Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Selah



Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!
Many are they who rise up against me.
Many are they who say of me,
“There is no help for him in God.” Selah
But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
I cried to the Lord with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah – Psalms 3:1-4

Often when I pray and speak my heart to God, I find myself filled with thoughts that take me from point A, where I was focused, to point Z!  I would feel guilty when this happened because after all, I was talking to Almighty God.  Surely, He did not care for my inattention to His presence!  My interruption in my prayer was certainly not a good use of His time, right?

But this past week as this happened, the Word came to me in one of these moments:  Selah.  I knew it had something to do with pausing, but I needed to know more.

Selah is a Hebrew word (Strong’s H5541) for pause, interruption, and a musical term for accentuation with a pause.  It’s used 74 times the Bible, but 71 of those are in the book of Psalms.  Read for yourself some of the uses of the word in Psalms and you’ll see that the writer, often David, would be in prayerful conversation with God when the Selah was added.  It was used many times as a pause in praying.  And after the pause…the come back!  A victorious recovery from the downfallen spirit!

I believe that when we pause in our prayers, we allow God to do the talking while we are silent.  What I thought was my mind wandering is often His lead.  Several times while praying over an issue, I’ve had the enlightenment I need to resolve the issue.  As a software developer I cannot tell you how many times this has occurred when after hours of trying I just cannot figure things out! Yes, that’s right, God’s wisdom is rich even in software development, and that I can testify! 

Selah.  Wait for His reply.  Let Him lead your mind.  What I found after the guilty feeling of not being focused on the prayer itself, was that after I did refocus, I was more at ease.  The victory of prayer lies within the Selah.  Listen and be led.



Monday, June 17, 2019

The Bitter Fruits





A man’s stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth;
From the produce of his lips he shall be filled.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.” – Proverbs 18:20-21

Two men are travelling up a mountain.  One is on the north side of the mountain and the other on the south side. Each has a group of friends travelling with him.

The man on the north side complains.  The hill is too steep.  It makes his back hurt.  He is tired, he is thirsty, he wants to take a break, no one is helping him climb the mountain.  And as he goes, he pulls rocks from his backpack and places them in the path.  Then he complains again, and again.

The man on the south side travels up the same mountain with the same complications.  But instead, he encourages those with him, and sees the beauty of the path.  He takes the clear path, choosing to avoid the rocks and obstacles.  He travels lightly and makes sure those that follow can see the clear path he’s chosen.  He speaks good things, such as “We’re half way there!” “What beautiful wildflowers!”  “Smell that fresh air!”

Which team to do think will get to the top first?

As we go through life we carry many people with us.  The group changes day by day, but they’re always there.  If you choose to speak into the negativity of your journey, your life will be harder, and your burden heavier.  And those that travel with you will gain that same outlook of life that you’ve displayed in words.  But if you speak the positive, if you speak life into your journey and those that follow you, joy is born. 

The writer of Proverbs 18 says that from the fruit of your lips you will be filled.  Do you want to be full of an indigestion of complaints and worries, or do you want to be filled with joy?  “Oh, but my path is so much harder than everyone else’s”, you say.  Of course, it is!  You’ve made it harder by choosing to complain and bring everyone into your negativity. Stop throwing rocks out of your backpack.  Instead, drop the entire backpack!  Complaining is an ineffective strategy.

Sometimes we love talking too much, and because we talk out our complaints and gripes, living in the negative the whole time, we eat the fruits we created.  They are dirty rotten fruits from a bitterness that ruins everything it touches.  Indeed, silence will wilt the bitter vine! 

Complain less.  Find the good in everything – because it IS there.  The fruits of your words will be nourishment to your life and those around you - instead of poison. 


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Open House


“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.  Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order.  Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” – Matthew 12:43-45

When I was raising my kids, it took me zero seconds to realize that the only way to keep a clean house was to move and take them with me.  Kids make a mess, it’s what they do.  They need house training just like puppies do…but for other reasons, of course.  I still cleaned house, but I wasn’t so foolish as to think it would be the last time I’d have to do it.  Houses get dirty because people live in them. 

