March 24, 2011 § 4 Comments
If you have been reading my blog regularly, you know I am memorizing James and I am praying on my knees for at least 15 minutes a week. Are you joining me? Let me know by leaving a comment and telling me about where you are in James or what God has been doing in your prayer time.
Anyway, I have made it to James 3 and here came this verse:
We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. James 3:2
First I am struck with we all stumble…Not only do we stumble, but we stumble in many ways. OUCH! That is pretty harsh. I don’t like to admit that I stumble at all and now James is telling me that we all stumble in many ways. Then he mentions our words. Yes our words…If we are never at fault in what we say, we are perfect. Seems simple right?
So why is it so hard? Why can’t we never be at fault in what we say? Why do words matter so much that if we could keep our tongue in check we would be perfect?
Words…I want to use life-giving words. I want to pass on wise words, words of grace, words of truth. But too often my words are harsh, they tear down, they convey irritation.
Words are that important. Jesus confirms this when He says, “For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45b)
We speak what is in our hearts. If our hearts are in check our words will be in check…So our words are a good indicator of the condition of our hearts. Are we speaking in love and with patience or are we irritated and grumpy? God is more interested in our hearts than our actions. We can fake a lot of things, but our words often give away where our hearts are…
Let’s do some heart checks. We need to think about what we have said, ask others if what we say is harsh or said in love. We need to measure our words carefully. They are important.
What do you think? Are words really something that can “never hurt me” unlike sticks and stones? Is it possible that words are important and that they show the condition of our hearts? Do you have a story about that? I can’t wait to hear it!
Here is another post I did on the Word…Click here to read it.
February 11, 2011 § 2 Comments
We open our hearts to one another. Share the hard things. The stuff that we struggle with. The things that leave our souls raw. The things we know are not quite right, but are not sure how to change. Some of the raw places are of our own making and others are wounds caused by the clash of our soul against another. She wonders how? How can I change this? How can this stop being a repeated dissonant chord in her relationship?
Her story reminds me of a similar chord I have longed to stop hearing in my relationships. So I tell her my story of how the dissonant chord was partly of my own making. How changing my reaction to the note he played made the chord harmonious instead. I had a choice to trust God and play the note He called me to play or the note my heart longed to play. My story told of the wrestling in my spirit and working it out the raw painful choosing of His note over mine. Yet choosing His note, changed the melody completely. As I obediently and unwillingly played the note my Father called me to play, his notes began to change too. Suddenly the chaos than ugly tune we were playing through our own raw reactions was transformed by God. As if joined by the Holy trinity itself, the tune began to work, healing and redemption followed. It was how God showed me to stop repeating that dissonant chord.
My story finished, just a story of how God changed me – a hopeless, helpless, rebellious, and sin-diseased woman – and help me make beautiful music in my relationships. She listened to my story, but not sure if my story could work in her story. Uneasy and unready to accept that maybe God was ready to change her that way too. She said thank you and waited. Waited to meditate, pray over, and decide. Is this what God is calling me to do?
Later she called and thanked me. Not because I am some amazing example to follow, but because my story shed light on a way to make the chords in her relationships more harmonious. She was able to see a new way, a new choice that she was unable to see before.
Grace-full accountability. Filled with knowing we all need God’s grace and it is only by His grace any of us are able to choose to play His notes and not our own.
What are your thoughts about this kind of accountability? I would love to hear from you. Grace and Blessings to you all!
September 8, 2010 § 2 Comments
Call me crazy, but I love food and I love to try different things. My kids have watched the movie Ratatouille more times than I can count and I decided I wanted to try to make it. Mind you, I didn’t want to make the difficult gourmet version as Remi did on the movie. No I found a simple recipe for ratatouille in the crock-pot. Yes, I said crock-pot. Did you hear that? It was all the true foodies around the world are groaning that I would put fresh vegetables and spices in a pot that is bound to cook them until mushy. Was it mushy? Yes. Was it delicious? The answer is yes. Did my kids hate it? Well, I got mixed reviews, but the kindest response I received came from my seven year-old. “This isn’t my favorite, mom, but I am going to eat it anyway.” That is code for, “I don’t really like it, but I will swallow enough so that I can have dessert.” The dessert was a baked strawberry pie for those who wanted to know. It was a pretty good motivator for her, but my other two sweet children, well that is another story completely. Without including all the details (I would hate to incriminate anyone), daddy had to dole out some tough love. In the midst of the post tough love debriefing daddy said, “Who made this food? Right mom. Would mom or I make you eat food that wasn’t good for you?” The answer was given, “no.” The food was begrudgingly swallowed with the appropriate about of water to wash it down, and our meal continued.
