To Tell the Truth

Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31-32

The first point of courtesy must always be truth. Ralph Waldo Emerson

When we know Truth, truth will set us free. Jesus is credited with saying that in John’s gospel, chapter 8.  I’ve found it’s true, that once we know Christ, we know a myriad of things about ourselves we never knew before, ie:

We are worthy.

We are loved.

We are forgiven.

We are empowered.

We are His Bride, and we are His choice for eternity. How cool is that?

Telling the truth to those we love is the best way to truly love them.

Think about those individuals who have told you the truth throughout your life. Do you love them for it, or do you despise what you see as mean-spirited criticisms?

Depending on how you answer that question your life will either be filled with relevant, valuable insights, or bitter, resentful memories.

Depending on how you answer, you will either be a person who has a teachable spirit, or a not-so-teachable and rebellious side.

Depending on how you answer, you are either living large with the Holy Spirit as your guide, or you are struggling, stumbling, making the same mistakes over and over again, and hiding from those people who love you enough to risk offending you by telling you the truth.

Depending…

A friend of mine recently suggested that one of the more valuable traits he’s found in a Christian brother or sister is the ability to say to another in a loving way: “You have a lil somethin’ somethin’ on your spirit there.”  Of course, we must do the hand gesture that goes along with the comment for the full effect to applypointing to the corner of one’s chin, where food collects unnoticed as we say it.

I laughed when he made the hand gesture that went along with this statement, because it is so true that we love the people who are able to pull off that kind of truth-telling, but have a hard time with those who are not so gifted at telling us what we need, but may not want, to hear.

Today, I’m thankful for those truth tellers in my life, those who have dared to speak a word of direction to me when I was headed in the wrong direction. I may not have liked it at the time, but as time passes I see more and more wisdom in what they said…what they did.

I’m also thankful for spiritual mentors, those who by virtue of their position in my life have been allowed to tell me the truth as they see it.

I’m also thankful for the Holy Spirit, that One who is the best truth teller of all.  He has led me into better thinking and acting more times than I like to admit.  He tells me the truth in love, every time, and suggests a path that leads to more truth, every time. There is no one I trust more than He.

As I close out this post today, I’m hoping you have someone in your life that isn’t afraid to tell you the truth, no matter the cost to them. If you do, never let them go.  Often run your decisions by them. If they have proven truthful in the small things, you can rely on them for the big things.  They are a true gift in this world of smoke and  mirrors.  Cherish them.  Lean on them. Remember them in your prayers today.

You will know the truth, and the Truth will set you free. 

 

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Grapes Without Wrath

The September 30th devotional in My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers, talks about individuals in the body of Christ becoming broken bread and sacramental wine in kingdom service. It’s a comforting concept until you take a moment to think about what it means to be broken bread and crushed grapes.

In order to make wine, succulent fruits at the peak of flavor have to be crushed. The process that brings the wine forth is severe. All the juice has to be forced from the skin so that not one drop is wasted. Jesus went through a similar crushing when he hung on the cross, allowing all his goodness to transform all of the world’s sin, so that all God’s children could experience all of His grace.

Ponder the fullness of that concept.  Killing the natural man in favor of spiritual maturity is a painful process, but worth the effort.

Oswald Chambers goes on to say in his devotional, “God can never make us wine if we object to the fingers He uses to crush us with. If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured out wine in a special way [we think]. But when He uses someone who we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, and makes those the crushers, we object. We must never choose the scene of our own martyrdom.”

Chambers continues, “If ever we are going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed; you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.”

I won’t suggest to you how you ought to process this information, today. I will, however, ask you to pray for all those who are going through the crushing process at this time.

Pray for them to willingly be crushed.

Pray for them to understand that this is what is needed for them to mature in the faith.

Pray that they would see this crushing as a means of making them useful to the body, other believers.

Pray that they would be able to praise God in the process, for this we are commanded to do always.

Pray that they might understand how crushing is God’s way, as evidenced by His Son’s own crushing on the cross of Calvary.

Finally, pray that they might find the strength to stand up under the crushing, and give glory to God through the experience, and also that they might find many willing to stand by them as they are crushed into holy service.

The Christian life is not an easy one, but it is the right one, and the only one that keeps one safe after the experiences of this world.

Today, let’s trust God to transform us His way and by His means.  No matter what, you have his promise that He will not crush you beyond what you are able to bear.

Even in the difficult times, Our God is good, so good!

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Is it strength or weakness that equips us?

For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:10

Encourage one another… 1 Thess 5:11

It seems the opposite of logic, that we should pray to be made weak. Who wants weakness as their mantra for today?

“Lord, make me weak, as weak as I can be and still survive.”

Would you pray that way?

000strength

No one in America applauds weakness. It’s not in our DNA.  We are pull-ourselves-up-by-the-bootstraps kinda people.

