Measuring Your Words

“The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63)

When I was a child my mom taught us to measure our words. During arguments and disagreements with my siblings Mom would say to us, “Remember “A soft answer turns away wrath”. (Proverbs 15:1) She was teaching us to measure our words because our words either produced further trouble or brought peace.

In the same or similar manner our life is a measure of the words we use. By our words we either draw people to us or by our words we drive them away. Once we become a committed follower of Jesus our life’s purpose and worldview changes. Our life goal is to “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:1)

Oswald Chambers put it best when he said, “We are not saved only to be instruments for God, but to be His sons and daughters. He does not turn us into spiritual agents but into spiritual messengers, and the message must be a part of us.“(My Utmost for His Highest Devotional, Day 29)

As followers of Jesus we become the mouthpiece, and to some extent, the face of God. We are an extension of His life. That’s the reason that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit at salvation. We then are subsequently filled with the Holy Spirit as we live, serve and follow God’s will. To those we come in contact with, we are the voice of God. We no longer have the permission to “speak our mind’ without measuring our words. We can either speaks words that give life or words that quench the spirit of God. Our words can either reveal the nature of God or reveal the nature of the flesh.

Summary

We are living in a time of stress and conflict. The daily news channels reveal stress in every area of our culture. The only voice that can bring healing and resolve conflict is the voice of God. If there was ever a time that our country is poised to hear truth it is now.

The words that Jesus spoke were “life and Spirit”. When we are walking in Christ our words can also become “life and Spirit”. As we fully surrender our life to His will we will be surprised how often our words become “light and salt” to a needy soul. Learn to measure your words by allowing the Holy Spirit to be your daily word sensor – then you will be sure to always say the right words that will bring comfort, wisdom and healing.

 

 

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Depth of Our Love

“I tell you the truth, everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, the Son of Man will also acknowledge in the presence of God’s angels. (Luke 12:8 NLT)

The above verse is not just about publicly declaring our faith, but its about the depth of our love and commitment. Our love for God must transcend the expression of a vocal witness because it goes beyond mere words.

The depth of our love is measured by the inward response to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. It’s not enough to just have our “elevator speech” ready when someone is inquiring about our faith. We must be willing and ready to speak from the depth of our personal fellowship with the Lord.

It’s is not about knowing Bible facts and memorized witnessing plans. It is about being able to reach into the well of our transformed heart and pour out living water to those we encounter. It’s being transparent to the point that what we share comes from the depths of our spiritual well. Our heart is full and running over because we have been drinking from God’s well and passionately seeking after Him.

Drinking from God’s well helps us deal with the deception about ourselves. That’s the reason searching the scriptures is so important. The Word becomes a two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), it wounds us, it reveals our weakness and exposes our self-centeredness.

The Lord desires to move us beyond the need to openly declare that we are “just an ole sinner saved by grace”. This declaration sounds spiritual but it can be a barrier that hinders us from allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal the deception about ourselves.

“Confessing me before men” is more than a verbal acknowledgment, it’s evidence that we are letting go of our life in order that Christ’s life may be prevalent. This is God’s intention for His children, that we manifest Christ’s life to the world. This is the element that causes the world to recognize that there is something different about us, something that attracts them to our quality of life.

Bottom Line

How do we make sure that our life is manifesting Christ’s life? Here are three things that may help us toward that goal.

Meditate regularly on the Scripture, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal our sin and our attitude. – I know, its not PC to talk about sin. But that’s the unique aspect of Scripture, it’s ability to expose our sin. Often it’s not the big sins that make us stumble, but those little sins that cause us to grow cold toward the Holy Spirit’s prompting and leadership. The Scripture, properly applied, penetrates our sensitivities and enables us to destroy the barriers that keep us from intimacy with the Father.

Intentional and targeted prayer – This is moving beyond the typical believer’s prayer of “bless me and my family and watch over and protect us today”. It’s prayer that is focused on asking the Lord to reveal our self-centeredness, selfishness, pride, anger, and most of all, our level of unbelief.

Trust God – Trusting God is a faith issue. Do we really believe that God is greater than our situation or dilemma? Do we believe that He can deliver us when we have no way out or no options left?

When we are depressed, can we believe that we can cast our care and depression on Him and He will change our thinking and deliver us from our depression? The answer is a resounding YES!

“Trust in the Lord with your whole heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

If we let God’s Word shape our spiritual character, and we develop a prayer life that seeks to act like a search light on our soul, then we will develop a depth of trust that will carry us through every situation.

