The Cutting Edge

I've been struck very much lately by the power of words. Written, spoken, heard, passed on- words have such weight in our lives. Parenting foster children has shown me a whole new level of the cutting action of our words. Many of my 'kids' over the years have come from homes where they heard a lot of words- many angry, many condemning, arguing and full of complaining. Many many without love or wisdom. Often even years later, these children will have moments of reflection, terror at times, sadness at others, remembering words that were spoken to them. Some haunt them in their sleep and waking hours, other are a balm to their little souls.

But all have weight.

All cut deeply.

Whether by cutting apart frail self-images or skillfully cutting away unneeded lies from a soul- the ability to separate things within a person is a powerful thing.

Words matter.

My kids are no different than anyone else though. All of us can remember harsh words spoken to us, or high praise from a loved one. Each make their own mark do they not?

Our tongues have the power to uplift and encourage, to correct and refine, to promote and enhance ourselves and others. Our words can shed light, give freedom, and even give life (Proverbs 18:21).

Alas, they also have the power to do just the opposite. Words on a sharp tongue can cut down, discourage, hurt, abuse, condemn, belittle, and destroy. Words can lie, hide, ridicule, and inflict life-long wounds.

What power we wield when we open our mouths!

And yet, I would guess that many of us don't particularly have any major issues with evil tongues. I'm not sure many of us (myself included) give enough forethought each time we utilize our voice boxes. I myself am not known to cuss, or to verbally abuse people. I work hard on not being a gossip or slander anyone. I imagine many of you are similar. We've worked hard to keep clean mouths. And yet, there is so much scripture given to minding our mouths that I am continually amazed at the instruction for using these voices of ours.

Look at just a few of the things the Word would say for when we open our mouths (or in other cases, keep them closed.)

1 Peter 3:10 (NIV) For, whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.

Colossians 4:6 Let your conversation be ALWAYS full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Philippians 2:14-16 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. (Anyone else get hit right between the eyeballs on this one?)

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let ANY unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but ONLY what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Proverbs 15:4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.

Matthew 15:11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes OUT of their mouth, that is what defiles them.

Proverbs 21:23 Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.

Psalm 34:13 ...keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.

Proverbs 12:13-14 Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk, and so the innocent escape trouble. From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward.

Proverbs 12:18-19 The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

Proverbs 15:1-2 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.

Proverbs 18:1-8 An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels. Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions. When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes reproach. The words of the mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream. It is not good to be partial to the wicked and so deprive the innocent of justice. The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating. The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.

Oh dear friends, so much of this is convicting to me. I may not be erring on the side of 'bad' but am I intentionally pushing towards the honeyed wisdom, discernment, and knowledge that is spoken of? We can do more! May we of gentle tongues and wise words! This is so much more than not cussing or using the Lord's name in vain. It is not simply not being mean to people, gossiping about them, or spreading rumors. It is the chance to be totally set apart from all the noise that the world hears day in and day out. It is the opportunity to be radically different in our communication. It is the ability to speak LIFE into others! It is the chance to change someone's moment, hour, day, season, job, stress-level, outlook...for good. Better, yet, for GOD! Our mouths are swords, and yielding in the right way, with the the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can be a force for change in people. We can use His words to cut out sin, to help separate lies, to excise bad thinking and the speech of others that may have taken root in someone's soul. We have a cutting edge! But we must use it with One who can wield such a mighty thing- our Great Physician. As the Psalmist (141:3) writes, "Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips." May it be to us too!

Proverbs 31:26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

Yesterday's Testimony

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15

Testimony for the Christian is an odd thing. Many new believers fear speaking God's truth in their lives aloud to others at first. Other believers may be struggling under the silence of shame despite being freed by Christ's blood. Some speak from a place of embarrassment or dishonor rather than victory and freedom. Still others have no issue proclaiming to the world what Jesus' forgiveness has done for them.

And then most stop there.

Have you ever noticed how our testimonies tend to be in a vacuum? We tell stories of our past life, our new life through the cross; what changed and how God transformed us... and then we stop.

As if our testimony is over.

As if our testimony is a single-story, told statically, with a beginning, middle, and an end.

I think we've cut ourselves short. And certainly the work of our Redeemer as well.

What if I asked you what yesterday's testimony was?

What did God do in your life 24 hours ago? How did He work through your words and actions the day before? What did He refine and renew in you? What was being sanctified, what was being put to death? What new and exciting thing did He reveal about Himself yesterday?

