Watch your mouth

WatchYourMouth“Na-na na-na Na-Na!” one of us siblings sing-songed to the other, laughing, skipping, sticking out his tongue.

Get the message? I won and you didn’t! Or, I got it and you didn’t! Or, I’m better than you are!

If my mama heard that, “Watch your mouth!” would be coming next. She didn’t put up with that kind of rude, disrespectful noise out of our mouths.

“Now say you’re sorry,” she would insist.

“Sorry” would be mumbled, head down, eyes looking up. Really sorry? No, not really, just sorry we got caught.

What difference did it make, we’d be thinking, if what we said was rude or ugly? Hurt his feelings? Made him feel bad? So what, he’d get over it. Wouldn’t he?

“We were just having fun,” we’d excuse ourselves. “Didn’t mean anything.”

“I don’t care,” Mama would emphasize, “don’t let me hear that kind of stuff come out of your mouth again.” And we wouldn’t – let her hear it, that is.

As my brother and I grew up, we started minding our manners a bit better. We were more careful how we expressed our selfish, holier-than-thou attitudes.

Then, we were both born again. Our attitudes began to change from the inside out; we began to learn that words really can help or hurt, create or destroy. But we also found that it takes work. It takes practice.

Nowadays I read multiple blogs and news stories on a regular basis. Like many of my friends, I use social media to keep in touch. I attend events like church services and prayer meetings. And I’ve noticed a troubling truth:

We Christians need to watch our mouth.

Just like the world, believers are apt to say “My back is killing me.” Or hearing a joke, to say, “That just kills me.” A young dad might tell one of his own kids, “You can’t do anything right.” Or commiserate to a friend, “I just can’t seem to get ahead.”

Describing the same problem over and over, they would beg God to fix it, then say in frustration “I don’t think my prayers are getting through.”

It’s disturbing to see so many believers criticize and find fault with their own church leadership, even the body of Christ at large. How is that helpful? Creative? I am more determined than ever to speak life, speak God’s word, offer real-time solutions, and not keep rehashing the problems.

Even more disturbing is hearing a Christian friend pray in doubt wishing, not knowing for sure what he’s asking is God’s will. Not knowing how to actually find God’s will in the first place. Not knowing the power in everyday words, not knowing what words really are:

  • Information. Facts, truth, ideas, solutions, answers – all conveyed by words, thought, spoken, or written. As time goes by, knowledge about everything under the sun is increasing. Wisdom in how to use that information needs to increase, too.
  • Weapons. Proverbs 18:21 says that death and life are in the power of the tongue. Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword…” James 3 tells us that the tongue can be a bridle, a rudder, or a spark, and is humanly untameable. (The Holy Spirit can tame it, and he will if we let him.)
  • Containers of life. Jesus said in John 6:63, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” Jesus raised the dead to life again with his word.
  • Conveyors of authority.

Mark 1:22 – The religious leaders recognized that Jesus’s words contained God’s authority and were astonished.

Mark 1:25-27 – The unclean spirit (demon) recognized it also, obeyed him and came out of the man.

Matt. 12:13 – The sick man recognized it, obeyed Jesus and his paralyzed hand was healed.

Matt. 8:5-13 – The Centurion recognized it, acknowledged that Jesus only needed to speak the word of authority – Jesus spoke and the servant was healed.

Acts 3:1-8 – Peter spoke words of authority, the crippled man obeyed and was healed.

Acts 27 – Paul spoke words of authority to those onboard the troubled ship, they obeyed and their lives were saved.

Here’s the thing – We have been given the same authority Jesus has, as his co-workers filled with the Holy Spirit and assigned to be his mouthpiece. See Matthew 28:18-20.

Ephesians 4:29-30 admonishes us, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you are sealed unto the day of redemption.”

Edifying? Building up, like constructing a house. Corrupt communication? Words that wreck faith, health, confidence – including your own. When you talk, the first person to hear what you say is you, yourself.

Matthew 12:34 says that what comes out of your mouth is what was in your heart. We all need to be sure that what is in our heart is life, not death. Filled with faith, not fear or doubt or confusion. It’s critically important how we talk (and what we write).

Life and faith don’t get into our hearts automatically, just because we become a Christian. We have to do something about that. “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2)

“Faith comes by hearing…” (Romans 10:17) Hearing what? Hearing God’s word. Read it to yourself, read it out loud, write it down, re-read it often. Get it into your spiritual memory banks, your mind, your heart.

