Strengthening Ourselves Against the Spirit of Offense

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Make a commitment to yourself and to God for this upcoming year not to be sidelined by a spirit of #offense. Some of you may get huffy on me even just reading that first sentence…but hold on and let me elaborate a little!

In my prayer time a couple of days ago, the Lord cautioned me that the enemy was going to launch an attack on the body of Christ in the way of offenses; an attempt to erode our unity. Not so much one big collective attack where everyone is hit at the same time by the same event, but many small instances. The old “death by a thousand cuts” strategy.

We live in a perpetually-offended society nowadays, and believe me when I tell you that listening to constant bad news on TV (true or not), listening to negative music, reading negative articles and books day in and day out can wreak havoc on your spirit man! That spirit of offense can get all over you if you don’t guard your heart! We worry more about our outward appearance being impacted by a lost culture, than we do about the inward impact of those feelings of entitlement, pride, arrogance, and yes, the tendency to get angry, hurt, and offended by everything that doesn’t agree with how we want it. People are ready to sue or to break ties or to ruin others’ reputations at the drop of a hat. And sadly, it happens even in church too.

So how do we cope and make it through the obstacle course of offense? By renewing our minds daily in the Word. By being honest with ourselves before God and recognizing what pushes our buttons. By praying protection over ourselves and our loved ones and inviting the Holy Spirit to change the atmosphere wherever we are—home, school, church, the grocery store parking lot, wherever.

Our minds are going be full of SOMETHING. We have to set parameters and say no to what the Holy Spirit cautions us to avoid. And even though we feel we shouldn’t have to be careful around others, yes, as believers we have an obligation to walk blamelessly before the world. We need to think before we act and do. And we need to arrest that spirit of offense when we feel it rising in us.

At some point over the coming weeks and months, you may feel the enemy say something like:

  • “You should just leave/quit/resign/divorce/part ways. You’re not appreciated. Your (spouse, job, family, group, ministry, church, etc.) ought to have to suffer a little bit and then they’d see how much you are worth.”
  • “They did that on purpose! Are you going to just stand there and take it?”
  • “God didn’t answer your prayers. He must not really love you after all.”
  • “So and so just gave you the stink eye. That person doesn’t like you.”
  • “They just did you wrong because you are (too young, too old, not beautiful, they’re jealous of you, not the same color as them; or they think they’re better than you).”
  • “Your church takes too hard a stance on that point of doctrine. They act like a cult. You should find a church that agrees with what you consider truth.”
  • “Who do they think they are to judge you for your choices?”
  • “They’re not the boss of you.”
  • “You should just go ahead and (hurt/kill) yourself and get out of the way.  That’d make them sorry.”
  • “That attitude can go two ways. If they’re asking for trouble, you know you can’t back down now.”
  • “If that person were really a Christian, he/she would (look, act, vote, participate, speak) just like you. Don’t trust him or her!”

Sound familiar?

Well friends, we have a choice. We can do the work in our prayer and study time to toughen up, or we can run around constantly wounded and on the defensive. People hate having to always tiptoe around one certain person in their lives! Don’t let that person be YOU! Remember that much of the time, folks don’t even know that their words were inappropriate or caused you to be hurt. And yeah, some people are not going to be fair with us—now or ever. The Word tells us to pray for, forgive, and love them anyway. Sometimes we have to do it (without gossiping about them behind their backs, by the way) from a distance—but near or far, God’s grace can enable us to shake it off.

Pray with me: “Father, I don’t want to be overly sensitive. I don’t want to stumble on the rock of offense, this year or ever. I don’t want to abort my mission or abandon a divine assignment You’ve given me over becoming hurt, mad, or offended at someone else. Jesus, some of your followers even abandoned You when Your words offended their sensibilities.  Please help me!

There are any number of opportunities in a day for me to have my feelings hurt, if I choose to. Crucify the drama queen nature in me! I reject that tendency to want to dramatize and rehearse and nurse and tell others about how this person or that organization or that race or this group was unfair to me. It’s hard, Lord. Sometimes people’s words and actions are downright intentional! I feel sometimes like people who don’t understand my pain are against me. But by Your grace I am rising above offense, in Jesus’ name.

Today I put on the whole armor of God. I protect my mind with the helmet of salvation, my heart with the breastplate of righteousness, my whole being with the shield of faith, my vital organs and private parts with the loinbelt of truth, and my feet with the gospel of peace. I have the Word and Your Spirit in my hand as a sword of defense from the attack of the enemy. You have equipped me to protect my spirit, soul, mind, will, emotions, and entire body. I will not leave the place of prayer improperly dressed to meet my day!

Lord, Your Word tells me in Matthew 18 exactly what to do when a brother offends me—it’s actually a good template for my other relationships too. It starts with personal communication, not a Facebook rant. I will handle situations the way the Bible tells me to. I will not assume that the other person automatically knows, and I will not read his or her every action or inaction as some kind of negative response! I will be civil but honest when these kinds of communications must happen. The object is restoration and forgiveness. Father, in this moment I release and forgive every person who has knowingly or unknowingly offended me!

Lord, I remind myself today that the enemy’s goal is collateral damage. A hit at me is intended to wound and scatter and render ineffective my whole circle of influence. The offense was a weapon not of flesh and blood, but unseen wicked spiritual forces at work. I can’t afford to see this attack in the natural! I will ask what the devil is trying to accomplish if I accept his bait—for that is exactly the post I can’t afford to abandon! I refuse to leave my family, my church, or my assignment over becoming offended!

Finally, I will exercise more caution in the way my words or decisions affect others. When I know I’ve hurt someone, I will man or woman up and go make it right. I won’t just let that person simmer and stew in offense. I won’t just write it off as the other party needing to grow up. Maybe that’s the case and maybe it isn’t; but God isn’t judging me on someone else’s actions. He judges me by how I handle things from my end! I will take the high road. I will at least initiate the conversation that opens a door to reconciliation.

