Owning Our Words

OffendI know that there are a few folks in this world who are chronically offended about anything and everything, but we can never use that as an excuse to just be reckless with our words. Part of the last days’ trend will be increasing offenses. Some of it we will just have to deal with…especially in matters of truth; but I caution us as believers to weigh out our words–right down to our motives for speaking them–before we let them fly. That goes double for me!

The Word tells us that we will give account of every idle word. That’s not just telling us to clean up our language…it’s telling us to weed out whatever doesn’t bear good fruit. We can go about business as usual, and say, “Well, so-and-so just needs to grow up,” or we can choose to be better stewards of our communication. Corrupt ‪#‎communication‬ isn’t just dirty words and cursing; it’s anything that breeds confusion and opens the door for the devil to make a mess of things. We don’t have to go around fearful and reluctant to speak to people; but I’m just saying, give no place to the devil! Why should I have to qualify what I say? you may ask. Well, you can wound people and determine to just let them be wounded–that’s their problem–or you can take just a little more care in the area of reconciliation and consideration.

It’s not just a matter of being better communicators to a lost world, but it’s also a matter of being better communicators among our brothers and sisters in Christ. Leaders to leaders, leaders to followers, followers to other followers, and all of us to the world–our speech will either be fruitful or it will be like spraying Round Up on everything we work to produce. Know when tough love is needed, but know also when you just need to stake up the weak branches and pour in the oil and wine. Be honest with people if you have a problem with them; but do it in love and humility. Don’t show partiality, be clannish, or ignore the feelings of those who look up to you. If you do, you will lose them.

The Lord spoke to my heart in prayer a few months back and He told me that we are to beware of reckless offenses in the Body of Christ. The enemy is going to try to erode our unity not by big church splits, but by little offenses. Little day-to-day misunderstandings, lack of proper communication, suspicions, distrust, hurts, unforgiveness, disrespect, ignoring one another, backbiting, gossip, incorrect assumptions, “digging” at one another (does your kidding around with others ever go just a little too far?), and failure to prefer our brothers and sisters over ourselves. Even as a local body, my own church has maintained a great strength in unity over the years, and I would say, “turn up the dial even higher to safeguard against the devil’s schemes! Be ready to extinguish any spark of disunity you see trying to ignite!”  Yes, Satan will even try that strategy in the strongest of churches.

Listen to the Holy Spirit like you’ve never listened before. I believe that if we will remain humble and open to His voice, He will caution us when we are about to make a blunder. Don’t override His urging when He’s saying to you, ‘That’s not your business.’ ‘Nope, don’t go there.’ ‘You don’t know that to be a fact at all.’ ‘This is where you need to end the discussion.’ ‘Don’t be part of that conversation.’ ‘Walk away.’ ‘Apologize…I don’t care if you’re right or wrong…I am telling you to be the one to reconcile.’ ‘I don’t care if you do think it’s funny, you are giving the devil a chance to cause someone else to get hurt.’

Another reason to show sensitivity and meekness toward your brothers and sisters in Christ is this:  in doing so, you are discerning the Lord’s Body.  I wonder how many times, in ignorance, we have taken the Holy Communion after mistreating or holding a grudge against someone right in our congregation.  I don’t want to be weak or sickly…or asleep (whether it is spiritually or just plain dead!) over failing to discern the Body of Christ.  Only recently did I gain a deeper understanding of that Scripture.  I’d always assumed that it meant just not to partake of the Sacrament without repenting for our sins, asking for forgiveness if we’d wronged someone, or granting forgiveness in kind.  What if we simply have secret contempt toward another in the Body, and we nurse that contempt and allow it to take root?  Is our God not also offended by those things we mutter under our breath about others whom He created?  How important it is to Him that we love others as He does, and that we speak to them in a way that reflects His goodness!

Proverbs 18 tells us that a brother offended is harder to win than a strong city. Jesus, however, goes even farther to say that the Father doesn’t want our gifts if we bring them covered with the filth of offenses! “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matt 5:23-24 ESV). He doesn’t say for us to go make it right only if it was our fault, He says to go and be reconciled, period! Choke down that pride and take the high road! It may take some work to break down that wall, but you do your part and with a right heart attitude…and then come back and finish your offering to God. He will receive it gladly if it’s tied with the ribbon of reconciliation!

