Holding My Tongue

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In Psalm 39, David addresses an interesting choice he made: to keep quiet, to hold his tongue…to not argue back.

Imagine that…Selah.

We have become a nation of “right fighters” (to use a well-worn Dr. Phil-ism). We argue for argument’s sake. We chose to be right, no matter how ridiculous we sound or how much damage it does to our witness…or our relationships.

David probably felt he had every right to speak. After all, he WAS God’s chosen one. But he opted to put a muzzle on himself.

The problem was, it didn’t solve the problem. What he wanted to say just built up inside until he was ready to burst. He saw issues, problems and he became frustrated by not addressing them.

But when he was at his bursting point, instead of exploding on the person creating the issue, having the problem, making the mistake, or whatever…he didn’t vent or rant all over them. He didn’t go to social media and spill his guts. He didn’t dump on a friend.

No. He turned to God. “I felt a fire burning inside, and the more I thought, the more it burned, until at last I said, “Please, LORD, show me my future (vs. 4-5a).”

He took his anger directly to the place where it could do the most good and then rather than focusing on someone else, someone who he couldn’t change—no matter how much he argued—he pleaded with God to better understand himself.

Imagine that…Selah.

As a pastor, I have talked and counseled with many people who are angry…typically with the behavior or choices of someone else…sometimes with God. And they stew and stew until they finally blow. Usually the eruption ends up falling upon someone totally innocent and unworthy of the volcanic spewing.

When I query as to whether they consider taking the matter to God, they are shocked and appalled. In their minds they have “protected” God from their anger…as if that’s possible and as if God couldn’t handle it—he’s just so fragile, you know?

God’s not fragile. He’s also not afraid of our anger. Paul clearly instructs the Ephesians to “be angry, but sin not.” Remember, Jesus got angry on the more than one occasion—just ask the money changers in the temple, or the Pharisees.

Hold your tongue when you can. Nothing is gained by arguing for argument’s sake. And before you dump your anger on someone else, try taking it to God. He can handle it.

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Wednesday Word: INSPIRING

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These words are meant to serve as an encouragement. When I think of inspiring I think of people and places, times and events. Let’s think about the people who inspire us.

Who inspires you and why?

Who are the people across your life who have beaten the odds, strived for excellence without necessarily seeking attention, or persevered and prospered when everyone else gave up?

Can you see them? Have you told them? Is their picture on the fridge or where you can see it so that when you want to give up their memory or presence spurs you on one more time.

We need these people in our lives. Examples of what can be…what we need to be.

And we need to be these people.

Don’t get all false modest on me, thinking there’s nothing in your life that could inspire anyone. You may not be looking to live an inspiring life. You may be wondering if you’ll just make it to lunch—but the way you do even that might be just the inspiration that someone needs to not give up.

Here’s the truth: people are watching. You know that because you watch others.

Be someone’s inspiration today. Face down your giants. Live large though you’re shaking in your shoes. Don’t let anyone—ANYONE—trample your dream. Do what others say can’t be done. Love. Forgive. Live.

You can do this. We can do this together.

 

Wednesday’s Word: Awe

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So the plan for this weekly post is to have an encouraging word for those extra long days and weeks that weigh heavy and are discouraging.

Today’s word is a great word for that purpose. So many days we get tripped up by the mundane, sabotaged by the pain, or overwhelmed by the struggle. We’re taken down by those things because we lose perspective: the ability to see above and beyond.

A scripture that lifts me to a place of awe is found in Isaiah 40:

28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

God can give us the ability to soar above…and that’s pretty awesome. He keeps his promise, gives us everything we need—including the ability run, or  the strength to just keep walking.

That’s awesome and amazing.

 

Hopefully Devoted: While You Wait

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Waiting is inevitable.

What we do with it is a choice.

Already this morning, I found myself waiting before I could go have “before-surgery-prayer” with someone at the hospital. Then on the way home, I had to stop for a school bus loading a dozen children.

Waiting is not only inevitable, it is inconvenient—we always seem to be waiting when we’d rather be doing something else.

So what can we do while we wait?

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We can read. We can pray. We can sing. We can pace (getting steps is always a good thing). We can talk to the others who are waiting around us.

These are the productive things we can do.

But we can also stew, grouse, complain, belly-ache, whine, and generally make everyone around us as miserable with the inconvenience as we are.

I know these things are options, because I’ve gone there way too many times myself.

Tucked away in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he makes reference to “redeeming the time” (5:16). This echos the Old Testament prayer of the Psalmist: “Teach us to use wisely all the time we have (Psalm 90:12).”

So how will you use your time, especially your waiting time, today?

May we all come to productive and wise usage…we’ll be happier for it…and God will be pleased.

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Sermon Seeds: Persistence in Prayer

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When I was in high school and experiencing all the typical teenage angst of relationship break-ups, peer pressure, and raging hormones, I had one encounter that forever shaped the way I move toward the future.

I felt a closeness to the the mother of one my friends…her whole family actually. This woman of faith died from breast cancer the fall of my senior year in high school—but not before imparting to me the words that became my mantra for life.

One evening, when my angst and stress was overwhelming, I went to her home. I poured out my heart, and at some point spewed my need to just give up.

She got right in my face, and quietly, but firmly told me to never, ever give up.

Here was this woman, my spiritual mentor at the time, dying from the ravages of cancer, on oxygen, barely able to move off the couch, telling me to never give up. Nothing in life comes easy, but it’s always, always, worth fighting for.

I can’t tell you how many times those words have come back to me, sustained me, pushed me, enabled me.

I apply them to work, to child-rearing, to writing, to facing the seemingly impossible.

And I apply them to prayer and my relationship with God.

The words of Jesus about prayer, “ask…seek…knock” are actually: keep on asking, keep on seeking…keep on knocking.”

Are you in a situation that seems overwhelming? Do you need a miracle? Never give up in prayer. God’s answer, his way, his truth, are worth fighting for.

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Hopefully Devoted: How much love?

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The trial of a serial killer has captured the attention of most of the people in my little town. Finding an impartial jury has not been easy. Opinions are expressed in the morning coffee gatherings, in the papers, and on the regional news.

I met recently with a group who were close to one of the victims. Very early into our meetng, one of people spoke up: “I have a question. Do I have to pray for that guy?”

Easy answer: no.

But I’m not into easy answers.

I helped my questioning friend to tease out what she was really wanting to ask. She was somewhat resistant—seeking to hide the truth she was trying to avoid. But we finally got there. “Do I have to forgive him?”

What followed was an honest discussion about forgiveness. No one was comfortable…needing to forgive can do that.

As we were wrapping up our meeting, a new question surfaced: Do I have to like him?

Even easier answer: no!

Scripture says nothing about liking someone. I don’t think we’re wired to like everyone.

But we have to care about them. We have to love them.

Loving someone…caring for them…praying for them doesn’t mean we have to like them—and we certainly don’t have to like or condone what they did.

Perhaps the only thing we can pray for them is that they will find the strength to face the consequences of their actions.

If I did something horribly wrong I would hope someone prayed that much for me.

Wednesday’s Word: Confident

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Truth? I don’t always feel confident. I rarely function with “no uncertainty.”

But I have boatloads of “strong belief.” And never ending trust in the One who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above ALL I could ask or even imagine.

So today, I will live and move in the “full assurance” that not CAN HE, but He will!

That’s the confidence I carry into today. How about you?