 

Seeing God in All Things

Over twenty years ago I had the privilege of spending a couple of weeks in China. While there I was taken by one of the Chinese church leaders to visit several underground house churches. When I began to teach these dear brothers and sisters I felt an overwhelming sense of unworthiness. Just the act of meeting together for a Bible study was risky. For me the risk was minimal. I would merely be taken to the airport and deported if caught by the officials. For them it meant years of jail time and multiple beatings and torture.

While I was visiting various house churches, another group had the privilege of visiting the famous Chinese Pastor Samuel Lamb. Pastor Lamb had been imprisoned for over 20 years and suffered physical and mental abuse. When someone in the group mentioned to him that they were praying for the persecution of the church to stop in China, Pastor Lamb quickly rebuked them and gave his famous quote, “ More persecution more growth of the church.” In other words, the seed of the church is the blood of the saints.

This event, coupled with many other visits to persecuted church countries, has deeply impacted my view of the normal Christian life. Could it be that the Western Church has had it wrong all along? Our view of safety, comfort, persecution free life has produced a powerless church that has little impact on our culture. Over the past 200 years the church has served as the moral conscience of our great country. Now because of lack of spiritual power and influence in the church, the moral decline in our country is moving at warp speed.

A closer look at Scripture

My experience with the persecuted church and observation of the the early church in Scripture has led me to have a very different view of the the Christian life. A trouble free life is not necessarily a sign of God’s blessings. We can all agree that God has blessed us in many ways and one of those elements is our generally trouble free life. However being trouble free could also be because we are not doing much to disturb the kingdom of darkness.

I am not suggesting that we become someone who intentionally stirs up trouble by in-your-face confrontation, but I am merely suggesting that we evaluate our view of trouble and suffering, and how we deal with difficult circumstances.

God has taught me some valuable lessons that I want to pass on to you. Maybe it will change how you view trouble in your life.

God is fully aware of every element of our life. If it’s true that the living Christ indwells every believer, then God is fully aware of every element of our life. He is even aware of those times when our dumb decisions bring us unwelcome consequences. This knowledge of the indwelling Christ reminds me of the truths of Romans 8:28 – “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and called according to his purpose for them.” (NLT)

There are two key elements to this passage of Scripture. One, “God causes all things to work together”. Rather than changing our present circumstances, more often than not, God uses the things that are presently happening in our life to accomplish His plan. Secondly, these things will work together for those “who love God”. Notice that is active tense. Those who are presently, actively loving/serving God and pursuing His purpose will experience things all working out.

See God in everything. Since God is ever present in our life then we should examine every event, disappointment and present challenge as a God moment. We must keep in mind that God is fully aware of our predicament. Instead of trying to escape our circumstances, stop and ask God “what He is up to and what is He saying to us?” Ask, “What do you want me to learn through this situation?” That’s because God is more concerned about your response to the situation than He is about how He’s going to deliver or rescue you from the situation.

Change the way you pray in difficult situations. “ And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Sprit prays for us with groaning that cannot be expressed in words. The Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers.” (Romans 8:26-27 NLT)

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to pray. That’s the reason the Holy Sprit was given to us to guide and teach us all things. Instead of first praying “Lord deliver me”, pray “Lord show me the greater purpose, help me not to seek deliverance if the greater lesson and glory is for me to endure the course.”

Bottom Line

We must keep in mind that God’s glory and His best for you is the end game, not necessarily deliverance. Remember that suffering and endurance is a spiritual virtue. It may be that God wants to demonstrate His power in deliverance. But it also may be that He wants to show you what He can do in the midst of the storm.

Holy Spirit Remembrance

Can you imagine how overwhelmed the disciples must have been when Jesus gave them the great commission? Jesus’ parting words were, “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations (people groups)…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded” (Matthew 28:19).

For the most part, they were uneducated tradesmen. They were now being sent out to teach all the known world the things which Jesus had taught them. They weren’t trained or schooled teachers, but ordinary blue collar laborers. The sheer volume of what Jesus said and did during the 3 years they spent with him were overwhelming. John even wrote a few chapters later:

“And there are many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written
in detail I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books
which were written.” (John 21:25 NAS)

I’m sure they must have been thinking, ‘I wish I had taken better notes or asked more clarifying questions. How are we ever going to remember those things we have heard and seen?’