We get things done.

We move mountains.

We flex for the camera.

We do not bow to personal weakness. In fact, we sidestep, swerve, avoid and reject any indication that we might not be as strong as we want to be.  But in God’s Word we are told that our weakness makes us strong.

How so?

What strength can be found in weakness?

That’s a good question, and I want to attempt an answer.

I see God’s power present in the lives of parents and partners of addicts who know they are powerless over the problem and unable to craft a solution for that other person, but believe God can.

It may seem like weakness to others when they quit trying to solve the addict’s problem, but in actuality, stepping away takes great courage and strength. God’s strength.

I see strength forged of weakness when I watch a single mom interacting with her newborn son who’s comes early, weighing in at a little over a pound.

I see strength in the eyes of a loved one whose mate has been on the transplant list for months. They both deal with individual fears about what’s next, and yet hold onto hope that they won’t have to do any of that scary stuff, because a life-saving call is coming soon, right?

In times such as these support people are powerless to move the recovery process along, but in their weakness who would dare say they are not strong?

The parents and siblings of down syndrome children–wow, are they ever powerful in their weakness. They may not be able to change their circumstances day by day, but as they lean in to grab a lil more of God’s strength and allow Him to fill them a lil fuller today, we stand amazed!

You may know someone who feels powerless today.

Maybe that someone is you.

Maybe you’re thinking: “I’ll never get this right? I make too many mistakes. I don’t have what it takes to do this. I feel like a weak, lonely, failure.”

If you’ve been feeling powerless for a while now, and its changed who you are so that even you don’t recognize you, there is good news for you in God’s Word and in communicating with him about the truth of the matter.

Prayer Changes Things!

Let me say that again: PRAYER CHANGES THINGS!!

God hears, He cares, and He acts when His people pray. Weakness does not mean a lack of power resides in us.  It means we need Jesus, and that’s a very good thing.

It means the Lord has decided to show another side to weakness through us.

It means success is not always spelled E.A.S.Y.

It means strength, incredible strength, sometimes looks like weakness to the uninitiated, or the ill-informed.

It means when we’re looking for a definition of strength, we need look no further than Jesus.

Today, pray for that one who you know lacks the strength to stand, even if that one is you.  We serve a Savior who is never lacking in power. Reach out to Him today. He’s only a prayer away.

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New England? Maybe…I can’t decide.

So, I’m trying to put together an Action Plan, something that will serve as a guideline for positive actions I would like to take this week.

You wouldn’t think that would be a hard thing, right?

I know I want to lose more weight, so I guess I could formulate a plan to do that more effectively, but realistically, right now anyway, I don’t want to think about food restrictions.

I know I would like to write more, so setting aside time for writing could go on that Action Plan.

I know I NEED to plan my vacation, should have planned it weeks ago… but when I’m like this INDECISION is my most glaring fault, so to say I’m overwhelmed with even the thought of planning a vacation would be an understatement.

I’m stuck.

Have you been there?

I’m fried.

I’m over thinking everything.

I feel like I’m wasting energy, but can’t stop.  Typical type-A personality behavior.

I think I may have broken my brain. 

I just feel like I can’t think anymore.

Maybe my Action Plan for today should be to find an Adirondack chair along the edge of some lake, somewhere, put a wide-brimmed hat on, and take my socks off while I bask in the sun of a warm September day.

Doesn’t that sound wonderful?! 

Yeah, it’s time I went on vacation.

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One of those days…

The following is an email I actually sent this morning: Breakfast done. Now, what?  Not really asking, just asking, ya know? Looking to HP for answers. Breakfast: oatmeal with walnuts, milk, coffee, cream, Splenda Working on Action Plan for this week. Angry today. Not sure why. Praying. Reporting. Trying to court grace. Dreaming about being in bed with the covers over my head. Need to get Complex B today. Hitting the wall without it. Too long. It really effects me. Feeling those affects today. Thanks for listening. L Yeah, I think I need to run to the pharmacy at lunch. Otherwise, I can see this day going south real fast!!!

