Monday, April 27, 2009

Are your Words Water or Mud?

Last week we talked about the Power of our words and this week we are going to continue that discussion with some practical thoughts about using our words to bless other people rather than distressing them.

Solomon said: “The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain.” That’s how I want my words to be, and I’m sure you do too.

Three things I want to encourage you to recognize:
1. Recognize that your words can be like life giving water. They can refresh and renew a tired or hurting soul. See yourself as a cup-filler with healing and uplifting words.
2. Recognize that everyone is a lovely treasure, a creation of God. There is something special about each person. We can fill their hearts with good words or we can muddy their lives with complaining, anger, bitterness and filth.
3. Finally, let’s Recognize our need for God to clean up our heart. Unless He does a transforming work in our hearts, our words will not change. Remember what we talked about last week as we learned that our words are an overflow from our hearts.

Spend some time this week sharing with your kids about the importance of using their words to refresh and lift up others. You may want to show them a lovely tea cup and tell them just as this is a precious and delicate cup, so people are precious and delicate souls. All people are thirsty to know if they are loved and worthwhile. Now pour water into the cup and tell them we can bring life-giving water to others through our words.

Ask your kids if it would be appropriate to put mud in the lovely tea cup. If you put mud in the cup, it will harden and become very difficult to clean. Our unkind words can stick in people’s hearts and muddy their lives. As cup fillers, let’s be givers of good words and offer refreshment to thirsty souls.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Power of our Words

Today I want to visit about the Power of our Words. What comes out of our mouth represents who we are. I’m reminded of the little girl who named her dog Aunt Agnus. When a kind adult asked why she named her dog such a peculiar name, the girl replied, “I named her Aunt Agnus because just like my aunt she growls at people and barks about anything that upsets her.”
Well now, I wouldn’t want to be known as a growler and a barker -- would you? But it is true that we are what we say. If we speak kind and uplifting words we are known as an encourager. If we talk about our fears and worries all the time we are a worry wart, and if we complain continually we can be known as a whiner.

How do your words define you? J. C. Ryle said, “Our words are the evidence of the state of our hearts as surely as the taste of the water is an evidence of the state of the spring.” Jesus used a tree analogy to describe the root cause of the words that come out of our mouth. He said, “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.” He went on to say, “For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.” Matthew 12:33 – 35.

So what kind of tree (or talker should I say) are you? The real question is what is in your heart. Do you have a growing faith in a loving, forgiving and sovereign God? Does the peace of Christ rule your heart? When our heart’s focus is on the Lord, worries, complaints and fears are less likely to fly out of our mouths. If we have thankful hearts for God’s grace toward us, and love and mercy are at the center of our being, then we are less likely to allow criticism and gossip to flow out of our mouths. . This week ask the Lord to help you identify some words that you need to weed out, and replace those weeds with good words and praise toward God and encouragement toward others.

To help your kids grasp this lesson, ask them to draw several different kinds of trees. Invite them to draw different fruit on the different trees. Talk about just as a tree is known by its fruit, so we are known by what comes out of our mouths. Talk about the different kinds of words that can come out of our mouths. Always remember as moms, our kids learn best from our example. Ask God to help you be a good tree example in your home.

For the next few weeks we will be talking about filling our hearts and minds with good things and guarding our mouths from damaging words.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Can God be Trusted?

In the Old Testament, we read about a man named Job who found himself in the midst of struggling to understand why. His vibrant, fruitful world came to a crashing halt when God allowed him to suffer the loss of his possessions, his children, and his health. He couldn’t understand why this would happen to him as he had been a noble and upright man. Job’s not-so-helpful friends tried to give him answers, leaning on what they thought was a logical premise. They thought suffering was simply a result of sin. God eventually let them know they did not speak accurately about him.

God lovingly responded to Job’s unsettled questions of the heart. Instead of explaining the reasons Job suffered, God kindly directed Job back to an authentic trust in a God he could not understand. God asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much.” (Job 38:4) God led Job to a deeper understanding of his almighty power and omniscience. Job finally declared to God, “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me. . . . I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.” (Job 42:2 – 3, 5)

We must ask ourselves, are we willing to trust God even though we don’t understand his ways? It’s hard, I know. Direct answers would be much nicer. How do we grow to the point of trust? How can we rest in the arms of a loving God when we can’t understand why he allows certain difficulties in our life? Certainly we cannot know all the answers, but as we draw close to God, we begin to get to know who he is and what he is about. We develop a trust for the God who loves us. In this passage about Job, notice he said he had heard about God, but now he has seen him with his eyes. Job moved from a point of knowing about God to a place of truly experiencing him.
Job was able to put his trust in a God he knew, not just in one he had heard about. The same is true with us. We can find people’s opinions about God from books, commentaries, editorials, and even sermons on Sundays, but we must get to know him for ourselves. A search for the truth about God will lead us to an understanding of his trustworthiness. It’s one thing to know about God in a distant sort of way; it is another thing to experience him up close and personal. As we get to know him, our heart is drawn into a love relationship with him.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux said, “If we begin to worship and come to God again and again by meditating, by reading, by prayer; and by obedience, little by little God becomes known to us through experience. We enter into a sweet familiarity with God, and by tasting how sweet the Lord is we pass into . . . loving God, not for our own sake, but for Himself.” We can fall into the arms of a God who we know and love, but it is difficult to trust someone we do not know personally.

