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.