Friday, August 31, 2007

Bite Your Tongue!

This is a picture of one of the stained-glass windows at my church, which I've played with and posterized.

I admire those who are organized enough to post to their blog every single day...I am NOT one of those people.

Today's thoughts are based on Matthew 12:34b, 36-37:
"For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks....But I tell you that mean will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned."

These are, to me, some of the most convicting words in Scripture--because I have uttered MORE than a fair amount of "careless words," words that I really do not want to ever have to talk to Jesus about.

Now, I already know that my eternal destination is secure--I have placed my faith in Christ and in the power of His Blood. So my careless words aren't gonna keep me out of heaven; that's my home and I KNOW that I'm going there when my earthly journey is done.

BUT--I may just have some " 'splainin" to do when I get there. The way I think about it is this: I have two boys, both teenagers. They go out and do things; the oldest one is driving now, so he's out on his own more and more. But they KNOW, without doubt, that they have a home to come back to. It doesn't matter what they do, or what they say--this is still their home, and their mother still loves them. HOWEVER...when their mother finds out that they have said something that they shouldn't have, then they may have a little "Come to Jesus" meeting when they get home. They still have a home, they still have my love, but they are also going to have to explain why they said what they did.

Why did Jesus apparently feel so strongly about these "careless words" we speak? Because what we say, and especially what we say without thinking, reflects what our hearts are full of. That's what He says in verse 34, that the mouth is simply uttering what the heart contains...

What's in your heart? One way to tell is to pay attention to what comes out of you. I must admit, I can sometimes be very careless about what I say--I have a dry wit, a very sarcastic sense of humor, and enjoy making fun of things...but sometimes that borders on making fun of people, not things, of tearing others down instead of building them up, of simply being careless about what I say.

So, if I don't want to have to explain to Jesus why I said what I said, maybe it'd be good to start thinking a little more BEFORE I say it.

A good rule of thumb for whether to say what you're thinking is, not surprisingly, also found in Scripture. It's Philippians 4:8, and I'll end with it:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


"But" little word that generally carries a ton of negativity with it.
When we hear the word "but" it usually means the literary equivalent of a bucket of cold water is about to follow:
"that's a great idea, BUT it'll never work..."
"I know you meant well, BUT..."
"I'd love to help you, BUT..."

When my kids get caught being mean to each other, I can count on an onslaught of "buts." "but, Mom, I didn't do anything...," "but he hit me first,..." "but he said...," "but it's NOT MY FAULT."

BUT...I fill my own head with plenty of "buts" as well..."I'd get up earlier and have more prayer time, BUT I'm just too tired."
"God, I know I should, BUT I just don't have time/don't know how/[enter your own lame excuse here]..."

BUT day I was filling particularly "but-laden," everything in my life seemed to have a "but" attached to it, and I was frustrated and frankly tired of trying to maneuver around the "buts" of my life...and then I read Romans 5:8, one of my favorite verses anyway, and that little phrase got stuck in my head..."But God." "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this--while we were STILL sinners, Christ died for us." Wow, what a GREAT But!

This little phrase just wouldn't leave my head for days...and every time I used "but" in a negative way, either in speaking or just in my thoughts, I remembered this little "but" of God's that was anything except negative!! And so I started looking for other places where God takes a "but" and makes something positive come of's just a few of them:

Genesis 50:20(Joseph speaking to his brothers, who had nearly killed him and then sold him into slavery)--You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

2 Samuel 14:14--But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him

Psalm 73:26--My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Acts 3:15--You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.

The next time the "buts" of the world are about to get you down, focus on God's "buts!" and give Him praise!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Beautiful Cacophony

Cacophony—n., harsh or discordant sound.

I cannot sing. Well, I can, but unless there’s just something wrong with you, you probably wouldn't enjoy the result. I’d say I sing offkey, but the fact is, I never even know what key what I SHOULD be singing in, so I have no idea if I’m off it or not.
Given the fact that my musical talents are at their best when I just keep my mouth shut, HOW did I end up in a choir?

