Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Heart's overflow

Matthew 12:34 
"For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."

Twenty two verses.  Twenty two verses with heart and mouth in them.  God knows our hearts and mouths are closely tied to each other.  He also knows which drives which.  Heart filled with love overflows to a mouth expressing love.

Blackie is a cow who is governed by her mouth, she loves to eat!  

Deuteronomy 30:14
No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

God also knows our mouths can say what is not in our hearts, but that it is not truth.  God also knows that more often than not when we speak from the heart it is truth.  For good or ill, our hearts really do overflow into our words.

You know that person, perhaps you shared the mirror this morning, whose mouth twists and even when loving words are said they are covered in venom.  We all have those days where the love just doesn't seem to reach our words, our actions.  We repent, we move back into the heart of God and are renewed.  

Psalm 49:3
My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.

We must spend time in God's word. Meditating with our hearts so that His love can wash us again. And again. There are days when I think my heart is covered in a hard covering of stress, pain, anger, frustration and hurt.  It takes all I have to sit back and ask God to wash it in His love. To melt it all away. From heart to mouth.

Mouths can only say what our hearts feel, what our minds know.  If our hearts are soaked and washed in love then our words will be those of love.  If our hearts are bitter and angry, no matter how we sugar coat them our words are going to be bitter and angry too.

It is much better to admit you are feeling less than loving than to cover loving words with the acid of hate.  It poisons the intent, the words and the relationships.  When our mouths can only speak of hurt, gossip, anger or judgement the hearts that feed them are filled with that as well.  If we take loving words, and cover them in our bitterness, we lose the love.

Think of how much worse this is if we are sharing God's love with that in our hearts!    Our words, no matter how professionally crafted or polished are poisoned still!  A preacher, teacher, parent or friend cannot share God's love when their own hearts are filled with such an overflow of hurt, hate and pain.  We are better to remain silent than to push someone away in our pain.

Psalm 17:10
They close up their callous hearts, and their mouths speak with arrogance.

Callous hearts.  How sad are they!  Not accepting healing, or love, beating smaller and smaller until they are hardened and feeling they are so right in their feelings.  Arrogant mouths.  Ones that say loving words, elicit confidences and use them to hurt because of their own hurting heart.  There are no words you can say or wounds you can bear that cannot be overcome by God.  But brothers and sisters, we are accountable for our words. Those that hurt and those that heal.

I used to have a nick name that explained my bitter heart - acid tongue.  I was not a nice person when I spoke.  I could reduce someone to tears easily.  If I chose, and sadly back then I chose often.  I was proud too because I didn't gossip.  I cut. I demeaned. I drew in and then pushed people away.  My heart was hurting so badly all I could think of was to hurt others as much as they hurt me.

God gave me a gift of words.  I misused it.  Instead of taking it away, He changed my heart instead.  I got a new heart for God.  I repented, was redeemed and when I have a day, a minute or an hour of wanting to hurt back I remember I can choose not to.  Just because I'm feeling that way doesn't mean I have the right to bring hurt to others.    God wants us to be genuine, to live from the heart and share from the mouth, to govern our minds and above all love. Love. Grace is the ultimate expression of love.  Ours back is faith. Faith.

What does your heart overflow with?  Where is your overflow leading your mouth?  If we know what our treasure is by where our hearts are, what is filling your heart today? Is it love? A desire open the gates of grace? Are you hurting and angry? Do you feel no one understands and that lashing out, even with 'truth' is your only option?    

Do you think you are alone?  You are not.  Do you think no one understands?  There are those who do.  Do you think you are right and justified? Let's pray on that, together, and see what God's answer is.  Do you want to overflow love instead of tired, frustrated, angry and confused?  Brothers and sisters, I do too!  Let's pray together!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Are you offended?

"And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:17)

Have you ever thought about this?  Someone being offended by our faith.  It happens, people feel defensive or feel they have been hurt by a Christian and that because of the actions of a person they are justified in being offended by Jesus.  Perhaps they are offended by a Bible they never read. 

