The Power of Words

Admittedly, I have a sensitive spirit. With that in mind, I want to try to explain something that is very hurtful to me yet may affect others differently – raised voices and harsh words. When voices elevate or sharp tones are used (even if the words are not directly addressed to me), I feel like I am pierced. I think the psalmist understands as he laments about those “who have sharpened their tongue like a sword. They aimed bitter speech as their arrow.” Psalm 64:3

While some may be inclined to fight back with words, I withdraw. It feels like a piece of my heart is being ripped away. Since my spirit is wounded, I want to protect myself because I no longer feel safe to be myself.  My trust is chipped away.

So I am writing to anyone who stumbles upon this blog urging you reflect on the power of words, how just a few careless words spoken harshly in anger may affect some people. It could be a thoughtless label such as “control freak” or “lazy.” It could be an angry tirade after a difficult day. Perhaps it is even a heated debate where you vehemently argue your point. It may even be a sarcastic joke.

Our culture says it’s perfectly fine to vent and argue and label. But we are each created in the image of God and should consider the impact our words have upon each one whom God treasures. Our tongues hold an amazing power of life and death. Choose to wield yours to bring life.

Bars or Stars?

Two women looked through prison bars – One saw mud, the other saw stars.

Our ladies’ group began a study written by Linda Dillow, Calm My Anxious Heart where she included the lines above.  For several weeks, I have been pondering this. What do I see? Both statements are true of the view from the where the women stood, yet each woman chose a different place to focus.

In my life circumstances, what am I gazing upon? Do I dwell upon the bars limiting me from what I think I should be experiencing, or do I see the stars of God’s good plans for my future?

That was my challenge – to reframe those negative thoughts into ones that better reflect God’s truth.  In recent years, scientists have gained much information on how our brains function. The longer we think a certain way, the stronger the neural pathway becomes, so when I focus on negative ideas, those become entrenched in my thinking. However, God our marvelous creator, has given our brains an amazing capacity to change and develop new neural pathways. (Long before scientists could explain how the brain works, God told us our minds are transformed and renewed by being in His presence and meditating on His words). I want to stop falling into those old ruts and let God begin to renew my mind.

Here are a few of the places where my thoughts keep getting stuck and baby steps on a new pathway…

Complaining or refusing to accept the circumstances God has given me/Every good thing and every perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of lights. James 1:17

Carrying my burdens and worries/ Those who wait on the Lord will gain new strength, they will mount up on wings like eagles. Isaiah 40:31

Doubting God’s love and sovereign control in my life/ And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love Him who are called according to His purposes Romans 8:28

Counting my problems instead of blessing/ Psalm 23 The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…

Comparing my life, ministry or gifts to someone else/ In His presence, there is fullness of joy, at his right hand there are pleasures evermore. Psalm 16:11

These new thoughts still don’t come automatically but turning my eyes to the stars has come more easily after many, many repeats. May God ingrain his truths into each of our minds so in our trials, we default to trust instead of turmoil. 

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Insights from an Amateur Pruner

It was a beautiful sunny morning, so I decided it would be a good day to trim back my bushes. Unlike my neighbor who has a doctorate in horticulture, I know nothing about plants, but these bushes had been growing astray for years and something had to be done. Shaping here and there had not seemed like a big deal, but at this point some pretty radical cutting needed to e done, so I began.

First, I cut off and pulled out all the dead branches. They were interwoven with the good ones. When they were entangled, it wasn’t as obvious just how dead they were. Then I pulled out other stalks that were not of the same variety of the bush; yes, they were green and living yet they were cutting off light and nutrients from the intended bush.

Finally, the unknown…how much do I cut back? How many living, decent looking branches do I remove? This is where my neighbor’s expertise would have been useful.

And into the garbage all these pruned branches went. The bushes look sparse now – like they have been given a bad haircut, but if my last experience with pruning is typical, the bush will again grow and flourish conforming to this new shape I have set for it instead of continuing  in unruly growth.

