Friday, June 29, 2012

It's Easy to Get Snagged

     On one of our many fishing trips to Canada with the family, we had an interesting day on the lake.
Let me give a brief background.  My father-in-law was an excellent fisherman who took great pride in this pass time.  He kindly invited five of us to go fishing with him in one boat as he knew the lake very well and wanted to show us some good spots to fish.
     Everything seemed to be going well until one of us allowed our line to drop down too low as we were trolling (slowly moving the boat).  This resulted in getting the hook snagged on a rock in the lake. Naturally, everyone was asked to reel in until the line was free from this snag.  However, with five people in one boat, several lines got tangled as people reeled in and the lines ended up getting caught in the propeller.  Talk about your ultimate nightmare!  Our motor could not turn the propeller so we were dead in the water, the lines were all tangled, my husband cut the tip of his finger badly and my father-in-law looked forlorn knowing his day of fishing had just gone down the drain.  The line that was caught on the rock did get freed as we paddled the boat closer to the spot where the rock held the hook fast.  We also managed to get a tow into the dock from another fisherman who saw our plight on the lake.  Once we returned to our cabins, it was agreed that five in a fishing boat was not such a good idea, and to think, it all went downhill with one line getting caught on a rock!
Elephant Lake in Ontario, Canada
     I remembered this story as I read the account of the Israelites who became snagged into the worship of false gods.  Numbers 25:1-3 reads:  "While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab.  These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods.  So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor, And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel."
     As we may remember, God instructed Israel to have nothing to do with the people of Canaan.  They were not to intermarry or fellowship with them at all as this would defile them and lead them astray.  Israel had agreed to abide by this command. Nevertheless, they, like us, had feet of clay.
     In an earlier chapter of Numbers (22:3), the people of Moab and the Midianites were fearful of the Israelites.  They felt they could not attack.  So they called upon a prophet named Balaam to curse them. However, Balaam was unable to do so.  This did not stop the enemies of Israel.  They decided that if they could not attack them perhaps they could subvert them through immorality and idolatry.  To put it another way, they would try to bring Israel down by corrupting them from the inside.  A footnote to these verses in my "Reformation Study Bible" reads as follows:  "When the world cannot eliminate the witness of the elect through direct conflict, it often tries to neutralize that witness by absorbing the elect into the world."  Very sneaky isn't it?
     Israel was to live apart and be separated from her pagan neighbors.  This nation was God's covenant people who were called to be holy.  Yet, they fell to temptation.  They were snagged by the women of Moab and entered into worship of false gods.  How easy it is for us as believers and for the church as a whole to be drawn off course by the wiles of this world.  It happens so gradually that we often do not notice it until it is too late.
An idol representing Baal
     For this very reason, it is so important that we know what we believe and why we believe it.  Reading and meditating on God's Word is crucial to our daily walk.  Within the pages of the Bible, we come to know the character of God and as we read about His people with their failures and triumphs, we learn how to walk on the narrow path.  Today, many people are ignorant of doctrine.  They are church members, but if they were challenged by someone outside the faith, many have no answer.  And some, can even be drawn into sin just as easily as the Israelites.
     If we say it could never happen to us, this is the time to step back and reconsider.  We might just be on the brink of a fall.  God has called a people to be holy priests unto Himself.  Those whom He has called out of darkness belong to Him, and therefore, are called to live differently than those outside the faith.  Worldly influences, entertainment, and sin looks attractive, but it ends in emptiness compared to the abundant life which Christ gives.
     Today is the day to examine ourselves, our churches, and our relationships in the Body of Christ.  Are we allowing ourselves or our fellowships to become little mirrors of the world rather than a reflection of the Lord?  It doesn't take an army to defeat a people who do not know the Bible or sound doctrine found in its pages.  If we would be Christian soldiers, we must learn to use the Sword of the Spirit (God's Word) with skill.  We won't get snagged on the rocks of unbelief if we focus on following  the Lord in obedience and feeding daily in His Word.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and insights so that others may be encouraged.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Greatest Sacrifice

Tornado spotted near Venus, FL this past week
     This past week as we vacationed with our daughter, son-in-law and two of our precious grandchildren, we had the opportunity for sweet conversation.  My daughter shared with me that she never realized how much love you could have for your children.  She said that you would be willing to give up your life to save your child.  I told her that I remembered that feeling, and in fact, it never goes away no matter how old your children are.