And finally, Father, I thank You for not leaving me comfortless! In a fallen, unfair world, Your Holy Spirit consoles and gives me peace. In the name of Jesus, I go forth today declaring that I AM NOT A VICTIM! I WILL NOT LET THE DEVIL MOVE ME FROM WHERE GOD HAS ASSIGNED ME! I am a Psalm 1 believer who refuses to be influenced by the negatives of others—a tree thriving in rich soil, which bears fruit and whose leaves aren’t withered. I am not ignorant of the devices (strategies, traps) of the devil. I won’t miscarry my destiny because of a vagabond, offended spirit. I am strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Amen and amen!” 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼

Blessed Paradox: Hope and Encouragement for the Introvert with Extrovert Gifts

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People who only “sort of” know me are actually quite surprised to find out that I am an introvert. They see me minister weekly on the platform with multiple instruments and singing, or see my blog and the book, or me breezing through the hallway shaking hands and hugging necks.  They think I am bold as a lion and to a certain extent, they are right.  I suppose it does take a lot of courage to grab a mic and play a song in front of a large group of people.  But still, there’s the safe, invisible “space” between me and those who might be sitting there listening. It’s the same with writing…a way to project thoughts and bring inspiration and glory to God from a comfortable distance.  I guess some gifts even develop or evolve from a necessity to make the best of the personalities we’re born with.  At any rate, here I am, a bit of a recluse, with gifts that make me look like the exact opposite.  A true paradox.

The reason I’m sharing this so transparently is that some of you have this same personality quirk; and you feel it renders you useless in the kingdom of God.  I wasn’t always sure myself that I’d be able to work through this nagging need for personal space; and some days I still have to hack through the cloud of self-doubt.  But I know that the Lord was not on autopilot the day He created me to be who I am!  And He wasn’t half-engaged the day He made you, either.

We aren’t social misfits, we introverts.  I heard it described perfectly not long ago:  introverts get energy from time spent alone, and they find being in the presence of others enjoyable but absolutely exhausting—physically and emotionally.

I married a man who understands this part of me, and he loves me anyway.  We have built a life together where we respect one another’s need for quiet and space, and times for social engagement, too.  He’s better with people one-on-one than I am, and that’s the place in ministry where he fits so perfectly; but at the same time, he actually gets me.  And though sometimes even he overrides my need for alone time, he actually works at protecting my boundaries, love his heart.

So where do you fit on the broad spectrum of the body of Christ? Don’t let anyone, especially the devil, convince you that you cannot be a fruitful yet quiet person who craves solitude. There are places where you can serve which require minimal interaction while still meeting vital needs in the church or community.

Volunteer to do the downtime, behind-the-scenes work.  You may not enjoy being the person performing in the Christmas drama on stage, but you can help build the set or run the spotlight. You can come in and tidy up the nursery after church if you want to help the kids’ ministry but aren’t great with kids. Bake the cookies for the funeral reception. Stock the food pantry shelf after hours.  Fold the bulletins or manage the website.   Agree to lead the devotions for the small group held in someone else’s house, if having people in your own home is too disconcerting. Send the care cards to shut-ins and write them personal notes of encouragement.  Be a youth leader’s assistant who handles the side stuff…it may give you just enough people time to feel bonded without getting pulled into relationships you’re not feeling comfortable enough to sustain.  Interestingly, introverts often become powerful intercessors because of their ease with praying for extended periods in solitude.

And yes, you can absolutely teach and preach with an introverted personality.  I’m constantly surprised to find that some of the best pastors and ministry leaders are a lot like me–hidden away enjoying time away from the crowd–when they’re not doing ministry!

I won’t tell you that as an introvert in ministry, you’ll never be misunderstood.  This is that “suck it up, Buttercup” moment.  Yeah, by people who don’t know how your unique personality nuances affect your responses to being thrust into scenarios that are awkward or downright terrifying, you may get judged unfairly.  You may be perceived to be stuck-up, snobbish, strange, stand-offish, eccentric, too private, too serious, or just…an odd fit.  You may, as I have multiple times, hear people say that if you don’t love being around people, you’re probably not really called into ministry; or that your love walk is jacked up on cinder blocks. That’s not quite true. There’s a huge difference between loving people and actually wanting them in your personal space! Wink!

But newsflash… Jesus got misunderstood and He ministered anyway.  He migrated toward the fringe people and in so doing, was called a drunkard, winebibber, and friend of sinners.  While being judged inaccurately or unfairly isn’t utterly avoidable, remember the law of sowing and reaping.  Be careful of how you judge other people. There are a lot of odd sorts in the body of Christ and elsewhere who merely have personalities different from yours.   Before you write others off, consider how you yourself struggle with where you fit. Sometimes someone who’s the exact opposite of you has the same difficulty finding his or her place in the kingdom, too.  Judge not; it may help you to be less-often on the hot seat of judgment yourself.  Moreover, it’ll make you less likely to try to pressure someone else into serving where and how you serve.

It’s ok to be an introvert…but the spiritual issues that you allow God to prune off you in prayer and the Word (like insecurity, fear, judgmental nature, selfishness, unbelief, lack of love, and suspicion) will be what make you an introvert who is fruitful.  Learn what spiritual traps are more common for those who have that tendency to be loners…and do the work to strengthen yourself from what could destroy the unique and beautiful you whom God created!

A plus to being an introvert in ministry is the comfort level of the briar patch of aloneness. Ministry and leadership can be lonely to someone who’s always got to have a cheering section, always needing a Facebook “like.”  So the place which is difficult for the extrovert is actually where you thrive. There’s a need for all kinds of personality types!

To share with you my strengths and weaknesses as an introvert is a little awkward; but I think it’s necessary because people like me (maybe you’re one of them) feel the need to be understood. For me, I can only handle being around people for a limited amount of time before I retreat to my home.   It’s fun to fellowship, and I love people. I love to laugh and make others laugh with my quick wit and silliness, and I like to engage in deep conversation and to listen genuinely when others are talking. I especially love to be an encourager who speaks positive things into someone’s life.