My thoughts turn to God who expertly prunes the branches of our lives (John 15). That includes the dead branches that do not bear fruit, but with pruning, some of the good is removed to prepare for the best. Every branch that bears fruit, He prunes so that it may bear more fruit.

With pruning, the positive results are not immediately seen.  When it feels we are stripped bare In the midst of our trials and distress, we endure patiently abiding in him. The one who abides in me and I am him bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Wake Up!

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Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping? Brother John, Brother John….

Do you remember this children’s song which you can probably sing in both English and French? Today I am wondering, “Are you sleeping, Sister Lynn?” I used my own name but perhaps yours could fit there as well. As believers, are we sleeping?

Is there a spiritual slumber that pervades our nation and churches? Have we been lulled into a drowsy condition by ease and apathy? Has this become acceptable, so we don’t even realize our lethargic state? A similar problem occurred with the nation of Israel described in Isaiah 29:10-13, “For the Lord has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep, He has shut your eyes…because this people draw near to me with their words and honor me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.” In the book of Jeremiah, they “walked after emptiness and became empty.”

How do I wake up?

I pose many questions but have not figured out the answers.  I found Jonah who was sleeping in a ship where he was running from God. I observed 3 of the disciples dozing at the time Jesus had asked them to keep watch with him. Eutychus fell asleep and right out the church window to his death. (Fortunately, Paul went down to revive him.) We are clearly warned of the dangers of falling asleep, but how do I overcome this state of my spirit not being fully awake?

I think the letters to the churches in Revelation offer a starting place. Repent! Realize this way of living is not okay. Then, maybe the rest of is up God. Can these bones live (wake up)? Yes, as God breathes life into them. God breathe new life into me. Revive me. However, when I feel the nudging of His Spirit to awaken, I have to get up and not roll back over to keep cozily cocooned  in dreamland.

The Power of God in Me

In Ephesians 1:18-19, Paul prays that his readers “will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe in him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead.” Through the Spirit of God, the same power God employed to raise Jesus from death resides in me. What does that mean? It doesn’t feel like it some days, but God has declared it!

I have feelings of powerlessness, weariness and weakness, but those aren’t telling the eternal story. In the eternal story for our lives when we are weak, His strength becomes more evident in us. That power that caused Jesus to rise from the grave displays for us that God is the God who accomplishes what the human mind thinks is impossible.  My calculating, preserving, and planning does not accomplish the work of God, but His Spirit and power do what I could never hope or imagine to achieve.

This verse reveals my wrong thinking where I have been living according my feelings rather than truth. When I choose to believe God, I may not feel any stronger, but I do experience a marvelous peace by realizing my human weakness or messy life will not stop God’s plans.  I am so thankful the good news doesn’t depend on something I do but something I receive by faith – His Spirit demonstrating His power producing His works.

Our feelings may deceive us. Even if you cannot see or perceive it, choose faith today believing His power is at work in you to accomplish His good purposes.

Jesus, Our Healer

When I read the gospels, it is clear Jesus heals dramatically and immediately. Then I consider my experience and that of most people in the church today and wonder (not if Jesus is able to heal or does healing still occur today but) why do most instances of healing no longer occur immediately or dramatically? Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Even though miraculous healing still occurs, it is not as commonplace.

I admit when I think of healing, I have in mind those cases where one day someone had cancer and the next day they did not.  Or I think of someone being tormented by mental health struggles, and one prayer changed everything. As I ponder the entire spectrum of healing from instantaneous to delayed until we are in heaven, I confront the themes from which I cannot seem to escape – time, process and community.

First, I want to broaden the definition of what many would consider as miraculous. I think miraculous includes every occasion when the creator of the universe, our sovereign, omnipotent and eternal God chooses to become involved in the lives of men and women. Anytime healing occurs God IS involved whether we give him credit or not. Broken bones healed and broken sprits mended do not occur apart from God’s mercy in our lives.

