom, there was a situation with our daughter that has caused great heartache and division between us and people who we love. Now a week or so later, I am struggling to find forgiveness in my heart. I can forgive and pretend to move on but I must forgive as Jesus has forgiven me to insure that my heart stays healthy and in tune with Him. It’s funny how I can forgive people for hurting me but mess with my kids and mama bear comes out. Well, I cannot live in unforgiveness and in the Kingdom of God as well.

Matthew 6:12-15 (NIV) And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Half of the Lord’s Prayer is about forgiveness. This tells me two things – it is a high priority to God and it is probably one of the number one temptations to His People. Forgiveness is an act of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience because if fully demonstrates the love, grace and mercy demonstrated on the Cross. We are to love one another. More importantly, we are to love our enemies. (Matthew 5:43-48) The world loves its family and friends. It chooses to hate those who are perceived as enemies. Jesus has commanded, not suggested, us to love other people as He has loved us. How are you doing with that? Our heart must grasp the power of loving those who are unlovable and even those who cause hurt, offense, and brokenness just as much as our friends and family. It begins with forgiveness. Who do you ignore? Who have you written off? Who has real estate in your heart today that belongs to Jesus? Just as fluid will cause the heart to stop functioning properly and lead to death, so will unforgiveness if we do not deal with it properly.

Luke 6:37-38 (NIV) “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

I need, want and desire all of God’s Love, Grace and Mercy in full operation in my life. Now that my mom has had her heart “fixed”, she must observe a heart smart diet. She must change certain habits and modify what she eats to keep her heart healthy. We are the same when it comes to love, grace and mercy in our life. If mom goes back to eating a high sodium and high fat diet, she will likely end up in the same condition as before as her heart will not be properly cared for. It is up to my mom to make life changes to accommodate her heart. We must do the same. The world will justify hurt and unforgiveness. After all doesn’t the saying go, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”? How many times must I forgive seventy times seven? Really God? Absolutely. The Lord will give me the same amount of love, grace and mercy that I give to others not based on their offenses but compared to His Great Affection for me. I am to love others as He has loved me.

2 Corinthians 2:5-11 (NIV) If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

Has someone caused you grief? Are you offended? Are you done? The closer a person is to you the deeper the cut when they come against you. I understand this completely. Several years ago, I was struggling with unforgiveness toward someone. I wanted to just become indifferent about them. You know act like they did not exist. As I prayed for the Lord to calm my heart and forgive me for my attitude, a question popped into my head. “What if you are the only person praying for them?” Think about that. Could it be that the scheme of the enemy is to get us to write people off in our heart and mind so that we will not pray for them much less love them? The Lord’s Prayer says, “Lead us not into temptation…” The enemy wants to cause bitterness, strife and division in every relationship where a Christian believer is present. It sabotages the Kingdom work and stops revival when relationship are interrupted in such a way. We must live in a surrendered state of forgiveness because it allows His Grace to be sufficient for me. Unforgiveness implies that Christ’s Work on the Cross was not enough to cover every offense. It was enough for me. I must extend to others. All others. I need the overflowing love and mercy of God in my life every single day. I will not allow the enemy to stop it with unforgiveness which always leads to heart failure.

John 13:34-35 (NIV) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Missing Communication

miscommunicaton

I John 1:1-4 (NLT) We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.

Communication is essential in maintaining a relationship. In an age distanced by texting and social media, friends and family go long periods of time without ever speaking to the other person. I am not at all of the opinion that anything God created was bad. All these technological advances were given as a thought or idea to someone for our benefit. Though “I am allowed to do anything, not everything is good for me. I am allowed to do anything but not everything is beneficial” or so the Word of God says. (I Corinthians 10:23) As believers our communication is very important for we speak life. Audibly – the Breath of Life in us travels to the atmosphere and people around us. We have the Word of Life within us. There was nothing of form in the universe until God spoke. The first thing that He created was light. I believe it is God’s Will and Way to improve our communication for His Glory and to manifest His Power on the earth.

Communication involves two components – to speak and to listen. These two things are absolutely necessary to avoid miscommunication in life and love. However, most of the time people talk to be heard and avoid listening altogether. What we say reveals the contents of our heart and so does the way that we listen. Listening is not always about us. It doesn’t always matter if we believe what the other person is saying or how they perceive a situation. We have but one perspective. It is love. The Lord is instructing His Children today to improve our communication or chaos will continue to erode the church.

Luke 6:43-45 (NLT) “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thorn bushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”

Our words reveal the contents of our heart. The way that we listen reveals the condition of our heart as well. I can say all the right words. Christians have a language and dialect all their own. It has been widely broadcast but there is no harvest in sight yet. Why? We open prayer lines, message boards, and offer altar calls with the promise that someone will listen and offer assistance to others in need. Where is the change? Could it be there is still miscommunication in the midst of our good intentions? I believe there may be. I know that a serious discussion conducted by text message usually leads to disagreement caused by misunderstanding. Hearsay most of the time never sounds as it was intended. We are saying all the right things. We pretend to be interested in the hearts and lives of others. Jesus, you are the Word of Life given to us to share with to illuminate darkness and bring dead things back to life. Why is that happening?