However the question was still ringing in my ears. As if God Himself was looking at me saying, “Angela, who brought you to this point in your life? Who gave you air to breathe; who makes your heart beat; who has provided food, shelter, clothes for you?”
Gulping I look up into His eyes. His eyes are tender, loving, but also full of sadness. “You,” quivers my tiny voice.
“Will I allow you to go somewhere I do not go with you? Do I not deliver you from trials, do I not hem you in? Then why do you struggle against what I am bringing into your life? Why do you seek your way, when My way is better?”
Yes, why must I have it my way? Maybe it is possible that I am high-strung a bit…Ok, I was on the debate team in High School. I like being right, to have it all together, to orchestrate my day, week, month, year, life. Admittedly I can be self-centered and God doesn’t really go for that. In fact the last time I checked the universe doesn’t exactly revolve around me. Nope, it is God who has it all spinning in the right direction. If I were to drop dead tomorrow, the sun would still shine. All my scheming and planning are exercises in futility. So why am I compelled to continue? I am a sinful selfish creature and I often do not trust God. Oh, I say I trust Him. I sing songs about His faithfulness, but then I get angry and bitter and frustrated when He makes ratatouille instead of pizza. Am I the only one?
Here is the amazing thing: God loves me anyway. God tells me in Deuteronomy 31:8, “The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” So God is there before I am. He is ahead of me, He knows what will happen and He is there. He isn’t only two steps or more in front of me, He is also with me. Always. He won’t desert me or forget me or leave me hanging in the wind. No, He is there. So I don’t have to be afraid or discouraged. I also don’t have to try to keep all the plates spinning in my perfectly choreographed life. God already knows where I am going, He is there. He is also with me now and He will never leave, even if I don’t want ratatouille.
July 20, 2010 § 3 Comments
Envision a bright, sunny, winter day. Snow is on the ground, and the sun creates a magnificently brilliant, and blinding glare. That is the day this idea came to me. I was walking between classes at college, without my sunglasses on, and God seemed to tell me. “The reason you can’t look at My holiness, and My glory is that you are not wearing your Son-glasses. That is why the world didn’t recognize Jesus as God when He came to earth. They weren’t wearing their shades” Only through the lenses of God’s Son, Jesus, can we hope to “see” God. Ezekiel 1:27 mentions a vision of Jesus on his throne, and says that “brilliant light surrounded him.” God is that amazing! God’s glory is brilliant, too brilliant for our human eyes to see. That is why Moses only got to see God’s back. (Exodus 33:12-27). Only through the redeeming blood of our Savior, Jesus; only through the Son-glasses of salvation can we see God.
The thing is that we often think we are smart enough to put on our “Son-glasses.” That somehow, we had something to do with finding salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” The first “that” in the verse is referring to our faith, not God’s grace. So our faith is THE gift of God. If our faith itself comes from God, then how can we say, I am better or smarter than those who don’t choose God? No we are all in need of grace. At some point we are all deceived by sin. We are blessed to accept Jesus, not smart enough. Yes, God in His sovereignty allows choice some how, don’t ask me how. The point is that we need to be gracious to those who don’t know God. We need to show them how salvation affects our daily lives; how we live out our salvation in all we say and do. They don’t need condemnation. They don’t need a watered down version of the truth. They need to see God’s kindness which leads them to repentance. (Romans 2:4)
Oh, that I would live a life full of God’s kindness. That I would live a life viewed through the Son-glasses of salvation so I can be intimate with God. As I view life through those wonderful, grace given, Son-glasses, I pray my heart and my perspective will change to be more like God’s.
Now are you wearing your shades?
February 24, 2010 § 3 Comments
So I have been thinking about this whole holiness thing. God tells us to, “….be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.” (Lev. 20:26) So holiness…Most of us think of holiness as a state of perfection. We NEVER do ANYTHING wrong. We say the exact right thing at the right time and we look down on others who don’t. We are then holy. But that isn’t God’s holiness. Really holy means set apart. For instance, I take a plate that says “celebrate” on it and tell my family this is our special birthday plate. We only get to use it on our birthdays. The plate is just a plate, but I have made it holy by setting it apart for a special purpose. So God is telling Israel and through them us to be set apart because He is set apart.
So how do we set ourselves apart? I mean seriously…How am I different than those who don’t know Jesus as savior? How do I maintain that difference? What can I do to make myself holy? In Leviticus we see that God is setting out laws and rules for those Israelites to follow. Don’t eat this, don’t touch that, this is unclean, that is clean, celebrate this festival at this time, etc. All of these outward things certainly make the Israelites look different. Most cultures at this time were steeped in religion, but of many gods and these gods didn’t really give them rules to follow, they sort of made it up as they went along. So here the Israelites are given rules. Rules that set them apart. In some ways we have the same thing now. Our morals our choices set us apart from our culture. Waiting to have sex until marriage. Not being drunk on wine, but being filled with the spirit. Are just a few that can certainly set the Christians apart from others around them, but do these things make them holy? Can actions and choices make us holy?
We find the answer to this question in the very book that tells us to be holy…Lev. 20:8 says, “…I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” This phrase and others similar is repeated at least seven times in Leviticus. Ok, stop the presses…You mean to tell me that God gives His people all these rules only to tell them that the rules don’t make them holy? I mean seriously the sacrifices, the festivals, the clean and unclean things. Are you crazy God? Why? So here is the beauty of the why at least in my life.
First, I can never be holy apart from God. I can quit trying under my own power. This may not be a revelation to you, but to me it was so freeing. I will mess up and I know that, but I was trying to be holy on my own. I wanted to MAKE the fruit of the spirit appear in my life. As if I could will self-discipline in my life. Hello self, it is a fruit of the SPIRIT, not a fruit of the SELF! So fruit of the spirit grows from a connection to God, a relationship to Him…Holiness is the same. We can’t make ourselves holy, only God can!
So second, why all the rules? We answered part of that earlier, the rules set us apart outwardly. They also are a way of protecting us as I mentioned in my last post. God knows more about us than we could ever hope to imagine. Just as the one who designs my car knows WAY more about it than I do. I can turn the key and make it run. However I don’t understand why it works and I am often running to the owners manuel to see what a certain blinking light means. The Bible is our owners manuel. We don’t understand it all, but God does and His plans for our lives help our lives to go smoothly. Does that mean we will never hit adversity? NO…Check out Job, but it does mean we can live for God in a way that pleases Him. Just as certain sacrifices and special burnt offerings were a fragrant pleasing aroma to God, our lives can be the same if we are obedient to Him.
Thirdly, we are humans and we forget. God institutes these festivals as times to remember. Why? Well, beacause we humans forget so quickly. Don’t believe me? So let’s take a Biblical example. It was approximately 130 days since God had led the Israelites out of Egypt. God sent plagues and parted the Red Sea. You would think the Israelites would be fired up and excited about serving God. In fact God was having a face to face pow-wow with Moses right up on top of Mount Sinai. However Moses had been gone for an awful long time. It was right about 40 days. So what did the Israelites do? The created a golden calf and claimed it was the god who led them out of Egypt. Seriously, these people forgot in less than six months all that God had done for them…In fact God had been leading them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. However, it had been over 40 days since they had last moved. We can look at the Israelites and say it wouldn’t happen if I was there. However the truth is we do it just as often. We either pretend that the check that happened to come the day before the mortgage was due that was the exact amount we needed was just a lucky chance. Or that weird thing that happened when I had a flat tire and couldn’t get the lug nuts removed was just a kind person stopping to help, not that God sent him. The list goes on…
We are forgetful and we have to be reminded who we are and who God is…He is holy and He makes us holy. I think it was Max Lucado who wrote this…It was a quote given to me by a friend years ago and I only vaguely remember it so it won’t be exact, but it goes something like this…”God’s smile is NOT for the healthy hiker who boasts he made it all the way by himself. It is for the blind, lame man who begs for a back on which to ride.” What a ride God has in store for us, if only we will cling to Him!