Sunday, August 19, 2012

It's Not About Me

Pride keeps us from being teachable; with no learning, we settle for being “less than” and hurt many around us.

Per one definition of pride reads: a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.

The old me was a Leo. Lions not only live in prides, but are a symbol of pride. Perhaps this is something I need to take a look at more closely. Male lions are proud animals. But note, this proud creature might starve if his females didn’t provide his food. She doesn’t just prepare it as a man’s mate might; she literally hunts her prey and brings it to him.

There’s an old song that says, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run….” Pride keeps us from that wisdom, often costing us dearly. Pride rears its ugly head during our common, day-to-day opportunities to learn.

Finances are a good example. Sometime we insist we know a better way, or refuse to hear teaching that will free up our cash flow. A good pastor will teach his flock to tithe, not because it fills the offering plates, but because it blesses the givers. But money wounds can cause us to cling to every dollar that comes our way.

Parenting is another arena we tend to insist that our way is the right way, even when everyone around us can see our children running amuck or carrying unnecessary wounds around in their little hearts.

Even when we “hear” an alternate option, we don’t listen because we’ve already determined that our way is working for us – or will by tomorrow. Sometimes pride doesn’t even care if our way is working, it’s what we want, so we win.

And who suffers? In the example of parenting, it’s the children that suffer and sometimes the price tag is high. Our suffering doesn’t come until later if/when we recognize we fell short as a parent. If pride has finally been displaced we can see that help was available. But if not, then, of course, the falling short wasn’t our fault at all.

Pride goes before a fall. God hates pride, but uplifts the humble, the teachable, those willing to submit themselves to Him. Submission goes way beyond heartless compliance. Yes, if you hate the word submit, if it makes you scoff or cringe, you have a pride issue – and you’re making costly mistakes daily that can be avoided.

Deal with pride now or pay for it later. No beauty hides in self-righteous pride.

Just a few of the many scriptures pertaining to pride:

Psalm 10:4 In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.  (NIV)

Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

Proverbs 13:10 Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

Proverbs 14:3 A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them.

Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 29:23 Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.

Isaiah 37:23 Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel!

Jeremiah 13:17 If you do not listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the LORD’s flock will be taken captive.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Protection and Responsibility

Funny, some men won’t carry umbrellas – “it’s not manly”. (I can’t help but question, and it’s manly to get wet??) Little girls love to play with them. Some are as pretty as they are practical. Shading us from the sun, or protecting us from a downpour of rain – they serve their purpose, only when we carry them with us. How many times have I groaned because I’ve left mine in the car?

It’s not practical to carry my large, purple umbrella around with me everywhere. There are clearly days when it just isn’t going to rain.

But there is an umbrella of protection we can’t afford to put down and leave behind.

When hell rains down a flood of catastrophes down upon us as individuals or as a nation or even as the human race, where’s our umbrella of protection?

Those catastrophes are sins and their consequences; murders, hate, prejudices, deceptions, witchcraft, radical Islam (or other radical belief systems) deviant sexuality, choices with no acknowledged consequences.

We can choose to lay down our umbrella. We can be seduced to put it down, or bribed, or deceived by empty promises to cast aside the faith required to do things God’s way. But we are the ones that lay it down when we choose to do things our own way; we are ultimately the ones responsible.

This umbrella is made of faith in God and His holy Word, prayer and relationship with the One Who created us.

The other day I heard someone say, “Who’s talking about the problem? The problem is a lack of godliness.”

God instructs us to “Be holy, as I am holy.” (See Leviticus 11:44 & 45, 19:2 and 1 Peter 1:16 at the bottom of this post.)

Throughout the Bible we are warned repeatedly about sin and its consequences, yet today, even Christians choose to ignore what God has said, leaving us wide open for the onslaught of evils that permeate our society today.

Can I say it enough? We need to be in God’s Word, reading it, learning it, depending on it, and obeying it – or suffer the consequences.

