Lots of comments are floating around out there in this political season. So much is so negative and accusatory. The media engulfs itself in this stuff thereby inundating the population with a constant stream of ungodliness (in my opinion, anyways!)
They don’t seem to be watching their words, but I caution you to watch yours…and with diligence. As with a weapon—you can shoot a true enemy or you can shoot yourself in the foot. Words are as powerful as weapons sometimes. Careless, negative comments can be just as painful and injurious as a wound in war; not only to the one being demeaned and belittled, but also to the speaker whose words can come back and hurt and haunt them, too.
Jesus, as usual, has this covered. He said to be quick to listen, sl-o-o-o-o-w to speak and sl-o-o-o-o-w to anger (James 1:19). Translation: (a) get your fingers out of your ears, (b) shut up, and (c) cool your jets! And in Ephesians 4:29, we are admonished to not let any unwholesome words come out of our mouths. Hm-m, if we went by this wisdom, we would live in an almost silent world!
Seriously, I would like to remind us to get Jesus and His holiness out in front of our daily lives. For instance, you could take just a moment to pray when your phone rings, and ask the Spirit of God to help you in any replies needed…yes, even business replies! What a difference a kind word would make when ordering a product or even better, when lodging a product complaint! How about using a similar prayer before beginning your conversation with someone, or in response to blatant lies about you, or during a family feud?
God is serious about this, folks. He not only tells you to take every thought captive; but also every word! You’ll be amazed if you practice positive speech patterns instead of negative ones. Do it and see the joy, security and peace ever mount in you; heck, even in those around you! Endure the fire...it's producing pure gold!
Don’t be fooled…being a Christian is not just checking off the box of your “religious preference”. If that’s all it is to you, I doubt if you are one! No, Christianity is not a religion; it is a way of life following Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Now, if you’re still reading here and haven’t jumped ship yet, I also want to remind you that the Christian life is not some “free ride” to heaven! It’s not a deliverance from adversity, but actually deliverance in adversity.
God boldly tells us in John 16:33, “…In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage (be of good cheer), I have overcome the world”. The parentheses are mine, but it shows us the boldness of His message. He is telling us to consider it all joy when you encounter various trials! That is not a nutty statement, even though to some it may seem so. His message is this, “Trust Me, dear one, trust Me to show you how and to help you through any and all adversity”.
It’s sort of like God knows you will be strengthened in being “strained”. Like a personal trainer who helps you in lifting weights; he would assist you in going through a controlled and measured amount of strain in order to build up more muscle with the goal being more strength. No strain; no strength—no pain no gain! You get the picture. So, try really hard not to face your adversities and challenges armed only with common sense. The magnitude of your circumstances may block your ability to even understand the numerous remedial possibilities. But God thinks wa-a-a-a-y outside the box. So when it seems impossible to you, check your “up-line”…go to God…for He can do what you cannot; all He needs is your permission. Endure the fire...it's producing pure gold!
The song of the day, in this overly heated political season, seems to be, “Take from the rich and greedy! They are siphoning off millions in profits and allowing companies to go belly up causing jobs and retirement benefit losses.” If that were really true, then the U.S. would have sunk a long time ago into hegemony by the few…just sayin’.
But, anyway, if the attitude and call is to scalp the rich like they have scalped us, how does that square with Jesus and His teachings? Did Jesus have to deal with big corporations and the rich? What did He do? One of my brothers swears Jesus was a Democrat because He rode into the city on a donkey! Oh, well. The point is that Jesus did encounter similar circumstances as we face today. Remember, there were vast palatial estates which housed the extremely rich, while shacks of mud and straw surrounded them. Did Jesus ever once say to “take it away” from the rich and famous? No, He addressed the value and virtue of giving not taking. Giving is a flow outward, whereas taking is a flow inward. Now, which one do you think encourages generosity, hard work, self-sufficiency and joy? It sure isn’t the “taking” memo!
Jesus didn’t attack the rich for richness…He addressed the broader point of evil, both as a spiritual power and as the inherent side effect of a broken nature. Jesus knew that the battle was really more against forces that are unseen. He never offered up a pat answer, or a one-size-fits-all remedy. He said at times that the one who had much was more responsible to help others; to another He said that if a man doesn’t work and provide for his family, he was worse than an infidel. Jesus never endorsed being a shirker…only a worker and a giver.