But little by little they were trained.  They learned not to write on the walls, not to spread blue Jell-O into beige carpet, not to shoot plastic pellets in the bedroom where my vacuum would suck them up for years, and even to throw their laundry into (not at) the hamper.  But it wasn’t done in a day.  It took time.

When we clean up our lives, the same thing is true.  We need training to know how to live, and which bad habits to break.  As you learn, you lay down bad habits, and you pick up good ones.  You lock the doors of your heart against those things you did and allowed in before.  For example, I don’t watch horror movies anymore or any “entertainment” based on murder.   Some things aren’t meant to enter the gates of a clean house.  If the filth stays outside, the house stays clean.

Now it will take dying for me to be spotless, I’ll tell you that!  This process of sanctification is an ongoing process.  It’s a process of giving away our will to take His will.  It’s a process of learning to love God more than we love ourselves so that we can submit to Him. 

How does that occur?  The same way it occurred to my kids to keep things clean.  There was punishment when they didn’t, and there was love, always love.  God will punish His children to keep them on the right path (Hebrews 12:6).  But He also blesses those who are obedient to Him (Proverbs 16:20).

There have been a few people in my life that I know were – and are – Christians, but I’ve seen them turn away from their faith, away from God, and live like satan’s children.  It’s a sad thing to happen, because as the obedience leaves, the correction sets in.  And as the correction continues, the love fades.  God’s love is still there, I know that.  But God does say that he will give them over to their reprobate mind (Romans 1:28, 2 Timothy 3).  While they had cleaned their house, the didn’t keep it clean.  They didn’t lock the doors to the things that didn’t belong inside.  They had an open house. 

I cannot think of anything sadder than getting to Heaven, having been a victorious, richly blessed Christian, and having to bow my head in shame at having turned from God.  It would be a sad meeting time to have to look into His eyes and realize what I gave up was the greatest love of all for what I thought was a good time.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Jar






Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.  Give a serving to seven, and also to eight, for you do not know what evil will be on the earth.” – Ecclesiastes 11:1-2


Now that sounds strange to our 2019 ears, doesn’t it?  Bread on water makes mush! Ewe!  But the meaning of these verses is so accurate for today’s life.

“Cast your bread upon the waters” is an allusion to the sowing of rice.  The rise was cast (thrown for sowing) into a wetland, and the cattle would trod it into the earth.  After “many days” the rice would grow and there would be a harvest. 

From that harvest we give.  We give to many – as many as we can.  We don’t hoard it for ourselves, as it will spoil.  Fresh grown rice can become rancid if not completely dried.  It can mold, and spoil.  We give what we have today because keeping it can lead to it spoiling.

But the spoiling isn’t always the rice.  When we keep what can help others, we spoil our own hearts, becoming selfish and uncaring.   

As I read this passage today, the last line struck me with the vision of a jar.  A jar holds just a certain amount.  You can’t overfill it, you can’t stretch it to fit more.  We have one other thing that we cannot stretch, our time. 

We are all allotted a certain amount of time on this earth.  Each day we pour out a little more, and a little more, and one day there will be no more time in that jar. It’s in that jar of time we can choose to show kindness and charity to others, or selfishly consider only ourselves.  But regardless of the decision made each day, time flows from the jar.

As this world become eviler every day, hoarding our good deeds, not giving a “serving to seven, and also to eight”, not only affects those we see in need, but society.  Your charity and kindness to others has a ripple effect.  Your children see it, and they give.  Your friends see it, and they feel the need to be kind to others as well.  Those who receive your kindness, also desire to share that kindness.  But when you hold back, it’s like a river running into the ocean, dammed up.  The ripples from that direction stop.

Friends, today we have time trickling out of our jars.  Pour out your kindness on others and watch the ripples flow!  For friends, there is coming a day when all branches of kindness will be dammed up, and this world will cease to have caring people.  There will be no doors held open, no “God bless you” to a sneeze, no simple smiles to the mother fretting over a wild child at the grocery, no compassion on the sick, no help for those that fall and fail.  Love one another today, because that jar is soon going to be empty, and God needs your compassion to create ripples.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Thorns and Briars



“For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush.” – Luke 6:44

This morning as I sat looking at the blackberry blossoms outside my window I began to reminisce.  I spent many summer days growing up gathering black berries with my grandmother Ruby.  We would go deep into the fields, find the briars, and start picking.  Quite often we would pick gallon buckets full.  We would pick early while the sun was just coming up to avoid as much heat as we could but would often pick until past noon. 