Jesus knew this question would come up so He told them earlier, “When the Spirit of truth comes He will bring to your remembrance everything I have told you.” (John 16) We know this happened because we can read about the ministry of Jesus and his disciples in the Gospels. Jesus’ words and deeds are accurately recorded by his disciples through divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit.(2 Timothy 3:16 )

The same Holy Spirit who brought the teachings and events of Jesus to the disciples memory, is the same Holy Spirit who brings to our mind the things we need to know and remember. That’s the reason it’s important to read and memorize the Word, as well as, read good books written by Spiritual men and women.

I have often thought, why has remembering the things I have learned been so difficult for me to retain? I have anxiously prayed for the Lord to help me remember what to say before a speaking engagement. Matter of fact, my wife has often said to me, “How do you remember your sermon and all those scriptures when you can’t even remember what I asked you to pickup at the grocery store?” I have to admit she has a point.

However, I am acutely aware of Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit “will bring to remembrance” those things that have been stored in my mind. The Holy Spirit’s role in our life is one of the most amazing aspects of the Christian life. Over my lifetime I have taught, preached or counseled hundreds of times. Often I entered the event sensing a deep degree of inadequacy. Some of those events, I had no idea what I was going to say or how I was going to respond to a hurting person. But as I yielded myself to the Spirit’s control, the words and scriptures began to flow. Sometimes I would leave the speaking event or counseling session stunned and surprised at the words that came out of my mouth.

I could never take credit for the Spirit’s work. It was Him that brought those things to my memory. There is no explanation other than the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit would bring to our remembrance the Scripture and the teachings of Jesus. It’s an example of the life of Jesus being manifest through us. It’s the Holy Spirit manifesting Jesus to those around us.

Bottom Line

God is faithful to honor His word. He has promised to bring to our mind the things to say, just when we need it. However, there is an “if” at play here. The “if” is we must first put the truths in our mind. That’s why I like to have an annual Bible reading plan. Sometimes it’s to read the whole Bible through in a year, sometime it’s to read just the New Testament. Often I will select a devotional plan to come alongside my Bible reading. The point is to be intentional.

Do I remember every word I read, absolutely not. But I rely on God’s promise to bring to my mind those truths when I need them. But He can’t bring it to your present memory if the Word hasn’t been put there in the first place.

Don’t forget, what we have read in Scripture and been taught through teaching, preaching and reading good books is in our mind. We might not be able to locate it at will, but if we will be “Holy Spirit sensitive”, and be careful not to quench or grieve the Holy Spirit by our unconfessed sin, then He will be sure to bring to your mind all those truths that will become salt and light to a needy soul.

Resting and Trust

“So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:9 NLT)

The context of the book of Hebrews has to do with convincing the unbelieving Jews of the superiority of Christ. Jesus is the fulfillment of all that they hold dear. Jesus is better than Angels, Moses, and the Law because He is the fulfillment of all of those things. So the writer of the book is admonishing them to not harden their heart in unbelief like their ancestors, but enter into the rest that salvation can give them.

This message of rest is also for us today. Because of the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross we can enter into a Spiritual rest for salvation.

This rest not only applies to salvation, but also to everyday life. Our salvation is so complete that it not only deals with our eternal destiny, but it can offer us rest in the midst of every problem. The same rest that is available for the salvation of our souls is also available for every challenge of life.

Learning how to rest is an important element of victorious living. Saying, “I’m resting” is not some spiritual incantation that enters us into the resting mode, but rather it’s a lifestyle based on absolute truth. As the invitation in Hebrews states, “therefore be diligent to enter into that rest” (V 11). Entering into God’s rest is an exercise of the will, trusting in the authority of His Word.

It’s a deliberate acknowledgment that God is fully aware of your situation and He understands the severity, the timing and the gravity of your problem. In other words, resting is agreeing to allow God to “fix it” in His way, on His terms, and in His timing. Its the act of “casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)

Bottom Line
When my daughter Leslie was a toddler she was a trusting soul. I would lift her up and put her on the kitchen counter. She would leap off the counter with enthusiasm into my arms. No matter how far I got from the counters edge she would leap with complete trust that I was going to catch her. After each jump she would say, “again,again”.

That’s how God wants us to experience Him. He wants us to take the leap of faith and learn to rest in Him, again and again. He will, without fail, catch us when we take the leap of faith and give all our anxiety to Him.

There is a song written in 1920 by a Englishman named Edward Henry Joy called “All our Anxiety”. I believe the song echoes the message of rest in Hebrews 4.

Is there a heart bound by sorrow?
Is there a life weighed down by care?
Come to the cross each burden bearing
All you anxiety leave it there

All our anxiety all our care
Bring to the mercy seat, leave it there.
Never a burden He cannot bear,
Never a friend like Jesus”.

