Cooling That Hot Button: Prayer to Set a Watch on Our Lips

Hot Button“My heart burned with a fire within me,
    and my thoughts eventually boiled over
    until they finally came rolling out of my mouth.”  (Psalm 39:3 – The Passion Translation)

If the devil put people in Jesus’ path to try and trip Him up and cause Him to #speak in haste, don’t be so surprised that you and I have to guard our #words as well. I was just thinking today of times when I’ve been vulnerable over the years, and some lessons hard-learned. At times I still have to go back to retraining. 😉

There are people out there who will solicit your opinion about a matter or about another person and then later use your words against you. I wish it only happened in situations where the other person is an outright enemy; but folks, we know that sometimes it unfortunately happens among those we care about and trust. Even more unfortunate when it happens in the Church. Most of these situations you can steer out of if you’ll listen to the Holy Spirit; and other times you may be accused falsely and just have to trust Him to clear your name. Stick tight…this isn’t going in a negative direction…it has a positive conclusion that will hopefully help and encourage you!

When I was young, I had a person in my life who’d routinely bait me. That person knew when I was aggravated or under stress and how to push my buttons. When I couldn’t take any more and I’d speak my mind, it would come back to bite me in the way of trouble. I would also get pulled into conversations I didn’t want to be part of and get included just by being in the room, only to hear that my name was dropped in a collective, “Well, it’s like when Lisa and I were talking the other day, and WE feel that____.” Many times all I did was just stand in silence while the other person rattled off, but then I’d get named as an opinion accomplice to something I didn’t agree with at all! Sound familiar? It took a while for Miss Naive to pick up on this, but God used what was a bad situation to teach me a little wisdom. The Lord even helped me to forgive that person, even feel pity, but to be wary of the pitfalls of getting too close in conversation.

The people who bait you may or may not even realize that they’re doing it; and they may do it just to serve their own agendas with no malice intended against you. Others definitely do it on purpose and with wrongful intent. We see it happening all the time on TV–reporters asking a minister or leader his/her stance on hot-button sensitive questions of our current culture, so that the reporter or network or special-interest group can later brand the person a homophobe, racist, chauvinist, hypocrite, charlatan, heretic, etc., etc. The person in the crosshairs stands to then get accusation flung from both sides: one side accusing him/her of compromise or being too cowardly to speak the truth; then the other side accusing him/her with any kind of label that might destroy one’s livelihood and reputation. Entrapment. Sure, that’s the extreme instance of it, but we see that happening more and more as the public gets increasingly bloodthirsty for a good brawl. When it happens to a fellow member in the Body of Christ, oh how sad that we all gang up on the one who’s down and kick that person in the ribs! Peter knew there’d be times like this…and he urged us this way, “If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs.” (1 Pet 4:15) And folks, we need to honestly speak with caution when we get BAITED into commentary by these “news” articles on the Internet and begin to judge one another unfairly. I’m trying a lot harder to avoid them entirely! I keep reminding myself of the times when the Bible says, “And Jesus answered them not a word!” or, “He was reviled, yet reviled not again.”

Either way, while we can’t go through life distrusting everybody, we can be, as the Word says, “Wise as serpents, harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) I have friends who’ve taken some serious hits against their personal and professional lives, accused wrongly, even some convicted without cause. While I’m sorry that’s happened to you, I know full well that it could happen to any of us but for the grace of God.

I don’t know why all this comes to mind today, because I’m not in a situation like this right now; except perhaps the Lord wants that to be a focus in our place of prayer. An admonishment for days ahead as we deal with culture, with school, with workplace, community, church and home. You and I may have encounters in the future where we’re going to have to bow out of a conversation and just walk away if there’s no tactful way to say, “I’m sorry but I will not be part of this.”

Father, David talked in various Psalms about those who lay in wait to ambush him. There are many of us who’ve suffered by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, like Joseph. Others of us have taken the bait and sinned with our mouths, or at the very least, made some commentary we’d like to retract but cannot. Help us to remember that our battle isn’t at ground level, person against person, but a more diabolical force is at work to entrap us. We purpose today to set a guard on our lips. We will listen for You and trust You to order our steps. If someone were to ask our opinion about a matter or about another person, we will answer with our ears aimed heavenward. We will garrison up our minds and beware of our vulnerabilities when tired, stressed, aggravated–and we will give no place to the devil to use our words against us either in the court of heaven or down here on earth exchanged between those who gossip and manipulate.