We always wore long sleeves to protect us from the thorns on the briars.  Even on those hot July days with the suffocating humidity of Kentucky I was grateful for those sleeves.  I would liken a thorn prick to that of a paper cut.  It’s a tiny little thing that can hurt for days!  And the scratches can make your arms look like you’ve been in a cat fight.

I often wondered why God made thorns on those briars when He also put delicious fruit on their, knowing we’d want to eat it.  Yes, the thorns keep some animals from the berries, but deer, birds and other critters don’t mind them!  Deer will clean a blackberry bush of all its berries, no matter how deep into the bramble the berries are.  And now I realize, there is a second purpose to those thorns.

When you look at how a blackberry vine grows you see that its trunk is small.  It’s not much bigger in diameter at the root as it is several feet down the branch.  But if you’ve ever tried to pull a branch from the bramble, you find it doesn’t come out well.  It’s the thorns! They hang and capture with each pull that branch that is moving out of the briars.    With a branch that is so small, the briars help support each other.  They hang on each other.  Each branch has thorns that support other branches as it grows and entwines the entire plant.  The higher they grow with this support, the more sun they get and the more berries they produce.  Yet, even with the weight of the berries, the branches are supported.

Sometimes we are the branch, and sometimes we are the thorn.  We’re placed in the lives of those around us to lift them up as we are being lifted too.  It’s not always pleasant, and it can be somewhat confining and uncomfortable.  But, we grow in such environment. 

I think of the years of raising my now adult children when I write this.  Sometimes I’ve had to prick them and pull them back into place, and sometimes they pricked me and showed me my place!  But I’ve always allowed them to grow as high as they can grow, and they’ve allowed me to be the best Mom I know how to be.  Never confining, continuously guiding, and always supporting; that’s a mother’s job. 

Likewise, our spouses, coworkers, and friends receive the same support and guidance.  It’s in lifting others up and helping them grow stronger that we are most like Christ.  His desire for us was to “love one another even as I have loved you”.   And now I reflect on the crown of thorns that sat on His head, and how meaningful that really was.

But I must also warn that you, dear friend, can become part of bramble that will not let you out as well.  Be careful who you associate with, who you work with, and who you create an everlasting “bramble” with through marriage.  You need support to fulfil your purpose in life.  Grapes won’t do well if planted in a blackberry bush.  Those pricks are counterproductive to the fruit it needs to bear.  Grapes need completely different care than blackberries.  If you entwine yourself with those who are not like you want to become, you’ll either suffer from the relationship or adapt to it.

Pick your briars well - but pick one! Make sure it’s one that will support you and carry you higher.  Make sure it doesn’t conflict with your dreams and purpose.
 

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Sound of Silence



The Sound of Silence

Years ago, Paul Simon wrote a song called “The Sound of Silence”.  In fact, it was just a couple of years after I was born.  But until recently, the words didn’t come alive to me.  This song seems prophetic in many ways to our society. 

Now that I see it that way I cannot hear it enough.  It’s as if God has opened this song up to me, unlocking it some how for me to understand.  I’m going to share what I hear in it, in hopes that we all get the same message from it.  Because after hearing the words through what God has revealed, I cannot be silent.

Hello darkness, my old friend
Darkness, absence of light, Christ being the “light of the world”

I've come to talk with you again
            Speaking to the darkness, the evil of the world.
Because a vision softly creeping
Softly creeping, quietly sneaking in

Left its seeds while I was sleeping
            We sleep with our eyes wide open, ignoring what goes on around us
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Then we awake one day to see the world around us as it is
Still remains
And just as this won’t shake from my head when I hear the song, it remains.

Within the sound of silence
And I stayed silent about it for weeks now.  I stayed silent. Muzzled by fear of what? Being told I was ridiculous, out of my head, a “crazy Christian”.