What if God’s first priority for healing is not our broken physical bodies but to repair our trust in him? Foremost, God desires that our broken fellowship with our Heavenly Father be restored as we recognize only Jesus can save us.  Yet even our daily walks, our trust can be fractured as we stop depending on God and turn back to making things happen in our own strength or depend on our own resources to protect ourselves.

What if (unlike me) Jesus doesn’t not see it as better when we ask him in a single prayer for healing and it is done. What if He wants to use our weakness to display his strength?  What if He wants someone to be healed not only in fellowship with Him but in fellowship with other believers who observe perseverance in someone who lives by faith without apparent healing.  The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5 – Outward we are wasting away, but inwardly we are being renewed day by day. God’s glory in us becomes brighter not in absence of a deteriorating body but in spite of our physical brokenness.

Maybe I am still waiting because I still need a transformed heart, mind and spirit more than I need the healing I think I need. The good news is that Jesus does not require for us to be healed or whole to use us to minister to others. Lisa Harper wrote, “You can still limp and lead beautifully.”

As I walk around my neighborhood, I see the tree pictured in this blog. Two different storms have cracked off two large branches from the trunk, yet the flowers bloomed magnificently. You too may be broken, but our Lord sees your and even so, treasures the beauty he finds in you.

Seated with Christ in Heavenly Places

God raised us up with Christ and seated us in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6

This is one of those phrases that seems a bit confusing. God states that I am presently seated (not will be seated) in heavenly places in Christ. With my eyes I see one thing, but that is not the reality.  My physical body is here on the earth, yet somehow, I am also seated in heavenly places.

Many churches are good at explaining the way Jesus’s perfect life and sacrificial death paid the price to redeem us from sin, but when we delve into the epistles, we learn in Christ we have not only redemption but many others amazing provisions. But because of the great exchange, Jesus in place of me, I have attained a new position where I am seated with Jesus.

Being seated implies rest or completion. One doesn’t sit down while there is still work to accomplish. Jesus accomplished everything necessary for my salvation and eternal life, so I can rest in the work He has done. It is finished!

Being seated in heavenly realms causes me think of authority. Since we are seated with Christ, we have already been granted authority in Christ. This is not an authority to force our own way but His power to bring about His kingdom and showcase his glory by speaking life into a dying world and employing prayer to tear down enemy strongholds.

Being seated also makes me think of rest. It is hard to sit still when one is anxious. Since we are seated, we can view from a heavenly perspective those sovereign ways of God and not get tossed around by every circumstance in our days.

When we are seated with Jesus, his face is closer and clearer and the things in this world appear smaller and less significant in light of his presence and glory.

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Please Wait

I began reading the gospel of Mark, and I was struck by the number of times the author wrote IMMEDIATELY. In fact, the word euthys occurs 41 times in the book. Things were always happening at a very quick pace. Immediately, the Spirit impelled Jesus to go out into the wilderness.  Immediately, Simon and Andrew left their nets and followed Him. Immediately, the leprosy left a man and he was cleansed. Immediately another man picked up his pallet and went out. Throughout the gospel, someone immediately receives sight or is healed immediately.

Not so with my life. Nothing seems immediate. There is always waiting and more waiting and process. Healing and growth happen over time. Understanding and insight are not gained all at once. Even after I have prayed, the path is not immediately clear.

A few weeks later, I was reading Genesis and Exodus and there was not the same sense of immediacy. Abraham waited until age 100 before the child of God’s promise, Isaac, was born. Joseph was estranged from his family over 20 years. Moses shepherded 40 years in the wilderness before the Lord brought him into the role of deliverer. The people of Israel were slaves in Egypt for 400 years.  In these accounts, I recognize how God is more concerned about refining those he has chosen through crafting character over time.

In the fullness of time, God sent his own son, Jesus. For centuries the people longed for the coming Messiah, yet this event was pre-ordained before the creation of the world.