But all of this interaction, even the fun kind, can exhaust me quickly.  People I would expect to bond with, I don’t always…and I haven’t learned how to make myself enjoy those connections; and yet I’m sometimes surprised at who turns out to be an easy fit. So knowing how I am, I tend to try to compartmentalize my social time and my alone time; and I keep as much as is practical of that time to myself.

I am also not a person well-suited to be the “face” of the ministry—haha!  Working as a church administrative staff person, I learned quickly that I’m terrible at being the receptionist. I don’t have the sparkle, the gregariousness, the gift of gab, the sheer patience; and people who talk a lot, are negative, manipulative, or overbearing make me very nervous.  I try to hide that, but unfortunately, don’t pull it off very well.  I can be social or I can be productive, but I’m a train wreck if I have to combine the two.  Nope, put me in a room off to myself with a stack of work, and I’ll work till the crickets stop chirping.  Yet I’m effective in my element.

At home, I’m pretty low-key.  I generally don’t host overnight houseguests; and I prefer a little notice when someone decides to drop by, just because I don’t fancy myself a great housekeeper.  I’m not so great with kids and babies because I never had any, even though I love them.  I also find myself backing away when someone tries to bring unwanted drama into my sphere, or who “hems me up” in a corner.

I have a gift of hospitality that clashes with the introvert in me. For that reason, I usually prefer to be a contributor to someone else’s get-together, where I cook and send/bring the food (Dana and I share a love of cooking for other people, so this way I can do it without feeling the pressure of being the hostess).  We love to make food sometimes and just drop it off to people.  That blesses them, and it blesses us without stressing me out over the pressure to entertain!

The biggest shock of all to me was when the Lord spoke to me three years ago and impressed upon me to get credentialed in ministry.  As you know, I’m a writer, and I’m very content to make books and the internet my pulpit.  I don’t relish the thought of standing behind a podium and doing public speaking. Nevertheless, I said yes to God and completed a two-year process that earned me an Exhorter’s and then an Ordained Minister’s license in the Church of God denomination.  All the while, as I went though the process, I wondered why the Lord would pick a virtual hermit to be one of His messengers.  I had to arrive at peace with the fact that, while He will stretch this wineskin a little out of her comfort zone, He won’t rupture me and waste His investment!  I did a lot of soul searching, and it was healing to discover that I’m not less holy than an extrovert who by nature loves being in the company of others constantly.

Introvertedness is not a measure of one’s heart or holiness.  I like to think of us as the edge pieces of the puzzle.  We are connected to the body, too, but we have a specific place to fit in the overall synergy of the picture that perhaps makes us connected on fewer sides.  But, even corner pieces are necessary!

I’ve seen so many bold preachers and teachers and lay people who are incredible with people; and thought that there must be something wrong with me for not handling the close proximity thing with their kind of ease. At times I have felt as if perhaps I weren’t as good a person as those who are comfortable with people in their face constantly. I know people who make great foster parents, or who host a lot of company and love having people in their houses—even strangers.  Their driveways are always abuzz with cars coming and going.  Some of them even raise their grandkids and love it.

They’re also the sort who love to take a dozen people with them on vacation and always have a posse running around with them, hanging on their every word. Conversely, people who are extroverts don’t do alone very well; and they thrive on that constant interaction.  They have a wonderful work to do, God bless them every one.  I admire them, I cheer them on, but I am not them.  Other people’s drama can quickly spiral me into exhaustion and then depression.  But there is still a place for me in the body of Christ, and there’s a place for you if these scenarios aren’t your cup of tea, either.

Yes, it took a while for me to realize that not everyone in ministry is or has to be an extrovert!  Some of the people I thought were the most grand social butterflies are in fact, very much like me–the square peg introvert. They have just learned the fine art of emotional management, time management, and adhering to a schedule where there’s promised alone time.  I’m better than I used to be, but I’m still after all these years trying to find that happy medium.

I remind myself often that Jesus craved alone time and that He would routinely spend time away from His disciples to pray and recharge.  Sometimes His compassion would override His need for separation (as in the time He pitied the multitude following Him and ministered to them even while tired…seeing them as sheep with no shepherd).  But the Word does not tell us that He did that every single time.  No doubt He was always in demand; but He still got alone with the Father; and the Word even tells us His custom was to do it early in the mornings.  Perhaps that was the only time He could guarantee that other people weren’t stirring around looking for Him.

I do know that the more time I’m in the company of others, the less time I have for collecting my thoughts and pouring them onto paper.  I need that aloneness in order to release the essence of my gift. So the introvert nature is a bit of a blessing for the writer/artist part of me.

I just don’t get lonely very often. I was never the girl who could never go to the restroom without asking one of the other girls to come along.   I love to go on long drives by myself, and some of my happiest prayer times have been on long, lone commutes. Much as I love my husband and other members of my family, I still need that space.  It energizes me.  It heals me.  It’s the “beside still waters” place where my Shepherd restores my soul and my sanity.

I’ve rambled a bit, so thanks for your patience.  I guess this is all gushing out because I need to say it as much as someone possibly needs to hear it.  Maybe I just need to get it off my chest. If you’re a friend or family member who wishes I would give more of myself, thank you for enduring the fact that I’m only good for a short stint before I retreat back into my cave.  I’m just like a cordless phone that can’t be off the charging cradle too long!

But seriously, back to the subject of ministry and the introvert, I encourage you not to perceive yourself as unfit!  Find a place where you can serve, that stretches you just enough to keep you growing, but that doesn’t let you make life all about you, either.  There is a way to connect with other people even if you don’t want to have an entourage following you and calling you constantly!  I think Jesus May have deliberately chose 12 disciples with enormous differences in personalities and gift mixes.  It teaches us that it takes all kinds to make up His church.  Some of His disciples we know about practically in name-only.  They didn’t write canonized epistles or have particularly daring historical accounts, but their presence was significant just the same.  Jesus even chose the one who would ultimately choose whether or not to betray Him…and did. Interesting, isn’t it?

