You remember the other day when I was talking about how I think sometimes itâ€™s good to point out that something is aÂ big, fat, yucky lie? Well I was mulling over another one I thought Iâ€™d share with you. Please let me know what you think.
Someone once told me … like ages and ages ago … that youâ€™ll regret the things you donâ€™t say more than the things you do. Is that just something someone once told me, or is that a common statement? Please tell me if youâ€™ve heard it or not, seriously. I was just thinking about it as I was reading in Proverbs this morning…maybe I made it up. Anyway, Proverbs 17:27 says,
“He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.”
Lately Iâ€™ve found myself occasionally having not such a calm spirit. Wanting to do a jump-up-and-down-frustrated-groaning-grumpy-dance when a simple task is getting the better of me or something isnâ€™t as easy as I want it to be. But on the adverse, Iâ€™m glad to say I have been doing a better job of keeping my tongue and thinking about the things I want to say. Feel free to send me a virtual pat on the back.
The truth is, I can think of a lot of things Iâ€™ve said that I regret saying, but there arenâ€™t as many things that Iâ€™ve left unsaid that I wish I had. Maybe thatâ€™s just because I talk a lot. Itâ€™s an interesting balance I suppose, and you might find yourself in a different position. But perhaps because itâ€™s the holidays, and sometimes your family can bring out the â€˜old manâ€™ like nobody else… or because somebody might grab that last thing off the shelf you were hoping for or slip into the parking space you were gunning for… or you find yourself with a string of lights already on the tree and out of order, take a moment to remember that â€œHe who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.â€ Take that extra moment to think about what’s going to come out of your mouth, and how you’re going to react if the mistletoe falls too far from the tree. And seize the opportunity to let love and peace season your words and deeds.
The Sermon in a Nutshell: Relax and enjoy the holidays! If that means holding your tongue here and there, praise the Lord whoâ€™s increasing your knowledge and understanding!
After arriving in the country, Mark and I began the difficult task of trying to find a church to call home. It’s really really strange to suddenly feel like you’re “church-hopping” when two months ago we staff members at a church back in Scotland. During our explorations so far, we had a good experience at one church but weren’t sure if it was the right one. (We were bummed they didn’t have a creche/nursery).
I cried as we left another church because I was overwhelmingly bummed that NO ONE talked to us or welcomed us the whole time. And then we visited a third church this Sunday, and the theology and message being preached was so stinking dodgy Mark wanted to stand up in the middle of the service and say, “You’re wrong! That’s not what the Scripture says!”
That is a long long story that probably deserves its own blog post, but for now, the short of it is, it was not a church that was faithfully preaching the Word of God. I don’t really know what exactly they’re preaching. Something from the Book of Second Opinions I guess. It is funny that one of my recent posts discussed how God’s Word can be misconstrued to say what people want it to say if they come to it with an agenda, and and not with the desire to understand the Truth. Anyway, we left the whole ordeal with a rather yucky taste in our mouths, so to speak. And then we had some realisations.
One simple commandment that is easy to forget is “Seek first the kingdom of God.” As Mark and I left the service and began to talk about the experience we’d just had, we realised we should’ve first asked the Lord… “Where do you want us?” And then listened for His leading. How simple is that? Seek His kingdom first. Seek His will first. Seek His way first.
Instead, we just started floating around visiting churches on the recommendations of others and on personal whims. We were just looking at things based on our own opinions. This church doesn’t have a nursery. Nobody spoke to me at this one and it made me cry. (Mind you guys — moving to a new country might give you a few tough moments here and there!) This one is preaching heresy. Ugh…great.
We probably could’ve saved ourselves a lot of hassle and heartache if instead we’d first said, “Jesus, please direct our steps. By Your Holy Spirit, please lead us to the church where You would have us added.”
While I don’t think the Lord will be leading us to settle in at the church that is preaching heresy, I do think He has a way better idea than we do of the right way, and the best way, which is His will. If we’re not listening to Him, then we’re just choosing based on our own measuring sticks. We might as well be asking, Do I feel comfortable in the seats at this church? Does their carpet match most of my church clothes?