     Little did we know a week ago that those words were almost prophetic as we heard the story this week of Heather Town who was killed by a tornado while protecting her three year old daughter.  This mother of three held her child so tightly that a few rib bones were cracked as the tornado struck her double wide trailer sending her and the child flying 200 feet.  Unfortunately, Heather did not live but neighbors heard a child crying and came to the rescue of the three year old still wrapped tightly in her mother's arms.  She was rushed to the hospital and is recovering.  This story is a perfect example of the deep love a parent has for her child.  While this account touches our hearts, there is an even greater sacrifice we can read about in God's Word.
Trailer where Heather Town lived courtesy of Fox 13 News
     In his letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote:  "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost."  The remarkable thing is that God loved us so much that He sent His only Son into this world to die for us!  This is made even clearer by the Apostle John who wrote these words:  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him"(John 3:16-17).  Now this is what true love means.
     Furthermore, Paul writes in his letter to the believers in Rome:  "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).  We, who have turned our backs on God and lived for self in our sin nature, were deemed worthy by God's own choosing for salvation.  This is amazing.
     We can understand a mother or father who would willingly give their life for their child as the mother who died protecting her daughter in the storm.  This is a devotion we can all relate to; however, God loved us even while we did not care for Him.  In fact, He loved us so much that He sent His own precious Son to be a sacrifice for our sins.  By His blood, we are set free from sin and death.  What He suffered on the cross is hard for us to fathom.  Yet, He did this willingly taking our place to satisfy the demands of the Law.
     Without a doubt, we know we would be willing to give up our lives if necessary to save our children or grandchildren.  However, consider how we would feel about giving up our lives for our worst enemy or someone who has hurt us.  This is what Christ did for us.  We were God's enemies.  Still, He ransomed us out of a love that took His Son to the cross.
     While we mourn the loss of this young mother who gave her life to save her child, we must not lose sight of the life saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ for those whom God has called.  If you are a believer, this should make your heart draw even nearer to our God.  If you have never committed your life to Christ, then, today is the day of salvation.  He died that we might live.  Take a moment to think on this, pray over this tremendous sacrifice offered for our sakes while we were still far from God.  Then, live each day for His glory and receive His forgiveness.  His death brought life eternal to those who come to know Him as Lord and Savior.   This is the greatest sacrifice.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts on this devotion.  Please leave a comment.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Value of Age and Wisdom

     Recently, our church has lost several saints who have gone home to be with the Lord.  Their lives were rich not only in faith but in years as well.  Our congregation was blessed by their wisdom, insight and loving outreach to others.  In fact, our children grew up in the days before there were three services.  We would come each Sunday to be greeted by the older members of our fellowship who took time to talk with our children and encourage them in their walk with Christ.  In addition, we heard nearly every week about a couple who had been married 50 or more years.  What a wonderful testimony for our children to grow up  knowing that marriage is not a momentary thing but a lifetime commitment.  This intergenerational community where old and young alike interacted was rich with godly wisdom.
     Unfortunately, things have changed in churches across our nation.  Now there are contemporary services and multiple services which tend to break up the body into segments.  The younger couples (with a few older couples interspersed) and teens tend to go to contemporary services. They are no longer in the company of the older generations and their faith stories.  The older generation with the exception of a few younger families tend to go to more traditional services.  These people are deprived of the enthusiasm and joy of being with younger folks and have little opportunity to encourage them.  This type of segregation has kept the fellowship from the full expression of what it means to be the Body of Christ.  It is my firm conviction that the older members are rich assets to the young and serve, as they did for my children, as examples of a life devoted to the Lord.  We miss so much when we do not have an intergenerational approach.  The Bible refers to older members as those who should be honored in Leviticus 19:32:  "You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord."
Our families gathered for the baptism of Bennett Thayer.
     In fact,  the Bible is full of many examples of older believers leading the younger generations.  Moses and Aaron were 80 and 83 respectively, and they were called to lead the people out of bondage. Imagine that!  We, in our day and age, look upon those age categories as too old to serve.  Our society has become so youth focused that we are missing the wisdom and experience that only comes with age.  Obviously God had a different perspective since He didn't select a young person for this task.  In Psalm 90:10, Moses (the author) even remarks that a lifespan is around 70 to 80 years, so both he and Aaron were past a normal life expectancy when they were called.
     Another example for us to consider is Joshua and Caleb.  Joshua led the people in the conquest of Canaan during the last thirty years of his life.  He died at 110 (Joshua 24:29).  This means he was in his late seventies when he took over the leadership.  Caleb was in his eighties (Joshua 14:6-11) when he also served in the conquest of the land.  Amazing isn't it?
     Other Bible examples of older people who served in key positions include Daniel who was well over eighty when he served as one of three governors over Babylon, was thrown into the lion's den and  prospered under the reigns of King Darius and Cyrus (Dan. 1:21; Dan. 6:1-3; Dan. 6:4-27 and Dan. 6:28).  Zacharias and Elizabeth were well advanced in age when they bore John the Baptist.  Zacharias was still actively serving in God's temple during this time period as well.  Simeon and Anna were two elderly people who bore witness to Jesus in the Temple.  Anna was at least 84 at the time and spent many days and nights praying and fasting for the coming Messiah.
     Each of these seasoned believers played a part in God's grand scheme.  Their age was not a barrier to their service and they provided a role model for younger men and women to follow.  Several things can be gleaned from these examples.  First, there is no retirement in God's economy.  He will use us until the day we die if we offer ourselves in service.  Secondly, these older men and women were leaders of the younger generations.  They provided the guidance and could draw from their life experience to bring victory as in the case of Joshua and Caleb or Moses and Aaron.   Finally, the older saints can offer encouragement to the faith of the younger people as in the case of Anna and Simeon.  Their statements of belief in Jesus Christ as Messiah blessed both Joseph and Mary.  Don't we need a few more like these two to assist younger couples as they raise their young?
     My point in writing all this is to say that today we need more intergenerational fellowship and less age segregation.  We need to learn from one another, and the young need to learn to respect the older members of a church.  It is hard to do when they are never together in worship.  The testimony of long marriages, many years of life, a faithful witness after the death of a spouse are all things which the younger generations need to be exposed to in our churches.  Some day, they will face some of the same challenges, and if they have a frame of reference that came from an older member of the church, they will have the encouragement to continue on through the difficulties that come with living.
     I am eternally grateful to all the older saints who have ministered to my children as they were growing up.  With God's help, I desire to do the same for the young people I encounter.  Let us pray for our churches that none may miss the opportunity to mingle all age groups so that we can all grow in a balanced manner according to God's plan.  Selah!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Be Careful What You Say

     Growing up, my mother used to drill certain imperatives into my brain like, "Don't say anything you will later regret" or "If you cannot say something kind, do not say anything at all" (however, this last gem came from the movie "Bambi" I am almost certain).  She was rightfully concerned over my precocious nature because I often got myself into trouble by communicating out loud things that should not be broadcast to an audience such as the time I picked up the bill at a restaurant.  Before my father could catch me, I began to read it with enough volume to turn heads.  Naturally, I was escorted from the table and instructed concerning this inappropriate behavior.  Unfortunately, this was not the first or last time I needed a course correction.
     As years have passed, though, I have cherished the many sound words of wisdom that both of my parents gave to me that have kept me from stepping into communication quicksand.  Since my mother loved writing, she had many good insights to share.  One of the most important was to never send a letter in anger.  She told me that once something is put down on paper it is hard to take back.  Instead, she recommended that when I was upset, I should write my feelings down as though talking to that person.  Then, later, I needed to return and read it again after I had time to emotionally cool down.  Often, the result was that I  threw out the letter because it said hurtful things that did not need to assault the eyes of the reader.  A scripture verse that really speaks to this process of evaluation is found in Matthew 12:37:  "But I tell you that men 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."  Now, that is enough to make us pause.  Whether written or spoken, God is the unseen participant in every conversation.  In light of this knowledge, we do need to weigh our words carefully.