What is there to be offended by in Jesus?  Plenty!  He did exactly what a good Jewish boy and a potential King should never do.  He got down, and into the mud, with people who could do nothing for Him!  What could a leper, a bleeding woman, a tax collector, soldier, sailor or spy do for the Son of God?  Nothing.  That, for people who measure success on an earthly scale are offended by this.  They were so offended that they crucified Him!  They were so offended they entrapped Him, lied about Him and stole from Him.

Offending people in power can be dangerous. It can be deadly.  Offend an old lady, a homeless person or a child you don't lose much. At least not in human terms. But to Jesus, who counts each hair and sparrow, you can lose it all.  You've lost it all when you don't treat the "least of them" as you would Him.

Who was offended by Jesus?  Many were.  Many in positions of power and many who were not.  They were offended that He didn't come as the King they wanted.  They were offended that He healed on the Sabbath.  They were offended when He chose the poor, unclean, crooked and young. 

If it was a school yard, and we were picking teams for a game, Jesus would have picked all of us last choices first!  That gives me shivers!  Athlete or leper?  You know who He choose!  King or poor widow?  She got called first!  Spinster sisters, a dead guy risen again, a former prostitute and more!  The little kids and their Mama's.  The orphans and the sick.  What a dream team!

Who could be offended?  Anyone who thought that Jesus should be what they wanted instead of what they needed!

Think of the people who are not offended by Jesus.  Those who know the peace of grace, the relief of redemption and the safety of love.  Are you offended by Jesus?  Were you ever trapped in the mindset that Jesus was offensive because of imperfect people?  I so often hear people speaking of our faith, of our Lord, in ways that are cruel and filled with hurt.  These souls have not known grace and love and are offended.  Not by something they know, and are justified in being offended by, but in something they do not know.  That they have not had a chance to be shown.  They haven't seen our faith in action.  

Blessed are those who are not offended by me.  Not ashamed. Not afraid. Not confused.  No Jesus said Not offended!    When you read about what Jesus taught and what  Jesus did are you proud or offended?  Is there something in the gospel that you are uncomfortable sharing because it offends you?  Have you thought about it...what stops you from sharing the love and grace that showers us from His hand?

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Centurion's Faith

The Faith of the Centurion
 5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
 7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
 8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
 10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

Hey! You made it!  Glad you continued to scroll all the way down here.  This story of the Centurion has been on my mind for a few days.  What an example of utter faith!  Not just the 'trained' faith of a professional soldier who trusts the orders he receives and trusts the orders he gives will be followed.  This is more, this is deeper!

Who could have been less deserving of Jesus' healing than the servant of a hated Roman?  Most Jews despised Gentiles and loathed Romans.  They wanted Jesus to be for them. On their terms.  God had many other greater plans than that.

The centurion knows he is not worthy.  Soldier, leader and believer.  He could be killed by his own command for his faith...and yet he was asking for a healing for someone of his household.  Not a family member, not a friend but a servant.  This man's heart shone brighter than his breastplate.  He stood on the street and asked in total faith that Jesus would heal with a word.  A word.

The centurion knows he is not worthy.  Uncircumcised, eating 'unclean foods' and a blooded soldier.  He knows this.  He also knows he is totally and completely able to ask for this!  He knows it.  His faith is just as valid as that of any other who followed and continues to follow Jesus.  The world says he is not worthy, God says he is.

Jesus was amazed. AMAZED!  Our Lord was amazed.  Not that he was asked for this. Not amazed that it was a Roman Centurion.  He was AMAZED at this man's FAITH! His FAITH that required NO EVIDENCE.  No ACTION beyond a word.  His faith showed everyone that faith doesn't have boundaries.

Jesus was amazed.  He took the opportunity to remind his disciples that God's table would have room for all who believed, and that your faith is what bought your seat!  Not your genealogy or family name.  Faith. Faith.  The faith of a Centurion.  

The Centurion saw the worst in people, saw blood and war, horror and felt fear.  He knew the worst the world could do.  Was probably ordered to be a part of it.  And yet he came, in faith, to his Lord. And he asked. And he believed. And he needed only a word.

Can you be like the Centurion?  Can you ask God and then trust His word?  Stop asking for signs and wonders.  Start seeking earnestly and accepting that God will have done what you need the moment you asked.  Just because we don't get the answer we want doesn't mean God didn't answer!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Live, don't die alive

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13

Have you ever really thought about this verse?  Really thought about it?  About how it could mean so much more?  The laying down your life means more than dying.  

Laying down your life for a friend...what could that mean?

Jesus did it for us. With great grace.  In our fallible and human way can we try to do less?

What in your life can be laid down for a friend?  Your expectations? Your need to judge or be right. Perhaps you need to lay down the need for them to 'pay you back' or 'set things right'.  Maybe it is bigger than that!  

What if laying down your life meant laying down a dream?  Bending down to help someone stand up again?  What if it meant leaving behind the life you made for the one God created for you?

After reading my Bible and praying I believe that there is more to this verse than our physical death.  It is our physical life!  The food in your freezer (or garden).  The extra clothes you've been keeping.  The LIFE you build and cling to needs to be let go in love.  The thing you want to sell, maybe needs to be shared?  That desire of your heart should be surrendered to the desire of God's will.

Our lives are meant to be lived fully and lived full of grace and that requires living. Not dying. No in acting like we've died because we are giving. We need to face life full of love, and joy and in that loving joy share our lives.  Our time, our bread and wine (figuratively and literally).  

Do you understand why?  It isn't ours to start with!  God provides us with everything we need, we provide the loving labour to work for His kingdom.  It is HIS anyway.  Why are we so selfish with what isn't ours?  Share a smile, a hug, a quick text. 

Lay down your reputation and speak up for someone. Lay down your life to show someone living grace.  Speak up for people trying again and again.  Speak up for those with no voice, no hope and be the vessel of God's hope, love and voice.  Lay down your uniform of the day.  Bare that soul down to the laugh lines and fearful moments.  God wants our lives to be lived. 

Do you want a life of 'wish I had' or a life of 'glad I did'?  

It is a sad and horrific fact that many saints have died for Jesus.  But it is an even sadder and more horrific fact that many thousands more have failed to live on day for Him.  Millions cry for relief, some of them are in your home, your family, your church.  

Willing to die for our faith has long been held as a 'gold standard' but I truly believe the real challenge in laying down our lives is to continue doing so, and finding in the sacrifice that we begin to live the life God wanted us to live all along!

Love without shame. Show grace with radical freedom.  Don't stop believing that God  has something amazing waiting for us to step towards Him in utter faith.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Guest Post: A view on faith

My sweet husband has agreed to write a guest post for me here. He has a blog which is waiting it's first post...maybe this will encourage him to get it going!

So Shanyn has been after me a while to write a blog post. I have my own blog called Duct Tape and Jesus but I have not written anything there yet. I am hoping to write a little more in the future. Life does however seem to creep into the spare time I have and my writing seems to take a back seat. That and I type way slower than I’d like, so sometimes moving on to a project that requires less typing and more hammering is easier.

However when I am in the middle of those other projects, my mind is always working. I am always thinking of stuff. Oh sure the stuff on my mind is always changing, I have projects upcoming, projects completed, family stuff, old stuff, and new stuff.  I think about lots of things, these things range from the straightness of our fences, manure and fertilizer calculations, I think about woodworking projects, restoring my old trucks, I think about me being a dad and wonder if I am doing a good job, and I wonder if I am being a good husband.  My mind drifts all over depending on what I am doing. Shanyn kind of laughs at me, I have been known to walk out of the house saying I am going to get something from the garage and I walk out an hour later carrying a gate for a corral. She just shakes her head and laughs but she knows I have a plan and a use for the gate, somewhere.

Looking back I have had a lot of time to think by myself.  I have spent countless hours moving buckets of gravel and dirt, countless miles driving back roads, countless hours looking at the changing seasons through the window of a tractor.