It is GOOD to be reminded that His ways are higher than our ways… So now instead of using our own measuring devices to figure out what we think is best, we have asked God to forgive us for not seeking Him first, and we are going to actively seek Him, and ask Him where He would have us put down our roots. I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂
How do you feel about gun control? Or having weapons in the home in case someone breaks in? Mark and I had some interesting conversations about these issues with some friends while we were home in the States. (Thanks, Frank & Sharon!)
Mark was pondering the idea of needing a weapon in the home since break-ins are rumoured to be a bit more common in South Africa. ahem. Although we didnâ€™t come to any definitive conclusions, one issue that we discussed, which always comes up, is the safety of having a weapon in the home, especially when there are going to be children present.
The thing about weapons is, they can often be used for good purposes, but also for evil ones. They can be useful, and they can be destructive. And it is interesting that the Word of God is often spoken of in the Scriptures as a weapon â€“ as a sword.
Like any other object, the sword can be wielded as a weapon for good â€“ for oneâ€™s protection or self-defence, or for evil. I donâ€™t think examples are needed for that. But for the Word of God to be called the Sword â€“ what does it mean, if a sword can be used for good or for evil?
Image by rbeforee @ flickr
We find one answer in Luke 4. Jesus has just headed on this seriously long spiritual retreat. He has fasted for 40 days in the wilderness â€“ I think it was some serious â€˜manâ€™ time. And at the end of it, He was hungry. No surprise there, He was human after all. The enemy shows up on the scene with a fairly simple suggestion: â€œIf you have all these supernatural skills, why not turn a stone into some bread and then you can eat something.â€
But Jesus has His Sword with Him â€“ and He is aware that this is not Godâ€™s will. So He speaks to the enemy from Scripture: â€œMan doesnâ€™t live just on bread. We live by Godâ€™s Word.â€ Which I think is basically saying, â€œItâ€™s more important for us to live by Godâ€™s Word than to have something to eat.â€
The battle of intellects continues with the suggestion that Jesus worship the devil, and in return be given the kingdoms of the earth. Jesus wields the Sword again â€“ â€œYou shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.â€ Pretty straightforward there.
Then it gets really interesting. Satan suggests Jesus jump off the top of the temple, if He is the Son of God, because â€œHe will tell His angels to take care of youâ€ and â€œTheyâ€™ll catch you, so that you donâ€™t even stub your toe.â€ Slight paraphrase. Wait â€“ what just happened? Yes, you mightâ€™ve picked up on it â€“ the devil just wielded the Sword. He quoted Scripture, at Jesus. That was pretty bold.
Jesusâ€™ response (wielding the Sword again): â€œYou shall not tempt the Lord your God.â€Â Plain and simple.
The interesting thing about this last section of the conversation is an actual demonstration that the Sword â€“ the Word of God can be wielded correctly, and incorrectly. Godâ€™s Word can be used for good, or for evil. It can be used to heal, and it can be used to kill. It can justify slavery or polygamy, and instruct us to love and forgive one another.
So Scripture, on its own, is just words on a page. We need the revelation of the Holy Spirit to rightly discern and understand Scripture, and as Jesus demonstrated, we need to let Scripture clarify Scripture for us. Satan couldâ€™ve justified Jesusâ€™ attempted suicide with the Scripture he quoted, but Jesus rightly discerned Godâ€™s will. God tells us not to test Him. And thatâ€™s that.
While Iâ€™m still not sure what all the answers are regarding gun control or having weapons in the home, I am certain that the Word of God is true. If we are willing to rightly receive it â€“ not to justify our own preferences, but with the intent of truly understanding the will of God â€“ then we can rightly wield the Sword God has given us and fight the good fight weâ€™re here to fight.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12: 2)
After a good chat with a friend of mine who’s going through a hard time, I started thinking about some of the things I think the Lord might like to say to her, to speak to her heart in the place where she is right now. I thought it might be something a lot of other people need to hear, too, so I thought I’d share it.