     An example of another one of my brash forays into communication came at the time we had gotten our first computer.  It was a new gadget and I was just learning about the wonders of email and the internet.  I belonged to a large group of people who came from all walks of life but all of them had been victims of polio.  Unfortunately, there was a good deal of Christian bashing in this group as well as complaining or attacking others over petty things.  I was particularly discouraged one day and decided to write an email to a friend in the group who was a Christian.  I explained my frustrations with these folks for all their complaining and negative talk about believers.  In short, I was venting.  The problem came when I hit send and realized I sent the email to the entire membership.  I was sick to my stomach for hours afterwards.  I sent out an immediate apology to the membership and said this email was meant for a friend not the group.  Of course, what can you say?  It is like closing the barn door after the horse is out.  Naturally, I had many people angry with me for what I said so eventually, I left this group having learned a valuable lesson about mis-communication.
     When it came to spoken words, my father often gave me good counsel in this department.  He advised me to think before I spoke and to be careful whom I shared information with.  He said that not everyone was trustworthy especially if I was relating personal information.  My poor father would probably faint over "Facebook" if he were around because of all the information that is readily shared there.  However, his words were in line with the wisdom of Proverbs 17:27 which reads:  "A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even tempered."  Another excellent verse is found in Proverbs 29:20:  "Do you see a man who speaks in haste?  There is more hope for a fool than for him".   In James 1:26, the Apostle writes:  "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless."  Finally, in Ephesians 4:29, Paul writes:  "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."  God has a lot to say about communication and how we relate to one another.
     Through the years, I found the wisdom of my father's admonition about sharing personal information with others to be valuable.  It only took one time of betrayal by  a person I thought was a friend to teach me the lesson of being careful about what I shared.  What is even more disappointing is that I saw this happen in the church between sisters in the Lord.  One shared some personal feelings with the other concerning a relative thinking this person would keep the confidence.  Instead, the friend went and told the relative everything that was said creating hard feelings in the family.  This destroyed the friendship.
      What we say and what we write can have a great quality of encouragement and blessing or it can devastate those around us.  The choice is ours on a daily basis.  While my mother and father taught me well, the Bible is filled with even more specific guidelines to keep us on the right track in our relationships.  Take time to look at passages that deal with communication.  You will find a good deal in Proverbs and other books like James.
     Yes, I am doing better at avoiding "foot in mouth" syndrome these days, but God is not finished working on me yet.   I have learned to pray before I say anything now and always ask God to set a guard over my mouth. May each of us take time to consider our words that we may not later regret it, or as my mother might say:  "May your words be sweet because you may have to eat them tomorrow." Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and insights here.  Have you ever said anything you wished you had not?  What did you do or learn from the experience?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Keeping Our Children From Evil

     On our recent visit with our son and daughter in law, we had a good talk about the difficulties of raising children in a culture that seems obsessed with violence.  They have tried hard to keep their 3 year old son from playing with guns and acting out any form of aggressive behavior.  The problem comes from the fact that he attends a wonderful preschool program where there are children whose parents are not so inclined.  This is not a new predicament.  As long as the sin nature has existed in the heart of man, there has been a bent towards all kinds of evil in this world.   With the advent of video games, more violent and morally bankrupt T.V. shows, and movies that leave nothing to the imagination, it is difficult to escape the influence on our children.   Certainly, we cannot take our children and hide them in an isolation bubble, though we may wish to, but we can go on the offensive with a weapon stronger than all these negative influences combined....the Bible.  It is the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).  When our children are taught the Word of God at an early age, it will stay with them for a lifetime.
     As parents, we are given the God commanded directive to train up our children in the way they should go.  Then, when they are old, they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).  In Deuteronomy, the Lord confirms this responsibility in chapter 11:19-21 speaking about the commandments:  "You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them."  From the very beginning, parental instruction was a key to living a God honoring life.  A verse closely related to this instruction is one found in Ephesians 6:4:  "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."  With all this in mind, what are some of the ways we can help our children become strong in the Lord?