Father, we likewise commit to pure motives in all we say and do; and just as we don’t want others drawing us into discussions we’ve no business being part of, we will not do that to other people either. We will not gossip. We will not spread innuendo or allow others to be misled by ambiguity on our part. We will let our yes be yes, our no be no, and we won’t be caught up in evil by all the tricky layers in-between. We will not betray confidences or look for opportunities to embarrass, demean, demote, or discredit others…not even when it’s to our perceived advantage to do so.

We confess Colossians 4:6 over our lives: “Let your speech at all times be gracious and pleasant, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to answer each one [who questions you].” We will no longer say of ourselves, “Well, I was just mad, irritated, upset, having a bad day,” as a poor excuse to let our words run untethered. And we plead Your grace over the situations we’re still dealing with where in previous times we have spoken amiss and loosed hardship on ourselves. We draw on our heritage as servants of the Lord and we invoke Isaiah 54:17: “But in that coming day, no weapon turned against you shall succeed, and you will have justice against every courtroom lie. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord. This is the blessing I have given you, says the Lord.” Thank You for mercy, for helping us to hear from heaven when we are treading in gray areas. Help us learn from past misjudgments, that we may people of integrity, not weakened by having undisciplined speech.

Finally, Lord, we release and forgive those who’ve ever used our words as weapons against us. We forgive those who’ve lied on us, twisted our words, taken advantage of us, and “pushed our buttons” to cause us to say and do wrong things. As we release them, we look to You to release and forgive us. We will let You vindicate us of false accusations, and we will trust You to restore multiplied favor for what was taken away by the enemy. You are always good. Always fair. We can trust You to keep us, so we plant ourselves firmly in the palm of Your hand and we refuse to budge from there!

We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thorn-Proof Determination

macro-thorn“…I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  1 Cor. 12:6-10 NLT

I think often of the Apostle Paul and the “thorn” (2 Cor 12) that remains a mystery to us all to this day. Perhaps it was meant to be an unnamed source of contention, so that we could identify it with our own thorns.  Interesting, isn’t it, that Paul didn’t refer to an entire thicket of entanglement…just one lone irritating thorn;  like a splinter that is stubbornly embedded, or an itch in the middle of your back that you can’t quite reach.  You’ve dealt with all the rest and there’s this one that you haven’t been able to conquer yet.  Am I getting warm here?  Does this sound like any area of your life where you’ve not yet succeeded in getting permanent victory from struggle?

I could be wrong, but I like to think that instead of a chronic or recurring physical illness, Paul’s thorn was–and ours is– a personal ‪#‎struggle‬ on the battle front of the mind.  All of us have our areas which need work; and if you don’t, I sure do. I won’t bore you with the details, but there are areas of my life that require more spot-checks and maintenance than others. There are areas which, if I don’t renew my mind daily to the Word, will cause me to start reverting back to previous wrong mindsets. What’s your thorn? Is it disappointment in yourself or others…unforgiveness…a nagging temptation to do something that you know is wrong…a terrible feeling of inferiority that sabotages your best attempts for success…an old wound from someone who should have loved you but didn’t, and it robs you of peace?  The enemy has convinced many of us that sickness and disease is our thorn, and that God wants us to stay sick to teach us some kind of lesson.  What a load of garbage!  No, I don’t think the “thorn” represents sickness at all–but I do think, however, that the thorn in our mind can interfere with us receiving the physical, spiritual, and mental healing God has already provided, if we allow it to dwarf our faith with a cloud of unbelief. Where you see sickness manifest, however, there’s quite possibly also the presence of the thorn. Whatever your thorn might be, it operates as a distraction, an annoyance, an attempt to divert your focus from the truth. And yes, the thorn can fling you headlong into ‪#‎depression‬ when it digs in long and hard enough. The thorn whispers and taunts, “God doesn’t care about you. If He did, why would you be having this problem? You’re just a reject, a castoff. I don’t know why He even puts up with you!”