Let me tell you my testimony from these last 4 days. Last Wednesday we got an unexpected surprise- my parents came to visit. In their 70s, my folks are full-time RVers so our family doesn't get to see them very much. Usually 1-2 times a year is about all we get, so it was a welcome visit. About 2 hours after they arrived, my daughter came to tell me her neck was hurting. Long story short, she has a history of infection from wounds she sustained in a car accident last year. Before I knew it, we were emergently driving the 4 hours up to St. Louis to Children's Hospital for surgery. I spent the whole of the next 3 days away from home- not only not seeing my mom and dad, but not with my 4 other kids or husband either.

But God was in this. As you can imagine, the logistics of having 5 kids is not easy thing to work out even in the best of circumstances. Having something so unplanned happen and trying to figure out life on super short notice is usually impossible. But God knew. He sent my parents to hold down the fort, watch the kids, keep a semblance of normalcy during a stressful time. He KNEW! What a thing! In the midst of illness and surgery, being gone and alone... He provided completely for us. It wasn't ideal. It wasn't perfect. There was a LOT that felt bad. And yet, it was so completely obvious that He was in control and would be, in a very tangible way... Jehovah Jirah.

It may not have been 'our' plans, but His were more complete. More planned. More prepared. Yes, God was surely in last weekend's testimony for me.

You have a testimony from yesterday too.

Dear ones, our testimony do not have an end. Just as God promises ongoing protection, renewal, refreshment... presence. So also should we be constantly proclaiming this continual work within us. His day-to-day work in our lives is no less part of our testimony as our conversion was. Each minute of God's guiding hand, each moment of GodStuff is part of our story.

We should be telling that too.

We should be telling it regularly.

Because our story... HIS story of our lives is unending, eternally being written and provided for. Therefore let us proclaim the whole of our testimony- yesterday's, this morning's, last hour's, and all our tomorrow's... until He takes us home.

Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples Psalm 105:1

Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble. Psalm 107:2

I will not die, but live, And tell of the works of the LORD. Psalm 118:17

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life-- and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us-- what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
1 John 1:1-4

Fabulous Footwear

Lately my middle son is going through a shoe phase. Or I should say, a shoe LESS phase. Twice now we’ve loaded into the car, driven to our destination, gotten out… only to discover that the kid has no shoes on (insert the mom-face-palm here). This last weekend was especially painful, we were out of state at a wedding that three of the kids were in. We stayed one night at a hotel and, I kid you not, every.single.time Jonah left the hotel room he forgot his shoes. E-ver-ry tiiiiiimmmme people! By the end of the weekend I was seriously considering having him tested for a stroke or brain injury of some kind…

But I digress- today I wanted to talk about the importance of footwear… namely WEARING it but also making sure you have the right kind for each occasion. What style we have is dictated by the situations we know we’re going to be in. Soldiers wear boots, runners wear sneakers, hikers wear hiking boots; you wouldn’t find me in high heels on the beach for instance (actually you’d be hard-pressed to find me in heels anywhere… #momlife) but you get my drift. Anyone who has worn the ‘wrong’ shoes in a situation I doubt makes the same mistake twice.

WEARING shoes matters. It helps us actually get out of the house (or out of the car and/or hotel room in Jonah’s case). It protects our feet from harm so we can go do what we need to do,

WHAT shoes we wear matters. In many situations what we wear matters a great deal… it helps us do our jobs better (soldiers, firemen, flight nurses!), perhaps it enables us to be more efficient (runners), it protects us from injury or wounds (hikers). Keeping our feet protected and appropriate is vital to many situations- rarely is there a situation where no footwear whatsoever is recommended.

In real life we need shoes and we need the right shoes. In the ‘realer’ life, our spiritual life, we need shoes as well. Not only the wearing of them but the right ones for the mission field you’re walking within.

Ephesians 6: 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand…. 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 

Dear ones we have to make sure we’re putting on our spiritual shoes, ones that will carry us on mission to wherever God has called us. The Gospel, this amazing good news of Christ’s forgiveness, is THE reason we’re leaving the house everyday. It is THE most important thing we carry with us minute by minute. We don’t leave our houses for work or school, the movies, the park, or running errands without shoes. Neither should we be leaving our houses without our feet fitted with the Gospel of Peace. Even moreso… the READINESS that comes from that Gospel.  A runner is ready with his sneakers, a paramedic is ready with her boots, a scuba diver is ready with his flippers, a ballerina is ready with her pointe shoes… at a moment’s notice, no matter what the situation calls for, they are ready to act because they have the proper footwear.

This amazing Gospel, knowing it, speaking of it, witnessing to it, proclaiming it, spreading it… fits us with spiritual shoes that are always appropriate for whatever situation we find ourselves in. 1 Timothy 3: 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 

Know the Gospel.

Be fitted with it’s readiness daily.

Proclaim it in your mission field.

Walk it out, bring it to the lost… and wear out the soles of those shoes winning souls for Christ!