In restless dreams I walked alone
The vision began by being alone, walking in the night, the evil of darkness

Narrow streets of cobblestone
Streets that were old, had been paths for many others who remained silent

'Neath the halo of a street lamp
A street lamp that seemed to provide some light, if only in one place.

I turned my collar to the cold and damp
No one wants to see the sin and evil, we turn up our collars to not feel it.

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
Stabbed – you can’t get away from the pain.  Neon light.  Commerce, business, the things we strive for without even knowing why.
That split the night
Wide open we are now, not asleep.

And touched the sound of silence
Yet no one was heard.  Not a word.

And in the naked light I saw
            Naked light, revealing all we don’t want to see.
Ten thousand people, maybe more
Humanity, all in one place

People talking without speaking
Expressions on the faces as we look at each other with every look except love.
Words from t-shirt slogans, tattoos, and even facebook posts that we judge by.

People hearing without listening
            We hear what we want to hear, see what we want to see, and dismiss the rest.
People writing songs that voices never share
We never share what is on our hearts, our songs, because…
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence


"Fools" said I, "You do not know
God finally speaks, and calls us all fools
Silence like a cancer grows
The more one of us is silent, the harder it is for any to not be silent
Hear my words that I might teach you
We don’t want to hear him that we’d be wiser.  We’re content to be silent and not truly live lives that can matter.
Take my arms that I might reach you"
With all He has, He tries to reach us with outstretched arms.

But my words like silent raindrops fell
His words are given daily, written for all to have and all to know.  He’s open to communication through prayer, but…
And echoed in the wells of silence
It goes unheard because Christians like myself are “wells of silence” where those drops of rain fall, and lay silent.
And the people bowed and prayed
We all pray to someone or something.  But often our prayers to God are not about what matters to Him but about what matters to us.  We fail to even speak of His will, and ask for that change in our lives that cause us to truly LIVE.

To the neon god they made
We pray about the things that are neon, not real light, but artificial.  Not God, but worshipped as if they were real.

And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming

And the sign said, "The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls"
Graffiti often spells names of those that want to be heard, want to be known.  They spell out a need to be loved.  They spell out slogans and phrases that we use to try to be socially accepted.  They spell out loneliness.  They spell out a lack of hope due to a lack of faith.

And whispered in the sounds of silence
…and still we remain silent.



God bless you all, be with you all, and show you His unfailing love.
Love One Another.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Word of Mouth - Make God Famous



"Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”" - Joshua 2:8-13


The above passage is from Rahab, the Harlot who took in the two Israelite spies when they were investigating the land of Jericho. It has always intrigued me that the enemy was at Rahab's door, and she knew it, and yet she let them in her house, and even hid them to protect them.


But if you read what she has to say about God, the God of the spies, it is explained. Rahab feared these men and all of the Israelite army because she had come to know their God, which is Our God.


But in these times there was no Fox News, or CNN. There were no newspaper or online media. God became famous because His ways were talked about. His people made Him famous among a people they did not know. They got the news from Sihon and Og being destroyed, the Red Sea parting, The people had become 'fainthearted', worried because of their God.


Compare this to today. How many people actually are 'fainthearted' at hearing what our God has done? How many ask us to remember them when our God's wrath comes? People no longer respect God and His will because they no longer understand who God is; His power, His wisdom, or His love.


Fox News and CNN won't be talking about the wonderful things God has done for you, the battles He has fought, the blessings He has brought, the promises He has fulfilled. It's up to you to make God famous, and still today, word of mouth is the way to do it.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Walking in Faith

“Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”; So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.“ – Luke 17:12-14

