How Darkness Tries To Crowd The Light

light

When we let people or food or drink or pride or ignorance or materialism grow in spaces that are meant for generosity and discipline and patience and wisdom and selflessness, then we stand ill-equipped to resist the lion stalking us constantly.  When we abandon self-control, also translated as a sober mind, we lose right along with it the strength to resist the enemy from a position entrenched in our faith.

Writing over with my sailing dreamers at God-sized Dreams today, won’t you join me for the story?

The Words Series: Part 5, His Words

words4

Today is our final installment in The Words Series – thanks for sticking with me.  This week we’ve talked about how to speak with gracious words that are healing.  If we can’t, then less is more.  If we’re attacked by others’ words, then trust that God has us.  And never forget to say I love you.

Sometimes, that feels like a tremendous amount to remember.  Filled with a road of pitfalls and traps since many times that means we’re fighting instincts that come naturally to us (like fighting back!).

But we’re not in this alone.  God offers to speak wisdom to us, then to put the right words in our mouths, and then we will speak with wisdom and our words will be protected.

1.  Hear His Words.

You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words.  Psalm 119:57

You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.”  Deuteronomy 11

2.  Ask To Be Given The Right Words.

You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. Exodus 4:15

I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand— I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” Isaiah 51:16

As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.  Isaiah  59:21

3.  Wisdom Through, and Protection Of, Your Words Will Come.

My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.  Psalm 49:3

 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.  Luke 21:15

The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.  I Samuel 3:19

Next week we’re back to leadership and fashion and random thoughts for the week.  I hope you’ve found a nugget in this study and thank you for allowing me the time, as Ann Voskamp says, preach this gospel to myself.  My hope, after a lot of work and practice and mistakes, is that I will be able to say, like David:

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

The Words Series: Part 4, I Love You

words5

My trio started school on Monday.  I tried not to completely fall apart since this year is only PreK-4 and I know that next year I’ll be a wreck.

As I prepared for all the back to school activities this weekend, including having to pack lunches again, I purchased two special packs of napkins while I was at Target.  I thought it would be fun for the kids to have kid-friendly napkins in their lunch kits when they opened them at school the first week.  Bold red pirate ship napkins for the boys and bright pink Hello Kitty napkins for the little lady.

I woke early on Monday morning to prepare a big first day of school breakfast and pack their lunches.  I sometimes write the kids or Bray notes and wanted to reintroduce the tradition in their lunches.  Since the kids are pre-readers, I marked a big I, then a heart, then a U, and signed my name in black marker that would show up.

photo

The kids had a wonderful first day, and as I was talking to the baby in the kitchen Monday night he said, “Mommy, I missed you at lunchtime today when I saw your note to me.”  I gave him a big hug and kiss and told him I loved him and we went on with our activities.

I did the same thing with the napkins Tuesday morning when I packed lunches.  After dinner, the baby came into the kitchen and said, “Mommy, the same thing happened today,” and he threw his arms around my neck.  I asked, “You missed me again?”  He nodded yes and then started to cry.  Squeezing my neck in his tiger hold while these precious tears wet my check, we stood wrapped together for a minute.  “I can stop leaving the notes, I hate to make you sad at lunch,” I whispered into his little ear.  “No, no, don’t stop.  I love them,” he replied smiling.

There’s a lot to say about words.  All the right and wrong ways to use them.  But there is nothing more important to say about words than to remind us all to say (or write) I love you.  Bray and I tell the kids every morning and every night.  We tell each other we love each other every day even if we’ve had a big fight.  Our parents tell us they love us whenever we see one another.  Heck, sometimes my friends and I even say it.

Telling someone who you love that you love them is one of the most powerful things you will ever do.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me. Psalm 42:8

The Words Series, Part 3: Them’s Fightin’ Words

 

words1

Have you ever had someone be mean to you?

Really mean.

Maybe it was warranted, if meanness can ever be warranted, but maybe it was completely unsolicited and the person just needed to take out their sadness or madness or terribleness on someone and you happened to be the closest human.

In Part 3 of The Words Series, we’re talking about what to do when you hear “fightin’ words.”  We talked about gracious words in Part 1 and about silencing ourselves when fewer words are called for in Part 2, but today we explore what God tells us to do when harsh words are leveled at us.