Your answer from ‪#‎God‬ is the same as the answer He gave Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you.” God didn’t tell Paul He would never remove the thorn; but He did tell Paul that His grace would cover those times when the thorn seemed to get the best of him. Who’s to say that God didn’t remove the thorn before Paul died? We only know from his writing that Paul apparently quit asking after the third time. Maybe at some point, Paul was so confident in God’s ability to keep him that the thorn no longer mattered.  The most important take-away of this passage is, God never lifted the grace that covered Paul’s weaknesses; He never left him to the wolves. If that thorn were endangering Paul’s soul or the heavy calling on his life, I believe God would’ve wiped it out the moment Paul were in imminent danger. Paul concluded that as long as he continually had to lean on the Lord and not his own strength, it kept him reliant on God; and it prevented Paul from believing himself to be somehow superior to the people with whom he shared the Gospel. Most of all, we see that Paul grew at peace in the fact that God loved him, thorn or no thorn. The thorn was not Paul’s identity; and you must not let the thorn become YOUR identity, either! God LOVES you!

Take this walk with ‪#‎Jesus‬ a day at a time. You may be high-fiving one day and needing pulled out of the ditch the next day. Maturity in the Word does help minimize the severity or number of times when you’re “the ditch person,” so be encouraged that you’re going to be having increasing good days as you gain strength and momentum. When you are in need of a helping hand, however, for heaven’s sake don’t isolate yourself out of shame. Your brothers and sisters have dealt with their own thorns that are just as embarrassing and tormenting as the one you’ve encountered. Let them help you. Let God help you. Keep a list of the Scriptures that pertain to your struggle somewhere that you can access at all times, and don’t just read them–speak the Word OUT LOUD over your circumstances. The demonic forces assigned against you can’t hear you reading silently, but they sure hate when you read and speak the Word into the atmosphere, where they have to hear it and tremble!

I suspect that if you’re reading this post, you’re having a low day. My friend, God has not left you, and He isn’t orchestrating some cosmic ‘pick-on-YOU’ party for his amusement. Our Father doesn’t work like that; Satan, however, is very much amused by your struggles and failures. God wants you to WIN. Stop beating yourself up today over the fact that you’re there, again, in that big hole where you’ve wound up numerous times before. God isn’t beating you up. No, if you’ll look closely, He is assembling angel armies around you to stand guard while you dust yourself back off. He is sending prayer warriors to intercede on your behalf. And He has already provided a finished work in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The same grace that saved you is the same grace that will cover you while you get back on your feet. It isn’t our excuse for courting a sinful lifestyle or for giving less than our best; it’s the mortar that holds our pieces together and makes up for what we cannot, even on our best days, give. Let His grace cover you now. Feel God’s love and forgiveness and yes–even understanding–scrubbing away all those hateful things the enemy is trying to write about you in your mind. Let it go. Receive God’s help. And whether the process is instantaneous or takes a little while to complete, it’s ok…God’s got your back.  If you’re depressed as you read this, remind yourself, “This is a temporary state and I’m already in healing and recovery mode. I can trust God while I wait to “get over the hump” and back to my normal self again.”

Pray with me: “Father, I’m hurting today. The enemy has launched another attack on a vulnerable spot, and I’m in need of Your mercy. You told Paul that Your grace was all he needed when “the thorn” pressed in and caused him pain. You didn’t love Paul any more than You love me. You’re not comparing the many amazing things Paul did and wrote against the small life I live. You’re willing to give me JUST AS MUCH grace as You gave Paul because the thorn in my life is important to You too. You’re just as much in favor of my being victorious. I release this wounded-ness to You today, and I surrender the fight to handle it my way. Whether it’s an addiction, an attitude, or a hurdle I can’t seem to get beyond no matter how hard I try, I am encouraging myself in You today and reminding myself of Your promise NEVER to leave or forsake me. It’s not Your will that I be destitute, sick, defeated, walking in lack, depressed, feeling inferior or walking under any kind of cloud. I submit myself to You, as Your Word has instructed, and then I resist the devil…and he MUST flee from me. I don’t care if he tries to come back again and again, I will fight him until You say, “Enough!” I plead the blood of Jesus now over my life, and I draw the bloodline around myself. I receive Your grace and I wrap myself in it, like a big protective bubble. The shield of faith deflects every piercing weapon the enemy tries to injure me with. Even those bruises and scratches and wounds I’ve already encountered are being healed by the Balm of Gilead! Thank You, Father, because Your Word is enabling me to see myself as YOU see me. I’m NOT a reject! I’m that earthen vessel in which You choose to house Your precious treasures. You are using this imperfect me–yes! And You are getting glory for the miracles You perform through me in spite of the fact that I’m not yet where I WILL BE when You’ve finished with me!  I will walk holy before You and trust You to carry me across the terrain that’s too rugged for my own feet to navigate.”