Courage For the New Year

Throughout the Scripture Jesus continually reminds his disciples to be courageous in approaching whatever they may face in life. Was he attempting to pump up the troops to help them accomplish their goals in life or was there something deeper he was conveying?

I think there was a deeper, life changing truth he was trying to instill in his disciples. Jesus was teaching the simple truth of trust. He desires that all of his children would live in the light of absolute dependence upon Him. Trusting in His finished work of the cross for our salvation is just the beginning of our trust journey.

If I could use one word to describe a “super believer” it would be the word TRUST. The ultimate attribute and quality of a follower of Jesus is our ability to fully trust him with every event, situation and aspect of our life. The Scripture says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart (our mind, will and emotions) and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.“ (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Whatever comes our way we are to give it to the Lord and trust Him to work it all out for our good and His glory. When we stress out over a situation we are choosing to withhold our heart from Him. We are choosing to not trust Jesus and our Heavenly Father. How is it that in stressful situations we often forget that God is already fully aware of our situation, and knows the severity of our circumstance? God is never surprised at what happens to us, matter of fact, he knows in advance. That means that every situation is a test of our willingness and ability to fully trust in Him.

That reminds me of a phrase I heard an evangelist give over thirty years ago regarding how God is never surprised at what happens to us. He said, “Has it every occurred to you that nothing ever occurs to God?” It would be good for us to ponder that statement.

He wants our natural reflex to be that we immediately trust Him. We already have a head knowledge that God is bigger than any situation, but he wants us to move that trust from our head to our heart.

Bottom Line

My challenge to you for 2016 is to set a goal to ‘up your level of trust’ . When you get stressed -out about a situation, give it to God, and practice trusting Him to see you through. Then begin to see every trial as a divine test by the heavenly Father to ‘up your level of trust’.

When something occurs that gets you stressed, worried, or out of control, remember this quote, “Don’t be guilty of mistaking the middle of the chapter for the end of your story.” (Jake Colsen)

Maturity Barometer

I don’t know about you, but I like “measurables”. In other words, I like indicators that tell me how I am doing in a certain areas of my life. I am not talking about legalism that’s based on a performance base acceptance model. I am referring to matters of the heart. Indicators that your heart is maturing and conforming to a Christ likeness.

Spiritual maturity is not about “what you do for God”, but it’s about how much your heart (your mind, will and emotions) is conforming to the character of Christ. When we are allowing Christ to be our life then we will automatically move toward spiritual maturity.

However, maturity is not just a subjective thing, there are some measurables that serve as our spiritual barometer. Listed below are a few signs or indicators that we are moving toward maturity.

1. You are maturing when you acknowledge that your life is not your own. The Scripture tells us that “…and you are not your own, for you have been bought with a price.” ( 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This requires an intentional act of the will where you put your life in God’s hands and desire to be fully obedient to God’s plan, wherever that may lead. It is taking your dreams, plans and goals and present circumstances and placing them in God’s hand. It’s admitting that you can’t do life successfully unless God leads and directs your life.

2. You are maturing when you realize you don’t have to respond when challenged. This is a major indicator of maturity and it’s probably one of the most difficult things to grasp. It was difficult for me for several reasons. First, I had the need to be right, especially if someone challenged me. I just couldn’t let it go. I guess it was tied to my need to be validated. However, when I understood that abandonment to the supremacy of Christ involved surrendering rights and expectations then my need to “be right” diminished.

Secondly, being right gave me a sense of worth. When I discovered that my security is in “who I am in Christ” and not in “proving that I was “right”, then I was able to let those challenges go. It didn’t matter anymore, because I no longer had to validate my worth by proving I was right. My worth and acceptance was based solely on “who I am in Christ”, His life is enough.

3. You are maturing when you realize that every difficulty is God’s way of breaking us. Every mature believer will point to difficult times and/or encounters with difficult people as a time of spiritual growth. In God’s economy of things, brokenness moments and events are God’s method of maturing us. Maturity is seldom a result of mountain top experiences, but rather a compilation of valley experiences.

“Every person who crosses us, every person who discourages us is God’s way of breaking us. It creates a deeper channel in us for the life of Christ. The only life that pleases God is His life, never our life. Our self-centered life is the exact opposite of His. We can never be filled with His life unless we are prepared to bring our life constantly to death.” ( Quote from Roy Hession)

Bottom Line
Spiritual maturity is not about performance, but about the level of our submission and obedience to the Lord. God never intended for our relationship with Him to be based on our self-effort. That’s the reason that the Scripture tells us “that we are made complete in Him.” (Colossians 2).