I have a long way to go on the highway of holiness, but one thing I never ever want to do is to cause someone else to reject Jesus because of a flaw he or she sees in my attitude. We have heard that phrase that we are “the only Bible some people will ever read” until we no longer grasp the depth of its meaning. Don’t lose your ability to be salt and light just so that you can “be yourself.” Speak as if the whole world is listening…because it is.

Skilled Laborers for Delicate Harvests

grapevineAnd this has a real advantage: I am not bound to obey anyone just because he pays my salary; yet I have freely and happily become a servant of any and all so that I can win them to Christ. When I am with the Jews I seem as one of them so that they will listen to the Gospel and I can win them to Christ. When I am with Gentiles who follow Jewish customs and ceremonies I don’t argue, even though I don’t agree, because I want to help them. When with the heathen I agree with them as much as I can, except of course that I must always do what is right as a Christian. And so, by agreeing, I can win their confidence and help them too. When I am with those whose consciences bother them easily, I don’t act as though I know it all and don’t say they are foolish; the result is that they are willing to let me help them. Yes, whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with him so that he will let me tell him about Christ and let Christ save him.  I do this to get the Gospel to them and also for the blessing I myself receive when I see them come to Christ.  (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NLT)
Instead of just sitting in Heaven and disapproving of our fallen condition, our Lord did something remarkable: He came here to walk with us, experience our suffering, and show us how to rise above our sinfulness. He paid the complete price for us to be able to reconcile with the Father, even in our brokenness and flawed Adamic nature! Just as God sent a representative into the human race to save all, He continues to do this on a different level today: He uses US to walk among and impact others with whom we share similar struggles or questions. That’s why we aren’t to just go around vexed and speaking with disdain about our fellow man’s wretched conditions. We are to pray that God assigns the right persons to each group of people who are walking in a particular pocket of darkness.
The Word tells us that where sin abounds, grace does much more abound (Romans 5:20). There is no segment of our society so wicked, so blind, or so hopeless that God cannot send a messenger capable of reaching them!  Perhaps you’re not as socially-versatile a person as the Apostle Paul; after all, his wide circle of influence came because he had a mighty wide background before coming to Christ.  If you are limited in those whom you can reach, or if frustration causes you to be ineffective in your witness, this message is for you–and it’s a message of GREAT HOPE.
Don’t make it your business to just stand back and curse others for their sinful behavior. Speak the truth, yes. Never compromise. But don’t use your words as weapons to just rip to shreds people who desperately need Jesus. It may not be YOUR voice that reaches them with convicting impact. If your voice isn’t capable of bearing that fruit, use it for prayer instead of for pounding! God’s already told us to pray that the Lord of the Harvest will send laborers. God intends to give all men and women a way of escape from the clutches of sin, if they’ll take it. He has already created and called special laborers to these seemingly impossible segments of the field of souls.
The ear who’s closed to most other voices? It will open when the right messenger delivers that same uncompromised truth. God will anoint that messenger with the ability to be heard . That harvest will feel connected to, loved by, and understood by the person sent to engage them. They will take seriously from him the same message that they may have scorned out of the lips of others.
God didn’t call us to be the voice of disapproval…He called us to be the light of the world! Disapproval? Oh yes, that’s totally what the lost expect of us…and we have sure given them a whopping dose of it. But…have we sprung the message on them that God loves them and that so do we? Have we demonstrated to them that Jesus died for all, and that no one is beyond His reach?  Zacchaeus could climb out of the scorn of the crowd and watch Jesus from a safe distance in that sycamore tree…but WOW…when Jesus saw him and announced (in front of the others who despised this money-grubbing little tax collector) He was going home with him!  He could handle rejection all day long, and had.  Jesus’ approval, however, totally disarmed him!
It’s OK if you have no gifting to reach every single personality type, societal group, or area of sin bondage. If you feel no compassion for, or patience, or common ground with a particular group of people who embrace something you feel strongly against, then do this: step back enough to where you can see objectively and begin to just pray for them. Don’t shun them, just don’t try to engage in a verbal dispute over the lifestyles they’re living. Show the love of God and only speak what will actually bear fruit. At that same time, begin to pray IN EARNEST for someone to come into their paths who has that gifting, and keep praying until God sends His chosen laborer into that particular harvest field.
Let me explain. Having dealt with loved ones who were in deep bondage to addiction from the early days of my childhood, I am not the best person to engage someone wrestling with a drug or alcohol problem. When I encounter a person who’s high or drunk, I still get that feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach from old memories I’d just as soon not resurrect. So, instead of being gifted at reaching that person on a genuine level ground, I am too preoccupied with fighting my own bad memories to really be the most effective witness–one whose message will be received. Probably the person himself/herself even feels the vibes coming from me of someone who’d like to just escape this situation as soon as possible! Someone else can step into that role, however, and completely dominate the spirit of addiction. A peace can settle in and a common ground be established where the addicted person feels understood and loved, rather than dreaded. In that setting, God has great leeway to build a bridge to rescue the perishing! In my element, there are others I can more effectively reach…and as I remain faithful in doing what I CAN, God will increase my areas of influence.
Sometimes God will even send someone into that harvest area who isn’t so close to the problem. If the really-bound person is your family member, your frustration about the situation may be too strong to allow you objectivity. That person may be completely unreceptive to your pleas. Trust God to send the perfect influence into that person’s path. It’s ok if the right messenger isn’t YOU! Your obligation is to continue in love and intercession…and God can sometimes do His most effective rescue blitzes through a third-party intervention.  There’ll be time for reconciliation between you and your loved one later, once Christ reigns in his or her life, too.  Let go and let God.
Instead of me just spewing disapproval of the lifestyles of those in bondage (and causing them to completely shutdown from any chance to receive what I have to say about the love of God), I need to intercede for ones I don’t positively impact, and let God put the perfect spokesperson into their paths. He will. And He will hold me accountable to touch others…those with whom I have a particular rapport! There’s a special group of people for whom God will grace me with reachability; and I am to work in that area of the field with my whole heart. So are you.
In short, that old saying does ring true: Don’t curse the darkness, but instead light a candle. If your testimony of hope and the love of God can’t come across as just that (instead of a closed fist), then you might not be called to that person in the area of “getting down to the nitty gritty.” What you might not be able to with interaction on a horizontal level, you can do on a vertical level! Be careful not to wound the lost sheep…they still need rescued!