Hey, I’m in my 50’s and I’m still trying to overcome the desire to pull the covers back over my head a lot of mornings.  I could choose to let this introverted nature completely rule me.  At times, perhaps I have.  Becoming bold to be a writer and musician and to wear other hats has surely been a long process.  But I do want to be fruitful and to let Jesus conform me to His nature; so I keep trying, and I keep putting myself back up on the Potter’s wheel to work out the marred parts of my clay jar.

If you’re wrestling with your place in the kingdom and in ministry, pray with me:

Father, I identify with Paul when he wrote about wanting to be one way but found himself being another way.  He was referring to his sin nature which constantly needed put in check; but sometimes I find my personality just as frustrating as a sin nature. I need your help.  I present my body to You as a living sacrifice. Make it holy and acceptable. Take the parts of me that need perfecting, and work them over (and over again if necessary).

Paul said that he became all things to all men so that he might win some to You.  Help me to identify with others on a more Christlike level.  Help me to have the wisdom to make room for sharing Your Good News while navigating this life as someone whose personality prefers aloneness.  Show me ways to make a difference in the world in spite of my need for an arms-length relationship with most people.  Help me not to be blind to elements of my nature that warrant change; but also help me not to judge myself unfairly based on the accuser of the brethren’s voice, who tells me that I’m unworthy, not holy enough, or not fit to serve in the role of ministering to others.  

I want to be involved, truly—but I want to be involved in a way that is energizing to me and not just draining.  I need Your wisdom to pair me with what fits the person You created me to be. Give me opportunities to sow into the ministries of those who can handle the more dramatic one-on-one encounters!  There are people who are perfectly crafted to minister in some very difficult social settings which I cannot deal with effectively.  If You lead me to support those ministries, I will back them however You tell me—financially, behind-the-scenes, or just merely in prayer. Give me a servant’s heart that overrides my will, when my need for aloneness crosses the threshold from healthy to just plain selfish.  Even though I need down-time, help me to always be generous and compassionate. Give me balance.

And Lord, help me to be less judgmental of others.  I’ve often mistaken other people’s personalities for being something they weren’t.  Just as I don’t want to be misunderstood, help me not to misunderstand.  Help me to be more tolerant of those I perceive to be overbearing people, because in some cases, it’s just their extroverted personality showing through.  Help me work through my desire to retreat from and avoid the hard, necessary business of loving and tolerating people who aren’t just like me. Some of their strengths can compensate for my weaknesses, and vice versa.  We need one another.  

In whatever areas You have gifted me, I’ll serve to the best of my ability.  Yes, I can have a bold message of faith to share and still be someone who has a quiet nature.  I’ll draw strength from my time alone with You and will carry it out to a lost, hurting world who needs to know that You love them.  I’ll fight the doubt that tries to make me feel disqualified from ministry.  You made me; You can use me in any way that You choose…and not even my weaknesses can change that.  They are only crippling weaknesses if I were to refuse to let You work on me.  I surrender to You what I have.  I am the loaves and the fishes.  Bless me, break me, and feed the hungry.  

In Jesus’ name…

Speak to the Mountain! An Exercise in Radical Faith

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Jesus said to them, “Have faith in God!  I can guarantee this truth: This is what will be done for someone who doesn’t doubt but believes what he says will happen: He can say to this mountain, ‘Be uprooted and thrown into the sea,’ and it will be done for him. That’s why I tell you to have faith that you have already received whatever you pray for, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:22-24, God’s Word Translation.  Copyright © 1995 by God’s Word to the Nations, Baker Publishing Group)

Need a little help speaking to your #mountain?

Let’s start with ground zero and we can work our way out all in good time. I know there are other issues that involve households, communities, finances, etc., but here’s what I feel impressed to share for now. I tried to hit it broadside, but you can of course be more specific in narrowing down the problem. It’s just an example. We’re to pray all kinds of prayer; but in addition, if you’ve never actually spoken to the problem directly, here’s how you might do it. 🙂

~Sickness, disease, and infirmity, you be rooted out of my body in Jesus’ name! Be gone–now! Be dissolved and cast into the sea. You must leave and never come back. I refuse to let my body and mind be a gracious host to you any longer! I command you to GO! I am alive with the life of Christ and I am healed from head to toe. I claim Mark 11:23 as the excavator that digs you out, lays its blade to the roots, along with every spirit that’s associated with you…and then disposes of you. I release grace, mercy, and goodness, righteousness, peace, health and joy back into every corner, nook, and cranny you occupied. You are evicted!

~Grace, mercy, goodness, righteousness, peace, health and joy: flood my body, soul and spirit now! I give no place to the enemy! I receive the forgiveness and healing of Christ and therefore, I invite the graces and blessings of God to inhabit this temple of the Holy Spirit! Together we don’t give up one inch of ground! We crowd out the enemy and we make me a warm, holy, and welcoming place for God to dwell! He has good things for me to accomplish while I am here, so for His glory I am brought out of the ditch of miry clay. My feet are on a solid rock and while I have breath, I will serve Him and I will bear fruit!

~Body, you start kicking into gear and rejecting these enemies of your health. Jesus already bore these sicknesses in His body on the tree so that you don’t have to. You fight for your wellness, body! By His stripes you ARE healed and made whole. All of you–organs, body parts, even down to my mitochondria and DNA and smallest parts–be healed and behave like you are healed! Body, I no longer look at you in the mirror and complain about how sick you appear. I call you whole and I praise God that I’m fearfully and wonderfully made! I glow with the countenance of someone who has been in His presence! My laughter and my positive outlook are contagious!

~Depression, anxiety, worry, anger, indecision, confusion, despair, jealousy, self-pity, unforgiveness…I speak to you and renounce you and command you to leave my soul…right now. The Son has set me free and therefore I am free indeed. There’s no place for you to reign in my life. You are a curse and offense to me, and Galatians 3:13 says that I’m redeemed from the curse. I choose to take God at His Word and not listen to your lies any longer. The Lord rebuke you, and I resist you, dark emotions that try to cause me to doubt the goodness of God! I call forth thanksgiving and praise into my life. I forgive others even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven me. I will say, “I forgive and release” every time the offense comes back to my remembrance. I give Satan no legal ground in my life. I put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, and I will praise even before I feel like it. I surround myself with praisers and encouragers, not naysayers. God is my source. I am single-minded and I will not sway back and forth between two opinions. My mind and soul are healed from damaging emotions and wrong mindsets. Go away, now, you toxic intruders! I resist you steadfast in the #faith!