I say, “Devil, you cannot have me. I belong to God. You can’t even have me in my mind. I believe God’s Word and He is even helping me with any areas of unbelief…so be gone, in Jesus’ name! In Jesus’ name, I break your assignment against me today, all of you evil spirits who are trying to take me down. You WILL NOT wreck my day and you WILL NOT get my soul. God already knows my weaknesses and His grace is holding me together in spite of them. You don’t win in the court of Heaven today because I’m already forgiven. You have no authority over me. You are under my feet. I’m not listening to your lies. If you want to bring accusation, talk to the hand—the nail-scarred hand!”

Snakeproofing Your Path…or at Least Your Feet

garden.jpgThis morning I drifted back off to sleep and dreamed that I was in this pretty, rustic frame house overlooking a beautiful view…one of those gardens that has stone walkways and big leafy plants. The temperature was perfect. It had balconies and decks on every imaginable angle and level. I thought…finally somewhere to go where I can clear my mind and just relax! I remember feeling thankful that the Lord had blessed me with this time away. I took off down a set of the steps leading to the garden and just as my foot started to hit the landing, I saw the biggest copperhead I’ve ever seen stretched out facing me, with its head lifted up and what looked almost like a smirk on its face.

I took off back up those steps and started warning people not to go down into the garden, and I watched in despair as I could see animals and people already wandering around the various paths down there…imagining that there were no doubt more where he came from; and I just turned away so I wouldn’t see. They couldn’t make out what I was saying as I shouted down. I finally went back inside and slammed my door shut. And then I woke up.

As I lay there in the bed, I recalled the smug look on that big snake’s face. There have been so many times when I was so close to stepping into a new place, only to be met by this spirit of fear…and just as he intended, I would be driven by that snake right back into my comfort zone. It’s strange, as I dreamed this, I didn’t sense the garden to be necessarily a dangerous place. I didn’t blame the garden for the snake, or perceive it an evil trap. It was just a place where I could go and rest my mind and body. Why would he be waiting there, daring me, taunting me? And then the Lord immediately brought this Scripture to my remembrance: “Behold! I have given you authority and power to trample upon serpents and scorpions, and [physical and mental strength and ability] over all the power that the enemy [possesses]; and nothing shall in any way harm you.” (Luke 10:19 AMP). And I then thought of “having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” (Eph 6:15)

I can’t say whether the dream had a special meaning, but I can tell you this: we don’t have to shrink back from opportunities God gives us for fear of the enemy. Oh, that old serpent is liable to be peeking out along just about any path we’re walking on; but we don’t have to spend our lives running back up the steps into perceived safe places just to avoid him. If we belong to Jesus, we can put on that footgear of peace and go wherever He leads us. Who would’ve thought that peace is in our feet, not our head! I can almost envision a big tall pair of “snake proof” boots with a heavy heel for just such occasions. We are wearing God’s peace, we are protected, and we are given authority to clear the path for others by crushing what causes danger under our feet. We are given this charge not just for our own benefit…but for an entire humanity God wants to reconcile to Himself.

Knowing now that we can do this without fear, let’s get out of our enclosed “safe place” and interact with others. They need us and can’t hear us just shouting down at them. We have to get on a level where they can understand the Gospel, and be ready to defend them from the devil if needed. And, we can do it all while remaining in a state of rest and peace! No fear!

Clearing Out Cobwebs and Curses


May we all be reminded today that WORDS MATTER…and learn to apply THE Word to every situation that doesn’t line up with it.