A tree is identified by its fruit – not its root, trunk or leaves. Fruit is fulfillment of purpose and determines the prosperity of our life. The seeds that produce a tree are planted in the ground. They must die to their current form to give life to the tree. It is a sacrifice of self. It is reformation. It is transformation and change. The human heart is a vile and despicable thing bent on its own way. It is deceitful. A change of heart is produced by Jesus Christ. His Word is the seed of our heart that takes root and gives form to our purpose in this life. Without the Word, nothing useful will grow from our interactions with others. Seed gets overtaken by many things – it is plucked up by the enemy, eaten up by distractions and when it falls on a hard heart cannot grow. We must pay close attention to the condition of our heart to communicate effectively. Our ability to speak to others and listen to them as Christ would have us to is based on perception and the condition of our heart used to do so.

I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT) If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

I am hesitant to engage in public speaking. The Lord has been nudging me more and more to do so but I am a bit apprehensive. People immediately judge us according to our words and actions. Perception is everything! We are called to walk by faith and not by sight but to be real for a moment we react more than we respond. If I could speak every language on earth, there would still be miscommunication because our hearts are not aligned as one. Every word ever spoken comes from our heart and every word ever heard is evaluated there. We must speak AND listen in love.

I Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT) Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

What if every word spoken was wrapped in love and every word heard considered in love? What would happen? Communication God’s Way is always about love. It is about forgiveness. It is patient and kind. It is not jealous, boastful, proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable. It keeps no record of wrongdoing or the expectation is in man not the Lord. Love never gives up. Love never loses faith. Love is always hopeful. Love endures every circumstance. What if we considered everything we say and hear according to love? It could change the world. Walls would come down. Doors would be opened. Chains would fall off with unforgiveness, offenses and heart. The brokenhearted would feel the Presence of God and His Spirit carefully healing wounded hearts and crushed spirits. It wouldn’t matter if we were right. Irrelevant if everyone agreed because love would prevail again.

I am considering giving up texting people altogether. There are days when I don’t even want to speak in fear of miscommunication. Our preconceived notions of life and love must give way to the Love of God and His Light to illuminate the breakdown in earthly communication that erects barriers limiting the outpouring from Heaven that God has for us. We cannot be offended. We must forgive. We must speak life to one another. We must stop taking every word spoken and heard making it about us and focus our thoughts on Jesus Christ who is Love. Love never gives up and never loses faith. We cannot lose faith in other people. We must love one another.

Philippians 2:1-2 (NLT) Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

How will the Body of Christ ever become effective if it cannot agree? If every word spoken is misinterpreted and every word heard applied to self, how can we ever get past ourselves to move together for the Kingdom? I am just as guilty as the next person of miscommunication. I get wrapped up in what others say and think about me sometimes more than I should. I apply the actions and attitudes of others to my thoughts rather than fixing my thoughts on the Word of God and His Promises. The life choices of others do not impact or impede my life and ability to love unless I allow it. My heart and mind must be given to Jesus Christ day by day and moment by moment to be led by love alone. Believers are called to agree wholeheartedly. We are to love each other. It is our duty to work together with one mind and purpose which will always mean putting myself behind the Lord and other people. This is how prosperity becomes our way of life as our soul prospers in Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 1:5-6 (NLT) Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles.

Matthew 13:12 (NLT) To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.

The more I know the Lord, the less I know. Being saved would be a whole lot easier if people were not involved. The more personalities and individual perceptions the less likely agreement will be unless as a body we decide to give up always being right, preserving our feelings, withholding forgiveness to love like Jesus did. He loved others completely and met their needs unconditionally – yet they hated him. Love has grown cold and sin is rampant but it is not supposed to be that way in the church. We are to be like-minded. With one heart and one mind pursuing Jesus Christ together. How can we get anywhere if we do not agree? Each wanting our own way – we are at a standstill. Wise people identify their need for more understanding. Those with understanding know they need additional guidance. We have the Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit create in me a clean heart today. Your Word for my life in Ezekiel promises me a “new heart” and I receive it today in Jesus Name. Renew in me a right spirit. One that is ready to bend and give way to love always. Remove any bitterness, unforgiveness and malice that is hidden there. When I reach the edge of my love for other people, extend it. Break my heart for other people again, Lord. Make me a good communicator. Jesus, help me to speak life from a heart filled with you and listen through the love and grace you have given me. I need you today, Lord, to be a good speaker, good listener and good communicator. Most of all Jesus make me a good lover of all people.