As Job learned, we cannot understand all of God’s ways, but there are certain qualities we can know about him. Where do we begin our journey of knowing him? The Bible gives us glimpses of the High King of heaven and his marvelous attributes. Here are a few of the numerous qualities we learn about God as we see them revealed in the Bible. I have provided just one biblical reference for each attribute, although there are numerous others.
He is:

Almighty (Genesis 17:1)
Everlasting (Genesis 21:33)
All-Powerful (2 Chronicles 20:6)
Abundant in Strength (Psalm 147:5)
Abounding in Love (Psalm 103:8)
Sovereign (Deuteronomy 3:24)
Merciful (Psalm 62:12)
Trustworthy (2 Samuel 22:3)
Our Keeper (Psalm 121:2)
Our Provider (Matthew 6:26)
Our Good Shepherd (John 10:11)
Able—nothing is too difficult for him (Genesis 18:14)

I want to get to know a God like this, don’t you? Certainly if God is who the Bible says he is, then he is worthy of our respect, obedience, and yes, trust. Consider where you are with God right now in your life. What do you believe about him? We don’t want to make assumptions about God; rather, we want to explore who he claims to be. As we get to know the God of the Bible, we begin to recognize his abiding love for us. He is worthy of our trust. I encourage you to continue your journey of engagement with God.

Based on what I have learned from the Bible, here’s what I personally believe about God. I believe he is a loving, compassionate, merciful God. I believe he sent his Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for the payment for my sins. I believe Jesus rose again, offering us the promise of eternal life in heaven one day with him. I believe he has provided his Spirit to live in my life to help us, comfort us, and guide us in truth. I believe he will never leave us. I believe he is a sovereign God who can do all things, knows all things, and sees all things.

What do you believe? Take a moment to write out your statement of belief. Consider why you believe what you believe. Don’t just let what you see on television or hear from friends determine your own personal belief system. If you believe there is a God, then he rightfully deserves to be investigated. Get to know him. Search the Bible and see what it has to say about him. If we ultimately want to be able to trust him, we need to get to know who he is. How can you trust someone you don’t know?

John Calvin said, “Our inklings of the realities of God will be vague and smudged until we learn from Scripture to think correctly about the realities of which we are already aware.” He added, “Unless God’s Word illumine the way, the whole life of men is wrapped in darkness and mist, so that they cannot but miserably stray.” We don’t want to wander aimlessly in our misery or stumble in the dark without hope, simply because we haven’t taken the time to get to know the God of the Bible. He is worthy of our trust and welcomes us into a loving relationship with him.

Today’s blog is an excerpt from my new book, Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive. It is my hope that this week you and your family will consider what believe about God and talk about your statements of belief together as a family.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Easter Week!

“Rejoice in the Lord always! I will say it again rejoice!” Paul wrote these words to his fellow believers many years ago, and they still speak to us today. Certainly as followers of Christ we have reason to rejoice, especially during this week as we celebrate Easter. We can take joy in knowing…
· God loves us!
· He sent his Son to offer His life as payment for our sin.
· There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
· Jesus rose from the dead demonstrating his power over death and giving us hope of eternal life.
· God’s Spirit dwells within those who believe. We are not alone!
· God is a redeeming God.

Perhaps you are struggling with a challenge in your life right now. Maybe you feel as though your situation is hopeless. If God can take the brutal death of His very own beloved Son and use it to redeem all mankind, He is able to redeem your situation as well. It may not be in the form you would like or expect, but God can bring something beautiful out of circumstances which seem hopeless. As we celebrate His redeeming work at Easter, take some time each day this week to bow in prayer with your children and thank God for his redemptive work on the cross. Thank Him that we are allowed to be a part of His family through faith in Christ. Thank Him that we are partakers of His grace.

May this Easter be one of the most glorious Easters you have ever experienced. Turn your eyes toward Him and take joy in His power to redeem. Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!

I also want to take the opportunity to say a special hello to my new friends in beautiful Atascadero, California and specifically Atascadero Bible Church. It was a joy, blessing and privilege to meet you this past weekend. May God continue to work in a mighty way in your lives.