When I was about 19, a close family member (doesn’t matter which one) told me that I would never be able to do what I do in a big way because I was born without enough stamina. While it’s true that I have always tended to tire easily, I didn’t really recall again what that person had spoken (who loved me and meant well) over me until somewhat recently. And guess what? Sure enough, those words had stuck, thus far all my adult years. Whether in my subconscious or elsewhere else, an elder’s voice had unwittingly granted legitimacy to something negative, something that needed dealt with and not just accepted. It gave credence to a mentality that if I tried, I wouldn’t be able to succeed or to hold onto the accomplishments God’s gifts had enabled me to achieve…oh how many times I haven’t even bothered to try, because I could see the watermark where I could only rise so far and no more!  God didn’t vividly bring this When I was about 19, a close family member (doesn’t matter which one) told me that I would never be able to do what I do in a big way because I was born without enough stamina. While it’s true that I have always tended to tire easily, I didn’t really recall again what that person had spoken (who loved me and meant well) over me until somewhat recently. And guess what? Sure enough, those words had stuck, thus far all my adult years. Whether in my subconscious or elsewhere else, an elder’s voice had unwittingly granted legitimacy to something negative, something that needed dealt with and not just accepted. It gave me a mentality that if I tried, I wouldn’t be able to succeed or to hold onto the accomplishments God’s gifts had enabled me to achieve. There has been this watermark in my life where I would only succeed to a point and then would never rise any higher.  Many times I would see that fail point and scared me away from trying again.  But!  God didn’t vividly bring this to my remembrance to hurt my feelings, He brought it to light so that I could do something about it in the Spirit realm! How merciful!

Now I am determined to slough off that declaration and make a declaration of my own: I am an overcomer, I am strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, and I will be–nope, I AM, right now–able to do what I do in a BIG way! I am breaking off that curse and I am getting strong for the next leg of my journey, to the glory of God. In Jesus’ name, I will not sit on the sideline wandering what might have been if I’d only had more in the tank! Not blaming that person here, I’m getting free from some sneaky little hidden things that are being swept out…and hopefully encouraging you to sweep some things out of your own closet.

Has someone spoke into existence a negative thing over your life, even out of ignorance? It is time to neutralize the sting of words and the consequences he or she may have set in motion. Begin now to search the Scriptures for what GOD says you are, what you can do, who you can be. Philippians 4:13 says that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. By HIS strength, I rise above my own limitations, and SO CAN YOU. Stop repeating what others have done to you or said about you and look UP to your real Source. Beginning today, that’s not who you are anymore. Don’t give the devil the satisfaction of hearing you talk and talk about your past…because that tells him he has succeeded in scarring you!   It is important–very important–that you cancel out what THEY said by uttering aloud, with your own voice, what GOD says about you! What they said, what they did? Doesn’t have any bearing whatsoever on where God is taking you. And when you set your mind to it, do what you’re doing not to prove them wrong, but to prove Him RIGHT! #callthosethings

Fruit Forthcoming

chestnutI was three years old when we moved to our little house in North Matewan. There was a young tree growing on the left side of our house that, for years, was just a trunk and branches and leaves. It was said that it was a chestnut tree; but yet, there was no fruit. When I was 10 or 11 years old, green burry-looking pods came out all over and that fall, the most beautiful, huge, sweet, crunchy chestnuts you ever saw were inside. I was thrilled and from that year forward, looked forward to picking them off the ground and taking them next door for Grandpa and me to peel and eat.

It took some time for those chestnuts to prove that the tree was indeed a chestnut tree, but you know something? It was still a chestnut tree. From the moment the first little green sprout popped through the ground up until the day my Dad cut it down.  There were chestnut trees on the hillsides and in other parts of the neighborhood, but none had the quality of fruit that this lone little tree wound up bearing.  Yep…the same tree whose identity seemed questionable for the greater part of my childhood.

My point?  We spend way too much time analyzing one another and looking for fruit whose time has not yet come. Lighten up and love the people around you! Entrust them into God’s hands because whatever He created us to be, that potential is deep inside of all of us from conception. Pray, be patient, be a good example, and never make that person feel as if your approval is some unattainable goal; forcing it can stunt his or her growth and delay the fruit even longer!

