Words

“People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our LORD and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of GOD. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” – James 3:7‭-‬10 (http://bible.com/116/jas.3.7-10.NLT)

I can attest to the pain words can cause. There have been times when a physical slap would have been preferable to the deep wounds caused by someone’s words. Both hurt, but my body heals more easily than my heart. We use words to lift up, and we use words to tear down. When one of my bosses would say “well done,” hearing the praise always stimulated my productivity. On the other hand, when all I heard was criticism, my productivity would suffer even more. Even a “hello” or “good morning” goes a long way in cultivating a positive attitude, which in turn goes to better performance. It’s not just for bosses, either. Does your day go a little better whenever you are greeted with a smile or a kind word? What about your spouse, your friends, your children? Can you see the difference in them when they hear good words, positive words, over negative?

“But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying.” – James 3:14 (http://bible.com/116/jas.3.14.NLT)

Before you jump up and say you aren’t jealous, and you aren’t selfish…. Attitude check! Personally, I work on not being jealous and selfish, and at times, it really is work. It was pointed out to me a couple of days ago that I am selfish. I don’t like it, but it is a correct assessment. I am selfish, and that is difficult to admit. I can certainly make excuses. I’d say I’ve worked hard to get what I have. The reality, the TRUTH, is that what I have isn’t mine. It ALL belongs the God, and I should be more willing to share and to give Him credit instead of me. Oh, I’m grateful that God has seen fit to bless me so abundantly, and I know I am exceptionally blessed with family and friends and partner who love me despite my flaws.

Our tongues are worse than a sword at times. We can tear someone so far down that they may take years to recover. Words hurt, but words can also heal. Consider these words from Paul:

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, …. in defending and confirming the Truth of the Good News.” – Philippians 1:3‭-‬4‭,‬7 (http://bible.com/116/php.1.3-7.NLT)

Give thanks for those around you, whether they lift you up or try to tear you down with their words. Return their words with love and joy, and lift them up in with good words.

Beautiful

Beautiful rain. Life giving, the element (water) second most vital to our lives – air being the first. Life giving, and life taking. Floods, flash floods, undertow in the ocean and dangerous currents in rivers and lakes can claim a life in an instant. When we rely on Jesus Christ, we can rest assured that He will not let us drown in the eddys and whirlpools and dangerous undertow in life.

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me. Your rod and Your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely Your Goodness and Unfailing Love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the House of the LORD forever.” Psalms 23:1‭-‬6 (http://bible.com/116/psa.23.1-6.NLT)

Like this shepherd, Jesus protects us, His sheep, against the enemy. He takes us to good water where can drink our fill without fear. When we follow Him, He makes sure that we don’t get caught up in the thorns and the dangerous waters. He protects us, sometimes from ourselves, by using His staff to move us away from the danger; danger we either can’t see, or that we go towards anyway. Did you know that a shepherd uses his staff to break the leg of a lamb that continues to stray? Then he will carry the lamb until it’s leg is healed so that the lamb knows who it’s shepherd is, and will follow the shepherd willingly after that. That is, MOST lambs learn…. while others (guilty!!!) require multiple lessons. Trust me when I tell you that learning the lesson the FIRST time is by far preferable to having to go through it again and again….. and again. Some of us are very slow learners!

Are you the lamb who learns quickly, or the slow learner? Either way, the answer that is ALWAYS right there is Jesus. Just JESUS. I’m thankful He never gave up on me!!

Sing to the LORD

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:2‭-‬3 (http://bible.com/111/eph.1.2-3.NIV)

Grace and peace; praise and blessings. We should be shouting and singing and dancing over our salvation for the eternity we get to spend with our LORD! Instead of rejoicing, we let the mundane creep in and take over. Anger and frustration are what fuels us, and depression slides into our minds because we don’t have the earthly goods or status we decide we “deserve.” Let me assure you, my brothers and my sisters, if God were to allow us to have what we DESERVE, we would most likely want to be in hell instead as a reprieve from what we deserve….

“Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight; so You are right in Your verdict and justified when You judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Psalm 51:4‭-‬5 (http://bible.com/111/psa.51.4-5.NIV)

“There you will remember your conduct and all the actions by which you have defiled yourselves, and you will loathe yourselves for all the evil you have done.” Ezekiel 20:43 (http://bible.com/111/ezk.20.43.NIV)

I am among the most guilty of men and women, thinking I deserve better than what I have received in my life. Someone asked me recently what I would do if I were handed a check, tax-free, for $500,000.00. I replied that I would pay off all of my debt and then help my family. He seemed startled by my response, and said that the first thing he would do is take his family on a long cruise. My reasoning is nothing noble. I believe that God created the family unit so that we would have a built-in support system. We have bastardized the family so much that it is barely recognizable any longer, and it is a rare family (in my experience) who reaches out to each other to help in need. I thank God that for the most part, my birth family is one of the rare ones. We have our issues, and we have been (are!) extremely dysfunctional, but we know that in a pinch we can count on each other. For that alone, knowing that my family loves me in spite of my past, should be enough to be singing God’s praise!