It seems His message is that it is futile to take from one to give to the other. That approach, because of evil and the wickedness of the human nature, will only foster anger and bitterness in the one, and an increasing expectancy of getting something for nothing in the other. If the issues are greed, lust, lies, laziness, ignorance, bribery and the like and they are not addressed, then the only outcome is class warfare and a stalemate between the two. Jesus’ wisdom would have none of that. He taught on the principles of hard work, accountability of behavior, and generosity. So it is not the financial state of affairs that Jesus addressed, for the poor man can lie, cheat and steal just as fast as the rich man. So it’s not so much the money honey, as it’s the morality that needs to be addressed! Endure the fire...it's producing pure gold!
Suffering—boy, we sure hate that word and all it portrays. Then God comes along and has the audacity to say we should be long-suffering. Well, to be honest, He said longsuffering is a fruit of the Spirit—meaning it is an ability that comes from Him IF you let Him into your heart. Your heart, pal, let Him into your heart, not your religious head or concepts, but into your innermost being.
In this world of financial strain, relational difficulties and declining moral excellence, we have ample opportunity to practice “longsuffering”! Whether self-inflicted or as the result of someone else’s poor life choices, or as the innocent victim of accident or disease, we are all, at one time or another, going to have the opportunity to suffer. We can suffer alone with our puny, inefficient nature or we shall face and endure the suffering with the superior ability of the fruit of God’s Spirit within us.
“But, hey, whoa”, you say, “Let’s just skip the suffering part!” In your fantasy world, that is possible but in our real world we have to endure. This is a touchy area for some, especially the atheist, who, even though professing that there is no God, often has portrayed that very God as mean, cruel and obviously powerless to stop suffering. Get a revelation here—with or without God in your life…suffering will occur—it’s what you do with it and in it. You are either influenced by being with God in the challenging times or you are without Him.
When in the midst of terrible suffering, and when we feel God is far off, He so often uses the “flesh” portion of the Body of Christ…YOU! God expresses His love, comfort and power through the open vessel who understands that suffering is here to stay on this “broken” side of heaven. And God is here to stay, to help you through it. So when God seems to have disappeared, don’t be fooled. He has lined up His servants to help you voice the prayers that may get stuck in your own throat and/or to help you with the physical and emotional tasks that are impossible to achieve without assistance.
Even though no one has the superb, one-size-fits-all response to suffering, and even though all of us have different needs in suffering, one thing is sure…the balm to it all is the presence of God in His people. The wounded and suffering need God’s kind of love pouring out from you—they don’t need your epithets of wisdom and know how…they just need your love. God uses us ordinary people in extraordinary ways…let Him work through you, too. Endure the fire...it's producing pure gold!
“Wish in one hand and spit in the other”…a crude way of saying wishing doesn’t deliver a physical result…only doing something will. How very true that is. Action that is more concrete than just wishing or hoping for a result is required.
But when God talks about “hope”, He’s not talking about “wishing”. The hope God is talking about is more concrete than the cement beneath your feet. When God says “hope”, the original meaning in the Greek is more correctly translated as, “happy expectation of good”. Not fluffy, delusional, dream world type happy; rather a solid knowing that because God cannot lie, we have His hope of life eternal with Him as an anchor of our soul. The knowing, not just the wishing or hoping, that you can enter into His inner sanctuary with Him, both here in this world and in His world is your solid foundation (Hebrews 6:18-19).
This hope of which the Lord speaks is like the safety rope used by those who work the bridges and high rises. The person has confidence to be in a dangerous and precarious position, high above the solid ground because his confidence is in knowing the rope will save him from devastation.
Such it is with hope in God. The road you are on with Him is a road He has designed to lead you to Him and His heavenly kingdom. Hope, like the rope, allows you to more assuredly continue on the journey, through both the rough and the smooth times. Having the “hope rope” helps you to concentrate more on the work at hand and less on the surrounding dangers and possible calamity.
In having this kind of solid, viable hope, you walk not wishing but knowing the glory and achievability of the end point of being with God. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). “Hope” you take it to heart! Endure the fire...it's producing pure gold!