Picture with me the scene in the above passage.  Ten men ignored and isolated due to a disease with no cure.  Everyone that encountered them kept their distance for fear of becoming like them.
Except Jesus. 
When they cried out to Him, He answered.  But his answer wasn’t “I’ve heard your cry and you are healed” or “Your faith has made you well, go in peace.” In this passage there’s a lesson for those of us who have wavering faith, whose prayers are more of a list of wishes than prayers of faith.
What Jesus said is “Go”, and they were going before they were healed.  The passage says they were healed as they went. 
Logically, they would have said, “This is crazy! Here we are lepers and we’re going to the priests?  They’ll not come near us!  They’ll throw us out!”  Or, “Look at us, my skin is oozing still.  When will this oozing end Jesus?  You know I cannot go there looking like this.” 
But they had to walk in faith that their healing would come before they reached the priests.  And, it did!
God’s actions are not always completed in microwave seconds.  But our prayers are instantly heard and attended.  While not all are a “Yes”, and some are in fact a resounding “No” for your own good.  But those that fall into a third category of “Wait” require us to walk in faith.  Praying without ceasing in this season of waiting is not to bend God’s actions, for He already has your answer.  He knows the end from the beginning.  Instead, your prayers are evidence of faith, or evidence of fear and trembling.  When you have faith, there is no fear and trembling, but peace resides as you wait.
There’s nothing wrong with praying where you have no faith, with fear and trembling.  David prayed with fear and trembling in Psalms 55, the woman with the issue of blood approached Jesus with fear and trembling in Mark 5.  This is how your faith grows!  Philippians 2:12 says to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”.  You faith walk must be built with things that test your faith, and cause you to fear.  How else will you see the faithfulness of God?  How else would you grow to know His heart?
In the waiting moments, walk in faith.  If the answer is no, you’ve still gained a greater relationship with Christ.  If the answer is yes, you’ve gained a testimony to help others walk in faith.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Be Yourself!


“Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” - Daniel 6:20

To read this verse, you'd never think it came from the mouth of a man who was willing to kill Daniel for not bowing to him and worshipping him. King Nebuchadnezzar called God "the living God", and said "whom you serve continually". The Bible tells of it, but with just this one verse, it's obvious Daniel had shown his relationship with God to the King. And because Daniel did this, in spite of the threats and roaring lions, the King knew the living God.

I've come to realize something in the past 10 years or so. The more I voice my relationship with Christ, the more I make it an open topic, and the more I find that there are Christians all around me. They are silent about their relationships because no one has opened the door to the freedom to speak. Some of my best relationships started with simply voicing that I cannot separate the Christ in me from who I am. For me, it would be like trying to drop my accent, or to masquerade as someone else. I am who I am, and being in Christ defines me.

We've been slowly and quietly silenced by popular opinion, the fear of being offensive, and sensitivity training. Friends, I'm here to tell you that you should NEVER hide who you are in Christ.

Jesus speaks about this in Luke 9:25-26, saying "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels."

Ashamed. That's not what I want to hear at his coming.

Friends, we're hear for one reason: To make God famous. We are lighthouses in the darkness for those that look for peace and forgiveness. But if you're light is overshadowed by a fear of shining, they'll never find you.

Go ahead! Be yourself! It's better to offend those in this temporary life, than to offend the One who you will live with eternally. Let the lions roar! They can't harm you.

Monday, January 7, 2019

A Recipe for Contentment




“… for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” – Philippians 4:11

We often read this verse from Paul and consider Paul as having risen to a state of contentment we all hope to achieve.  Who doesn’t want to be content when we’re sick or healthy, wanting or fulfilled, insufficient or overflowing? 

But this verse could have been reworded to say, “God’s taken me through struggles to teach me to be content in whatever state I’m in”.  I dare saw myself and many others would not be so quick to wish for what Paul had if it were worded that way.

None of us want the struggles that God brings to our lives, or that our own behavior brings.  But in all things, in all ways, God is molding us into who He needs us to be.  His children are never forsaken. 

Sometimes the place you are in is so dark that you cannot see the shadow of His hand.  In those times, your faith grows as your heart yearns for Him to draw you closer.  And as He does show up in actions, in His word, in the words of others, our heart feels His love. 

Paul gave advice before expressing his contentment in this verse.  He said:
1.       Stand fast, don’t be moved (Verse 1).
2.       Unite yourself with others (Verse 2).
3.       Help others who are working His will (Verse 3).
4.       “Rejoice Always”, find the good in everything (Verse 4).
5.       Be gentle to everyone (Verse 5).
6.       Don’t be anxious, but pray about everything, and be thankful (Verse 6).

Following these six verse of advice, Paul expresses the outcome of this recipe of behavior.

“ and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Verse 7)

Is that not where contentment comes from?  Is it not from peace in our hearts and minds?