Leviticus 11:44 For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: (KJV)

Leviticus 11:45 For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. (KJV)

1 Peter 1:16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. (KJV)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Longest Blog Post I've Ever Written - My Words

“Where’s his mother?” shouldn’t be my first thought, but it is. In years gone by I’d quickly noticed his innocence, his energy, his beauty, but that all came as second and third thoughts now.

He appeared to run playfully from an imaginary friend. Perhaps because he was across the lake and my eyes are now old, he was chasing a butterfly, but he laughed with excitement and fell to the ground as being tickled, rolling back and forth in the finely manicured, thick green grass.

“I want to do that,” caught in my heart and in my throat, “I want that freedom, that lack of inhibition.” Even though I was happy for the little boy, I felt a sadness for myself overshadow me. If I were to dance along the lakeside, I’d be certain first that I was quite alone.

Am I old, or do I just feel old? That’s a relevant question. If I ask my grandchildren, they’d laugh and heartily chime in with a loud “yes!” If I ask my father-in-law, who’s battle the decline of his body even more graphically than I, he’d laugh and shake his head, saying no repeatedly.

I suppose being old is a matter of aging as well as a matter of how I feel. Many weary young women feel old beyond their years. Many older women sprint past me on a hiking trail. If it’s more a matter of how we feel, I want to be the energetic woman who laughs at birthdays and carries on as though she’s barely entering her third decade of life.

But how do I get there?

Digging through my mind for a scripture that will provide my answer feels futile. Perhaps I don’t want to be responsible for that solution; accountable for the knowledge and wisdom it will impart to me.

What if I really am as lazy as I sometimes accuse myself of being?

Turning the page of a magazine article on physical fitness doesn’t do a thing for my waistline. Even juicing nutrient packed vegetables doesn’t move the numbers on the weight scale when I’m eating potato chips between sips of juice. I know this. So what’s the barrier between where I am and where I want to be?

I sometimes think cutting out my own tongue would be the most profitable thing I could do. I would keep me from eating the foods that make me fat and it would keep me from complaining, another one of my biggest vices. I wonder, if I HAD to write down everything I want to say, how much of it wouldn’t be worth saying? I could definitely see myself leaving out at least 99% of the complaints and whining.

So, is the problem my tongue?

Perhaps. Let’s turn from the youthful scene of a child at play to an important tool for pleasure and zeal for life.

Psalm 64:3 says, They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.

When my tongue is sharp and I dispatch cruel words, they are most commonly aimed my way, to belittle or insult myself. I even manage to turn around the words I hear from the lips of others to construe some less than flattering meaning, meant to tear me down instead of build me up.

Psalm 120:2 Save me, LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.

…especially Lord, when the tongue is secured inside my own mouth…. When I join the psalmist David in this prayer, I have to emphasize the point that often, that lying and deceitful tongue is my own. Throughout today, pay attention to the things you tell yourself in the midst of the events the day throws your way. You too may find that the things you hear yourself say are destructive, pulling you down rather than encouraging yourself. If David encouraged himself in the Lord, certainly we can as well. But whether it’s just what we’re used to hearing or what we think we deserve to hear, we might catch words revealing our own worst enemy.

Psalm 139:4 Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.

God knows what I’ll say next, long before I do. I’ll admit, I often wonder why He doesn’t shut my mouth before it gets me into trouble, or before I begin a barrage of self-talk that belittles and shames. Clearly there are some things in life that we ourselves are accountable for.

In 2 Corinthians 10:5 we find instructions about: Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; (KJV)

Thoughts precede our words, or at least they’re suppose to. Sometimes, when I open my mouth to change feet, I insist that I spoke before thinking. But is that even possible? In His Word, God shows us how He wants us to live and how to fight our enemy and all the spirits of darkness. Our imaginations are our thoughts, which our words commonly reveal. When our thoughts and our words exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, we’re taught to cast them down; to bring them into captivity to the obedience of Christ. What does that mean? It simply means to take account of where we allow our mind to roam and how we allow our tongue to speak. Does it line up with what God says? Can we back it up with scripture?

