Archive for April, 2011

26
Apr
11

it’s snowing down south

Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s snowing down south”? Growing up in my culture it was a way of one lady saying to another that her slip was hanging down below the hemline of her dress. (Bet you’re wondering where I’m going with this one!)

The fact of the matter is all of us give our innermost values and beliefs away on a daily basis by our attitudes, actions and words. Jesus tells us in Luke 6:45, “A good person produces good deeds from a good heart, and an evil person produces evil deeds from an evil heart. Whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” NLT

No matter how hard we try to camouflage our hurts, our disappointments, our insecurities, our anger, our bitterness or our prejudices, sooner or later they’re going to slip out and give anyone around us with any discernment a view into our heart. Hebrews 12:15 warns us that we must stay on constant guard against any root of bitterness springing up in our hearts. When we spot one we must immediately pull it out to keep it from taking over and choking out the good fruit the Holy Spirit is trying to produce in us.

Jesus said the converse of this is true as well. If we are abiding in the Vine (John 15:5), he will produce in us a bumper crop of what the Scripture calls the fruit of the Spirit – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22, 23). As a result, our lives will be filled with kind acts, joyful attitudes, loyal behavior and edifying conversation.

So what’s showing in your life? What’s evident to all those who have regular interaction with you? Is it spiritual and emotional health and maturity, or is it broken, wounded and hurtful behavior that speaks to the spiritual and emotional brokenness that you need to allow God to heal?

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19
Apr
11

to turn a phrase

I love a well turned phrase. To me there is something beautiful and awe inspiring about a sequence of well chosen words that accurately and succinctly communicate a thought, idea or a set of circumstances. I can meditate on a well turned phrase much like an art critic can gaze at a masterpiece for hours on end reflecting on the subtle shading and intricate use of color.

I have heard many well turned phrases that have become favorite quotes and maxims for living, but perhaps one of the best turned phrases ever uttered were the words of the angel at the empty tomb: “He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:6)

Now you might be thinking, “Well, no doubt that was a grand announcement of historic proportion, but I’m not sure why it would qualify as a well turned phrase.” The reason I would consider it as the latter is due to the very next thing the angel says: “Remember how he told you.”

The statement by the angel is summation of everything Jesus ever said. It is a bold declaration that Jesus was the consummate truth teller. To borrow from the words of the Old Testament, “Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19) Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 1:20,21, that all the promises of God are confirmed and forever established by Christ’s resurrection. Much like the well prepared courtroom litigator who sums her case up in a succinct phrase or a catchy rhyme that jurors can’t get out of their subconscious (“If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit.” Remember that one?), so the angel reminds his listeners that if Jesus can be trusted to keep his word regarding something as monumental as the resurrection from the dead He can be trusted with the smallest details of our lives.

12
Apr
11

ten righteous

Genesis 18:32 Finally, Abraham said, “Lord, please do not get angry; I will speak but once more! Suppose only ten are found there?” And the LORD said, “Then, for the sake of the ten, I will not destroy it.” NLT

I don’t know if you’ve read this story before but it is pretty impressive. Abraham probably hadn’t read “The New Art of Negotiating: How to Close Any Deal” (by Gerald Nierenberg, Henry H Calero) seeing as it hadn’t been written yet, but he must have been some kind of camel trader!

A quick synopsis: The Lord comes and pays a visit to Abraham at his tent in the wilderness to renew his promise that Abraham and Sarah were, in fact, going to have a baby boy. As the visit draws to a close the Lord gets up to leave and says to his traveling companion, “Because Abraham and I are such close friends, I guess we should tell him where we’re off to and what we’re going to do there.” The Lord proceeds to tell Abraham that because Sodom and Gomorrah had become such a corrupt culture he was going to destroy the two cities. This was a concern to Abraham because he had a nephew named Lot who lived there with his family. Abraham began his negotiation by reminding God of how merciful he (God) was and asked, “If there were fifty righteous people there, would you destroy those cities?” If you read the story you find that Abraham talks God down from fifty all the way to ten but, unfortunately, not ten righteous people could be found so God sends an angel to rescue Lot and his family before the city is destroyed.

The point of the story? Christ-followers have always been called to bless their culture and have a redemptive impact upon it. There is coming a day when all will have to account for the things they have done (Romans 14:12) but, up until that point, we are to be salt that influences and preserves (Matthew 5:13) and light that gives meaning and brings understanding (Matthew 5:14). The Apostle Paul gives this example in 1 Corinthians 7:14: “For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” NIV

What are you doing through your words, attitudes, giving and influence to change your culture for the good and invite God’s blessing? Just as ten righteous people would have spared Sodom and Gomorrah, what could the church do to bring repentance, reconciliation and restitution to our culture if we made ourselves available to God?

05
Apr
11

flattery or worship?

I hate to admit it, but I found myself trying to flatter God recently rather than genuinely worshipping him. “What’s the difference” you ask?

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines flattery this way: “excessive and insincere praise especially that given to further one’s own interest”.

The Scripture concurs. Psalm 12:2 warns that, “flattering lips speak with deception” (NIV), and Jude 1:16 reveals our true motive for flattering others; we do so, “for the sake of gaining an advantage”. (NAS) The Hebrew word most often translated flattery literally means “smooth” and conveys the idea of being “a slick talker”, or, buttering people up to get what we want.

So, back to my situation. I was beginning my day with a time of worship. I had read the Scripture and a devotional guide and then it was time to pray. My plan was to pray my way through the Lord’s Prayer. I began with “may your name be honored”. As I began to tell the Father how wonderful he was I realized I was simply mouthing words I had used countless times before and that some of my recent actions and attitudes did not bear witness to the fact that I believed what I was saying. It was as if the Holy Spirit stopped me mid-sentence and asked, “Do you really think I am that gullible?” I was reminded that God wants those who worship him to do so in spirit and in truth (John 4:23, 24).

There is a lot of discussion as to what that really means but, based on a story found in Isaiah 6, here is what I know for sure – – True worship gives us a fresh glimpse of God (verse 1). As we continue to press in, worship gives us a fresh glimpse of ourselves, as God sees us (verse 5). If we go to the next level, worship continues the process of transformation in our lives (verses 6, 7), and that should be the goal of every Christ-follower.