It is through Christ alone that we can love each other. If you don’t have a family – blood or otherwise – that you can rely on, oh, my heart goes out to you. Did you know, once you have been adopted into God’s eternal family, you’ll never, NEVER, have to go through the rest of your life alone?

“In Christ alone

my Hope is found

He is my Light, my Strength, my Song

This Cornerstone, this Solid Ground

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of Love, what depths of Peace

When fears are stilled, when strivings cease

My Comforter, my All in All

Here in the Love of Christ I stand!”

My Shelter in the Storm…. What AMAZING Grace!!

Waste Not – Or, Let Me Offend You Today….

“God blessed them {That means US, His human creations} and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.” Genesis 1:28‭-‬30 (http://bible.com/111/gen.1.28-30.NIV)

“When they had all had enough to eat, He said to His disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” ” John 6:12 (http://bible.com/111/jhn.6.12.NIV)

I’ve had this conversation so many times. As Americans, we are so wasteful that at times I am ashamed to be called one. When I had the opportunities to go to Europe, I was able to see firsthand how restrictive their laws are regarding waste. The result is that people are much more aware of their habits. Rather than throwing everything into one trash receptacle, it was sorted by what could be recycled, what could be composted, and what could be fed to the chickens. My grandma taught me that we should respect the earth, and her garden and root cellar were a wonderful place for a kid. I realize that really, very few Americans get to experience the beauty of rich earth and growing things, and it is such a shame. We grow up watching television and glued to social media, with ads shouting at us that we “NEED” all of these things…. shipped in from other countries, wasting resources. Yes, this is my opinion. We are horribly wasteful. When I moved into my house, the city provided me with two – TWO – large waste bins, and one small recycling bin. ONE recycling bin. Isn’t that a little backward?

Think about what you trash that could be recycled. Paper. Actually, shredded paper is an excellent mulch… but we would rather trash it and create more waste to dispose of instead of sending it to be recycled. Plastic! Oh, I could rant for hours on plastic, but I won’t. It is one item that is easily reused and recycled…. but it’s EASIER to just throw it away. I’ve been told (quite strongly, actually) that it is the JOB of the trash men to sort out the trash. Maybe that was true years ago, but not any longer. I remember going to the dump and seeing where the appliances and other usable items were put out where you could retrieve them, if you were so inclined. Watching the trucks lined up at the modern dumps – excuse me, “landfills ” – you can see how impossible that would be now.

Do you know that you can take in your aluminum and get paid for it? Also other metals?

Then we have glass. I love glass containers. They are non-reactive, so anything can be stored in glass safely. I’d love to see the deposit put back on glass bottles so that we could exchange them. We have a new shop here that sells spices, and she’ll use your glass bottles to put them in for you. Pretty cool, because it saves us both money, and eliminates waste.

Finally, let me touch on water. Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink… how dependent we are on water! Without water, there is no life, yet we squander it daily as if it is limitless. There is another water that we desperately need, too, even more than we need the water that flows from our taps. I’m talking about the Living Water of Jesus Christ. Do you know that water?

“In GOD, Whose Word I praise— in GOD I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Psalm 56:4 (https://psalm.bible/psalm-56-4)

We can only reach this fearlessness the psalmist talks about by accepting Jesus’ Living Water. To do that; to never be thirsty again, we have to believe and receive the gift Jesus is offering. Just like the woman at the well, we have to be willing to take it.

Jesus told her, “If you knew the Gift of GOD and Who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you Living Water….. Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the Water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the Water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to ETERNAL Life.” John 4:10‭, ‬13‭-‬14 (http://bible.com/111/jhn.4.10-14.NIV)

Rant over.

The Law

The LAW. Civil, criminal, or spiritual, we love to hate the law.

“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is Life and Peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to GOD; it does not submit to GOD’S Law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please GOD….. [But] those who are led by the Spirit of GOD are the Children of GOD. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “ABBA, FATHER.” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are GOD’S Children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of GOD and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” Romans 8:6‭-‬8‭, ‬14‭-‬17 (http://bible.com/111/rom.8.6-17.NIV)

“If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” In jails and in prisons across the world, the inmates all claim they are innocent (Really. Just ask them!). Christians, and those claiming Christianity, the “religious,” are no different from the worst criminals. We don’t like looking at our (constant) sin – and regardless of what any leader or preacher might say, we are ALL guilty and WILL be held responsible for our sins. Thank You, Jesus, that we have an Advocate Who will defend us when God the Father sits on the Judgement Seat and looks at our lives!