I joined at the request of a friend, and I had no intention of actually subjecting people to my voice, I just thought if I went, it would help her to go, and she actually has a nice singing voice and she needed to be there. But, she didn’t go much anyway, and now she's not even at the same church.

So why am I STILL in choir? I ask myself that a lot, especially on nights like this past Wednesday, when I look at the song and see all those little notes and symbols everywhere (yeah, I can’t read music, I just go by how many notes there are, and whether they are up high or down low), and then we start singing and I just have NO clue whether I’m singing the same notes as the other Altos or not. I suspect I’m not.

But every now and then, I am reminded of why I am still in choir. This Wednesday’s practice was one of those times. We were practicing a piece that just seemed especially hard to me, one of those with lots & lots of notes all over the place, and times where we all sing together and times when we sing in parts, and I’m never sure how to tell which is which. I was pretty frustrated with the whole thing, but, this time apparently I wasn’t the only one, because the first couple of times we sounded like some sort of wounded, dying animal. It was, indeed, a cacophony.

Then our music/worship minister related a story about when he was in school. Now, I may not tell the story precisely right, but you’ll get the gist of it. As students came in, the teacher would hand them a piece of paper with something written on it. Then, after they were all seated, he would point at one end of the room, and move his hand across the room, and as he pointed at each section, each person would begin to say what was on their paper, and they would repeat it over and over, as new voices joined in saying what was on THEIR paper. When he got to the opposite end of the room, then he would start back the other way and as he pointed, each person would stop, until finally there was just one voice left, and then it would become silent.

Now, you would think that would sound pretty awful, a bunch of people talking at the same time and all saying different things. But, orchestrated as it was, it became a harmony, and was apparently an awe-inspiring thing to hear. It was, in fact, a “beautiful” cacophony.

A beautiful cacophony. That’s what God hears when His people all simply lift their voices in praise to him. It doesn’t matter whether we are singing or humming or speaking, whether we are speaking different words, or singing the same words but at different levels of “ability.” Whether we are all singing on key, whether in parts or in unison, none of that matters to God….it is the WORSHIP that He hears, and He loves it, because He loves us. There is no sweeter sound to His ears than His children expressing their love for Him.

And THAT is why I’m still in choir. Because after I make all the jokes about how bad my voice is, after I struggle through practice and still can't sing the song “right," after I put away all the insecurities and imperfections of being ME…when I can just open my mouth and sing, to an Audience of One…then I truly worship, and there are simply no better moments in life.

Praise the LORD. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!” Psalm 147:1

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Shining Star

"For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. Philippians 2:13-16, NIV

When we're young, I think most of us daydream of someday being a "star." Maybe a Rock Star, or a Football Star, or a Scientist Star who develops the cure for all cancers...I was a reasonably decent soccer goalie, even played on a team that won the state under-18 title one year and came in second the year before that. But I daydreamed sometimes, of being a STAR, making incredible saves to the roar of crowds. Even IF they'd HAD women's professional soccer back then, I would never have made it, except maybe as a second alternate to the 9th string goalie!

At the root of these dreams is our desire to be noticed, to have others pay attention to us and LIKE what they see. We want to "shine like stars in the universe."

Well, God says we CAN--but we can't do it by our own efforts or clever thinking. And the more I try, the more I end up just looking like the rest of the world, my light safely hidden under its bushel.

When you look up in the sky on a dark, clear night, what do you see? (Granted, these days, it's harder and harder to see anything, since we have used electricity to illuminate pretty much the entire planet 24/7) But, you see the brightest stars, or the one that seems to almost be twinkling.