"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!" Boy, somehow that saying ended up deeply set into my inner framework. I'm a calendar and schedule nut! Now, I don't mean that you shouldn't write things down and follow through. Heck, I get requests for speaking engagements all the time or have counseling appointments or meetings at certain dates and times, so I better write down a thing or two. No, I'm talking about being a slave to your schedule and not leaving room for flexibility with God' schedule. I find myself in a quandary sometimes. My calendar is made up weeks ahead of time (remember, I'm the calendar control freak – or was!). So I have the schedule all neatly laid out; a masterful weave of both personal and ministry tasks. Oh, so doable...until...oh, oh, the doorbell rings and there is an unexpected visitor, maybe even one in deep spiritual need. Yes, I would seek God to tend to this precious soul, but for years, as I was serving in that moment of time, it was under great stress and pressure. My heart and soul were dealing with the individual but my head was screaming "You don't have time for this! You are now way behind; wrap it up, wrap it up!"
Do you know what a pressure cooker that is? I'm in God's flow of the moment but fenced in by the dictates of "my plan". What a hellish existence. It has taken a long time to break that cycle and it's not all gone yet. So what can you do when this happens to you, too? Well, I hear God saying, "Relax, enter My rest"; and yet I'm still pulling out my hair to "re-do" the calendar. I don't want to be tense or anxious but I find I am sometimes. But by God's grace I really, really have come to understand the huge amount of time I've wasted in my obsessive type of planning and that causes an even further crunch on my time frames. I kind of forget to lean on Him like when He tells us in Psalm 32:8, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you". I read that and go, "Duh – I know that".
So, it's not so much knowing as going further on to the doing of it. It works! Though not yet perfected in this "letting go of the schedule" thing, I am so much more relaxed and able to enter His rest. So, it’s not me being better at resting; no, it's me being better at not being me! God's flow through me, and you, actually brings rest and then wisdom on how to best deal with the changes. Come on guys, dive in, and don’t be afraid. God does know how best to run your life – and your schedule. Go for it! Endure the fire...it's producing pure gold!
"You will...find Me when you seek Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13). Sometimes people think seeking God means sitting in a church or reading the Bible. Well, yes, that is a portion of our seeking God. But what God wants us to do is to have a longing, a thirst for Him. Seeking Him with all of your heart means you have an attitude which excitedly expects Him to manifest Himself in any and every way.
I love to hike out on the Appalachian Trail. The wonder and beauty of the woods and mountains, or the vastness of a star-studded sky on a cool evening; these things scream out to me of the goodness, wonder and power of God (Romans 1). But so does a little snail, hauling its burden along, as I do my backpack; reminding me of the burdens we all bear but how God intervenes to either remove it, help you bear it, or strengthen your legs to go on. Or I muse on the fallen branches rotting on the ground, reminding me of the death that is guaranteed when you are cut off from your source of life. So much out there and at home or anywhere I go speaks volumes to me, probably because I want to hear from God.
How about you? Just try it. Ask God to speak to you in triumph as well as tragedy; while outside or inside; while working or playing. In being attentive to God, you can see and hear His messages and all that is around you. God speaks to you continually and is not limited in the variety of ways to reach you and teach you. All you need to do is be open to Him. It certainly smooths out the journey when we know that God is weaving and blending all things into a pattern for good. Heck, He even gives you hints along the way as you seek Him with all your heart. Just do it! Endure the fire...it's producing pure gold!
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16).
Whoa – what a command that is! Let your light shine. Hm-m-m…how many hide their "Christ-ness"? You're out to lunch with the work crowd but you're embarrassed about bowing your head or closing your eyes in a silent prayer of blessing and thanksgiving. Maybe you have to submit a travel reimbursement form along with other workers who were on the same trip. They have falsified amounts, travel time and distances, etc. If you submit the true info, they will be exposed for their lies, so you change your info to match theirs. How about partying at a friend’s house and he brings out a "soft porn” DVD and starts playing it. You join in with watching it along with the jokes and prodding of your friends. Hm-m-m, looks like the light is covered up! What say you?
Look one more time at the Scripture. Why does God say to have your light shine? So that men can see your good deeds and end up praising God (well, eventually anyways).