We have the assurance in God’s Word that when we train up a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it. I meditated on that yesterday and thought about this: it says, “when he is old.” Give those in-between years to God and pray a hedge of protection around your children. They may have several years in their lives when they are unproductive or even producing BAD fruit…but you just keep sowing into them. Keep being that example. Keep telling them how good they are and how pleased you are with them. Keep speaking truth in love, but never speak things over your children that declare something negative: you will get exactly what you speak. Keep pleading the blood of Jesus over them. One day, the pods will open and the fruit will be exactly what it was ordained to be.

Peace, love, and light to all of you on this Monday.

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.

Lockjaw!

zipping-mouth-shut

When I was a very small girl, I stepped on a rusty nail while playing around a stack of old wood.  I’ll never forget Sue Sammons having to hold me down as I screamed bloody murder, when Doc White plunged that tetanus shot into my behind!  Oh yes!  That day, Doc White was fifteen feet tall, had fangs and werewolf claws, and that syringe was as big as a cannon!   Mom told me, “If you don’t take the shot, you’ll get lockjaw (tetanus)!”  At the time, lockjaw didn’t seem like such a bad alternative; but alas, I was outnumbered!

Sometimes it would be nice to have selective lockjaw.  We’ve become a society who so values a good comeback or “diss” or insult; and in honing our skills, we’ve become quite the verbal bullies.  I want to address the issue of what’s coming out of your mouth.  It’s so easy to fire off a good insult, but why do we have such a hard time firing off compliments?  What’s WRONG with us?  Do we honestly feel as if our sharp tongue makes us appear intellectually superior to the person we’re cutting down?

The memory of you will go on long after you’re gone.  So think about this:  would you rather be merely tolerable or actually loveable?  To those people who surround you daily, I challenge you:  be someone they cherish instead of having to put up with!  Being nice is a deliberate action on our part.  We can sputter and spout off and gripe about all that’s wrong, or we can be considerate, kind, and sow love seeds.  You fall into one of two categories, whether you realize it or not.  You’re someone people look forward to being around, or you’re someone they dread.  You either make people feel poured into, or you drain their very spirit with your presence.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be someone for whom folks cringe at the sound of my voice on the phone, or dodge running into me in the grocery store or on the street.  I don’t want them to think, “Oh mercy…I wonder what it’s going to be THIS time?”

Life’s too short to wallow in that mess!  Even if you’ve been an old “sourpuss” your whole life, you can start today.  Just as you’re getting ready to spew off an insult or a grouchy word at someone, I want you to stop and think of something good about that person.  If it’s nothing better than, “Your hair’s parted straight,” then you pay that person a compliment instead of letting him or her have “what for.”

What comes out of your mouth is what’s been rolling around in your heart, so you’ve got to begin filling your spirit with good thoughts and not just everything that’s irritating or wrong.  The Word says this:   “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”  (Phil 4:8 MSG)  Sure, it’s so easy for us to let that sarcasm fly…but don’t you do it.  Not today.

I want you to pray this with me:  “Lord, I’ve been guilty of letting my emotions rule me.  I’ve done it so long that I’ve just let it get out of control.  Today I ask for Your forgiveness and help.  I don’t want to be someone whom my loved ones fear, dread, dislike, or even hate.  Please help me to leave a better legacy than what I’ve been leaving.  I surrender my heart and my mouth to You today.  I will meditate on Your Word, I will guard the gateways of my eyes and ears so that I don’t feed on violence, prejudice, hatred, and negativity.  I WILL think on the beautiful and not the ugly, and with Your help, I will speak life words and not death!  If necessary, do to me as You did to Balaam who, every time he opened his mouth to pronounce a curse on Your people, found that blessing is all that would come out.  Help me to find absolutely no pleasure in tearing down people with my words.  I ask You to lay conviction HEAVY ON MY HEART.  I want to please You, and I want to feel peace instead of frustration.  I want to stop injuring the people I love with my words, attitudes, and actions.  Most of all, I don’t want to embarrass YOU, displease You, or misrepresent You before a lost world.  Holy Spirit, speak loud and clear to me today so that I won’t miss Your voice.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

“Take control of what I say, O Lordand guard my lips.”  (Psalm 141:3 NLT)