Reach out to someone today. If there has been a breach in communication, work to rebuild and repair it. Speak to one another. Listen to each other. Liberally apply grace to your relationships today especially those strained. It is probably nothing more than miscommunication but left unaided it will create restrictions and barriers in our life that keep the outpouring of heaven from reaching our homes, jobs and churches. One heart. One mind. One purpose. It really doesn’t leave much room for me anymore.

Psalm 51:10-15 (NLT) Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you. Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you.

Well, Shut My Mouth

Well, Shut My Mouth

Shut My Mouth

March 31, 2016

 

Philippians 2:14-16 (NIV)

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 

 

Do everything without grumbling or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure Children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Grumble. Complaining. Arguing. Backbiting. Gossip. All these things are faith stealers and joy killers yet we get sucked in day by day as the dissatisfaction of the surrounding world seeps into our lives, churches, homes and hearts. There are days when I ask the Holy Spirit to put His Hand over my mouth as I feel words not worthy of my salvation and the grace that I have received rising up within me. I was not necessarily born with a filter. I usually speak what is on my mind. It has taken fifty years of growth to mature to the point that most of the time I actually think about my words and the power that they hold before I speak them rather than casting them carelessly around with total disregard. So today…forgive me. The Lord and I are dealing with my words so bear with me. My boast is in the Lord and when my words reflect anything other than the love, faith, hope, joy and peace that I have in Jesus – it is time to find to shut my mouth.

 

Ephesians 4:29-32 (NIV)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

 

Unwholesome talk. We cannot a lot it. Every single word that we speak releases something in the atmosphere. Every word even whispered is heard by the enemy who knows our heart at that moment because from the abundance of our heart words come tumbling out. Sometimes I think the Holy Spirit intentionally allows us to say what’s on our mind so we can see what He is dealing with. Perhaps then and only then, we can rip out the roots of bitterness, unforgiveness, anxiety, fear and stress that keep us from accomplishing Kingdom Goals and fulfilling God’s Perfect Plan for our redeemed life.

 

Get rid of ALL rage, anger, brawling, slander, and every other form of malice. What about righteous anger? Who are we “allowed” to be mad at? To be angry with someone and sin not is a tall order. Our nature is retaliation but to rid ourselves of all malice means that we must be kind and compassionate applying grace to all human situations and every person that we meet. So who are we going to be mad at now? The enemy. Do you really think the team who wins the Super Bowl, Word Series or Grand Prix gives a second thought to the team who loses or comes in second? No, they are celebrating victory. Celebrating together, praising their sponsors (who in our case is Jesus). They are not concerned with anything except the fact that they won! We win. Jesus overcame the world. Now if we can just overcome our doubt…

 

Complete confidence in Jesus Christ will change our heart and mind, as well as our attitude and actions. But here is the thing that cuts to my core today, religion changes our actions a lot of times but only a relationship with Jesus will change our attitude. As a reminder, we tend to be a hardhearted and stiff-necked generation. No matter how strong and victorious we are living in the Favor of God – there is that one Jezebel that sends us running to the cave like Elijah. No weapon formed against us can prosper. Christ is victorious. I heard a verse in a song say that “He borrowed the tomb for three days.” Our words can build walls around our heart and introduce things to our mind not of God. These things take root and become prisons keeping us from walking fully and freely in the Favor of God that is given to His Children. If the Lord can speak through a donkey and shut the mouths of lions, He can shut my mouth, too.

 

Matthew 15:10-14 (NIV)

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth that is what defiles them.” Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

 

Jesus listens when we speak. He knows our heart condition already yet still listens because each word will be placed before us for accountability. Of course, God looks for Truth. Truth covered in love that is. Isn’t that what He did for us? He took the truth about us and covered it in His Blood and Grace. There are many doctrines and religions that tell us what to do and how to live. However churches are often the breeding ground of contempt. Why? We know better. If our mission in this world is for Heaven to come down and touch the earth sparking a revival and if our goal is true discipleship, there is no place for our opinion. It is all about God’s Love and the Truth – Jesus Christ.

 

Does every single word I speak point to Jesus Christ? Does it turn on an indescribable light that leads others to His Love? As I lay my words on the altar, I am sad to say that not every one of them is worthy of His Name. As I pick through each sacrifice of breath, I realize the very Breath of His Spirit is grieved by some of them and now so am I. I don’t want to be a Pharisee with a mouth that is nothing more than a whitewashed tomb or a cup clean on the outside but filthy on the inside. The Word of God cuts bone from marrow and now in me, too. Bitterness is a root that comes from a seed. The Holy Spirit weeds the heart of the willing but it is done at the sacrifice of pride. To have any root other than Jesus Christ as the foundation of our thoughts at the center of one’s heart and mind is to invite death and devastation. Faith killers, joy stealers, dream crushers, and satisfaction enders are the words left unfiltered by washing them in the Word, inspected by His Spirit and smothered in His Love.