~Mind, will, and emotions, I plead the blood of Jesus over you now, …I give the enemy no ground to operate in you! Mind, you line up with God’s Word! Just as I’m instructed in Philippians 4, I choose to think on righteous, uplifting things. I’m going to listen to the kind of music, teaching, and Scriptures that makes evil spirits very uncomfortable in my personal space. The devil will find it very difficult to hang in the same room with me because I will be speaking the name of Jesus, the name above all names, whose power no evil can withstand! Mouth, I forbid you to speak words of doubt and unbelief! Ears, you know the voice of the Good Shepherd, and you are not confused and deceived by any other voices! Eyes, you quit setting yourself on things you should not see! Fix your gaze on what’s righteous and holy! And hey, if you slip up and revert back to your old way of doing things, I WILL REMIND YOU OVER AND OVER TILL YOU GET IT RIGHT! I will, starting now, renew you daily in the Word!
————–
Thank You, Heavenly Father, that You have instructed me to be strong in You and the power of Your might! I’m no victim! I’m no slave! I’m no loser! I am an overcomer by the blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony.
#callthosethings #prayer #declare #healing #freedom #wholeness #shalom

In Whose Shadow?

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“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty [whose power no enemy can withstand].”  (Psalm 91:1 AMP)
Do you have a parent, sibling, coworker, spouse, ministry constituent, or friend to whom you feel inferior? Does someone close to you in that way shine so brightly, so talented or gifted or just favored, that you feel there’s no room for you to ever excel and be lent credibility? You may feel like you’re in someone else’s shadow, but I encourage you today to choose WHOSE shadow you’re going to stand in. Choose to stand in God’s shadow. Learn to be at home in the shadow of the Almighty…you don’t have to stand in anyone else’s shadow, but you belong to Him and you need the rest and comfort and protection of His wings! That’s the only place where you won’t be plagued by the temptation and bondage that comes with comparison!
Stop comparing yourself to other people and viewing yourself as less-than (or for that matter, as more-than!). Stop buying into what other people have said or implied about you…a teacher or a parent or boss or someone who may have said, “Why can’t you be more like ____ (a sibling, a peer, or someone else who was/is used a measuring stick)?” You were not placed on this earth to fulfill His plan for their lives, but to fulfill the plan He tailor-made just for you. It is an insult to the power and imagination of our Creator, for us to try to make ourselves signed-and-numbered prints off of some priceless original. No, each of us is a priceless original, and He never runs out of creative power.
Be free from the spirit of comparison, from pride, from inferiority, from any other emotion or mindset that hinders you from living life to its fullest.
Lord, we cast down these crazy imaginations and “high, lofty things” that work overtime, which cause us pain and limitation whenever they run contrary to what Your Word and Your will for our lives has spoken. Forgive us for spending so much time looking at ourselves and comparing and lamenting and walking in fear. Fear tells us we will never be good enough because we cannot excel past certain other people. Fear tells us not to even try because we are doomed to failure. Your Word, however, says we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
 
Forgive us as well for carelessly speaking damaging words over ourselves or others out of ignorance. We are not guiltless in the area of having made statements like “He/she sure is no ____” and compared one of Your precious originals to someone else we perceived to be be more skilled or talented or good in some way. You don’t create counterfeit, cheap knockoffs, and You don’t use a cookie cutter to mass produce lives void of authenticity. We are sorry for ever trying to establish the standards for excellence over ourselves or anyone else! We are not the Creator. We submit our words and actions to You again on the potter’s wheel and ask that You give us clean hearts that in turn compel clean words. We will resist the devil when he tries again to make us feel intimidated by the giftings and abilities of others, and if we resist–as often as necessary!–he will flee.  We forgive and release anyone who may ever have hurt us by comparisons, and we ask You to forgive them too, because they knew not what they were doing.
 
In order to stay in Your shadow and to dwell in the secret place, we have to be on the move, as well! You don’t stand in one place with your wing of protection stuck out for us to stand under. No, You are moving and working constantly—so our secret to staying in Your shadow is to move with You, to go where You go, to do what we see the Father do, to speak what we hear You say. What worked for Jesus works for us today–operating under the canopy of submission to You. We submit ourselves to You today and we will stay under Your protection, fulfilling every wonderful thing You have ordered for our lives! We are free from approval-seeking and self-exaltation and self-deprecation and any other tool the enemy would use to shift our eyes onto ourselves and off of You. Be glorified in us today, Father—all of it—You get all the glory and we will gladly stand in Your shadow, we pray in Jesus’ name!
#Psalm91 #2Corinthians10 #callthosethings

 

The Mandate of Teachability

teachable“For everyone who listens with an open heart will receive progressively more revelation until he has more than enough. But those who don’t listen with an open, teachable heart, even the understanding that they think they have will be taken from them.” (Matthew 13:12 TPT*)

Are you still being taught, still learning, still seeking to know more tomorrow than you know today? The day you stop being #teachable is the day you begin to stagnate spiritually. We are all meant to be in a continual state of growth, right up until the day we go home to be with Jesus. To remain teachable, we have to deliberately push ourselves beyond those things we already know (and sometimes feel like we know it all! Yeah, I’ve been guilty of that a time or two myself!), and place ourselves in the hands of people who know more than we do. Being teachable requires a bit of humility–for when we think we have it all figured out, sometimes we begin to disdain those who are trying to teach us what we feel is old hat. We are so conditioned to wanting variety, variety, choices, choices, drop down menus, where we can skip the stuff that is boring and go on to what stimulates our curiosity and makes us feel good about ourselves.