How can we be those bright, twinkling stars? Well, we can start with what God tells us here:

  1. Do everything without complaining or arguing. Ouch. Don't know about you, but I'm definitely already in trouble! I must have never noticed the "out" after the "with," because sometimes I think I've made a fine art of complaining. Have you ever thought about how often you complain and grumble and argue and just generally demonstrate a not-very-cheery attitude? . Oh, and "anything" means "anyBODY" too! But God doesn't say here, "save your complaining and arguing for the stuff that really matters to you" or "don't complain or argue unless..." He says don't do it! Make it your goal to get through one entire day without complaining about ANYTHING...nothing, nada, zilch, zero. Well, if there are no more posts to this blog, it'll be because I imploded from trying to keep from complaining!
  2. Hold out the Word of Life. Now first of all, before you can hold anything out, you gotta HAVE it in the first place! Put God's Word in your life--which to me means two things: first you have to make sure that The Word is in your life...Christ. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was Him was life and that life was the light of men...and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:1, 4, 14 If you have not asked Christ into your life, then His light is not in you, and you don't HAVE the Word of Life, in order to hold it out to anyone else. But for those who have his light, are you taking hold of His Word and keeping it in your heart, so that you can hold it out to others? How much of Scripture have you memorized? Here's an idea--each day, take one or two Scripture verses and write them down. Pray that God would show you meaning in those verses, and then look for how many times and how many different ways you can apply those verses during the course of the day. When you see how God used those verses in your life, write them down. You'll be amazed at how the Word of God can truly, supernaturally, change your life! And as you begin to take IN His Word and apply it to your life, something remarkable begin to shine! And people take notice.
" When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus."
Acts 4:13

Monday, August 6, 2007

How to Pray for Missionaries

In the previous post, I mentioned a missionary whose family has been staying in our mission home.

Some time back, this man also presented a message about how to pray for missionaries. As he and his family prepare to go back out to the place where God has called them, I thought I'd post the list that he gave us to help those who are willing to pray but maybe aren't quite sure WHAT to pray.

Please pray for this family as they go back out and continue the work God has given them. Pray for other missionaries in all parts of the world--and those here close to home...pray that God will show YOU and those in your church where their mission field is too, and then go and tell!!

  1. Laborers in the Harvest--Matthew 9:37-38
  2. That they will love God with all their heart, soul, mind & strength--Matt. 22:37
  3. For humility & submission in the Spirit of the Lord--Romans 1:5
  4. Protection (physically, spiritually & emotionally)--1Thessalonians 5:23
  5. Boldness to witness & share the gospel--Ephesians 6:19-20
  6. Stay alert & resist the devil--1 Peter 5:8-9
  7. Be pure, sanctified & useful to the Lord's work--2 Timothy 2:21
  8. Be filled with wisdom & understanding; be fruitful & pleasing to God--Col 1:9-11
  9. Strength & Courage in the face of hostility or loneliness--Hebrews 13:6
  10. Rest & trust in the Lord in the face of overwhelming needs--Matthew 11:28
  11. Favor in the eyes of local governments--1 Timothy 2:1-4
  12. Open access for the gospel--2 Thessalonians 3:1

Pray for the Harvest

I haven't gotten to have a garden in several years, but I'm hoping next year that will change. When I did have a garden, one of the things I hated was that sometimes when everything started coming in, it all started ripening so fast and so abundantly that I just couldn't use it all fast enough! So, tomatoes and squash would literally rot on the vine waiting to be picked. They were ready, but no one was available to go and pick them.

This weekend I heard a message from a missionary who has been staying in our mission home for a short time, and it reminded me that the whole world is just like one of those gardens. Jesus said, "the fields are ripe for harvest, but the workers are few."

As Christians, we should ALL be working in the field, picking the harvest...whether that field is someplace overseas, or on our very own street. We call Christ our Lord, but we don't make HIS priorities OUR priorities. And so we are not out bringing in the harvest because we're too busy out doing what WE want to do.

When I saw tomatoes and other vegetables out there ripe, but going to waste, I could have easily gone out and picked them and taken them to my neighbors, to my co-workers, or maybe given them to a fire station or police station in thanks for the services they provide. But I just let them rot; why? Because I had enough, I just didn't NEED anymore...and I was too self-centered to think about the fact that someone else might need them...

Do I treat Christ the same way? I've trusted Him for salvation, and I say He's Lord of my life...but do I act as if that's enough? Does it MATTER to me that there are still others out there who need Him? Well, it matters to Christ, more than anything else!

It's time more Christians join our "professional" missionaries out in the field!! Let's go bring in the harvest!! Tell someone the Good News about Jesus today!!