God's not saying to go around as an obnoxious, self-righteous, religious nut! Does a light even talk...no, it just shines and gets rid of the darkness. Can you just imagine what would happen in the hearts of those around you when you let God's light, that is in you, actually shine. It's not you, though, Bubba, it’s the power of God's presence shining through you and setting their hearts in motion toward seeking Him.
What if the scene changed to you quietly bowing your head to bless your food every time you ate? Or what if you just didn’t turn in your reimbursement sheet rather than lie; or just excused yourself when the DVD came on. Just those actions alone bring light to dark situations. It may be a bit uncomfortable for you and them, but do it; and do it in quiet and precious love, not in obnoxious religiousness. Do it as part of the life that you live, not as a "show-you-up" moment. Watch how God works through you. Be like the old Motel 6 advertisement, "We'll keep the light on for ya’!” Endure the fire...it's producing pure gold!
"To be or not to be, that is the question". Shakespeare spouted that ever so long ago but it is a question we must constantly ask ourselves while trekking along in the ways of God. And how about pondering these questions too, "to give or not to give"; "to love or not to love"; "to forgive or not to forgive" etc. To answer these questions, Jesus challenges us all along the way to do what He did...give up your life for others.
Count the cost though, because it will cost you everything; but it's a great trade-off, folks. You get rid of the broken nature ruling you and have God's perfect nature start coming out more and more frequently. But what do you mean by "give up your life?" Jesus is our example. Once He began His public ministry, He started that sacrifice right away. Giving up your "life" means sacrificing some of your comfort, dignity, personal desires, home, schedule, etc. Giving up your life does not mean giving away your life! Far too many Christians are exhausted and disappointed in their lives. They feel burdened and distressed and are totally "burned out" in serving God. I know – I have to battle it all the time. The old adversary knows that if he can't get you down with sin, he'll exhaust you with good works.
God cautions us against having a life filled with "good works that are going to burn"; meaning good works not led by His Spirit. They are still good, but not led of God. We need to be full of "God works" not just "good works". That's important because God's good works always do something "spiritual" along with the physical action. That is so important to understand. We want to pile up the good works that are helping someone grow in their relationship with God not just helping them for their personal relief. Ah – "to be of God or not to be of God", that is the question! Endure the fire...it's producing pure gold!
Being brought up in the North, the atrocities committed during the Civil Rights movement of the 60s were viewed with such horror and disbelief. I was just a teenager then, so I guess I wasn't too much into the news. I was shocked when I heard of the burnings, hangings, water hosing, lunch counter refusal to serve meals, riding in the back of the bus, etc. I was shocked as these pictures were splashed across the old black and white TV screens. What was going on? I never even heard of separate bathrooms before. Up North, I had Black classmates and friends; Blacks, Whites, Asians, Spanish all rode on the same buses and trains, sitting wherever we wanted. So what was the problem in the South?
I didn't even know Blacks couldn't vote, eat where they wanted, go to the school of their choice or ride in the front of the bus! Then I realized even Christians were involved in this! Southern Baptists had segregated churches; Bob Jones University, the bastion of Christian conservatism, didn't allow Blacks until the early 70s. What's up with that? There were KKK members in the Democratic Party, serving in Congress in the Southern states. How could deception of such magnitude sweep the country and portions of it remain through today?
Well, obviously some conditions have to be in place for deception to reign. If we know what these conditions are, we can fight against them when the world, the flesh, and the devil bring it our way in any area of our lives.
In the midst of all this, many of us in the North were unaware this was even going on until it turned violent. In the South, right in the midst of all the blatant segregation and racism, the people were complacent. The Blacks, who were suffering so much, just lived with the reality of the day and had often become reluctant to push for change because they were convinced nothing would change. And overall, when change was even suggested, it was met with fierce resistance.
So how then can we prevent being lulled into these horrible deceptions? When you are unaware, then get into the Scriptures for God's wisdom concerning what to look for; instead of complacency, be alive in Christ and His truth; instead of being reluctant, be an effective doer not just a hearer; and to beat off being resistant, then submit then to God.
Whether it's regarding political, racial, social, physical, or spiritual issues, having God live and reign in you will stop the tendency of the flesh from leading you toward deception and the ungodliness of racism or any other “ism”, based in hatred and malice. In Jesus Christ, it will never be on your radar again. Endure the fire...it's producing pure gold!