“Speak Life”

(Mark 5: 35-43) 35 While he was still talking, some people came from the leader’s house and told him, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any more?” 36 Jesus overheard what they were talking about and said to the leader, “Don’t listen to them; just trust me.” 37-40 He permitted no one to go in with him except Peter, James, and John. They entered the leader’s house and pushed their way through the gossips looking for a story and neighbors bringing in casseroles. Jesus was abrupt: “Why all this busybody grief and gossip? This child isn’t dead; she’s sleeping.” Provoked to sarcasm, they told him he didn’t know what he was talking about. 40-43 But when he had sent them all out, he took the child’s father and mother, along with his companions, and entered the child’s room. He clasped the girl’s hand and said, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, get up.” At that, she was up and walking around! This girl was twelve years of age. They, of course, were all beside themselves with joy. He gave them strict orders that no one was to know what had taken place in that room.

Did you ever hear that the strongest muscle in the human body is the tongue?  Most of us have heard so at some point, and though this little “fun fact” ins’t exactly true, the tongue is pretty fascinating when you think about it.  It can twist, it can bend, it can cup, and it’s often used playfully to blow raspberries and to make silly faces.  Interestingly enough, it isn’t just one muscle — it’s a network of several muscles, giving it the ability to bend and flex in many different ways, enabling us to speak, eat, drink, and swallow.  What is most amazing though, is that the tongue NEVER TIRES!  Think about that for a minute.  The one thing that is probably the most difficult for us to control and tame is also the one part of our bodies that never grows weary.  You know, much of what happens in the physical realm of our lives mirrors what is going on spiritually, so it does make sense that our tongues can get totally out of control when we don’t monitor it properly.  It’s like an annoying toy with brand new batteries (yeah, I was thinking of the Energizer Bunny too!) — eventually you’d have to stop being lazy and actually make the effort to reach over and physically turn that thing off! 

There is power in what we say.  The Bible tells us that, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”  (Proverbs 18:21)  Our words verbalize what we are already thinking and feeling.  That is why we so often find ourselves with a “foot” in our mouths — because eventually what we truly believe comes spewing out, and it can be hurtful or embarrassing much of the time.  My grandmother used to tell me that there is always a little truth to every joke…you know, when you say something a that’s little mean and you quickly bandage it with a “just kidding” or a wink.  Be honest, if you didn’t think it…even just for a moment…it could never come out of your mouth.  Luke 6:45 says,  “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. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”  Your words may not always be the truth, but they’re definitely your truth…reflecting what you think, what you feel, and who you are inside. 

The bottom line is that we are Christians, striving to live our lives as a reflection of Jesus, and as such we have to monitor what we say very closely.  When Jairus’ daughter died, all of the people surrounding his home began to chatter and gossip and speak death into Jairus’ ears.  Their words were a reflection of their measures of faith.  Jesus never once said that the girl was dead and that he would raise her from such.  Instead, He just spoke words of life.  What we speak into the lives of others can be life-changing.  A simple compliment can turn someone’s entire day around for the better…life.  A cutting remark can take root and hang on for a lifetime…death.   We must speak life, as much and as often as we possibly can!  We each have a powerful tool that never gets tired, so let’s use it the way our Lord intended us to— by confessing our sins and praying, by singing praises, by telling others of His love and faithfulness, and by encouraging one another with truth and love.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  (Ephesians 4:29)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I don’t ever want to be the Debbie Downer, busybody gossip standing outside with a casserole.  Instead, help me to bridle my tongue when it gets to flapping, so that I can instead be a Peter, a James, or a John — full of faith and life-giving words.  I want to be on the inside with You, Lord, where healing and life take place.  Amen.    

“I Will Trust in You!”

(Psalm 105:39-41) 39 He spread out a cloud as a covering, and a fire to give light at night. 40 They asked, and he brought them quail; he fed them well with the bread of heaven. 41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed like a river in the desert.

For the lonely, for the lost; when you struggle to believe; when you feel forgotten, discouraged and defeated; when your money’s run out and your hope is spent…

For the childless woman with a mother’s heart, for the widow, for the bereaved; when you wonder why; when sadness overwhelms your heart…

For the broken family, for the abused and neglected; when you’re numb and your faith is dead; when guilt and shame have crushed your spirit…

(Psalm 139: 1-5) 1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

…the Lord knows.

Sometimes you have to take a look in the rearview mirror, to gain some retrospective.  I’m sure if you were to ask the Israelites in the midst of their journey through the wilderness how they felt about life, they probably wouldn’t have had much positive feedback.  They were, in fact, dealing with crisis after crisis, misery upon misery (or so it seemed to them).  When their exodus began, they were exhilarated by their deliverance and the miracles they had seen take place in order to set them free.  They set out toward the promised land much like a child sets out on a foot race…full speed ahead.  However, we all know what eventually happens to that eager runner.  Thirst, exhaustion, discouragement and frustration all seem to set in at once.  That’s when he is faced with the choice to either dread the long road ahead and quit, or to look back on what he has conquered thus far and finish what he started. 

For the Israelites, there were MANY stops and starts as they navigated their way toward something that, at times, I’m sure was hard to believe or trust.  Looking forward, it had to be unsettling to see no end to the struggles.  Thousands of years later, here we are, children of God, dealing with the same issue.  Because we are human, because our vision is limited and we cannot see the entire scope of what God is doing in our lives, we have to depend on our faith to keep us moving.  Looking back on the trials, the Israelites were able to recount what the Lord had done to sustain them. 

A good friend once told me to record my prayers (both great and small) in a journal and to go back after a year or so and allow myself to be encouraged and amazed at just how many of them were answered.  It doesn’t happen, rarely ever, the way that we would have imagined or hoped for it to…the answer, I mean…because you know what?  Sometimes the answer is a no, or the dreaded, “we’ll see.”  In our impatience and petulance, instead of forging on in faith, trusting the Creator of the world, we let our human”ness” bring us to a halt. 

In our loneliness we say, “I’m forgotten.” 

In our financial distress we declare, “This is hopeless.”

In our loss we cry out, “I can’t go on!”

In our shame we whisper, “I’m worthless.” 

But the word of the Lord says this:  16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4: 16-18)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when I look back on my life I see Your hand in all things, the joy and pain alike, and because of Your faithfulness I will continue to trust in You.  Amen. 

“Rainy Days & Mondays”

(Numbers 6: 24-26, NLT)

The Priestly Blessing:

24 ‘May the Lord bless you

    and protect you.

25 May the Lord smile on you

    and be gracious to you.

26 May the Lord show you his favor

    and give you his peace.’

Well…it’s Monday again, y’all.  I know that a lot of people hate and dread Mondays, because they don’t want to return to work and get back into the “race” of things, but I must admit…I usually like Mondays.  I guess because they usher in a new week full of different challenges and problems to solve,  they present various opportunities for me to start over and do better, and — as an educator — they mean I get to see my kiddos again (yes, I really do miss them over the weekends), and I do love my job.  However, the closer to the end of the school year that we get, the harder it is for me to devote myself to the routine and to get pumped up about Monday mornings!  I get summer fever.  I think of my parents and going to stay with them for two weeks after school gets out, seeing my old friends, hugging the necks of people that I miss and cherish dearly, and I seem to spend each Sunday night wishing for another day off…and another…and another…

Maybe for you it’s simply a Monday thing.  But maybe it’s more than that.  Maybe something you once loved — your spouse, your family life, your time with the Lord — has become stagnant…lifeless…something you no longer enjoy.  Many of us enter our adult lives under the false impression that things will always be as good as they are in the beginning.  We think we will always look at our spouse and get that knot in our throats.  We think our little newborns couldn’t possibly ever become sources of anxiety and exasperation.  We think that our walks of faith will always be enveloped by the glow and excitement that we feel when we first come to know Christ.  But…BUT…the truth is that all of these pieces of our lives get turned around from time to time and sometimes feel as if they don’t quite fit.

All of which to say, even when we love our lives and all of the responsibilities that come with living them, we all need some encouragement at times.  We all need to know that when things get harried and feel out of control, when we long for the next season of our lives to occur, and when we start to feel the urge to give up on something that we love, there is hope for peace and blessing.

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to do better with encouragement.  Instead of always jumping straight to advice, why not simply speak blessing over one another?  Instead of standing by and watching others crumble, and then wondering what in the world happened, why not speak blessing into their lives when we see the struggle?  Our words are powerful, and should be used carefully and with love. 

So, whether you simply have a case of the “Mondays” or you’re dealing with the turmoil and stress of a significant part of your life, I leave you again with this blessing that Aaron prayed over the Israelites. 

‘May the Lord bless you

    and protect you.

May the Lord smile on you

    and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his favor

    and give you his peace.’

Let’s make a united effort, starting today — this Monday — to lift one another up as we face life together in Christ.  We all find out, rather quickly, that life isn’t always manageable.  We all get overwhelmed and discouraged from time to time, and as the time of Christ’s return draws nearer, we simply have to love each other better.

23 We must hold tightly to the hope that we say is ours. After all, we can trust the one who made the agreement with us. 24 We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. 25 Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.  (Hebrews 10: 23-25, CEV)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, if I am to truly proclaim You as my Lord and Savior, then help me truly practice Your love in all that I do.  Help me encourage where I see despair and fatigue.  Help to me speak blessing over others, because I know that through my words your love can and will shine through when I am committed to Your ways.  Amen.

“Come Together”

(Psalm 65:8)

Those who live at the ends of the earth

    stand in awe of your wonders.

From where the sun rises to where it sets,

    you inspire shouts of joy.

With everything that is on television, in the movies, and plastered all over the covers of every magazine and newspaper that we see on display, it is easy to fall under the impression that we Christians are a dwindling population.  We are under scrutiny, no doubt, and when we look beyond our local surroundings, things look somewhat bleak.  I cannot speak for anyone else, but I have personally felt discouraged at times, in light of the overall decline of morality and of the Christian influence on the world.  It can often seem that for every Godly display of integrity and love, there are ten more instances of failure or of people who are turning from Christ.  Much of what we see tells us that, to the rest of the world, we are a joke. 

I guess if you look at things from a “churchy” or “religious” standpoint then yes, Christians have become somewhat of a travesty.  In many ways, the church has failed it’s God-given mission.  People do mock the way that we seem to have assimilated — how we are no longer set apart, and have melted into the world…trying not to make waves…trying to find a way to fit.  We seem to have forgotten that we must be square pegs, so to speak.  So, when we look around and feel outnumbered, that problem essentially falls on our own shoulders. 

But…beyond what we see, apart from what the world tries to feed into us, the fact still remains that we are NOT a fading flower!  Pew Forum reports, “As of 2010, Christianity was by far the world’s largest religion, with an estimated 2.2 billion adherents, nearly a third (31%) of all 6.9 billion people on Earth.”  Just because you cannot see them in the act of worship, just because you don’t know their names, does not mean that there aren’t people at every corner of this earth shouting the praises of our very same Father God.  His goodness knows no end — no boundaries.  His love endures forever!  It crosses over language barriers, it pierces into the darkest places and hearts, and it finds its way into every part of this world.  In world that He created, there is no keeping God on the outside.  Hearts all over the universe yearn to be one with their Creator, and one day they shall. 

21 “…For there is no other God but me,

a righteous God and Savior.

    There is none but me.

22 Let all the world look to me for salvation!

    For I am God; there is no other.

23 I have sworn by my own name;

    I have spoken the truth,

    and I will never go back on my word:

Every knee will bend to me,

    and every tongue will declare allegiance to me.” 

(Isaiah 45: 21-23)

As time progresses, we know that all who live in Christ will face persecution, but we will not be snuffed out or dissolved.  We cannot let the enemy use his wiles to deceive us into thinking otherwise.  Instead, we must guard our hearts and minds, and we have to use our greatest weapon to combat these lies — God’s truth — His word.  Remember also, and be encouraged, that there is strength in numbers.  We can’t allow ourselves to be divided by religious and denominational customs and rules.  Instead, let us try to breach the barriers, to tear down these man-built walls, because where there are just two or three gathered in the name of Jesus, He is there also — with us…for us.  Imagine what the unity of 2.2 billion souls could accomplish.  From the dawn of time, to the end of days, He will be praised and adored. 

So when you feel like this world has gone to pot, when you feel alone in your workplace or home, and when you feel like the world is laughing at what you hold most dear, know that this is a lie from the enemy of your soul.  We are not alone.  We are not few.  We will not be shaken.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, sometimes I need to be reminded just how great You truly are, and that there is no tongue that will not eventually confess that You are Lord.  Help me to stay encouraged in knowing that no matter how spread out we may be, those of us who love and serve You are great in number.  Help us to pull together in unity, across borders and limits, to make Your name and your love known to all.  Amen.

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