II Peter 1:2-10 would be a good passage to learn by heart! So would Philippians 4:8-9.

“Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)

“… receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:21-22)

“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

My prayer is that our words – our hearts, our prayers, our ordinary conversations – will be used by the Holy Spirit to help solve problems, not create more.

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“Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be” — God’s will?

(From the Archives.)

Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe unto them who call evil, good, and good, evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

A couple of years ago, the Sunday School class I attended was studying the Bible account of Jesus and the disciples, the boat and the storm.

Jesus and the disciples were in a boat headed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee when a bad storm came up. Jesus was taking a nap and the panic-stricken disciples woke him up, saying “Lord, save us, we perish.” (Matthew 8:25) Mark puts it like this: “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38)

Jesus got up, rebuked the storm stopping it in its tracks, and then rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith. (They could have stopped the storm themselves, without waking him up.)

One of the class members said, “God was trying to kill Jesus with the storm. That’s why the storm arose in the first place, and then Jesus cancelled out God’s will by rebuking the storm.”

I asked her, “You don’t believe Jesus was God?” “Well, yes,” she said, “but everything that happens is God’s will, isn’t it?” She looked a little puzzled at my reaction when I strongly disagreed. The notion that everything bad and evil happening in the world is God’s will, his design, his doing — is calling evil, good, and good, evil.

God created man to have a will of his own, gave him authority to use it, and has never taken that authority back. God did not force Adam and Eve to disobey a direct command. He doesn’t force me, or you, or Hitler, or Jeffrey Dahmer, or a child rapist, or a terrorist, to commit evil.

It is not God’s will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9) Yet some people do perish.

We are instructed to pray for leaders and government authorities, because it’s God’s will for “all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (II Timothy 2:4) But not all people will be saved.

People have a free will of their own — some use it to make the wrong choice. The devil didn’t make them do it, and God didn’t make them do it.

If everything that happened was God’s will, why bother to pray? Just let whatever will be, be. But then certain other scriptures would have to be torn out of the Bible…

Like Ephesians 6:2, “Honor thy father and mother which is the first commandment with promise, that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” That’s number Five of the Ten Commandments, quoted from Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16.

Well, maybe the Ten Commandments don’t apply any more. Or maybe they don’t apply to everybody, or they don’t apply in any real sense. Just in a wishy-washy sense that only applies to some group dynamic — not to individuals at all, just the whole of mankind which will survive while individuals are slaughtered at God’s whim. Hogwash.

Many “if” statements are found throughout the Bible. If you do this, that will happen. It’s the eternal law of sowing and reaping. Long life is one of those “ifs.” Deuteronomy 6:2, “… that thy days may be prolonged.” Deuteronomy 11:9, “And that ye may prolong your days in the land…” If they obeyed God’s Word, that is. But they didn’t, and their days weren’t prolonged.

What about bad things happening to good people? If God isn’t behind everything, then is he powerless? NOT omnipotent after all? Couldn’t he do something to stop it, if it wasn’t his will? Yes, if God wanted to change himself, become an Indian-giver and a liar, he could. But he gave control of some things over to people.

We have an enemy, Satan, who hates God and us. He’s real; a real liar and a real murderer. He will kill us if he can, steal from us whatever he can take and destroy anything he can’t take. (John 10:10.) He is the accuser and the leader-astray, but he can’t make us do anything against our will. He can certainly suggest sin, demonstrate how to do it and promise to reward it, but in the end he will be destroyed. Those who side with him will be destroyed, too.

God told us to do certain specific things. He made promises and provisions to those who are in Christ. The global, spiritual warfare is real, the devastation is real, the pain is real, but God’s power is even more real. He loves to demonstrate that power through the lives of his people. If they will let him…

If prayer was useless and “que sera, sera” was true, why would we be told to pray so many times? If faith was powerless, why did Jesus urge the disciples to have God’s faith? If death and disaster was God’s will, why did God send the Holy Spirit and gifts of healing and miracles?

The choice to believe is ours, and I choose to believe God is good, his mercy endures forever, and his Word is true. Mark 11:23-24 is true. Mark 9:23 is true. Matthew 17:20 is true.

The problem isn’t in God or in his Word. The problem is in those who fall for “que sera, sera” and won’t pay the price to believe. Faith is ours for the taking, but it comes with a responsibility and a job description.