If I betray myself with words of criticism, those words don’t line up with what God has to say about me in His Word. There are so many scriptures that reveal God’s thoughts and intents toward me. None of them betray me or the God in which Who’s image I’m made. God’s immortal enemy seeks to steal, kill and destroy that which God loves most; us. (John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.)

Proverbs 12:18 The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 15:4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.

Proverbs 18:21 The tongue has the power of life and death…..

As I examine my life, am I the cause of my own demise? Do I usher in death with the negative words I hurl at myself? If indeed I believe God’s Word, and I do, then I have no choice but to believe that the words my tongue utters contain the power of life and death. That’s a lot of power to play with so carelessly. When I’m reckless and allow perversions of God’s opinion of me to permeate my vocabulary, my own words pierce like a sword and crush my spirit. When I speak with wisdom, I speak healing to myself and my words become soothing, perpetuating life.

So perhaps I would be better off without my tongue. Though it’s not mentioned specifically in the gospel of Matthew where we read, metaphorically, about ridding ourselves of body parts that don’t profit us, I’ve taken the liberty to apply it, personally: And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Matthew 5:29-30 (KJV)

Now, of course, I would never, could never cut out my own tongue, nor could I pluck out my own eye or cut off my own hand – I get the point. I’d be better off without it if I cannot control it.

Proverbs 21:23 Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.

1 Peter 3:10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.

Okay, so maybe I don’t need to cut it out, but I most definitely need to guard it, to control it, to be in charge of it!

James 3:9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.

So, for the first fifty years of my life, I’ve allowed my mouth to literally put curses into my own life. With crystal clear reasoning and logic, I understand that this tongue with which I use to praise God, cannot be used to curse myself or anyone else, intentionally or otherwise. When we gain knowledge, we lose excuses.


So upon deciding I’ll keep my tongue, I take a look at what good it can do.

Psalm 66:17 I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue.

Psalm 71:24 My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long, for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion.

Psalm 73:9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.

Psalm 119:172 May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.

Psalm 126:2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”

Proverbs 10:20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.

Proverbs 10:31 From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be silenced.

Proverbs 15:2 The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.

Some are pithy, but I find verbose more aptly applies to my own self-description. I’m a woman of many words. I commonly remind myself to speak less, but say more. Oftentimes a phrase I use rolls around in my head from a song I’ve heard, and out it comes, accompanied with melody. This can become annoying to my hearers, believe it or not. But this mouth which can annoy, can also be taught to instruct and encourage, to bless and share wisdom.

Proverbs 31:26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

Isaiah 50:4 The Sovereign LORD has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.

I yearn to recognize the same liberty Zacharias experienced, when Luke records: Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. Luke 1:64

Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: Acts 10:34 (KJV) If God will do it for Zacharias, He will do it for me! And most assuredly, I need Him to move on my behalf, His own Word tells me that I cannot, in and of myself, control my tongue.

James 3:5, 8 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark….but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

There’s so much to learn about the authority and power God’s given us. But a good place to start is at the place where we choose to submit ourselves, tongue and all, to Him and His lordship. Which reminds me of another scripture:  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7 (KJV)

But, nowadays, submission is deemed a dirty word, an action to be shunned, an undesirable way to relate. Ah yes, pride makes simple things hard. But God makes hard things simple.

After a need spiritual reality check (and lunch), I cast my eyes across the lake again. The playful little boy who’s spirit captured my attention is long gone. The sunny morning has been displaced by a rainy afternoon. But determination has filled my heart. My youth and my vitality don’t have to fade if I choose not to let it. If I fill my mind and my mouth with God’s Word and words of my own that line up with His – I can do all things, through Christ which strengthens me! (Philippians 4:13)

(All scripture used is NIV unless otherwise noted.)