I remember one time being with a friend, and we went to a church meeting with a special speaker. We rode together. She sat about 10 minutes into the meeting, long enough to find out that the teacher was going to teach on the subject of healthy marriages and being a godly wife. She leaned over and said to me, “Let’s go. This is of no benefit to me. I already know all this.” How sad that I followed her lead and left, even though I was the driver! My friend may not have felt she needed the help, but I needed (and still do!) all the help I can get!

“To learn the truth you must long to be teachable, or you can despise correction and remain ignorant.” (Proverbs 12:1 TPT*)

While we can learn a lot from our peers, and while we can be iron sharpening iron to one another, there’s only so much someone else on our same level can impart to us. It can be a hard hurdle to leap over because we want to be with the people we enjoy most and feel we have the most in common with. Sometimes we have to deliberately place ourselves outside that common area for a season so that we can be more open to the meatier part of spiritual maturity–those hard lessons that aren’t learned over coffee and a game of cornhole. Some of the most valuable elements of growth you will ever receive are waiting to be imparted from people who don’t fit your parameters–some (and likely, most) will be older…some may even be younger…some will be from a different walk of life and not always what you consider to be a level up from your own…some will be people you don’t consider to be particularly interesting to hang around. Sometimes God will even pair you with someone that you have to pursue, who doesn’t offer you any encouragement to pursue him or her–like Elijah with Elisha! We have many spiritual brothers and sisters but very few spiritual mothers and fathers—and those, friends, are who we need to seek out IF we want to grow. Enjoy spiritual sibling-ship (if there is such a word…lol), but pursue mentors and spiritual parents.

I am not in any way downplaying the importance of fellowship and small groups—if anything, we need to connect more and more as the days grow more wicked. I hope each of you reading this will find such a group of people and get plugged in. It’s much needed and it will bless you. However, it’s been said that if you are the smartest person in the room, you need to be looking for another room. You can still enjoy common union with the others, but I encourage you, find the people God wants to use to TEACH you and include them in your life. If everyone you’re close to and gleaning from is on the same level as you, who is going to be able to rally the others when discouragement or crisis comes to the whole tribe? Or, think of it another way…would you really want to be operated on by a med student who’s not actually certified yet; whose only instruction is being taught by fellow med students and a correspondence course? Yes, we are all still learning, no matter how many years we are into our Christian walk—even surgeons have to do continuing education—but we will never be qualified to teach others if we avoid being under the authority of someone who can correct us when we are wrong, and protect us from ourselves when we are full of zeal and less full of wisdom.

There are many things I wish I’d asked my parents and grandparents before they died, both about spiritual matters and life lessons. It was only after they were all gone that I began to think of certain pieces of information I would’ve liked to have passed down to me, and now they’re no longer here to give that information. We sometimes surmise that because the generation up from us isn’t tech savvy, or that they had limited opportunities, that they are no longer relevant to who we are today. We couldn’t be more wrong! These folks may not have had Google search or a college education, but they knew how to survive in hard times—from depressions to child rearing to staying put when commitment to a family or to a cause was hard or lackluster or less than what they hoped it would be.

Lord, crucify pride in our lives that would cause us to become root bound, pride which says to our teachers, “I don’t have to listen to you, I know all of that already!” Send people into our lives who can impart and equip us to be what might be the final generation–and if we aren’t, then we need to be able teachers of those who come after us. Help us, then, to be teachable. O God, help us to welcome correction and to welcome accountability instead of leaning to our own understanding. We cannot give what we have not yet received. With all of our getting, may we get wisdom and understanding. Help us not to avoid relationships with trusted mentors who can speak transparently into our lives. Place us in the position of being discipled, that we in turn might disciple others. Cause us to develop maturity and humility and receptiveness to a right word in a right season. Empower us, Holy Spirit. We pray in Jesus’ name…

*Scriptures quoted from The Passion Translation® of the Holy Bible, Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC.

 

The Filter of Virtue

 

filter“Delightfully loved friends, don’t trust every spirit, but carefully examine what they say[a] to determine if they are of God, because many false prophets have mingled into the world”

(1 John 4:1 TPT The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC)

I wonder over the years just how many lies and half-truths we have believed about other people just because rumors got started…or news stories got published/aired…or how many times a tale got repeated with a little “yeast” added to it in increments? How many people have had a stain permanently grafted onto their reputations because of spoken/written words which weren’t true but just a matter of conjecture? We put so much stock in what we hear or read because we put stock in what we perceive to be “reliable sources.” Unfortunately, perception, even false perception, becomes the reality to whoever buys into it. We would all do well to ask ourselves more often, when exposed to information, “But what if it isn’t…true?”

We are bombarded on all sides with too much information. It’s yet another reason why I’m spending less time around social media. I don’t want to hear the dirt on people or situations. I don’t want to have to decide, in situations which aren’t my business, whether what I hear is fact or fiction; and truthfully, fact or fiction, some things I just don’t need to know! I don’t want to hear things that violate the peace in my spirit, or invite unnecessary drama into my life–or even open doors for the enemy of my soul to have legal access. Not everything passes through the filter of Philippians 4:8: things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy.

I’m trying to be more mindful of this. I have gotten swept into believing certain things before, just because I put confidence in “they” when I heard that “they” said or say. As I gasp at how easily people buy into believing horrible things and how anger and outrage and hatred explode, I’m reminded of times when I too have believed reports that weren’t true. It’s a time to pray daily for revelation and discernment so we won’t be deceived; and it is a time to pray daily for fortitude when we could find ourselves in the crosshairs of the accuser.

Persecution and opposition will come, believers…we haven’t had to see much of it here in this country, but we need to brace ourselves for the idea of being hated for what (and Whom) we believe…and a lot of it will come through people who believe lies. Be quick to repent, and be quick to forgive. Remember that the Word says to be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath…and it also says not to believe every spirit but to try the spirits to see if they be of God; but to try the spirits, because there are many false messengers in the world.