Prayer Over Christian Intercessors

Ever watch a movie featuring scenes of ancient methods of battlefield engagement? You can see the soldiers march forward x number of steps, kneel, lift their rifles on command, fire at one another, and repeat; as unprotected soldiers on both sides of the battle fall dead or injured with every command to fire weapons. It’s kind of horrifying to imagine that this is the way wars were fought even on our native soil. There’s no protection, little hope of escaping a bullet or a a musket ball or a bayonet…and no resolve to the battle except total annihilation of one side or the other, or surrender. Even with some of the horrors we see in modern-day warfare, that “last one standing” type of fighting seems like an almost certain waste of lives!

I see us, as the Body of Christ, allowing our intercessors to march into battle unprotected very often; and we must change our rules of engagement immediately! Spiritual warfare is heating up, and we can’t allow those who are on the front line praying to go without a prayer covering. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “prayer warrior,” may I challenge you today to pray protection over those who are praying for you? Pray with me:

“Father, there are people who have responded to Your call to prayer on another level. These are our intercessors. Surround them with a bloodline of protection–an encircling by the powerful Blood of Jesus–as they stand in the gap for me, for Your church, and for this fallen world. Protect them and their families from disabling attacks by the enemy. Keep them healthy. Keep their minds clear of unnecessary distractions. Help them to be strengthened anew so that they might remain on the front line. When they need to take a furlow from active duty, awaken the desire to pray in other people. I pray today you would refresh them. Bless them. Bind up their wounds and enable them to return to the front line. I pray that you will protect them in every kind of engagement: hand-to-hand combat, ambush, air attacks, ground attacks, guerrilla soldiers, suicide bombers; protect them from betrayal by loved ones. Cause them to remain hidden in Christ, and shielded from every fiery dart of wickedness. Encase them with stealth and camouflage. If the enemy comes at them in one direction, cause the enemy to flee in seven directions! Cause their prayers to have a synergistic effect when combined with the prayers of others. And Father, help me to remember to pray for those who are praying for me! I declare the blessing of Isaiah 58:8 over those who are operating on all levels of intercessory prayer: ‘Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.’ Thank You for those precious people who are hard-core intercessors! May the lamp of prayer never go out in the house of the Lord! In Jesus’ name…”


The Grace Feeder

Titmouse on birdfeederBut to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become the children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name— John 1:12 (AMP)

I’m fairly sure that this past year hasn’t brought more species of birds to my area than what were already here, but it seems as if it has.  The difference between then and now is my personal interest in them.