     One of the chief ways we can model our faith for our children is through home worship as well as church worship.  We must demonstrate a prayer life with and in front of our children.  They need to see us reading the Bible.  Some families have devotions in the home on a regular basis.  This is a safe place for children to ask questions and receive instruction.  They also must see us in regular church attendance not skipping out to go fishing, or play golf.  Little ones learn by observation what is important to us.  If God has first place in our lives, they will make Him first place in theirs.
     Another way to teach our children is through example.  If we are watching violent programs, playing violent video games or in any way doing what we have instructed them not to do, it takes all the authority out of our words.  I know some will say this is not fair.  However, when God gives to us the gift of children, He also brings us into account for their training.  We do have to give up some things unless we do not care that they will one day do just what we are doing.  There are two things to consider here.  Perhaps what we are watching, playing, or participating in is not glorifying to Christ.  Therefore, letting go of it as a sacrifice of love to the Lord and for the good of our home will result in a closer walk with God.  When I home educated our four children, I had to give up many things in order to be with them and teach them.  I could not have a full time job and also teach them nor could I attend clubs and civic activities.  However, these activities would always be there, but our children would not.  Both my husband and I felt it was more important to pour our lives into training our children educationally and spiritually.  I have never had any regrets that we spent this time with them.
     In addition to bedtime prayers, grace at meals and evening devotions, another important way to train up our children is through the use of the catechism.  Even young children can be taught the simple questions and answers of the catechism if you find the right material.  Amazon has a series of workbooks by Caroline Weerstra (she has a webpage at Amazon) taken from the Westminster shorter catechism and designed to explain our faith in very simple child like terms along with Bible verses.  At present, there are four workbooks including one for special needs children.   Why is this important?  A catechism is a summary of the major beliefs or tenants of our faith written in a simple form with Bible verses to back them up.  We cannot assume that our children will get all they need at church alone.  Remember, it is the parent's responsibility to train up the children.  Our fellowship in the church is crucial for the preaching of the Word and the sacraments, but to ignore the opportunity for home instruction is to bypass a powerful influence in the heart of a child.  These catechism workbooks are one of many ways a child can begin learning the essentials of the faith.  The link to these workbooks is: .
     Can we completely shield our children from all evil?  I wish I could say that we could, but we walk in a fallen world among fallen people.  As I have told my own children, the only sure truth that we have is found in God's Word and the only One we can trust who will NEVER fail us is God.  If we spend time training up our children to do combat with the vain imaginations that exalt themselves against the true knowledge of our God, then, we have done well to prepare them.  Just like us, our children will have battles to fight, but we must teach them how to wield the Sword of the Spirit (God's Word) so they will be able to defeat the powers and principalities of the air that try to defeat them.  The job of parenting is full time and requires self sacrifice, but the rewards are eternal when we see our children come to trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and insights here.  What have you used that has helped you train up your children?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Wonderful Book Giveaway and Read

     Please take a few moments today to go to Christina Langella's blog "Heavenly Springs".  She has a wonderful blog post by Pastor Chris Brauns and a free book giveaway just for going and leaving a comment.  Both Christina and Chris have wonderful blogs and Chris has written a very important book on forgiveness.  We all need to read and consider how to forgive others.  Simply look on the left side of my blog and you will see a direct link to Christina's blog.  Take advantage of filling your cup with good spiritual drink today!
     Blessings my friends and readers!

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Christian Life Well Lived - The Legacy of Mr. J

     Yesterday, I received the news that a dear friend, believer and pillar of our church had died and gone on to glory.  I have many fond memories of this dear man and the servant heart he had in the service of Christ and community.  Our loss is truly heaven's gain as a church fellowship, but he left behind a legacy that we all should strive to impart before we leave this earth.
     While I do not have all the details of Mr. J's life, I do know that he worked hard all of his life.  He also served his country in the military.  My husband and I first met him when we started attending our current church fellowship some 22 years ago.  At the time, he and his second wife Thelma were the most caring and giving people in our congregation.  They made us feel welcomed from the first time we stepped through the church doors, and lavished attention on our young children.  This continued as our children grew up in the church.  Each Sunday, Mr. J would go out of his way to say hello to our children.  When they became teenagers, he never ceased to give them a word of encouragement.  What a blessing for us to have a "grandfather of the faith" minister to our sons and our daughter.