Counting Joy

Joy is an odd thing. It’s hard to get my head around this feeling at times because, as we all know, feelings are fickle. As humans are feelings are almost wholly dictated by circumstances- by what is happening to or around us. We are happy when things go well, proud of accomplishments, sad with loss, frustrated with adversity, angry with injustice. Our feelings, for better or worse, usually depend on our surroundings.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And yet, in this passage, Janes tells us to take joy in trials. It’s an odd encouragement, and not a little contrary to our natural instincts.

“Count it joy”.... choose joy, find joy; our brother is telling us to determine our feelings through resolution in our minds.... not BECAUSE of our circumstances but in SPITE of them. We have to look around, take in the atmosphere and decide how we’re going to feel about it. We can stop feeling recklessly and start choosing how we feel. We don’t need to be victims of uncontrolled emotions.

Yes, we can count hard trials as unfair, be offended, angry, frustrated- that’s certainly the natural tendency of our flesh. God has set us apart for something better however; we can count it joy that God has chosen to place us within a situation where He has plans to grow us.

Dear ones, every situation that is less than ideal is an opportunity to choose joy. To determine in our minds, intentionally, to FEEL joyful- regardless of what is happening. Better yet... BECAUSE of the trial. If we are to believe in the truth that in our weakness He is made strong, then we must also acknowledge that during these hardships His purposes are to magnify Himself through us.

We can’t do that mad. We can’t do that upset. We can’t do that bitter or resentful. We can’t do that with unforgiveness.

We can’t do that if we’re not counting these trials as joy.

The best part about this is that our Heavenly Father meets us within the storm. “...do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah‬ ‭8:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And just like that, we have supernatural strength in the midst of the mess. Joy of our Lord glorifies Him and strengthens us as well. We only need to determine in our hearts to feel it- to know it. And by knowing Him, we can always know joy... no matter what.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Dear ones may I leave you today with the dictionary’s definition of joy. Meditate on its wonderful implications when viewed through the lens of the Joy of the Lord.

1a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight. b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety. 
2 : a state of happiness or felicity : bliss. 
3 : a source or cause of delight. joy.

The Naked Truth

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
‭‭John‬ ‭17:15-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Truth and Lie meet one day. Lie says to the Truth, "It's a glorious day today!" Truth looks up to the skies suspicious of Lie's comment, but ultimately sighs... for the day was really beautiful.

They spend a lot of time together, Lie mimicking Truth's behavior and mannerisms. Lie was very much taken with Truth's garments, her countenance and grace. The two ultimately arrive beside a well. Lie tells Truth, "The water is very nice, let's take a bath!" Truth, once again suspicious, tests the water and discovers that it, indeed, is very nice. They undress and start bathing.

Suddenly Lie comes out of the water, puts on the clothes of Truth, and runs away. Alarmed and stunned, Truth comes out of the well and runs everywhere to find Lie and get her clothes back. Yet she cannot recover them, nor can she catch up with Lie- for Lie is quite fleeting and rapidly moves. Truth cannot stand the feel of Lie's clothing, they are old and rotted, unfit for the World's eyes. So Truth is left naked.

The World, seeing Truth naked, turns its gaze away with contempt and rage, rejecting her outright. No one comes to her aid because they don't like the discomfort of viewing her stark appearance or the irritation she brings by her presence. Truth is uncomfortable to the World. Poor Truth returns to the well and disappears from view, ashamed of her nakedness, cold and alone.

Since that long ago time, Lie travels around the world dressed as Truth, masquerading as light and rightness, morality, and integrity. And the world blindly accepts Lie as Truth. The World sees the outer appearance, dressed finely and attractively, unaware and careless of what actually lies beneath the clothing.

To this day Truth can be hard to find, she must be sought with intention, found with discretion, and recognized by her appearance. She is most often alone, sometimes afraid, but always in the Right. Her nakedness can be jarring for those who aren't prepared for it, but the beauty and quiet strength of naked Truth will always overcome the darkest of Lies. (Adapted from the legend of Truth and Falsehood.)

Dear ones, today I challenge you to look hard at your hearts and discern the lies that you have bought into. I pray that God would shine His light of Truth, uncomfortable is it may be to look at, on the facades that the Evil One would have you believe. Seek the Holy One through the appearances of mankind and look upon the face of what Truths are in your life. Look for Truth with intention and reject whatever facade of false ideas have taken root.

Today I want you all to step out in boldness and comment below with a lie that has entangled you and then replace that with Truth. Be bold and fearless!

"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ." Colossians 2:6-8 ESV

Jean_Léon_Gerome_1896_La_Vérité_sortant_du_puits.jpeg

Truth Coming Out Of Her Well

1896 painting by the French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme.