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Words

James 5:12 – “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.”

Why do we feel that we need to use God’s name in vain? Are we trying to verify the intent of our words? Are we trying to confirm our words? Are we trying to sound important? What is it? Why do people think they sound intelligent when using it?

James is reminding us that we need to have honesty and integrity and truthfulness in our words. We shouldn’t have to verify or solidify what we are saying by invoking God’s holy name. No, our words should stand alone. 

But they don’t. Too often we tell that little white lie or stretch the truth just a bit or leave out a few of the details. In other words, we hide the truth and smother our honesty in hopes to make ourself look just a bit better. 

I think we all are guilty of this from time to time. And shame on us for that being the case.

I don’t have any profound advice or words of wisdom. Just this bit of info to offer you -watch your words. They mean something- to everyone, including, and especially, God. 

Matthew 12:36,37 – “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”

No

Matthew 7:11 – “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

It’s the most dreaded word I know – “No.” And what makes it even more unbearable is when there is no explanation. When my kids get told “no”, what is the next word that follows – “why?”  My, oh, my. How many times has that scenario played out in my life!

Sometimes we ask God for things. We ask with the right heart, with the right motive and even with the right attitude. And God still says “no”. The problem is, we don’t always audibly hear Him say “no”. We may not even hear it in our heart. It just feels like God is ignoring us, that He doesn’t care. 

Well, let me reassure you this – if you are a child of God, He NEVER ignores you. You may walk away and do your own thing and chose to ignore Him, but He will never ignore you when you make the choice to repent and turn back to Him. 

You see, some people treat Christ like a genie in a bottle. We rub that “magic lamp” with the bright hopes that we have played the game right to win His favor. People, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t just run to God when you have drama in your life. Relationships are not built on drama alone. 

I think that when I treat Christ like that (and face it, we all do sometimes) He is hurt. It hurts Him for us to mistreat Him. But God is not out to get us when we mistreat Him. He only desires repentance. 

But until we do repent, He may say “no” to some things in our life. And He does this for our good. He wants us back on track and sometimes that means saying “no”. 

I have teenagers. I love them to pieces. But sometimes I have to say “no” and sometimes the only explanation I have is “no”. My kids laugh at and respect what I call my mommy alarms. When those mommy alarms go off, the answer is definitely “no”. Mommy alarms mean that no explanation is needed or will be given because mommy has no idea why I’m saying “no” but the answer is definitely “no”.  

God knows far better than us what we need and when we need it. Sometimes the answer to our request is “no” with no further explanation given. And that’s that. 

We dislike very strongly (hate is such an ugly word) the word “no”. It means we don’t get our way. And we dislike very strongly the fact that we may not get an explanation for the “no”. But here is where trusting comes in – God loves you enough to not give you everything you want and give you only what you need. He did that with Jesus. He does that every moment of every day. 

So the next time “no” comes on your radar, don’t get all bent out of shape. Look at why God might say “no”. See it from different angles and then go with it. Remember this – Father always knows best. 

Perfection

Titus 3:4-7 – “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

I saw a sign today for a church body that said “No perfect people allowed”. I have mixed feelings on this. 

On one hand, I’m thinking “that’s fabulous!”  Sometimes I think non-church goers make excuses in their head for not going to church because they have the perception that churches are filled with people who think they are better than everyone else. Well, not mine! We all know we are sinners saved by grace. We don’t go to church because we think we are perfect. We go because we know we aren’t! We know that the only way we are going to make it through until the next meeting is by soaking up what we can with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We know that personal Bible study is important, but worshipping as a group is important as well. We are continually learning that our righteousness is not in ourself but in Christ alone. 

And then on the other hand, I think of Jesus. He WAS the perfect person. He was all God and all man. He is the only “perfect” person allowed in a body of believers. 

So, the statement “No perfect people allowed” is somewhat correct in that no person physically walking the earth today can or will be perfect. 

I think perfection is a misconceived idea. There is no way that we will ever be complete while walking the sin-filled soil of this earth. (By the way, you do know that perfect means “complete”, right?) Jesus is the only hope we have for the possibility of achieving this goal. It is only a life in Him that opens that door. And even then, that door is in Heaven. So enjoy your imperfect life. With Christ, soon all things will be made complete. 

Rotten bananas 

1 Corinthians 15:33 – “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.”

Sometimes in life, we have to stop and evaluate the people with whom we spend our time. 

Especially as adults, we don’t want to think or consider that our “friends” are really not a positive influence in our life. It’s a lot easier to hand out a bucket of excuses than to say “Yep, these people are the rotten bananas in my fruit salad!”  Admitting that people in your life are a problem is tough because we care about them. We see that we are a positive influence in their life. We know that without us, who knows where they would be. 

But what we fail to realize is the yuck they are bringing into our life each and every day. They bring problems. They bring speech patterns that fail to glorify God. They bring hate and discord. And as much as we think that we can resist these negative influences, eventually they will have an effect on us. If you are around a negative person all the time, there’s a good chance that you too will start to see things negatively. 