When somebody gets sick and dies, it’s easier to say it must have been God’s will and excuse unbelief, than to take responsibility for failure. The disciples failed, after all — they tried to cast out a demon from a sick child and failed. (Mark 9:14-29) Jesus came along, took care of the problem, then explained to the disciples what they needed to do differently. Prayer with fasting. Do you suppose they ignored Jesus after that and simply quit praying for the sick? I don’t think so.

Jerry Savelle came to Florence years ago for a series of meetings about healing. He recalled an incident when a man complained to him, “Brother Jerry, you prayed for brother so and so, and he died!” Jerry answered, “Everybody I pray for dies sooner or later.” That didn’t excuse him from praying for the next fellow, and it doesn’t excuse us either.

Weapons don’t wield themselves

Weapons don’t wield themselves. Not even spiritual ones.

Esther's Petition

GodsWeaponsMadeForYou“The worst thing the enemy can do to a believer in Jesus is to send him home to heaven early.”

Why doesn’t God stop him in his tracks?

It’s obvious that the enemy of our faith is at work in the world, sometimes very close to where we live. We wonder why he seems to be getting away with so many murderous acts, causing so much chaos, turmoil and tragedy.

Reminders of several basic facts:

  • War is being waged for control of this planet, control of the people who live on the planet, and eradication of the people inhabited by the Creator of the planet.
  • God gave control of this planet to human beings. Stopping the enemy is our job. We’re not doing a very good job of it, but it’s still our responsibility.
  • It’s not an even fight, the sides aren’t even close to equal – but you’d never…

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Daddy’s House

Speaking of heaven

MimiDaOnFrontPorchThinking about heaven again the other night, I asked the Lord to show me something about himself in heaven. Throne room, habitation, something. Where in heaven do you stay most of the time, I wondered? And in what form?

I was remembering my own and other people’s accounts of majestic throne rooms, powerful angels and worship music.

Office, the Lord said. That’s more like my official office, not official residence.

He then showed me an ordinary looking house with the front door standing open, and invited me to go inside. There was an ordinary living room, with sofas and chairs and end tables. Welcome to my house, he said, and I realized that he looked sort of ordinary too. Sort of…

Father? I asked him, wanting to be sure it was really him. This doesn’t look like any palace, or castle, or throne room for a sovereign king, I said…

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Justice? I just don’t get it…

The Equalizer

“Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer!”

Leverage

“The rich and powerful take what they want. We steal it back for you.”

The Shadow

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

Superman

“The never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.”

Underdog

“Never fear, Underdog is here!”

Even Underdog! Then there’s the Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, Green Hornet, Red Rider, Zorro… not to mention my all-time favorite, the A-Team.

What do all these have in common? The demand for justice. Fairness. “What’s fair is fair.” Because people know what is right, what is fair, what is equitable.

From the very beginning, they knew that some things were wrong. Like killing, stealing, lying, destroying.

How did they know? They were created to know, and they were given to know. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8)

Along the way (beginning in the Garden), God’s definitions of right and wrong were questioned, then perverted by some. And people still cry out for justice, as they have from the beginning. God himself said that Abel’s blood cried out from the ground (Genesis 4:10). The perversion of justice demanded a penalty – death. (Genesis 2:17, Romans 6:23)

The oldest of civilizations devised codes of laws and systems of justice, attempting to get back to the beginning, to the Garden, perhaps.

Back in the 1980’s when Tim and I first got involved in politics, an irate woman shouted at us in a meeting, “You can’t legislate morality!” She was angry at our stances on various issues. Especially our pro-life stances. (We were actively, vocally opposed to removing the pro-life plank from the state and national Republican Party platforms.)

“Sure you can,” I answered, when I could get a word in. “That’s what legislation does.The question is, whose morality are you going to legislate?” I may not have persuaded her that day, but I hope she thought more about my question. Whose morality? Whose justice?

In the scriptures, the words justice and righteousness come from the same root word. Justice is a principle and a system of right and wrong as defined by the Creator. Righteousness is a state of being right in God’s eyes, in his opinion.

God gets to define “right,” and he gets to decide who is right. (When the word is translated justice, another word – judgment – is often found in that verse, meaning the decision and legal declaration of justice.)

Is justice always doing the right thing, never doing the wrong thing? But I couldn’t live up to that standard, no matter how hard I tried. So then, what is justice, to God? What is righteousness?

“Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:3) Hebrews 11 lists the “Heroes of Faith,” men and women who believed what God said to them and thus were considered righteous by God.