 

James 3:3-6 (NIV)

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

 

Proverbs 18:21 tell us that “the tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” The words released from our mouth have the absolute power to change the atmosphere. It is not in our own understanding or wisdom but each delivery that comes from a heart filled with love and Spirit produced fruit. I have lived most of my life with my foot in my mouth. I have released horrible words that I wish I could take back. I have learned through many trials that what I say can spark a fire of devastating force. Until I have absolute control of my words and are brave enough to measure them up to God’s Standard of Communication with the absence of all malice. His Word for us is Jesus. He came in the flesh and died for my sins so I could live victoriously. Why do I get caught up in this world? Why do I allow ungodly communication to proceed from my mouth? Why? Life is a process. As the Lord uses His Love and Grace to reveal the areas of our heart still under construction. He will forgive me for my rotten fruit not fit for His People. It is up to me if I will produce a good crop.

 

James 3:9-12 (NIV)

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

 

Today I making a concentrated effort to taste each word before I release it. So many times we credit the enemy for his tactics and skillful attacks that leave us devastated and hurting. We applaud him for ruining our day. We give him kudos for knowing just what to do to push our buttons. Is he really that good? Or was just listening to the words that we were speaking? Did he get a hint in our complaining? Did he find an open door in our grumbling? Did he sneak in through bitterness, unforgiveness or malice planting weeds in the Fruit of our Spirit? The Holy Spirit seals us to the Day of Redemption but we still must master this thing called free will. It is the part of us that chooses to love the Lord in all things rather remaining subject just to do’s and don’ts. Our heart must be so full of Jesus that when anything contrary to His Word, Will or Way comes to mind it is quickly and completely taken captive and our complaints will die in our mouth rather than spreading toxin in our life.

 

When pressure and persecution come, it is our job to respond rather than react. It doesn’t matter what another person says when we stand before the Lord. It will be every word that proceeded from my mouth under careful and complete examination. Grace does not stop the process just allows us to make it through all those times the filter fell off of our mouth and corrupt communication escaped us. (Matthew 12:36) Hence, life and death is in our tongue. Could it be revival has been buried in our words? Is it possible that chronic complaining, backbiting, or gossip has stopped the signs, wonder and miracles of God around us? Totally possible and highly probable. Have we killed the next great move of God in our expressed dissatisfaction in our Lord? Any complaint we have is against the Lord no matter who we think is the cause? Any grumbling rumbles discord through our life as our faith is challenged by our fears? We must shut our mouths and let the Lord filter our words if our desire is that His Kingdom be manifested on the earth.

 

Well, my filter fell off. It did. I repent Lord for saying things not representative of the overwhelming grace that I have been given. My river of life is just a bit salty. Cleanse it in your flow today. Wash every word of mine with the Truth of your word. Cover every uncertainty and complaint with the Blood of Jesus. May each word of mind be tied to God’s Great Love for me and carried to another. May the only fire in my words today that spark revival in my heart and soul to start a blaze for Your Glory around the word. It begins with me, Jesus. My words. My communication. No matter what another person says, let my words be always and only reflective of You – Jesus. Just you. Not me. Take the coal of from the altar today – Lord I ask you to cleanse my tongue so I may be used for Your Glory. Amen.

 

Isaiah 6:5-8 (NIV)

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Overtaken

Overtaken

I Samuel 30:7-8 (NKJV)

Then David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, “Please bring the ephod here to me.” And Abiathar brought the ephod to David. So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?” And He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.

The pursuits of life are marked with various meaning and purpose. The desires of our heart promote that which is pursued in life. It is by faith that a person is motivated to pursue that which is not evident in their life. The greater the desire the more someone will go after that which motivates the heart and mind. Often one’s challenges or difficulties will form and shape from our youth and grow into a passion to overcome as a person grows and matures into adulthood. My biological mother struggled her whole life as a person. She loved us but could not overcome the addictions in her life to properly care for her children. The Lord sent me a mother to bridge the gap who loves me as her own, but I have struggled most of life to be completely opposite. Her struggles in nurturing pushed me to over compensate with my own children. I had to be the perfect mom. Knowing from the beginning that it would be impossible, I could not stop trying to do everything right. The things we do and how we live has deeper meaning then what we realize most of the time. It is very important that as Christians, believers and followers of Christ that we evaluate our motivations and intentions at all times. It was only after many years of trying not to be like my mother that I realized I was supposed to be imitating God and striving to be like Jesus that I stopped my fruitless pursuit to be overtaken by His Love.

I was thinking about my life this morning. My pursuits in life have dramatically changed in the course of just six months. I am excited. I am focused. I am a bit fearful. When we step out to follow the Lord by faith, I think there is always a twinge of anticipation mixed with anxiousness. To go deeper than we have gone before in trust and live in confident hope must always challenge our mind, will and emotions or is it really of God? It must defy human logic and go beyond what I can see and understand to be that which the Lord has for me which is always exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to His Power at work in us. (Ephesians 3:20) What is your passion today? What are you pursuing? As in all things, there is a process to godly pursuits. I think it will challenge you as it has challenged my heart today to examine each one.