1.  Recognize verbal attacks on you will inevitably happen.

People having been saying deceptive things for thousands of years.  Leveling attacks against one another.  Spreading untruths.  God tells us not to put any stock in them.  And He warns us not to start doing it ourselves (even in return).

Do not trust in deceptive words. – Jeremiah 7:8

If anyone teaches otherwise…they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth.  I Timothy 6:4

Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you. – Ezekiel 13:8

These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them.  For they mouth empty, boastful words …they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.  They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves.  II Peter 2:18

2.  Acknowledge there is nothing you can do to control what someone else says.

3.  Forgive them anyways.

In a conversation between Jesus and Peter, Peter thought he was being magnanimous by saying, How many times should I forgive my brother? Up to seven times?  Because let’s face it, forgiving someone seven times IS pretty magnanimous by today’s standards – and I’m sure it was then too.  But Jesus replied with, No, not seven times.  But seventy times seven.  (Matthew 18)  We don’t have to continue to put ourselves in the path of someone who attacks us or tears down our character, but recognizing there isn’t anything we can do about it means that we keep forgiving them if they keep attacking – even from a distance.

If you forgive others, you will be forgiven.  Matthew 6:14

Every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven.  Matthew 12:31

4.  Only respond with words that reflect your character.  Do not allow someone else’s meanness to incite you to impugn your own character; that feeds into what they’re seeking (a reaction, inflicting pain) and it gives their statements credibility if you respond in anger. 

There’s a scene in I Samuel 24 when King Saul and David, who was not yet king, were near one another in the desert at the height of Saul’s hatred for David.  David had the opportunity to kill King Saul as his men encouraged him to do.  But instead, David rebuked his men, and called out to King Saul, “This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life.  May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.”

Saul, shocked, responds, “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the Lord delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me.  When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today.  I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.”

I don’t know what would have happened had David acted rashly, as he sometimes did, and killed King Saul.  I don’t know if that would have prevented him from ascending to King.  But I do know that he trusted the Lord to judge what happened, refused to be drawn into a terrible reaction by someone else’s bad words and actions, and he was rewarded by becoming King.

5.  Then leave it to God to sort out. 

A little later in this story, II Samuel 22 shares David’s joy and ultimate blessing because he left it in God’s hands:

David sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul He said, The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation…He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord says the Lord.  Isaiah 54:17

 

The Words Series: Part 2, When Less is More

words2

The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?  Eccles. 6:11

 Yesterday, I kicked off The Words Series with instruction about how we should speak gracious words that heal instead of wound.  Sometimes, there are no gracious words left.  That’s when we just stop talking.

I ended yesterday’s post with Ecclesiastes 10:

Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious.. But do you remember that it left us hanging?

This is what followed:  but fools are consumed by their own lipsAt the beginning their words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness.

There are plenty of opportunities for us to speak life into other people.  Yesterday I shared the passage from the Bible that warns, “death and life are in the power of the tongue.”  Unfortunately, all too often, the words we’ve chosen aren’t life-giving but life-taking.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of that?  I have a memory seared in my mind from when I was 12.  Words shot like flaming arrows from one adult to another that left them with permanent burn scars.  You would think that single memory of the absolute horror words can bring down would temper my mouth.

Yet I fail.  I speak when silence would be a far better alternative.  I’ve written about how the most insightful piece of advice I received from a woman leader I interviewed for my book was to actively listen.  Put on the role of listener instead of talker.

God agrees.  Listening may be a far safer option.  There are serious cautions in the Bible for the person who can’t learn to control what they say:

“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matt. 12:37

The reality is, our words reflect who we are.  We will be judged, both by those we encounter and by God, by what we say.   And imagine having to stand and give account for every empty word spoken.  That stops me in my tracks.

Even for those who don’t believe in God, the adage holds true.  What did our mothers always tell us?  If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.  People judge who you are by what you say.

Let’s hold each other accountable and stop speaking if our words will be less than gracious.  Let’s show how we can encourage one another one with love and support and take a tiny step to making our current culture less vitriolic.

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. I John 3:17