Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Tongue - Week 6

   "I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress."

Psalm 17:3b  (ESV)

One of my favorite words is "intentionality."  We do many things in life with intention, don't we?  One of my first intentions every day is to get up on time.  Sometimes this happens, and sometimes it doesn't.  My first intention once I am awake and out of bed is to get coffee.  Now that is an intention I live by!

Purposing to do or not do something, especially when it comes to the tongue sounds easy enough!  But as we saw in the first lesson on the tongue from the book of James, the tongue is far from easy to control.  If we want to get a mastery over our tongue, it is going to take a lot of purposing in our mind and heart that we will only use our tongue to bless.

A couple chapters later in the Psalms we find a passage that could become the actual intention for us to say, write, pray and meditate on:

Let the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:14

If you have a problem with your mouth, like I do, do you think it would be helpful to pray this verse each morning?  Maybe when you are doing something with your mouth in the morning, like brushing your teeth, you could repeat these words.  Just typing this makes me want to write them out and put them on my bathroom mirror.

Can you think of any other ways to help yourself not sin with your mouth? Leave ideas in the comments below.  Thanks for sharing. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

We Interrupt This Program to Bring You a Special Announcement

For the last few weeks I have been doing some elementary lessons (easy to understand, not necessarily easy to do) on The Tongue.  Yesterday I was doing a page out of a book for a discussion I will be having with Linda and possibly Patti on Saturday morning and I had a small epiphany.  For me the epiphany was small BUT the implications for myself and others are huge.  Here goes.....

There are three things going on in these two short verses.  In the first phrase, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,"  There is a "do not" and a "but."  Do not be anxious, but instead do the following. We may say, "But it is human to worry."  Of course it is.  Thankfully we are not at the mercy of our human-ness.  How do I know that?  Because of what the rest of the phrase says.  We are not to be anxious about anything but instead if we do get anxious we are to do the something that will follow, and we are to do it in every situation.  (You know how when you are aguing with someone you are not supposed to say "you always" "you never?"  Those words are like the words "anything" and "every" here, only now is the perfect time to use them because the writer is about to give the reader a remedy that works every time.

This leads me to the second idea.  Every time we feel anxious about anything, we are to bring the situation to God.  With thanksgiving in our hearts, we are to pour out our requests to Him.  

What is a command without a promise?  Here is the third point.  "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."  One version I read said "thoughts" instead of "mind."  I like that even more.

Bottom line.  When we have what feels like an impossible, thought consuming situation, we need to tell God about it and He will give us His peace by guarding our hearts and thoughts from the anxiety.

I thought long and hard about this yesterday and came to the conclusion that this is indeed a great exchange.  My worry for God's peace.  I thought about the only other time I've heard a term like "great exchange" in the Bible and it always had to do with Jesus dying in our place and giving us eternal life.  We deserve death and Jesus took that penalty for us and not only that, He gives us eternal life.  That truly is the biggest Biblical exchange with consequences for this life and the next - hard to wrap our brains around even with faith!

But what about this exchange in Philippians chapter four?  What if we never had to worry more than a few seconds about anything for the rest of our lives?  I believe that is how we can live if we trust and obey God according to this passage.  

Could this be the second greatest exchange in the Bible?  I challenge us to put God to the test as we trust and obey Him.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Tongue - Week 5

The Tongue - Week 5

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

Proverbs 12:18 (English Standard Version)

Since  my mouth has gotten me in more trouble than any other part of my body, I would have to say that I have said more hurtful words than I have received in my lifetime.  Oh, don't get me wrong.  I am not a name caller and I rarely raise my voice.  Both of those things have been done to me in relationships I have been in.  And that is no fun at all.  But how do the maybe 50 times that has happened compare to things I have said over the years to others about others? 

Trust me I am trying to improve my track record of "just telling it like it is" or as I have sometimes said, "I'm the reality girl."  I call them like I sees them. 

Over the years I have criticized people's choices of where to live, what to eat, how to dress, how many children to have, what school or not to send their kid to, what church to go to, how to spend money and how not to spend money.  I've been an expert on relationships, parenting, saving, how to spend leisure time, etc.  The list goes on.

I suppose my weighing in to people on how others live their lives definitely constitutes gossip.  Huge amounts of repentance needed on this count!

I wonder how people feel who have actually called people names.  I have been on the receiving end and when they come from someone who claims to love you, well, all I can say is the Proverb above is definitely true.  The words are like stabs to the heart. 

I would like to challenge us this week to really examine our thoughts.  The Bible says to bring every thought captive to Christ.  II Corinthians 10:5 "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ."

If are thoughts are captive to obey Christ, we will not have to worry about gossip and stabbing people with our words. 

If we are truly wise our words will bring healing to others.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Tongue - Week 4

  "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips."

Proverbs 27:2 (English Standard Version)

There are some very common sayings floating around in our world that no one seems to challenge.  Just this week I heard someone relaying a story about how they were telling someone from another country that they had to "sell themselves" in a job interview.  Sometimes there is a grain of truth in common sayings.  Of course one has to talk up accomplishments in a job interview.  The interviewer is looking for ways one stands out in the pack of applicants and truly there is no one else there to speak for you!  There is a time and place for that kind of selling of oneself.