I hope this is a Top Ten from the Heart of God…
10. You are so wonderful, so special, and so precious to Me. I knit you together in your mother’s womb, and there is no one else in the universe like you. (Psalm 139:13-14)
9. Before your life even began, I sent my one and only Son to die for you. I did this because I love you. Â (Ephesians 2:4&5)
8. I know sometimes it feels like I’m a million miles away. But I told you I would never leave you, and I meant it. Even when it feels like no one is with you, I Am. (Hebrews 13:5)
7. Even during this time when you’ve felt so far away, I’ve been with you. I’m always with you. (Matthew 28:20)
6. My darling, you are so beautiful, special and precious to Me. Â (Song of Solomon 1:15)
5. Even before you went away from Me, I forgave you. (Luke 23:34)
4. I don’t change, and My love for you will never change. (Hebrews 13:8)
3. You don’t have to do anything to earn My love. Please know that My grace is sufficient. In these moments when you are feeling so weak, My strength can be made perfect in you. (2 Cor. 12:9)
2. I miss you. I want to hear you speak again, and I want to see your face again — your voice is so sweet to Me, you face is so lovely to Me.Â (Song of Solomon 2:14)
1. No matter where you are, no matter how far away you feel, if you search for Me with your heart and soul, you’ll find Me. (Deut 4:29) I want to be found by you. If you look for Me, you’ll find Me. (Jeremiah 29:12-13)
Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens. Your faithfulness, stretches to the skies. Psalm 36:5
Have you ever heard this song? Â I was thinking about it this morning for some reason. It’s been remade on a David Crowder Band CD, but Alison Krauss sang it before that… not sure where it came from honestly. As I was pondering that popping into my head, I realised how incredibly true that statement is, in light of what the Lord has been speaking to me about lately. On the surface you think, yeah clearly, nobody (for the most part) really wants to die, but, if there is a heaven, the average Joe on the street would say, “count me in on that one, big man.”
At a deeper level though, honestly, we are all called to die, on this side of heaven. I’m not speaking in the sense of just kicking the bucket and pushing up daisies, I mean, the Christian call is a call to die to yourself, day after day, and to live in Christ. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) Why is this so dang hard? Because I am selfish and I want to do what I want to do.
I’ve been reading a great book lately (finally) calledÂ The Bait of Satan, by John Bevere. It has absolutely challenged me to remember the essential elements of what Jesus was instructing His followers to do, and the type of life He was calling them to live if they wanted to be His disciples. Â Here are a few of the mind-blowing statements I’ve been reviewing in the Scriptures that are deeply challenging to me:
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. — Matthew 5:44 Sometimes I don’t even want to pray for brothers or sisters in the Lord who are getting on my nerves!!
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29 Wow.
When Paul is discussing the lawsuits among the believers in the Corinthian church:Â “…Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (1 Cor. 6:7) In other words, instead of taking offense and fighting for ‘justice’ when you feel someone has wronged you — why not let it go, refuse to carry offense around with you, and trust God to be your defender?
It’s likely that many of you will read these, as I do myself, and say, yeah yeah yeah I know that. But do weÂ know it? The greatest challenge for me has come from considering 2 Timothy 3. Paul warns us about perilous times and perilous men. He says that men will become lovers of themselves, lovers of money…unthankful, unholy, unforgiving….having a form of godliness, but denying its power…always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Did you hear that? We can study the Word and listen to podcasts all day long. We can read Christian book after Christian book, pass through a Bible course or even a seminary with flying colours, we can sit under some of the greatest teaching pastors and speakers or our time, but if we are not applying the Word of God to our lives, obeying it and doing what it says, we don’t know Jesus, and don’t have a part in Him.
Paul goes on to encourage Timothy to keep walking in godliness: “you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Our works will never never justify us — it is through faith in Jesus that we find salvation. But if we have no works to demonstrate that we do believe, then do we really believe? James put this well: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” He goes on to explain how faith works together with works, and (as an example), by works, Abraham’s faith was made perfect. When we obey God, we choose to die to our own selfish desires, and in this death, friends, there is life in abundance!
The Sermon in a Nutshell:Â The conclusion of the matter seems always to be the same for me, well summed-up in a cherished old hymn: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust AND obey.”