In all that time I am trying to remember a time if I did not believe or have faith that there was a God. I can’t remember a time if I didn’t believe. Is that strange? I am not sure. I have to be a man of faith. I am a dad, a husband, and all the other things I am in life. I am a farmer so I have to have faith.  There is so much in life that I think science cannot explain fully. I am involved in agricultural research as my real job but we also have a farm. Farming requires a lot of faith, we plant seeds, fertilize and wait on feed our cows and hope the calving goes well and that the wolves or bears don’t sneak away with a calf.

I have to have faith that I am being a good dad and a good husband. I am planting seeds I hope that will produce a harvest later. A harvest of good faith, integrity, compassion, and all the things I hope will be seen in my son.

It is all based on faith. What a word.  Simple, powerful, and yet not so simple.  Faith. How can you not have faith when you are living in this world? There is so much around us that I think requires faith.  We have to believe we are doing right as Christian people and we have to have faith that when we pray that God hears our prayers, we may not always get the answer right away but He has a plan. We have to have faith that God will guide us and protect us. Much the same as we hope our livestock will be protected. We plant the seeds in our kids and in our community and we hope that they will produce a harvest. A harvest of goodness, hope and love from the seeds we plant. Faith that we have done the right things and that maybe God was guiding us in our actions.

We are fed by faith both our bodies and our soul. Faith in the fact that God will grow our crops to feed our bodies and faith in God that as we pray and study the word he will feed our soul.  I thank God for the blessings in my life and all the answered and unanswered prayers. I am part of his plan and I have to have faith in that.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Ruins of Babel

In Genesis God saw how the sinful and willful nature of man could push people to very ungodly heights as seen at the Tower of Babel.  God decided, wisely, that human kind, wasn't really mature enough yet to work together.  They had nothing to resolve their sin issues. Sin issues.

It isn't about the actually sinning so much as it is the addictive desire to sin.  God knowing us, still loving us, saw that steps needed to be taken.  No flooding. No famine. No war. 

Simply, He made it impossible to communicate with each other.  The builders couldn't build together because they couldn't communicate with each other.  The language barrier left them scattered and the tower in ruins.

Reading those verses again today brought me to a place where I imagined the churches of today standing in the ruins of Babel.  Striving to 'speak the right language' by seeking it in human places we are missing the Corner Stone and the unifying voice of Jesus.

Working so hard to reach the groups by speaking their language I fear so many churches are not really remembering that Jesus did that work already.  The language is love.  We don't need Babel because Jesus repaired the bridge to heaven.  We don't need Babel because instead of human tongues we can speak universally in love.

John 13:35
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

They will know us by our love. 

Not by our networking savvy, not by our multilingual talents, not even by our certificates and degrees, diplomas or parchments. Not by the version of our Bible or the number of hymns we know. Not by the name dropping or brand wearing. Not by the number of children, parishioners, churches or viewers.

By our love.

While our churches, and so many people, stand wearily amongst the ruins of Babel, vainly trying to lift man made bricks to heaven Jesus beckons. In love.  Utter love. Die for you love. Make it all right forever love.

The bricks we use to build our way to a better tower are in direct opposition to the work Jesus has done for us.  He built it already.  That work is done!  There is a new covenant.  One based upon something so totally radical that our Babel tower building DNA fights it and that one thing is grace. We can't do it.

Sorry folks, but no one is building a stairway, tower, book stack or growing a beanstalk to heaven.  That work is done. Jesus did it. Instead of standing in the ruins of Babel trying to find the 'right words' to preach, lead or guide people shouldn't we be loving them?  

How are some ways we can drop those bricks and start loving?  (and I said how instead of what for a very specific reason - I want us to do them. Not just do a list of 'what's but actually decide on a movement of 'how' instead!)

It is the start of a brand new year. Why don't we declare it a special Jubilee and dispense love and bask in grace?  Immerse ourselves in the most radical thing of all - reaching out in real love.  I don't need to speak to show love, I don't have to spend a dollar or a dime. Love is part of our fibre and in our every breath. Sin fights against love because love can't be selfish.  Grace lets the love flow. Imperfect and messy.

Leave that ruin behind and start living and loving our faith.  They will know us by our love.