Lord, help me not to be deceived even in seemingly inconsequential things, because it never is inconsequential. Help me to shut down what I allow into the gateways to my soul–my eyes and ears. Help me to be courageous enough to tell people, “I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to know,” instead of having to try to cleanse my spirit of what I’ve allowed in. Help us not to be deceived by false messengers, and help us not to be guilty of being a relay runner of false messages by passing on what is not true.  Keep me pure in heart, in motives, in intentions, and in truth always!  In Jesus’ name…

 

Frequency

radio

I remember a time when, here in these tightly-clustered mountains, an AM/FM radio signal had its work cut out for it. You pretty much had to settle for only being able to pick up the very closest station or two, and not necessarily with clarity. But for me, that didn’t work because I liked the kind of music most local stations didn’t play. So I would lie there in the bed at night, or later on be driving in the car, with some obscure, faraway station playing that was barely audible. Sometimes it would be competing with another station of similar frequency and you could hear both at the same time. So what did I do? I listened THROUGH the interference. I would disregard the static and the other voices and simply focus for as long as I could on that faintly central sound.

Nowadays in the digital age, we hardly ever tune into FM radio; but the reason I am sharing this isn’t so much about the “good old days” of technology but instead about cutting through interference to get to what you desire. Specifically, the voice of God.

In these last days, there is a heightening of spiritual activity. Many voices and much static tries to drown out and overpower and make of no effect the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Word tells us of a famine of the hearing of the Word of God, and I believe in part that is what we are experiencing in the form of static interference in the heavenlies. You are going to hear some loud voices denouncing your God, trying to shame you for believing in Him, or at least trying to shame you for believing EXCLUSIVELY in Him. There’s a lot of distracting noise and drama and chaos that at times causes the message to feel faint or garbled. Praise the Lord for good days, but other days you are going to have to listen THROUGH the interference. You will have to move that antenna around and hold the radio right up to your ear. Part of your survival in the final days before the Lord’s return will be keeping your desire SHARP, your senses focused. The world will offer many options of other gods and even competing similar frequencies so close that at face value it’ll be hard to tell which source you’re hearing…EXCEPT, Jesus assured us that His sheep know His voice and another they will not follow! He even invites us to try the spirits–weigh what you see, hear, and feel against the Word to see if it’s really of God or just another noise.

How badly do you want to hear from God? You can just shut off the receiver and say it’s too hard; there’s too much static and it’s too much trouble for too little return; maybe try again later. Or, you can do as I did with that old radio. When I really focused on what I was listening for, I would become less distracted by the noise and more in tune with what I had DEEP DESIRE to hear. Sure, it’d have been nice to have internet radio in the 1980’s, or at least money to buy the records I couldn’t afford, but that’s beside the point. I thirsted after a certain sound and this was my only means of getting it. There’s a bittersweetness in that hard-sought voice of God. You might wish there were a gallon of that water but you will savor the droplets like a dying man. I made no apology for my affection, and I didn’t let my location, my liabilities, or my lack stop me from listening with all my might. Shouldn’t I at LEAST be willing to put that same diligence toward hearkening to God’s voice that I once did into trying to listen to a little jazz radio, smack dab in the heart of bluegrass country?

Tune out the distractions, for there are many, and LISTEN for God. You won’t be denied.

Can You Hear Me Now?

phonebooth“But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”  Hebrews 13:16

Depending on which translation you use, this Scripture gets pretty broad!  Many of the translations leave it simply at “communicate,” while others signify a transference, such as giving.  I want to address it for the simpler version–just plain good communication–and attempt to show you why I believe God is pleased when His children don’t neglect to interact properly with others.

One of the greatest weapons the enemy has against the body of Christ is one of our own making, and that is neglect to communicate.  We can spew out our colorful cliches and not be short on humor, metaphor, and empty words–just like the world–but we can get pretty tongue-tied when it comes to using our words to show respect and common courtesy.  I have been in church for an entire lifetime; and I’ve seen withheld communication destroy, wound, divide, and offend just as thoroughly and just as often as backbiting and gossip!

Why do we have such a hard time with extending this gesture, when we ourselves hate to be on the lack-of-receiving end of communication?  I don’t know about you, but I feel my tension levels rise and grind away at my peace whenever I’m waiting on an acknowledgment, and I know someone is choosing just not to respond.  Having been there many, many times over the years, it’s help me be more aware of how much more careful I need to be when dealing with others who are waiting on me.

Did you know that you don’t have to have the problem solved in order to communicate?  There’s not a thing wrong with, “Just getting back with you to let you know that even though I don’t have such-and-such ready yet, I did receive your request and I’m working on it;” or, “I’m really sorry, but I just can’t be there on Tuesday evening this time.  Maybe next time.”  We need to be more thoughtful of others in this way!  When someone is counting on us to be at our designated post–whether serving as a volunteer coach for the soccer team, a church usher, or even showing up for work–it is a good reflection on our Father when we are tenacious enough to contact our leaders or the person whom we’re serving whenever we cannot do what we have committed to do.  I would go so far as to say, when we know ahead of time that we cannot follow through, we should always consider what the other person may have to do in order to fill our vacancy.  Sure, I know that ‘s not always possible…but it goes a long way with other people when you don’t leave them hung out to dry!  Do your best to accommodate others, and to let them know you respect and value their time, too.

So this sounds almost like an employee manual, I realize–but as ambassadors of Christ, we are called to go above and beyond.  If on the job, you are the only believer on a crew of sinners, it’s a terrible thing to have it said of you that the one who calls himself/herself a Christian is the laziest, least reliable, or hardest to work with of the whole team.  In the secular workforce, I heard that said of one person or another several times over the years; and while I felt bad for the Christian who was standing out for the wrong reasons, I felt sooooo much worse for Jesus, Whose name was insulted by association with someone who was not diligent…and a neglectful communicator.