Children are especially vulnerable. They just want people to like them. They want to be popular. They want to be accepted by the “cool kids”. But as a parent, it is my responsibility to guard them from times like these. And just like I have to monitor my own relationships, I have to monitor theirs as well. When I see that it may be time to walk away, I need to be there to provide whatever they need to make that tough decision. 

The One thing that we as followers of Christ can give ourself and our children is the gift of having Jesus with us every step of the way. We don’t have to make those determinations ourself. We can let Jesus show is the rotten bananas. We don’t have to have the words to explain our decision. We can allow Jesus to give us what to say in those situations. We don’t have to feel alone when we do walk away. Jesus promised to never leave us or forsake us no matter the age, no matter the situation, no matter the level of hurt. 

So let me encourage you to evaluate your circle and the circle of people surrounding your children. Make sure that the influences in your life are wholesome and bring honor and glory to God. 

The writing in the dirt

John 8:3-11 – “And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”

It is so easy to judge. We see other people; we think we know them and what do we do? We pass judgment. 

I think it is partly human nature to judge others. We see the negative and automatically make an assumption that they obviously don’t deserve our best because of this or that. We hear things and assume the worst. We have a hard time giving people the benefit of the doubt. 

Notice I’m using “we” because I have a problem with this too. I have to consciously make an effort not to judge. And that’s hard. 

We don’t know what Jesus was writing in the dirt this day but we can guess that whatever it was did not make people want to stick around. They tucked their tunics and took off, one by one, when Jesus started writing. They were ready to stone this woman for her sin. They thought they had it all figured out and were going to involve Jesus in this woman’s death. Little did they understand and appreciate that whatever Jesus was writing in the dirt would expose their judgmental attitude. 

What if Jesus started writing in the dirt every time you began judging and accusing people? Would you want all your dirty laundry aired out for everyone to see? I’m guessing no. We want to keep our dirty little sins tucked away and not discussed. 

What I want to encourage you about is this – be careful. Be careful who you accuse. Be careful who you judge. Be careful how you handle dealing with the past of another. We are none perfect. We all have things we would rather forget. Be kind. Be gentle. Be forgiving. Be cautious. Jesus may be writing in the dirt about you. 

Under the cloud

Matthew 28:20b – “and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”

I have been reading a fictional account of a Biblical truth regarding Caleb. It tells of his life and story as it relates to the children of Israel and their exodus from Egypt. While reading it the other day, I couldn’t help but stop and ponder for a moment about how it must have felt the day that the cloud was no longer over the children of Israel. 

Think about it, from the time they left Egypt until they crossed the Jordan river, they had a cloud to provide protection from the hot sun in the day and warmth from the fire within at night. There was an entire generation that grew up under that cloud. They were a generation that knew only of the cloud and its’ movement. They were a generation that had only eaten manna from Heaven. 

Can you imagine what it would have felt like to wake up one morning with none of that there? I tried to find when the cloud left and the manna stopped but didn’t find a specific time. It just seemed to no longer be available. 

Sometimes when we choose to walk away from God, it feels like He is just no longer available. In actuality, it is us that is unavailable. We are the ones who have left Him, not the other way around. 

God never left the children of Israel even when they left Him. He never forgets His promises. He never forgets your name. He always remembers your burdens and successes and faults and highlights. 

So if for some reason or another you feel like you have gotten up and God is…gone, He’s not. You have moved, not Him. 

Search your heart. Identify the sin that has built up the wall that is keeping you from His loving protection and guidance. Tear it down and rest under His cloud. 

Busy. Busy. Busy. 

Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Sunday morning, we had a missionary speak to us. He said something that really hit home for me –

If the Devil can’t make you bad, he will make you busy. 

His sermon focused on the Good  Samaritan. He also looked at the ones that “passed by” and why they may have done so. 

As he was speaking, I began to wonder how many times I “pass by”. How many times do I see a need and just smile and nod and move on? How many times do I hear a cry for help and just turn away? How many times am I too busy to give up a moment for someone else?

Too many, I can tell you that. But how am I supposed to stop everything and attend to a situation or person that I really don’t know how to help? How am I to explain to the person that gets the short end of my time that I just had to do such and such? 

It’s excuses. Every single one of them. Excuses. I have to be at work. I can’t be late for my next client. My kids are waiting on me. My family already has this or that planned. Excuses. 

I’m busy. 

God wants me to be still. He wants me to be compassionate. He wants me to see Him be exalted. If I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I won’t see His exaltation. I won’t see His mighty hand at work. I won’t see the opportunity to show someone else His love. I just won’t see. 

Busyness has a way of taking me away from Him. And the sad thing is that sometimes it’s “spiritual” busyness that takes me away. It’s the teaching three classes in one day that stresses me out in a way that keeps me from serving with a pure heart. And that’s my fault for not saying “no”. But I allow myself to get too busy and I forget to be still. 

So, I want to encourage y’all to be still this week. Don’t let busyness of any sort get in your way of being still before Him. It’s a challenge not only for you, but especially for me. Happy week.