Now, I believe, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (II Cor. 5:21). Jesus took the penalty of sin, instead of me.

Consider:

  • Having their conscience seared as with a hot iron – I Timothy 4:2
  • Having their senses exercised to discern good and evil – Hebrews 5:14
  • Let justice roll – Amos 5:24
  • There is none good but God – Matthew 19:17
  • There is none righteous – Romans 3:10
  • Vengeance is mine, I will repay, said the Lord – Romans 12:19.

And he did. Jesus got the penalty in my place, satisfied God’s requirements of justice, and I get his grace instead.

Already an interesting year

Some new readers may have missed the following post, originally published on December 25, 2015:

2016 – what will it be like?

Praying before sleep one night last week, I asked the Lord about next year. “What will it be like? Worse than 2015? More disasters, chaos, tragedies? More wars?”

“Appointments met,” he said. “Promises kept. Prophecies fulfilled. A year of kairos moments.”

Kairos – the appointed time, in due season, the fullness of time, at a fixed and definite time, for a certain time only.

It’s going to be an interesting year.

—————————————————————-

2016 has already been an interesting year. I’ve met many new people online, read many interesting articles and blog posts, had the privilege of praying with many people in person, on the phone or online, and seeing God at work everywhere. Almost every day…

Thinking about that, the Lord reminded me of an occasion some weeks ago that was way MORE than just interesting.

A routine appointment with my cardiologist was scheduled for 1:30 on a Friday afternoon. As usual, I arrived a few minutes early and checked in with the receptionist. She looked a little “frowny,” so I asked how she was doing.

“Not too good,” she said. “I have a terrible stomach ache. I couldn’t even eat my lunch.”

So, I reached my hand across the counter, she took it, and looking straight into her eyes I smiled and said, “Stomach, be healed in Jesus’ name.”

She thanked me and I turned into the waiting room, found an empty chair and sat down. The only other patient nearby looked over at me and spoke hello with a big smile on his face. He had seen my interaction with the ailing receptionist.

Dropping my purse onto the floor, I leaned back to get comfortable when I heard my name called. I’d been there five minutes! That never happens… usually there is a lengthy wait time.

In a little room off the main hall, a very overweight medical technician took my weight and checked my blood pressure, pronouncing both of them excellent.

“Wish I could say that,” she commented. “I can’t seem to lose weight and I know my blood pressure’s too high.”

“Would you like to know how I do that?” I asked her. “Sure,” she said.

And so I told her about the power of the Holy Spirit to stick with a healthier lifestyle. She said she and her husband were both Christians and he was doing okay, but she had a hard time eating right.

“Would you like me to pray for you?” When she said yes I held out my hand and she took it. With a smile I simply prayed, “Father, please give my sister the desire and the ability to take better care of her health, especially with what she eats, in Jesus’ name.”

Thanking me, she walked me straight to an examining room – which never happens! Usually patients go into an intermediate waiting room first, but this time we skipped right past it.

The young cardiologist and his physician’s assistant came in within a very few minutes – which never happens either! He read through my chart, listened to my heart and lungs and said, “You’re doing fine, just keep doing what you’re doing and come back in six months or so.”

As he prepared to leave the room, I asked him, “Can I pray for you?” (I already knew he was a believer from previous appointments.)

“Oh yes, I’d love for you to pray for me,” he answered, then put his arm around my shoulder and bowed his head.

I asked the Lord to bless him, to meet every need for him, his family, his staff and his practice, and especially to bless his relationship with the Lord. He hugged me, thanked me and turned to leave the room.

His physician’s assistant still stood there. She looked a bit glum, so I asked, “Would you like me to pray for you too?”

She teared up and began to cry. “Oh yes, please,” she said. “I’ve been having a really hard time lately and I need somebody to pray for me.”

I didn’t ask her for any details. I just took her hand, she bowed her head, and I asked the Lord to touch her life, to make Himself very present to her, and to let her know how very much God loves her and wants to help her.

I have no idea what words I said specifically. I just let the Holy Spirit use me to speak directly to her heart. She hugged me and thanked me, I got dressed and went back out to the receptionist’s desk.

The receptionist was smiling and cheerful as I asked, “How’s your stomach?”

“It quit hurting the second you prayed!” she exclaimed. She told me how much she appreciated the fact that I cared enough to pray for her. I smiled and said “Be blessed!”

Walking to my car, I glanced at my watch. I had been in the doctor’s office for about thirty minutes – that never happens!

