“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,”
Psalm 1:1 NIV
Gotta say, Folks, when you slap this verse out there like The Message interpretation does, it loses a bit of its poetic nuance. Unfortunately when I am examining my life I can kinda hide amongst the poetry.
“How well God must like you— you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon, you don’t slink along Dead-End Road, you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College.”
Psalm 1:1 MSG
So here I am on this Saturday morning considering the day ahead. I suspect that I may mosey by Sin Saloon, have to turn around on Dead End Road, but may have some problems staying out of the company of mockers and shooting off my own Smart Mouth.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I seldom get into trouble keeping my mouth shut. Before a hundred ‘what if’ scenarios pop into your head where keeping quiet might cause disaster, I am referring to conversations–let’s say around a table, with friends. Or discussions in meetings or chats with neighbors about the neighborhood. My smart mouth, which I think of as witty, often come off as sarcastic. Go figure. Or my insight that I loudly proclaim sounds self righteous. Or my interruption to say what I have been harboring in my head shuts others out of the conversation. Or I share information that would best be unsaid.
OR I may spout off in anger crushing someone’s spirit, because of my own smart mouth.
In BRAKING POINTS Max has battled a quick temper since childhood, but his mother taught him a method for handling it. As he adjusts to having a surly teenager along for the ride, his resolve to be reasonable has its limits.
“He had won the battle, but decided it had been at a price. Winning wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Max had learned that many years before. He recited the Lord’s Prayer silently again before speaking. This time a gentler Max materialized.”
Consider the words and the time it takes to pray them–SO much better than counting to ten.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14:26-27 NIV
To say I have struggled with this passage from the Gospel of Luke would be an understatement. Perhaps it is the word ‘hate’. Perhaps it is the completely wrong idea it plants–scripture is not always easy to understand. If it were we could have avoided many millennium of division, wars, arguments or maybe not since we are who we are–human. Whatever the cause, I have struggled.
Then this morning as I read the 14th chapter of Luke, I realized that God was not asking me to reject or abandon the ones I love. Nor was He asking me to act as if my life has no value. He asks me to embrace the Life He has for me, to trust Him with the lives of those I love, to stop grappling with him for control, to follow Him.
When I follow, God’s love begins to flow through me allowing me to love others and even myself with greater goodwill and the more I do this the fuller and freer my life becomes. Loving God first and foremost especially helps me love others when I find them less than loveable. I hope therefore since I can be difficult at times–like frequently–that they also love God first.
And besides when I really wonder about what all this means I just remind myself.
From childhood I was taught that ‘cussing’ was wrong, but ‘cussing’ that included references to the divine–unless, of course, I could manage to roll it into a prayer–put one in danger of the fires of hell or a bar of soap in the mouth. Frankly, I slide a bit farther away from conversations where God’s name is peppering anecdotes lest a bolt of lightening strike. Still as I contemplated the morning scripture my mind took another path.
Perhaps it was the translation. Perhaps it represents a deeper issue in my life. Perhaps it is nonsense, but writing is how I work through what makes sense and what doesn’t. I could honestly say that I have rarely used God’s name as an expletive. Yea! Me! REALLY?
Consider with me for a moment what ‘misuse’ of God’s name might entail. I am a Christian. Therefore, I bear the name of Christ. How I live, how I act, how I think–the whole of me visible and invisible represents Christ’s name. In an honest examination of my life, I find I fail. In doing so I misuse the name of the Lord my God. It is a daily struggle, a daily examination, and I suspect it will be as long as I am on this earth, but GOD is bigger than all my SIN. One misuse of God’s name in my life is when I question his forgiveness of my sin. Just Saying.
A few years after my ‘be still and know’ moment, I began to struggle with the multitude of changes occurring in my life. Now let me let you know I have always been a dreamer so seeking new beginnings, new adventures whether actually or simply in my head provides impetus for trying new things.
I hate being blindsided and forced to CHANGE. Perhaps, God knew that about me—OK, so God knew that about me. The physician I worked for in Bartlesville, OK gathered us all one afternoon to inform us that at the end of the month, he was closing his practice, heading to Indianapolis to do a fellowship in plastic surgery, and WELL! There we all were, open mouthed and taking deep breaths to keep from screaming…OK, I can only speak for myself, I was close to screaming.
Change that happens because I choose to change and Change that happens suddenly, capriciously may be related but they are not congenial.
I had come a ways in my journey with God so after a prayerful rant on the way home from work that day, I took a breath and listened. Nope! Nada! Not a word! Tears flowed. Panic threatened. The landscape stretched out around me, flat beauty alive with May wildflowers, as a new vision filled my head. Dr. Craig hadn’t done this to me, to us. God had. Left to my own ways, all my dreams and aspirations would have stayed in my head as I settled into a comfortable job, with comfortable people, enough challenge to keep me dreaming, and no reason to fly.
S0 GOD like the eagle removed my nest. . .and I was reminded HE was holding me, my hopes, dreams, and all those I loved.