Back in the winter, I bought a window-mount bird feeder and suet basket.  I’d already been feeding hummingbirds for a couple years in the summer; but the cold weather and relentless snow caused me to feel pity for the non-migrating birds and early arrivals whose meager food was far beneath the white ground.  The tree limbs and bushes were looking alarmingly bare, too.  It took a few days for them to discover this little feeding station; but once they did, they became daily regulars.

And so began my keen awareness of each kind.  Before long, there were more than the familiar robins, blue jays, cardinals, and sparrows.  Now there were cowbirds, blue-crested titmice, chickadees, finches, meadowlarks, swallows, and many others.  It wasn’t enough for me to know they were coming; I wanted to know what they were, what they liked to eat.  I took responsibility for keeping that feeder full of what is good for them. I Google-searched their descriptions so that when one came to the feeder, I would know it by name!  Even the family of gray doves who’ve lived here in the woods behind our house for the past several years began to drop by.  They of course didn’t light on the bird feeder, but politely waited for the others to knock seeds out and down to them.

And as I mused these things this morning, I thought of how blessed we are when, after accepting Jesus as our Savior, we become adopted into God’s family as real sons and daughters, joint-heirs with Christ.  We are all God’s creation; but until we accept relationship with Him, we are not yet all His children.  The same gift of eternal life is out there, made equally available to all who will receive it; but we must make the choice to do so.

While God cares for all of His creation, and longs for relationship with all of us, there are so many more blessings in store for those of us who respond to His calling.  Even those who do not accept Him are blessed daily.  He gives all of us sunshine, rain, food, life.  He gives those things anyway, out of His sheer goodness, knowing that many of those whom He blesses will still reject Him.

To those who do receive Him, however, we receive the privileges afforded with sonship even beyond eternal life.  He becomes fully vested in our lives.  He knows what we like, what our secret longings are, how to bring out the very best of the potential He birthed in us.  He begins to work all things toward our good.  He burns the dross out of our lives and makes us pure.  He prunes our branches so that we can be even more fruitful.  He makes Himself readily available to walk with us, not just in the cool of the day, but in the heat, the storms, the long nights as well.  He reminds us that, no matter what, He is with us and will never leave!  Like those birds who have chosen to come to my feeder, we come to God through pure grace.  Those birds have nothing in particular to offer me in return. They can’t help me with my housework or pay my bills.   If anything, they cost me.  I’ll be buying more feed and cleaning away messes they make; but it is my joy to bless those who will come and eat.  There’s nothing we humans could ever do to merit God’s grace.  We just have to accept it freely and know that it’s His goodness rather than what we have done.  He delights in His ability to give us what we cannot earn!

I don’t know about you, friend, but I want to know Him…and Him to know me!  I don’t want to just catch the incidental blessings He makes generally available to all of creation; I want to be treated with the distinction of being a cherished daughter.  He has agreed to be responsible for me; to always be with me both now and throughout eternity.  I want that, and through Jesus, I have that.  You can, too!

Pray with me:  “Jesus, I don’t enjoy being alone in this life.  I know that I have been blessed even though I don’t yet call myself a Christian…but my life is still empty and not the best it can be.  I’m told that relationship with You will be the element that completes what is missing.  I need that void to be filled, not with the destructive or vain things I’ve pursued which have left me disappointed; but evidently, I need for You to fill that empty part of me.  Please forgive me of the wrong things I’ve done.  I have sinned, and even my best attempts at being good haven’t made me worthy of God’s gift of eternal life.  The Bible says that You are the way, the truth, and the life, and that I must come to God through You.  I receive You now as my Lord and Savior.  Thank You for enduring the suffering of the cross, for being the sacrifice for my sins, and for raising from the dead to be my advocate before God.  I don’t yet fully understand what it means to have you as that go-between, that mediator, but I am so glad that You plead my case before Your Father.  Make me Your adopted sibling.  Wash away my sins and clean up my heart and life.  May Your Father also be my Father, too, now and forever more.  I receive eternal life through You, and I receive the favor that Your grace has bought for me.  I will not go by my feelings, but I will always take You at Your Word!  Teach me, surround me with those who will help me, and please make me someone who makes a difference in the lives of others.  I am Yours to transform, and I thank You for the promise to never leave me!  I am no longer alone!”