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."