Can you see any problems with the common assumptions below?  

"Toot your horn."

"Look out for number one."

"If I don't look out for me, who will?"

Push back against the spoken and unspoken assumptions of society.  No, you don't have to toot your own horn.  See the verse at the top of the page.  No, you don't have to look out for number one, because you know what?  You are not number one.  Surprise!  If I don't look out for me who will?  Really?  Do you not have a powerful, loving Heavenly Father?  Push back, people, there are a lot of assumptions out there that are put it indelicately.

People will praise us.  Someone will shine a spotlight on us and it will feel good.  But be careful. There are a lot of verses in the Bible warning the reader against lips that flatter.  Flatterers have ulterior motives for praising you.  Good to know, right?  God help us to learn the difference between genuine praise / encouragement and flattery. 


What does the Bible say we should be boasting about?

Jeremiah 9:23-24    English Standard Version (ESV)

23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

The Jeremiah passage speaks to what boasts should come out of our mouths.  Boast in God and what he has done in your life, seek to decrease while he increases in your thoughts and adoration.   

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Tongue - Week 3

 "Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression,
But a good word makes it glad."

Proverbs 12:25 (New King James Version)

We are two days post election 2016.  I am still reeling from 18 long months of campaigning.  My Facebook feed was filled with horrible accusations from both Democrats and Republicans.  And while I expect that from people who do not name the name of Jesus, I sure don't expect Christians to be calling other Christians "haters." 

Think about it.  How did unbelievers in the New Testament know that someone had been changed into a follower of Jesus?  It says that they marveled over witnessing the love they had for one another.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     What does the lack of love between Christians communicate?   It does not take a super smart person to figure out the answer to that question.  Something not good.  Something not full of Jesus.

What can we do during this season when so many of our friends are trying to come to grips with a Trump presidency?  As usual, the Bible can give us good guidance.  The verse at the top of the page tells us we can give a good word to people, a word that can calm their anxieties.  Put yourself in their place. If you were a Clinton supporter,  what kind of fears would you be having right now?  Speak a good word to make your anxious friend have hope again. 

Proverbs 25:11 in the New King James Version is a more poetic way of saying the same thing.  Can you find a word for your friend that fits perfectly into how they may be feeling today?

Remember, a fit or good word is not a one size fits all word.  I saw on Facebook someone saying "Don't tell me God is in control."  Ok, well, that would be the perfect thing to tell me when I'm hand-wringing over the current administrations inability or lack of willingness to admit there are radical, extremist Muslims out there that want us dead.  But one person's fit word is another person's unfit word.  If you know the person well enough to know the difference, speak a word that gives life, lifts depression, and restores hope.

I charge you to go out and do this today and everyday. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Tongue - Week 2

"Be careful what you think,
    because your thoughts run your life."

Proverbs 4:23 (New Century Version)

I'm sure this won't be the last time you hear someone say the that things translated into English sometimes have their meanings shrunk down to fit the language.  In some languages one word may have multiple meanings or nuances and yet be limited to just one word in English.  In the Bible there are many words like that.  The words heart, soul, mind, and spirit have overlapping meanings in the Bible unlike English.  In English, the mind does the thinking, the heart does the feeling, etc.  If you would like to study these Biblical words deeper and get a clearer picture of what I'm talking about, here are two links that may help you:

In our lessons about the tongue it is important to remember that God is not primarily interested in the words that are coming out of our mouths.  God wants us to understand that the words coming out of our mouths are words from our hearts.

Here is the NIV (New International Version) of the verse in the box at the top of the page.  "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."  Not only do the words in our hearts flow out of our mouths, they flow into our actions. 

Jesus had something to say on this same topic.  He uses a tree to illustrate his point.

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

What is the determining factor in a life of good or bad actions or a mouth filled with good or evil?  You can find the answer in the short Proverbs verse in chapter 4:23.  "Be careful what you think" or another way of saying it from the NIV - "guard your heart".

Think of some ways you can begin to guard your heart?  If thinking in those terms feels awkward or clunky, maybe you can think about it this way.  What kinds of things influence how you think and feel?

If you are willing to put the time and effort into guarding your heart, the Bible has some words of  encouragement for you.  They are found in Proverbs 16:23.  Here they are in two different versions of the Bible:

New King James Version (NKJV)  " The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, And adds learning to his lips."
New Century Version (NCV) " Wise people’s minds tell them what to say, and that helps them be better teachers."

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Tongue - Week 1

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;  for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 
 James 1:19-20

Before I became dead serious about following Jesus, I had allowed quite a bit of unwholesome speech to come out of my mouth.  At one time when I was in the USMC I was letting the "F" bomb come out of my mouth so often that a fellow Marine told me that I was offending her!  I laughed.  Really?  That is just how desensitized I had become.  Truly I was not taking the Ephesians 4:29 verse to heart.  " Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."