David and his men returned to find their city, Ziklag, attacked, raided, and burned to the ground. Their families had been taken captive. David’s wives Ahinoam and Abigail were among the captives. David and his men wept until they could weep no more. His own men turned on him threatening to stone him in their grief. But David “strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” (I Samuel 30:1-6) It is a natural human response to look for someone to blame when things go terribly wrong in life. In fact, pursuit is driven by passion. Passion can be driven by any emotion possible in the human mind and heart. In this case, grief drove them to look for someone to take out their anger and pain upon. When an emotion becomes too great to contain it, we look for someone else to alleviate the pressure and dump the load. The men chose David. But David chose the Lord.

David told the priest to bring the ephod, his mantle of worship. David would take his cause before the Lord to see what He had to say on the matter. Just two simple questions, nothing more or less. David inquired of the Lord – 1) Do I pursue this? and 2) Will I overtake it? If only we took the time in all our pursuits to go before the Lord transparent and honest with an open heart to ask Him is this worth pursing and will I win? The Lord answered David, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.”

I Peter 3:10-12 (NKJV)

For “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

David took six hundred men to pursue the Amalekites who raided their village and took their families. Part way through their journey, two hundred men were just too weak to continue and were left behind as the continued their pursuit. The men came upon an Egyptian slave left behind in the desert to die who confirmed that he was with the group who destroyed their city. David feed him and gave him water caring for the man until he regained his strength. The slave promised to take David to them if he would not kill him or return him to his master. David agreed. They found the Amalekites and recovered everything that was taken from them. “And nothing of theirs was lacking, either small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything which they had taken from them.” God delivered as promised.

When the men were grieving they wanted to kill David for the violation of their home and family. Now they came across someone who was with the people who committed the heinous crime against them, David showed the man compassion. This is so important in our pursuits in life. I believe that when the Lord puts people in our path no matter how driven to succeed that they are treated with love and compassion. They easily could have mistreated this man, tortured him, used him and abused him just like everyone else and gotten the information needed to find the others. David’s heart would not do such a thing but responded to his need instead. He fed him. He satisfied his thirst. He earned his trust and took him with him. How many times even in godly pursuits do we lose sight of what our overall mission is in the first place? To follow the Lord. Walk in His Ways. Love others as He loves us. How we pursue is just as important as what we pursue. Are we after vindication or vengeance?

Psalm 26:1-3 (NKJV)

Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the Lord; I shall not slip. Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my mind and my heart. For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, and I have walked in Your truth.

Psalm 43:1-4 (NKJV)

Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man! For You are the God of my strength; Why do You cast me off? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God.

Romans 12:19 (NKJV)

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

As we read the Psalms, the heart of David is revealed. He cries out to the Lord for vindication. This is important and evidenced in his response to the violation of I Samuel 30. His immediate reaction was for vindication while the others wanted vengeance. This is so important and not just a play on words but points directly to the motivation of our heart. Every worthwhile pursuit in life should be born of faith and trust in God’s Worth resulting in His Glory. Just as God promised, they did “without fail recover all.” We want perfect outcomes so therefore we must perfect our pursuits beginning with the people who are along the way. They met the Egyptian and David cared for him. They were reunited with the 200 men who were just too weary to continue and fight. The Word of God tells us that the “wicked and worthless men” among the 400 told David not to give them back what belonged to them just their families. They even went so far as to tell David to “make them depart” from us. But David again arising from a heart after God’s Heart told them, “My brethren, you shall not do so with what the Lord has given us, who has preserved us and delivered into our hand the troop that came against us.  For who will heed you in this matter? But as his part is who goes down to the battle, so shall his part be who stays by the supplies; they shall share alike.” (I Samuel 30:21-25)

Vindication is to assert, maintain or defend a right or cause against opposition. To justify which means to show to be just or right. To regain possession. However when our pursuit becomes tinged with bitterness, it can quickly turn into vengeance. Vengeance is to inflict injury, harm, humiliation or the like on a person by another who has been harmed by that person. Bitterness is always the root of vengeance. God has reserved vengeance for himself. We cannot be vengeful because we have been justified by faith which is given by God’s Grace. (Romans 3:21-26) Therefore we must afford the same grace to others in the midst of pursuit. The Lord has clearly identified the enemy. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) The Lord has promised us many things. We pursue those promises. Success or failure depends on the motive of our heart. We can seek imperfect justice or have complete vindication. It is up to those in pursuit.

Hebrews 12:14-16 (NKJV)

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.