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The red letters

000red-letter-bible We’re studying Matthew’s gospel around the table in the corner room lately.  Its been eye-opening, to say the least.  It’s intriguing to me to compare what the Church says about things (like dancing being unacceptable), and what the Bible says: And David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. (2 Samuel 6:14). David was favored of God and while his wife didn’t like his behavior, we have every indication that God did.  The last time I danced scantily I was around ten years old and in a hay mow with my girlfriends. It was hot summer time.  We giggled, as we twisted to the tunes of Elvis Presley and Herman’s Hermits.  I have never shed my outer clothes and taken to the streets to scream and shout, though.  Can you imagine? I shudder to think of it. My life with Jesus doesn’t always resemble the church’s image of what it ought to be, I suppose.  It does, however, resemble the image of failed humanity in communication with God represented in the Good Book.  One of the great things about reading the words Jesus said is that you get a sense from them what a great guy he is, and how far afield of church-y convention he operated during his days here.  I’ve found Him to have a wonderfully humble spirit, and a gentleness with the least of these that some churches lack.  He took time away from his urgent mission to the Jews of his day to bind up broken limbs and lives with the touch of his God/Man hands.  Those hands would later be punctured with spikes and bleed freely on middle eastern soil, but before they did, He used them to touch, caress, comfort, sooth, mix medicinal mud packs for blind men, and lift sinful women out of dusty obscurity. Women who lived long days in dark places found Light in Jesus’ touch, and forgiveness in his heart.  He loved women in all the right ways.  Sometimes this life is hard.  Sometimes church rules are difficult to understand.  Sometimes, people are prickly, especially those people who care a little too much about church rules and not about hurt feelings.  It’s true of us all, I suppose.  I know I can have the propensity to get myself all tangled up in doctrine and forget about doing the next right thing, that thing that blesses another and has them in mind.  It’s when we forget to notice how hard we’re being on ourselves and others that pain comes calling and we start looking for options.  The red letter gospel comes through for us in those times. I’m reading Mark Buchanan’s book, Your God is Too Safe.  Mark believes that our wounds are healed by Jesus’ wounds.  Think about that.  It’s written about in the Bible over and over again: His scarred hands touch our scarred bodies and we are healed.  Buchanan also suggests that it is our wounds, themselves, that make it possible for healing to take place.  I think he’s right.  Whenever we are broken and we turn to Jesus for comfort, we find it.  In this way, the wounds that make us desperate for healing become the very things that make that healing possible. Our wounds drive us to God, and he never turns away. Matthew 12:18-21 says this:

“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.  He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.”

Isaiah spoke those words long before Jesus ever walked the streets of Jerusalem, or left the holy city to meet with his disciples in the wilderness of Judea.  I’m so thankful he did.  When I was ten, or twelve, or whatever age I was back then and dancing in the hay mow, I was barely awake to my faith. Jesus had only recently nudged me for that last time, whispering to me, “Its time to wake up…time to come home.”  Until then, I had searched my whole young life for a strong silent type, who had confidence in himself and wasn’t afraid to use it to bless others.  Finally, I’d found him.  We are getting re-acquainted during this study of Matthew’s narrative.  I’m discovering anew what an amazing man I partnered with all those years ago.  I’ve never been sorry about saying YES when he asked me to dance in the spirit of joy at salvation.  I’m more thrilled now than I was then to have Him as my dancing partner.

This red-letter study is awakening new understanding in me every time our lil group gets together.  Those individual in the corner room have become my church within a church, and I’m grateful and honored to know each one of them. They’ve impacted my life in a hundred different ways, and Jesus, a gazillion more.  I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart because of my association with him, and I am, yes, I am, happy all the time.

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Great Gifts and Holey Purses

She brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

Encourage one another… 1 Thess 5:11

Are you one of those folks who has a coin purse with holes in it and moths flying out? Me, too.

The good news is that we are in good company in our meagreness.

Joseph and Mary didn’t live in some swanky high-rise, and they didn’t drive a Mercedes. They didn’t have hundreds of servants, or houses, or lands. They didn’t even have a pop-up tent or tee pee to take with them when Roman law required them to travel far, close to Mary’s celebrated labor day. All Joseph had with him was a pregnant wife, a meager donkey, and enough supplies to get them where they were going. It wasn’t a fun trip for either of them, and I’m pretty sure they were both anxious about Mary’s condition and the comfort of that gift of life she carried in her swollen womb.

Enter the cattle, those merciful four-legged friends who willingly came to the rescue for the wee one born among them.

While it was people like you and me who allowed Mary to lay down distressed in their stables, it was the cows, horses, sheep and donkeys who gave up their feed trough for baby Jesus, and warmed the stalls and filled the air around his birth place with earthy aromas, the gift of a glowing Papa God who is all about creating simple bliss.

That barn was the perfect place for the perfect Child to begin serving mankind in perfect obedience.

Ask any farmer or animal lover how they feel about that manger scene and you’ll get a big smile in return. This was the place God choose for the Savior of all humanity to be born. Praise Him, he doesn’t need gold or silver to impress. All He needs is a willing spirit– a gift each of us can give today.

This morning, as you go to our Father in prayer and remember others in need, please thank God for the little joys in life. The joys of peace, comfort, assurance of His love for you, and that you don’t need to impress anyone.

If a manger doesn’t signal God’s love for humble humanity, I don’t know what does. Thank Him and praise Him today for that symbol and the gift of salvation God granted that glorious night His only Son was born. Thank Him for all He does. He’s worthy, and greatly to be praised!!

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