       When his wife became ill, he faithfully cared for her each day without a complaint.  It was a testimony to not only his love for her but also his commitment to the meaning of marriage.  Through both the good times and the difficult ones, he rarely missed church.
      Not only did Mr. J care about the young people of the congregation, he also had a special love for and ministry to our pastor's children as they were growing up.  They lived next door to one another so if a need arose, Mr. J was there to fill it.  He made repairs around the church, the manse and on the grounds.  In addition, he was active in the church's benevolence ministry helping the needy in our community.
     Until the last few weeks of his life, Mr. J, who died at the age of 93, was active, involved, loving, caring and giving.  Will he leave a legacy?  Most certainly.  His life is imprinted in the character of our fellowship,  If ever there was a life well lived, it had to be J.L. Chase's life.
     In one conversation, I recall Mr. J telling me that  the key to his life was his love for the Lord whom he served.  There was no doubt about his deep abiding faith or his desire to serve others.  Daily he wore the garments of self sacrifice with humility never bragging about himself but always bragging on the Lord.  If he were to have summarized his life, I believe he would have said something like this:  1)  Work hard and work honestly.  A good days work brings joy to the heart.  2) Help others who are less fortunate than yourself.  3) Attend church regularly for there you will find God's grace, sweet fellowship and sound teaching from the Bible.  4) Make strangers feel welcome in God's fellowship.  Greet them with a kind word and a smile.  5)  Family is one of the greatest blessings.  Cherish family while you can.
     While I grieve the loss of this wonderful man in our church, I find joy for I know he is resting with the heavenly Father from all his labors.  Psalm 37:23 says:  "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delighteth in his way."  Certainly J.L. Chase's steps were ordered by the Lord.  His life left a wonderful testimony to the power of a changed heart in Jesus Christ.  He will be missed, but one day, we know we shall see him again in heaven smiling and saying, "What took you so long?"  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts here.  Celebrating a Christian life gives us all such encouragement to keep on keeping on.  Have you known someone like Mr. Chase?  Please share here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Learning to Converse

     Conversation is an art and blessed is the person who learns how to master it.  There are two parts to conversation which people often overlook.  The first part is speaking and sharing our thoughts with another person.  For most of us, this is easy.  However, the second part is where difficulties can arise.  A good conversationalist is also a good listener.  I know some folks whose whole focus is on talking thus keeping others from joining in.  They monopolize a gathering and avoid interacting with others in the process.  In order to carry on a meaningful dialogue on any subject, we must learn to speak with wisdom and listen with care.  This is especially true when we are sharing the Gospel, but it holds true in our relationships in the home, at work, and in church fellowships as well.
Our son Aaron talking with sister Jordan
     While I have always been a talker (which is why I majored in communications at college), I have learned over the years to remain silent at times.  For example, it is much better to be quiet in the heat of a disagreement than to say something you would later regret.  Being quiet is, at times, the appropriate response when we want to jump in and try to fix someone else or their ideas.  This is never a right motive anyway.  God alone is the one who changes the heart.  Our words can carry condemnation or encouragement.  They can win someone to the Lord or drive them far away.  Speech can build up or tear down another.  It can show respect one moment and disrespect the next.   People know us by our fruit and by our words.  If we are a sharp tongued viper, we will not draw many to the cause of Christ.
     In order to learn how to be a good conversationalist, we really need not look any further than our Bible.  Truly, there are countless verses that teach us how to relate with one another in godly communication.  For example,  1 Thessalonians 5:11 reads:  "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."  Jesus warned us about our words in Matthew 12:36-37:  "But I say to you for every idle word that men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned."  Just by reading these two verses we learn that we are to encourage and build each other up, and we also must guard our lips against idle words because God will judge what we say. Additionally, did you know that words carry the power of life and death?  Proverbs 18:21 reads:  "The tongue has the power of life and death."   Other scriptures include:  I Peter 4:11; James 3:9-10; Proverbs 12:18; Psalm 17:3; Proverbs 12:14; Ecclesiastes 9:17 and Proverbs 12:18 to name a few.  Obviously, the Lord thought this subject very important in the scheme of our conduct.