As Children of the Living God, we are promised victory after victory and to live from Glory to Glory. This is achieved by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus the author and finisher of faith. But sometimes let’s face it, the people that oppose us, offend us, battle us and seem to be the bane of human existence take on the appearance of the adversary. Jesus died for them too. We are to love even our enemies. These are not my words but a reminder from the Lord today. We must not forsake people in our passionate pursuit for Him. In fact, to do so changes our mission complete and impacts the outcome greatly. When you think of “that” person, the one who is constantly causing problems, getting in your business, trying to mess up your plans, and overall just drives you crazy – that is the Egyptian in the desert, or the 200 hundred too weak to make it, and they are the ones that test the purity of our pursuit. The ones who once opposed us or offended us or even abandoned the cause. The Lord is testing the motives of our heart because to pursue Him fully and completely above all other things is demonstrated in our response to these people. To have all that God promised requires all of our heart.

Pursue peace with all people. Live a holy life. Today in the midst of my pursuit, I am challenged to inspect my heart for any bitterness linked to my past keeping me from my future. It must be dealt with swiftly and completely if my goal is to “without fail recover all.” I have clear direction. I have been promised much. I cannot fully pursue this unless it is wholeheartedly so I must take back any part of my heart yielded to offense, bitterness and anger in the Name of Jesus Christ. I will not be overtaken by such things, if I want to be overtaken by His Love.

Psalm 51:10-13 (NKJV)

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.

 

The Fruit of My Mouth

The Fruit of My Mouth

Proverbs 18:20-21 (NIV)

From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

 

Communication. What are do we talk about? How do we use our words? I happen to use a lot of words in a single day just ask my husband. When I am not talking and expressing myself, it is then he becomes worried that something is wrong. In general, people know how I feel about something without soliciting a response. The Lord has done a tremendous work in my mouth. That’s right in my mouth. The Message that we have been given to share with the world seems obvious until given to people to carry out. We have this treasure in jars of clay. (2 Corinthians 4:7) The Great Commission would be more effective if we considered the condition of our “jar” rather than trying to flavor the Word given to us.

 

I was once told that the word “but” nullifies everything that comes before it. I’m sorry…but. Think about it. It’s true. We do it all the time. Excuses are born of buts. We have this wonderful message of God’s Great Love. It is news worth sharing with everyone we come in contact. Why do we insist on sharing other things? Meaningless things? Pointless things? Harmful words? Careless expressions? Forget about killing the messenger. The messenger has lost the Word given to deliver.

Christians are dissatisfied and hungry for fulfillment. What could a person in such a state have to offer or testify about their God to the watching, waiting and dying world? The chasm grows wider as the need to share one’s opinion or prove they are right overrides the love, kindness and compassion that is the love letter signed by Jesus’ Blood on the Cross and entrusted in our hearts to deliver. The tongue indeed holds the power of life and death. I was taught from a very young age that they can do infinitely more damage than a weapon and should not be used unintentionally. In other words, if you do not mean it do not say it. So how do we fix the problem?

Ephesians 4:29-32 (NIV)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Do not let ANY unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only hat is helpful for building others up according to THEIR needs, that it may been THOSE who listen. My goal for 2016 in a nutshell. I would love to say that every single world I speak is kind, loving and encouraging. I would be lying if I did. As my walk with Christ intensifies, and I long for a deeper relationship with my Savior and Lord I find that the refining fire is headed toward my mouth. God wants ALL my communication to be worthy of His Spirit that nothing I say will grieve His Spirit in me. It will be a full-time job. I am to get rid of ALL bitterness, rage, anger, brawling and slander. All of it. Even the smallest most miniscule amount must be severely and harshly dealt with. Every form of malice. I am to be kind and compassionate to every other human being I come in contact with. I must forgive anyone and everyone that I harbor ill feelings towards like Christ forgave me which means grace comes with it. Lord, how will I do this?

 

Matthew 15:10-11 (NIV)

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth that is what defiles them.”

 

“What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them” is referring to religiosity and customs. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed. This freedom allows us to live and express our worship as we choose. However, it comes with this reminder. “What comes out of our mouth that is what defiles them.” Religion is not a sin unless it interferes with our relationship to Jesus Christ. The only thing in our life that is sinful is that which contradicts or interferes with our relationship to the Lord. Otherwise, go for it. The problem is that sometimes religion takes over righteousness which moves us from humility to personal exaltation which convinces us that somehow do not need grace anymore. In that state, we begin to judge others from a human point of view rather than a godly perspective. Case in point – homeless guy sitting on the side of the road with a sign that reads “Why lie I need a beer?” What do you do? Religion says I will not feed his addiction. Jesus says, “Let’s buy him a burger and bring it back.” The struggle to love others in spite of their sin is hard. I get that. It is difficult to give someone who isn’t working or doing their “fair share” your hard earned dollar BUT that is exactly what Jesus would do. What does that have to do with communication? How does it impact our message? Well, if we ever allow ourselves to get to the place where we feel more worthy of God’s Grace and Love than someone else, we have a heart problem that needs His Healing all over again.