Why does immediate seem preferable? Why is waiting so difficult? Maybe the problem is that I have a temporal mindset and God is eternal not subservient to time as I understand it. Or perhaps it is because our society has idolized time-management and waiting seems to be doing nothing. Or perhaps longer waiting takes more faith and trust. For all the longing and waiting, we do have one guarantee of immediate.  In the twinkling of an eye…in an instant our earthly bodies will become immortal. When Jesus appears, we will become like him for we shall see Him as He is.  And for that, I eagerly wait.

They Gave Us Instruments

Here’s something you may not know about me: I feel a strong connection with persecuted Christians. Nearly 30 years ago I was introduced to the work of Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs and began giving and praying for these ministries who provided support and resources to believers in areas where faith costs the most. When I chose to be baptized at age 30, part of my testimony was that I had been thinking that if I was following Jesus, baptism as an adult did not seem necessary. However, after hearing a sermon seemingly directly from the mouth of God and receiving an issue of Frontline Faith, my heart was changed. I told those present that I realized baptism is an immense decision in countries where people are not permitted to openly practice their faith. Even though it was easy for me to confess my belief in Jesus, I was reminded that for some the decision could cost their family, their source of employment, their standing in the community, and even their life.

Two books I read early in my life as a believer were God’s Smuggler but Brother Andrew and Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand. The latter was especially difficult to read because of the horrific extent those who confessed Jesus were persecuted. Their unwavering devotion to Christ, still leaves me astonished. One place in Tortured for Christ Wurmbrand states, “They gave us instruments” which compelled the imprisoned believers to praise God and share the good news of Jesus.  He wasn’t alluding to a harp or a hymnal. He referred to each instance of abuse and torture that became a means where they chose to sing praise instead of becoming angry or despondent. In the midst of excruciating and unimaginable pain, these followers of Christ reaffirmed this commitment to Him by lifting voices in thanksgiving and proclaiming the gospel to all.

In even minor difficulties in my life, the tune escaping my mouth sounds more like a whine than a song. It takes a transforming work of God to see hardship as an instrument of God’s love. I am so not there, but I take heart in the witness of persecuted believers who teach me that rejoicing and thanksgiving are possible even in the face of suffering and persecution.

Who is Writing your Story?

Recently, I have become aware that I was reading a counterfeit version of my life story. When I would wake in the middle of the night or have a difficult time during the day, Satan kept voicing a narrative where nothing I do matters. In this account, nothing will ever change and no one really understands. In this sad story, because I am always lacking, so I have no hope of living a fulfilling or wonderful life.

Maybe it is set on auto-play or that story plays more loudly than my Heavenly Father’s quieter whispers. However, no matter how loudly or how many times it is played, this false narrative never becomes the epic story written by the author and perfector of our faith. In the true version I am chosen, loved and unconditionally accepted by God. How can I be helpless or my life be pointless when the same power that raised Jesus from the grave dwells in me? The light of the world shines through me. In God’s account, He works in ways I can’t perceive bearing fruit in the midst a seemingly mundane life. In His book, I am not defined by my failures but by Jesus’ perfection, so my identity is spotless blameless and free. Who I am becoming is more important than anything I do.

It has been established that Satan lies, steals, and kills. The English word devil comes from the Greek diabolos which means slanderer or “back-biter.” That was exactly what was happening when I was forgetful or caught off guard by his strategies. The devil was in the shadows falsely accusing God and slandering the new creation God made me. Since I was listening, I was unfortunately giving credence to these lies. The voice I believed impacted my daily experience. However, the reality has never changed. I was never who Satan claimed and my life will never match his plans for me, but I lost strength and confidence.

I’m getting a little better at recognizing those first lines from the tale of woe Satan weaves. Before I get sucked into the evil plot, I slam that book closed and refuse to read one more line. Which version of your life are you reading and re-reading?