Change comes! Some of the changes associated with growing older challenge me greatly, but WHAT I DO with change, how I respond is MY choice. AS long as I realize that as I step into the precipice of the unknown, God will either ‘catch me or teach me to fly’.
“When the night is holding on to me, God is holding on.” King of My Heart, John Mark and Sarah McMillan
Perhaps you are a little bit like me. No Christmas is perfect, especially when our human expectations meet the human actualities. Almost like a hangover…in some cases, a real hangover…the day after all the festivities can become a downer. Which gives the devil a tiny little foothold. Joy is fragile during times of attack. Looking at the scattered paper under a Christmas tree and looking for the manger with the baby under the scattered paper, I could not keep a melancholy from settling on me.
Knowing I needed to turn the focus away from myself, I read my devotional, found scripture that spoke to my current feelings, and wrote the following.
Perhaps it will speak to you, too, if you are a little bit like me.
I found these verses this morning. Perhaps it was the translation, but I do not remember reading them before…and yes, I have read 3 John. I wasn’t even looking for a reason to support missionaries, even though we do. I was just reading. There it was. So just a couple of thoughts on ministry partnerships.
What better direction than this for Christians to support missionaries, pastors, Christian workers, Christian ministries who bring the gospel, like buckets of living water to folks dying of thirst here at home and around the world. Trouble deciding who to support, pray, study the ministry, the people, the need, the scripture and pray again. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would guide and direct us. Don’t center on numbers, Jesus did not.
Support the workers in the fields of God and you will be partners with them at the harvest.
Around 7 AM this morning I set out to take Max and Emma for their first walk of the day. As they piddled around as they often do, sniffing every blade of grass as if that was the whole purpose of their walk, I stood still for a moment rather than rushing them along to get on with business.
Standing there observing the morning sky as wispy clouds blew across a magnificent pale blue dome, I whispered almost to myself, “I would give anything…” I stopped before completing the statement. The words intended were, “to capture that sky in paint, secure it to a canvas, sketch pad, or maybe to capture it in a photograph”. I stopped because as my husband has often pointed out, words often are prayers and my wistful expression needed examination before utterance.
Self examination serves to heighten personal awareness of thought patterns, motives, and actions. A step deeper is to allow the Holy Spirit to shine His spot light which reaches the corners and crannies better that self alone can do. What Would I Give Anything for?
Let me share some of the things I have said “I would give anything for…”
A cup of coffee
A soft bed
A decent meal
For the rain, or snow or wind or other weather condition to stop or start
For a bathroom
For a break…especially during a long meeting
To be able to sing
To be able to dance
A good medical report
For Christmas, especially as a child
I suspect you, like I reluctantly did, see a pattern, every single example I unearthed centered on SELF. Oh, I could spin them a bit and find some way of making them more altruistic, for example…”a cup of coffee, so I am kinder to others.” If it had just been me on this exploratory adventure, I possibly could have gotten away with some of that, but the Holy Spirit basically said, “Nah, its all about you.” He can be so stubborn about these character issues. He even suggested a few scriptures, pulled out God’s Word and highlighted it. One was:
“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:27-34 NIV)
Once that inventory was as complete as I cared for it to be (the list above is just a sampling), He nudged me to consider the word, ANYTHING. To consider that Jesus called his followers to “count the cost” of discipleship and to “take up their cross daily” and to turn from anything that kept them (me) from following him. And again, since I was obviously struggling yet again with these facts the Holy Spirit pulled out the Bible:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)
After that I carried Him with me to church by then He was being pretty silent as I mulled over what I had on the plate before me. At Babson Park First Christian Church this morning we had missionary guests, Vivak and Angela Lall with Mid-India Christian Mission. During Sunday School he spoke about their mission, the victories, the challenges, the political situation in India. He was a very interesting articulate speaker.
BUT it was his message during the worship service that hit me full force, which I suspect is what the Holy Spirit had in mind. The whole message seemed to address the conversation I had been having with God all morning, but near the end he quoted someone else as saying,
“If there is nothing worth dying for then is there anything worth living for?”
Shall I live clinging to my life, my family, my home, my health, my finances, my stuff as if I can actually HOLD them. Shall I hunker down in my little bunker terrified that I might lose something precious?
Or shall I open my heart, my hands, my life, ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. Shall I Seek First the Kingdom of God and trust the ONE who has saved me to keep His promises?Shall I trust the ONE who has loved me to love the ones I love?
Shall I give everything so I can live as if nothing weighs me down or holds me back?
Shall I love with abandon as God has loved the world and given his one and only son?
Then there it was again plopped before me:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)
I would give anything to become a good and faithful servant of Christ my Lord.
I have had this in my head for several days, the power of the blood of Christ, covering so completely, filling the crevices where sin can hide. The blood of Christ like a transfusion works on the inside of the believer so that the outside of the believer manifests Christ in the world. It’s power is more than a fire screen, it is a river carrying the believer to the throne of God.