Luke 6:45 (NIV)

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

 

From the abundance the heart our mouth speaks. Our mouth relays the condition of our heart unwillingly. As the words come tumbling out, it makes it clear to others what our motive is and intentions concerning them. What goes in is what comes out. It is simple science. If you feed worldly communication and only take in what the world has to offer, it is going to contaminate your jar so whatever is stored there is ruined. Jesus told the Pharisees, “Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matthew 23:26) When we come to Christ, there is an immediate work in us that will often change how we communicate. We stop using certain words. We try to soften certain expressions. You know, we pick up new lingo. Just as we grow in our relationship with Christ, so should our vocabulary change and develop bearing fruit. “The mouth of the righteous should bear fruit of wisdom…” (Proverbs 10:31) Which means? “Bless your heart” is a real and not a statement to validate malice spoken previously. “I will pray for you” are real words of agreement not just a way to facilitate gossip. The enemy does not give up on us just because we surrender our life to Jesus. No, if anything this gets him all fired up and directs his attention on us. He will use every scheme he has to trick us into using our communication as a curse rather than the blessing it could be to us and others.

Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

 

It is important that our mouth and heart agree. If we declare with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart, it is salvation to our soul. Our heart believes. My mouth should profess my faith in every attitude and action on a daily basis. Cursing does not flow from a righteous mouth. The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life. (Proverbs 10:11) What I say about my life reflects the belief in my heart. Grumbling and complaining implies dissatisfaction with God who is my provider. Bickering and fighting exemplifies a lack of peace in my heart. Worrying and stressing over everything means that my heart is faithless and full of fear. Doubt is foretold in pessimism expresses a small lifeless god with no power. If we do not know how to effectively communicate love to others, it is an expression of a heart that has not yet encountered the limitless and unfailing Love of God. Our mouth is a prime indicator of our hearts condition. If the words we hear coming out of our mouth are not reflective of the work inside our heart  – we must change what we are saying to the Glory of God.

James 3:9-12 (NIV)

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

We are told early on that if we have nothing nice to say that we should say nothing at all. This is okay for children and spiritually immature. However, one encounter with Jesus Christ changes everything as we answer the call to “follow Him.” Acceptance of Jesus as our Savior and Lord fills our mouth with a message worth sharing. He overflows us with grace, mercy and love not just for our own satisfaction but to share with everyone who we come in contact with. Even in the privacy of our home in quiet conversation with hushed voices with our closest companion or maybe our spouse using words not of love and affirmation but malice and ill will can cause damage in the heavenly realm. We are given the authority of binding and loosing in the Name of Jesus. The fire started by my tongue is so that others will want to know the God I serve and His Son who saved me. The message is all about love. I am the messenger. Lord, make my heart and mouth agree. Cleanse me of anything not worthy to be communicated along with Your Great Love!

Psalm 19:14 (NIV)

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

To Love a Hedgehog

To Love a Hedgehog

John 15:12-13 (NIV)

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

For as long as I can remember our son has been fascinated with animals of all kinds. His childhood hero was Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter. He would do documentaries on our family as though we were some wild pack in the voice of Jacque Cousteau. When he became an adult, he could finally begin to collect his menagerie. One of these creatures was a hedgehog. I had no experience with the sweet timid little animals when he asked if we could keep him for the weekend. After much begging by our youngest strategically facilitated by her brother, I relented and he came to our house for the weekend. For those unfamiliar with hedgehogs, they are like tiny porcupines covered in sharp quills that are quite painful. When in fear, he simply rolled up in a tiny poky ball of needles. One can imagine this was not the snuggly pet that my daughter thought he would be. We learned how to handle him in a way that he did not resort to his only defense. It took a great deal of patience and overlooking all the jabs to get used to his demeanor and how to hand him safely. Alas, we were sad (okay maybe not that sad) to see him go home.

I woke up this morning with people on my heart who have struggling relationships. Good people, wonderful individuals, and otherwise lovable creatures who somehow have become offended by another now living in discord. An offense can be anything that causes us to be displeased or offended. There is a wide range on the spectrum. It all produces the same result. Division, discord, bitterness and separation. These are hardly the qualities and traits that Jesus demonstrated or commanded us to have but human nature calls the shots sometimes. Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. How can we lay down our very life for another if we are unwilling to put our feelings aside to love them anyway?

Isaiah 44:21-23 (NIV)

“Remember these things, Jacob, for you, Israel, are my servant. I have made you, you are my servant; Israel, I will not forget you. I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me for I have redeemed you.” Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud, you earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel.”