     Here are some rules to help us as we learn to converse in a godly manner.  When we speak to others, we should remember to speak with kindness rather than with anger.  Shouting or use of unkind words is unnecessary.  We must:  1) Think before we speak 2) Wait for our turn to speak and 3) Avoid arguments and quarrels as it comes to nothing but hurt feelings.  Things we should avoid in speaking to others include:  1) Do not stoop to the other person's level especially if they are argumentative.  Take the high road.  2) Don't mock others - it only produces antagonism instead of understanding.  3) Don't insult others or make fun of them.  4) Don't use filthy language.  5) Do not lie or tell falsehoods.  God abhors a liar.  6) Do not slander someone or ruin their reputation and 7) Do not gossip.  This can do more damage than any other means within a body of believers.
     Things we need to do in godly conversation include:  1) Be truthful.  Jesus is the truth and we are to emulate our Master.  2) Be happy, cheerful and joyful.  Everyone needs someone who will lift their spirits.  3) Strive to encourage others as you converse.  The world is filled with gloom and doom enough. We need to spend time lifting one another up in Christ.
     I encourage each of you to do a search of scripture for more verses pertaining to our words and conversation.  I think we would all be surprised at how much God has addressed this subject.  Being a good conversationalist isn't just about getting along in a group of means far more for the Christian.  Our influence in the lives of others comes as a result of the character we display in the words we speak and how we take time to listen to someone else.  We want to reflect the love, grace, and holiness of God.  Sometimes we use words to make a point and at other times, we need to listen.  May God grant us the grace and wisdom to know when to speak and what to say so that we may glorify His name.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and insights here.  How has God been teaching you to converse with others?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Doing Things My Way

     During the years our children were growing up, we often experienced the battle of the wills.  Of course, this is nothing new to the human condition.  We would try to lay out a sensible course of action and suggest how our children might accomplish a project.  However, they were confident at the time that they knew what was best and they would do it their way despite our pleadings.  As a result, there were some disappointments and failures they had to face.  Quite often, this is exactly how we react to God's direction in our own lives.  He has given us His Word, but we feel we know better.
     In 2 Kings 5:1-14, we meet a commander named Naaman who had become a leper.  He sought healing and one of his servant girls suggested the prophet Elisha could help him.  Naaman was a very proud man, but he was desperately ill and decided to seek God's prophet for healing.  When Elisha sent his servant out to greet the commander and tell him to dip in the Jordan River seven times, Naaman was incensed.  He felt the prophet himself should come to meet him.  In addition, he thought dipping in the river a silly way to find relief.  He was about to turn around and go home because he said to himself that he could dip in his own river.  However, the servant girl who had first advised him to seek Elisha encouraged him to follow what he was told to do.  Naaman dipped in the Jordan River seven times and was healed.
     This whole incident seemed like such foolishness to Naaman, but it turned out to be just what he needed.  I Corinthians 1:25 reads:  "God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength."  Proverbs 3:5-6 reads:  "Do not rely on your own insight.  In all your ways acknowledge God, and He will make straight your paths."  The natural tendency is to do things our way, using our reasoning, our logic and our ability.  The Word tells us just the opposite.
     When we think of the cross and the death of Jesus Christ, it seems like foolishness compared to the way we would try to save those whom God has appointed unto salvation.  Even the Lord's disciples tried to forbid Him from going to the cross.  Nevertheless, God's ways are mysterious and different than our ways.  His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.  He chooses to show strength through weakness, victory through suffering and life through death.  We would never do things that way...but we are not God.
      We must remember before we enter into any new endeavor to ask the Lord how He wants us to do things rather than asking Him to bless what we have already done on our own.  His timing as well as His ways bring success whereas our ways can often bring difficulty.
     Do we want to be successful in what we attempt in our daily lives?  If so, we need to seek the Lord in prayer.  We may not always understand why God wants us to follow a certain course, but He can see the big picture.  He has infinite wisdom and we have finite wisdom.  As a result, we know we can trust Him with the out come.  Keeping our hearts and wills in tune with God will lead to blessings as we follow His plan and not our own.  Selah!

Only God's way....brings the joy we so desire!  Keeping looking up!  I welcome your thoughts and insights.