Since that afternoon, I’ve had multiple opportunities to lay hands on the sick and see the Lord heal them – including laryngitis that instantly vanished, and a broken foot that was instantly healed, confirmed the next day with x-rays.

There have been many chances to see the Lord at work, to pray with and for people with a wide variety of problems, some serious – like the young father of four whose truck and his wife’s car both broke down at the same time. The Lord marvelously provided a replacement vehicle and truck repairs at very little cost.

Some of those chances have been at church, some in grocery stores, some in other businesses, and some online. Jesus went about doing good. He told us to do what he had been doing. A disciple isn’t just someone who reads about another person – his master – and tries to do what they did. A disciple is someone in training to be LIKE his master.

In our case, that’s Jesus. Being his disciple is doing what he did, how he did it. It’s listening to the Holy Spirit and doing what he says, with the dunamis power he provides to do it. If we’re not doing what Jesus did, how are we to do the “greater works than these?”

2016 is indeed going to be an interesting year. It already has been!

Acts 10:38, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.”

John 14:12, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”

Jesus spoke to the dead girl as if her ears still worked

Gabriel Max (German, 1840-1915). 'The Raising of the Daughter of Jairus,' 1881. oil on canvas. Walters Art Museum (37.170): Acquired by Henry Walters, 1906.“Talitha cumi,” he said to her. Little girl, get up. So she did. Feed her, he said to her parents. So they did.

But where’s the beginning of this story? We find it in Mark Chapter 5.

Jesus and the disciples had been across the lake (Sea of Galilee) for a while, then came back to where they started. One of the religious leaders was in the crowd waiting for them with a very sad story. His daughter was dying.

Please come, he begged Jesus. Put your hand on her, and she will be healed and live!

And so Jesus did. Now, he could have just spoken a word or two and sent the fellow home. After all, that’s what he did with the Centurian and the sick servant. No need to travel, just say something short.

But in this case Jesus did what the father asked. Before they had gone far, some men met them and said, Don’t bother, your daughter’s dead. Sad news, fear-creating news, doubt-filled news.

Jesus ignored their words. Still, he knew the father probably couldn’t just ignore their words, so he countered them with faith-filled words — “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

The father had to choose which words to accept. Since they continued on to the house, he obviously chose Jesus’ words.

When they got to the house, there was a lot of noise – the mourners had already gathered. You’re wasting your time, she’s dead, they claimed. Again Jesus countered their words. “She’s not dead, she’s asleep.”

They laughed – and Jesus put them out. It wasn’t his house, but he still put them out. He got rid of the mournful, faithless folks and once they were gone, he took the faithful disciples and parents into the girl’s room.

Jesus again did what the father asked. He put his hand on the girl and spoke to her as if she could hear him. “Talitha cumi.” Little girl, get up. And she did!

She didn’t just get up, she walked around. Knowing she’d be hungry, Jesus told them to feed her, and I’m sure they did.

What happened here? Why did Jesus agree to the requests of this man? Jesus came, he put his hand on the dead girl, she was healed and she lived, just like the father had said.

How did the head of the synagogue, a religious leader, get this faith in Jesus? Enough that he ignored the men from his own household, ignored the grieving mourners come to offer sympathy to the family?

I think about the statement Jesus made to several other people. Your faith has done it. Your faith has healed you. Your faith has healed your servant. Your faith has healed your daughter.

Your trust, reliance, assurance, confidence, your knowing-that-you-know faith. Not just in who Jesus is and what he can do, but in his will, his desires, his compassion.

This man had to have received this faith from listening to Jesus’ own words and making a firm decision from his heart, a decision to believe him. He had to reaffirm that decision on the road to the house when Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing not just any words, Jesus’ words. Despite his religious training and position in the community, this man had made the decision to believe in Jesus. Jesus recognized it, acknowledged it and honored it.

These days as in those days, that kind of faith is a rare commodity. Churches are filled with people like those mourners, those so-called friends of the family. “It’s too late,” they say. “We can’t know God’s will for sure,” they say. Their words lack confidence, boldness and power.

“I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith,” Jesus said of the Centurian. (Matthew 8:10)  We might as well say “anyone in America,” or “anyone in Florence.”

My goal is to be one of the disciples Jesus will let into the room. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Jesus asked. (Luke 18:8) Yes! Oh yes! Is my prayer.

(Originally posted March 10, 2008.)