There are two sides to every offense. The one who is offended. The perpetrator of the offense. It really doesn’t matter which side we are on and quite frankly, knowingly or unknowingly, we all fall short in relationships. I love my husband and children with all of my heart. My greatest desire is to be a good wife and mother. I fall short. Constantly, because I am plagued with being human. The success and failure of my relationships depends solely on Christ. He meets my expectation when others fall short. He forgives me and removes my shame when others are unwilling to do the same. The Lord has swept my offenses away like a cloud removing my sin like the morning midst when the sun comes out. He has redeemed me. Grace is mine. It is given in abundance to not only cover my sins and transgressions against God but to be afforded others with great generosity.

I read a wonderful article on Charisma.org yesterday and shared it on Facebook. It was all about offense and the impact it has on today’s church. Satan is a cunning one. He plays on the emotions of others to suck the life out the modern day church. Until we individually and corporately begin to identify this thing called offense and deal with it directly, it will suffocate the Spirit in us and kill the move of God that we so greatly desire. Revival begins when we lay down our life. We have every reason to rejoice. Acceptance into the Kingdom of God as His Sons and Daughters is really the only affirmation that a person should ever need and enough to draw from for the rest of our natural life.

Ezekiel 18:30-32 (NIV)

Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

Back to our little hedgehog friend with the sharp exterior, the Lord created him as such so that he would have a defense mechanism and means of survival. There are many poky people out there with sharp exteriors and hard hearts where bitter roots have taken hold and as means of self-preservation walls have been built around their heart. On the other side of the coin are those who feel valid in their assault on others, as humility is a sign of weakness. There are many reasons why people develop such an exterior but inside of them is a soft beating heart which has been battered and bruised. Putting our hope and expectation in other people yields nothing but disappointment. Only hope never leads to disappointment and His Name is Jesus.

It doesn’t really matter today if you are the offended or the offender, God loves us just the same. Separation is just as lonely as isolation so it really doesn’t matter what drives us apart. To Jesus the only thing that really matters is getting us back together. He died for every offense and hurt caused by human inability and weakness. Repentance is the solution to offensiveness. It is the only answer to being offended. This is not about anyone else but you and I individually in a relationship with Christ. To allow anyone to hold power over our mind, will and emotions more so than Christ is to completely reject His Love, Grace and Power which is complete. I can choose to not be offended by putting all my expectation in Christ not others because such a stance allows constant forgiveness because I need nothing more. I will not offend others if I walk in love following the example of Jesus Christ wholeheartedly. A prickly personality and tough exterior will never welcome people into this amazing love that we have discovered. The Lord is coming closer. He wants to give us a heart and new spirit that will allow us to move deeper in His Presence. To do so requires putting all our faith, hope, trust and expectation in Jesus again AND releasing every offense.

Matthew 9:4-6 (NIV)

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”

Is it easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven or get up and walk?” It is definitely get up and walk which implies personal power over reliance on God’s Power. We get to participate in walking but the forgiveness of sins solely and completely is the Work of Jesus Christ. I can do nothing but accept it. To live freely and love completely in this life relies on our ability to accept the Love of Jesus as enough to love others without expectation. You cannot get offended if you have no requirement. It would have been absolutely ridiculous for me to get mad at that hedgehog every time he poked me. He was just trying to protect himself. He didn’t know better. How did he know my true intentions? So over the course of his visit, I learned how to handle him gently and lovingly so he knew that we meant no harm. If only we could learn to handle people the same way and with the same respect and compassion as the Lord loves and forgives us.

Matthew 17:24-27 (NIV)

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?” “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

When we make the choice to love others unconditionally and decide not to take offense at the actions and attitudes of others, our need for love, affirmation, acceptance and approval will be satisfied in Christ alone. Proverbs 19:11 says that it is to our glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 17:9 tells us that whoever fosters love covers offenses. Lord, help us to get a handle on our selfish need to be right, be first, and be embraced by others to so that we can seek you wholeheartedly and love you completely.

I Peter 4:7-11 (NIV)

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Friends, it is time to suck it up buttercup as the saying goes and bury the hatchets. Not in each other, but throwing them far from us as far as the east is from the west. Bitterness is sin. It takes the place of faith because it is a seed of doubt that we accept when Jesus is not enough to complete our life. To be offended demonstrates a need for more love and acceptance than we have found at the Cross. Ephesians 4:31 encourages us to get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and every other kind of malice. It does on to encourage God’s People to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just like Jesus forgave us. Nowhere does it say to stay mad and go our separate ways which means in doing so we are walking in disobedience. I don’t want to disobey the Lord but walk daily in His Ways. Hebrews 12:15 issues a staunch warning to the Body of Christ that we might do well to heed today. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” We must each examine our own heart today and tear out those bitter roots before they overtake us. We must ask the Lord to forgive us for offending others and if possible ask their forgiveness, too. Humility is not easy or fashionable but rewarded by God every time. To yield our life completely to Christ means putting all of our expectation firmly by faith in Him. This leaves no room for offense only an open door for love!

Proverbs 10:9-12 (NIV)

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out. Whoever winks maliciously causes grief and a chattering fool comes to ruin. The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.