You don’t have to have the gift of writing or speaking to be a good communicator, but you do have to have a few other qualities, such as:

  1.  Consideration for others.  What difficulties are you causing by failing to touch base, check in, offer your assistance or prayer or just an ear?  What open doors do you create by taking time to acknowledge and show respect for someone else?
  2. Accountability.  A follower of Christ should have absolutely no issue with being above-board, honest,  a submitter to authority, and thoughtful to others in general (even those to whom we don’t “owe” accountability).
  3. Humility.  Sometimes the other person doesn’t need a lecture; he or she needs for you to listen and show empathy.  You’ll never be able to do that if you’re all the time trying to fix the other person!  Think…remove the beam in my own eye, then I can help remove the speck in my brother’s!
  4. Humility again!  Don’t use “the silent treatment” as a way to punish your spouse, your child, or any other person.  We need to check our spirit when we find pleasure in letting someone sweat.  I’m not going to say that there’s never an appropriate time for us to delay a response, but the Holy Spirit knows when we’re using this tactic to get revenge or to manipulate.
  5. Quickness to repent.  If you are wrong, be willing to acknowledge it (by communicating such) and change!  Don’t stubbornly pack your withheld apology around.  A mature believer will sometimes follow the Holy Spirit’s lead and be the FIRST to extend the olive branch–even when he or she was in the right!  Blessed are the peacemakers…and sometimes peacemakers have to be the icebreakers.
  6. Quickness to forgive.  First of all, we need God’s forgiveness and cannot therefore afford to withhold forgiveness from others.  Second, unforgiveness can cause us to alienate our people!  Think of how many people have just started out a little mad over something, and because they kept nursing hurt feelings, suddenly found themselves five, twenty, fifty years down the road not speaking to a family member.  The longer we defer forgiveness, we sear our consciences with a hot iron.  The longer we go without communicating, the easier it is to alienate loved ones.
  7. An ear toward heaven.  If you pray for the spirit of discernment, God can absolutely help you foresee potential trainwrecks in relationships.  Entire churches have split before over hurts…many times because leaders have failed to seal the cracks when an offense came.  Truthfully?  It’s easier to look the other way and hope something doesn’t fester; however, the devil usually doesn’t pass on an easy opportunity to de-rail a move of God.  Often we don’t know HOW to respond, so we do nothing.  Or, we feel the other person is just immature and being unreasonable, so we hope that time will cause the storm to blow over.  If you see someone bordering on leaving over an unacknowledged offense, prayerfully ask God how best to handle it.  At least be willing to make the communication, even if it doesn’t end as you’d hoped.  Once the door closes behind him or her, the chance of getting back your relationship with an offended brother or sister is, as Proverbs said, “harder to win than a fortified city;” AND, the biggest slap in the face of all is if that association is broken in profound silence.
  8. Openness without nagging.  We are sure good at giving TMI (too much information) on Facebook about everything from our skin rashes to our spouse’s bad habits, but not so open in places where it counts.  When you are on the receiving end of a hurt, give the other person a chance to make it right by voicing (nicely) what has happened.  Carefully choose your words to express your FEELINGS, not your assessment of that person’s character.  Those “you always” and “you never” accusations don’t work and can send the other person retreating like a chicken with its tail feathers on fire.  Instead of “you never spend time with me anymore,” try “I miss our time together…I enjoy being with you.”  A soft answer turns away wrath, but no answer at all doesn’t do much of anything.   It’s ok to be transparent with someone else when the goal is restoration, and preventive maintenance!
  9. Gratitude.  If someone–and especially if that someone is in your immediate circle–does something for you, for heaven’s sake, thank him or her!  My pastor and his entire family are masters of this trait…and are so thoughtful and appreciative over every little thing.  From the time their grown kids were just little, even they were constantly saying ‘thank you’ or ‘I really appreciate that/you.’  Folks are drawn to grateful people.  Show that someone’s thoughtfulness impacted you, and that someone go out of his or her way to accommodate you in the future.  And when you’re being served in a restaurant, don’t fail to praise those who are taking care of you (instead of complaining about everything)…and put your money where your mouth is, too!  For heaven’s sake, Christians, don’t leave a tract in place of a tip.  Gratitude is a catalyst to generosity; and if you want that server to view your God as a stingy, unfriendly, unappreciative tyrant in the sky, you’ll be stingy, unfriendly, and unappreciative over your meal.  Every encounter with others is a reflection, to the good or to the bad, on our Heavenly Father, Whom we represent.  Bring the salt and light through the door with you.  I’ve known believers who’ve won servers to the Lord right in the restaurant, just for listening and offering to pray for them.  Many times the person taking care of you is a big ball of hurt and desperation.  Even now it surprises me how often I encounter someone in this setting who is desperate to just be acknowledged.
  10. Positive and encouraging.  Don’t always offer a story about how your problem (or former crisis) was even worse than the one your contact is going through.  If someone’s mother just died, he or she doesn’t need to hear you amble on and on about what all you went through when yours did!  No matter what situation you’re helping someone walk out, find a way to end it on a good note (and not by using cliches like the silver lining in the cloud).  Sometimes a simple, “We will trust God together to bring you through this” will do. Listen more than you speak.  When you are interacting with others, sneak opportunities to compliment and encourage them in appropriate ways.  Tell people when they’re doing a good job, and if they’re not, you can still turn the tide by turning up their self-confidence!  At any rate, when you part ways with those you’ve come into contact with, let them feel a refreshing just because it was you they served.  And remember, we don’t always know what kind of things are going on in a person’s life.  That rude customer service person may have gotten news just hours before that his or her child has cancer.  There may be a divorce, or terrible money worries, or an abuse going on in the home.  Don’t return rudeness for rudeness.  It’s hard sometimes, but you can do it!

If you have a choice to under- or over-, always over-communicate.  You may get on someone’s nerves by overdoing it, but you’ll not vex him or her nearly as bad as if you fail to communicate at all and cause a meltdown in right order.  Think like Christ…the Word tells us that we have the MIND of Christ.  Let me encourage you to pray for good communication skills; and if you’re a leader, grab hold of the horns of the altar and tarry till God anoints you with those skills!   A great resource is a prayer on Developing Good Communication Skills, written by my dear friend, Germaine Copeland in her series “Prayers that Avail Much.”  Here’s a link to prayer at her website.

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.