“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. CHRIST JESUS Who died—more than that, Who was raised to Life—is at the right Hand of GOD and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the Love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the Love of GOD that is in CHRIST JESUS our LORD.” Romans 8:34‭-‬35‭, ‬37‭-‬39 (http://bible.com/111/rom.8.34-39.NIV)

Verses 38-39 hold ALL of our hope for our souls. Nothing – NOTHING – can separate us from our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ. Nothing. Paul wrote it so eloquently and completely! If there is nothing else that I have ever said is worth remembering, these verses should capture your heart and your mind. Once we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are safe from the eternity of fire. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal; once saved, always saved. Do you want Jesus to suffer the cross again, every time we tell a “white” lie (a lie is a lie, period…. and I am guilty) or every time we sin? I think anyone would say “NO!”

We are not slaves, to be crushed by the world. Instead, we have received ultimate freedom through His suffering and pain. We are also not immune to the trouble the world (i.e. Satan, the enemy) will dump on us. No, as Paul reminds us, “As it is written: “For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Psalm 44:22) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who Loved {LOVES} us.” Romans 8:36‭-‬37 NIV http://bible.com/111/rom.8.36-37.NIV

The Truth of those words is staggering! “Jesus Loves me, this I know, For the Bible tells me so.” Still true; Amen.

Challenge

I challenge you to study God’s Word! Even though it was started 4000 years ago and finished 2000 years ago, it is as true and applicable today as it was then! Paul wrote these words to the church in Corinth, but they are also directed to us today:

“…. to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be His holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our LORD Jesus Christ—their LORD and ours: Grace and Peace to you from GOD our Father and the LORD Jesus Christ. …. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our LORD Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our LORD. …. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel – not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the Power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:2‭-‬3‭, ‬8‭-‬9, 17-18 (http://bible.com/111/1co.1.2-18.NIV)

George Orwell nailed it in his statement. As Christians, we must – we MUST – speak truth. I don’t mean we should go stand on the street corner with signs, shouting “the end is near!” No, it’s within our families, among our friends and coworkers, to our neighbors we need to be speaking. These are the people we need to speak God’s truth to. Our freedom is in Jesus Christ, and I will not give up my freedom lightly! I will do all I can to protect yours, too, as I stand with Christ.

Be Still

He [The LORD] says, “Be still, and know that I AM GOD; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 (https://psalm.bible/psalm-46-10)

I love how God decides what I’m thinking and writing, sometimes mid-sentence. As I sit outside on the back porch this morning, I was considering how beautiful and unusual it is for the 1st day of August in central Oklahoma. It’s raining; a soft, gentle rain with no wind or lightening, and the temperature is hovering around 70°. More like early March or April, really. Whatever the date, I am grateful for the cooler temps and the rain, and enjoying being outside with the pups. So, gratitude is on my mind…..

As I read and take in the words of Psalms 46, it strikes me again that we humans worry too much. I am all for peace between countries (“Peace on earth!”), and I am adamant about conservation and management of our God-given resources; the plants and animals and the earth itself. It is all here for us to use, not to abuse… and it is critical for us as Christians to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout our neighborhoods and cities and countries.

But be still and read these words from the psalmist:

“Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging….. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; He lifts His voice, the earth melts. The LORD ALMIGHTY is with us; the GOD of Jacob is our fortress….. He says, “Be still, and know that I AM GOD; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The LORD ALMIGHTY is with us; the GOD of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46:2‭-‬3‭, ‬6‭-‬7‭, ‬10‭-‬11 (http://bible.com/111/psa.46.2-11.NIV)

Whatever natural disasters occur, when nation fights nations, He is reminding us again to be still in our hearts, and to take the energy we would spend worrying to instead, worship Him. I really do understand how difficult it can be, and how difficult it IS, to praise God when our lives are in turmoil. I have experienced and witnessed things I couldn’t wish would happen to anyone, but I know that worse things happen to people. There is much evil in this world, and the enemy uses it to try to destroy our faith. It almost worked on me. Years – YEARS – of my life were spent in the enemy’s grasp. It was ugly, at best. Beyond description at the worst, and there are still millions of people caught up by it all. As difficult as it is, I go back to the Psalms to remind myself of God’s power… and to Revelations to see the punishment of evil when God sits on His Judgement Throne. He will reshape the earth and come to dwell with us in the new Jerusalem, the City of God.

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” … Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5 (http://bible.com/111/rev.21.5.NIV)

LORD, if I am anxious about anything, let me be anxious for Your Return! Amen… He will return like a roaring lion!

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