Eventually I did decide to clean up my speech, removing the swear words.  Yet I continued to be critical of people, most likely I was trying to make myself feel better about myself.  And I was angry in my words and in my attitudes.  A little over a decade ago I was convicted by the James passage above.  Oh, I knew the passage, at least verse 19, but it was verse 20 that now caught my heart.  In the King James Bible it says "for the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God."  What was I usually trying to accomplish by my anger or my critical words?  It was to get people to change what they were doing. But now I was confronted with the fact that my anger was going to do nothing of the sort.  I was drawn up short. 

James is a great practical book.  What can be more practical than the first twelve verses of Chapter 3:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.  How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,bthese things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Have you learned anything from these passages on the tongue?  Have you decided to take any new actions in your life because of these passages?

May the Lord bless us as we seek to only use our tongues in ways that honor Him.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Living Into The "Impossible Imperatives"

Have you ever read a command in the Bible, heard a sermon, or a book about spiritual things and thought, "There is no way I can do that?" I read a passage over twenty years ago in a book called The New Pilgrims in which the author talks about a man named George.  After being in close contact with a missionary from a third world country, George had a light bulb moment about his over-consumption . The author spent only three paragraphs talking about George, yet these paragraphs were some of the most impactful I ever read.  When George and his family realized they were living in sin-the sin of affluence, they decided they needed to repent.  Yet, how does one repent of a lifestyle? George and his family did it one step at a time.

"They realized that repentance is not "saying sorry and keeping on doing it, but a lengthy period of turning to God in sorrow for forgiveness.  It involves putting right the wrong, with the intention of treading new paths in the future.  Therefore they entered a two year "time of repentance".  They sold their large house in a prestigious suburb and moved to a smaller one.  They swapped their enegy-hogging car for a small model.  They examined their food intake and improved the quality of their diet.  George lost forty pounds. Money saved was given away."

Over the Labor Day weekend I picked up a magazine at the Wind Hill common house at Gilchrist in Three Rivers, MI.  I read an article and below is what I gleaned from it and my Bible reading as reported in my journal:

"I read an article called "Enlightening Annoyances" by Robert C. Morris.  It was about abiding in the vine.  He spoke of a life dominated by do's and don'ts and how he began an apprenticeship with Jesus.  The pivotal moment came when he realized instead of pushing down his emotions when he read a verse like, "Love your enemies," which he knew he could not do, he'd bring his anger to God.  He'd start by living out his anger. "That moment was pivotal in my becoming a disciple of Jesus the Life Master, my 1st conscious step of living into the challenges Jesus sets for us rather than trying to live up to a set of rules.  I had taken my first step as an apprentice of Jesus, learning his art of cultivating the soul's receptivity to grace."  

After I finished that article I went onto my Bible reading of the second half of  Matthew chapter one. In this passage Joseph finds out his wife-to-be, Mary, is pregnant.  An angel sent by God tells him to go ahead and marry Mary.  He prefaces the statement with "Do not be afraid."  

George, Robert Morris, and Joseph have had a word from God, a next step in their faith journeys. This got me to thinking about "impossible imperatives" in life and wondering if they are all preceded by God's "Do not be afraid."  "Peter, don't be afraid, get out of the boat."  "Joshua, do not be afraid to enter the promise land."  "Karen, do not be afraid, trust Me that I will provide for you when you and Don are no longer working." While not always spoken, I believe that anything God wants us to do that causes us fear or doubt comes with a "Do not be afraid."  

Obeying can happen incrementally, like in the case of George.  He did not beat himself up when he realized he was living a life of too much affluence.  He could have felt overwhelmed or guilty.  If that had happened he probably would have rationalized and kept living the same lifestyle. Robert Morris chose a different than his typical response when he realized he did not love his enemies.  He admitted the truth of it, felt the anger, and asked God to help him.  Joseph could have put Mary away quietly, but instead he believed the angel and went ahead and married Mary.  I can choose to fret over the future or I can trust the God who has taken care of me all my life.

The aha moment dawns or the fork in the road appears.  We can embrace the new knowledge. We can walk toward the fork and listen for the still small voice of God. "Don't be afraid."  Take that step of obedience, that step toward Jesus. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Reading Through The Bible

At my old church a few people would read the Bible through each year. I knew that would be too much reading for me, so I decided  I would read through the Bible in two years.  I found a two year reading plan and began.  I took notes on passages that I felt I would like to talk with my grandchildren about; I filled 3 steno pads.  It was quite an accomplishment, but in the end I felt like even reading the Bible through in two years was too much reading to be able to absorb or meditate on it. (I did use the Bible references in my notes for a book I self published in 2015 for my grandchildren.)

Fast forward a decade to this past summer.  I was wondering what it would be like to read through the Bible slowly and I found a five year plan online.  I also bought a five year thought a day journal  and on August 29th I began.  Most days I have gotten something out of my reading worth sharing.

A coworker has been bugging...uh, I mean encouraging me to continue to write.  So my plan is to write my discoveries and applications to this daily reading plan.  

If you are interested in the link to the five year reading program, here it is.