Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Deborah, of Chocolate and Coffee, is hosting In "Other" Words Tuesdays today on her blog. Please pay her a visit and see what she and other participants in this meme had to say.

The quote Deborah chose was:

If God said that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, then the whale swallowed Jonah, and we do not need a scientist to measure the gullet of a whale. ~ A. W. Tozer ~

God said Jonah was swallowed by a whale, it was a whale. Out of curiosity, I looked in the Blue Letter Bible lexicon to see what it said about the whale mentioned in the Matthew 12:40. The Hebrew word for whale is koilia. The outline of biblical usage for the word whale means 1) a sea monster, whale, huge fish.

No, I don't need a scientist either to prove to me the infalability of the Word of God. I have total and complete faith in the Bible. If God said it, I believe it. I don't care whether it's "impossible." I know better. I completely trust in His Word and rejoice that God's Holy Spirit inspired man to pen His Words to us.

"And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." ~ 2 Peter 1:19-21

But how do I know? How can I be sure? Faith.

Complete faith in God. I had a choice to make when I accepted Christ. Would I believe in Him wholeheartedly or just pick and choose what suited me? Picking and choosing is not an option. It's all or nothing with God.

You either believe it all or believe none of it.

"Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; You established the earth, and it stands. They stand this day according to Your ordinances, for all things are Your servants." ~ Psalms 119:89-91

"Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which are visible." ~ Hebrews 11:3

I choose to believe it all by faith and I pray that I never have a doubting moment in me. Oh, I've wondered, "Lord, but how?!" And somehow I know, God provided the size of the whale's belly to hold Jonah. And God provided the size of faith that I need to believe that.

When our faith wavers, doubts creep in and we begin to question...

Let your faith be steadfast, my friend. Proclaim to God that you acknowledge Him as the author of the Bible, that you acknowledge His truths passed down through prophets and men of old, that you acknowledge His Word as the foundation.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." ~ John 1:1-5

Something I have learned in the last few years of my faith...as long as I'm not questioning God, His holiness and His sovreignty, I believe it's okay to wonder about things in the Bible and ask questions of people in the know. Maybe a trusted pastor or do some research like looking up words in the lexicon or dictionary. There are numerous online resources available. The best resource is God, of course. Going to Him in prayer, asking for wisdom through His Holy Spirit and having Him clear up something is as refreshing as sweet tea on the hottest, humid day in July.

And it's okay to not understand things. I believe that there are some things we will not know until we are Home in Heaven, and that's okay with me. I believe God will provide me with what I need to know and understand when I need to know and understand it, and if I've exhausted all my resources in seeking a why, I'm comfortable with it remaining a mystery until I am called Home.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." ~ Isaiah 55:8-9

Monday, September 29, 2008

LauraLee is hosting a giveaway in honor of her 100th post. Please visit her site for more information on the giveaway and to enter! Plus, she has a beautiful blog. You will definitely be blessed simply visiting with her.

The instruction for the giveaway are as follows:

"Give me a testimony (I don't care how long) about a song that deeply changed the way you live. Where were you when you sang it? Did it sink in right at the time or later? What happened in your life as a result? How many times had you sung the song before?" - so says LauraLee

The song, I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb, deeply changed my life. Instaneously. I heard it sung in church by a friend who sang it 10x better than the original author/recorder, and this southern baptist girl was on her feet by the time the song ended - a huge step for reserved Laurie Ann, who almost jumped up and fled out of fear the first time she heard applause in a new church at the age of 14. Grew up in the same church all my life till then, and when we changed, even though it was still southern baptist, they clapped after a song was sung and it scared the fool out of me. But this is not about that. This is about how this song moved me so much that I was standing on my feet by the song's end.

I was deeply moved in spirit by God asking me three distinct questions. During the song! (No, not out loud. I would have left the building for sure if He spoke to me audibly, although I think I have heard Him whisper before, but that's another post.)

1) Do you pledge your whole allegiance to Me? (Yes, God.)
2) Would you die for Me? (Yes, God.)
3) Are you really ready to reject the world and embrace the Cross no matter what? (Huh? Yes, God, but I'm scared.)

Because I chose to reject the world and embrace His Cross in total and complete obedience to Him, I immediately knew it was going to cost me a friend. A dear friend. She had referred to my God as the Sky Fairy, and I had been praying about how to respond to her post. Was I to try to back off from sharing my faith with her, perhaps pushing her farther away? Was I to respond to her post in love and with forgiveness? No, God is not to be mocked, and I knew I had to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb. In losing my friendship with her, I lost connection with about 9 other women with whom I felt inseparable at the time. Only one friend remained, and she emailed me the other day and told me she had found God. It was worth it to reject the world and embrace the Cross, pledging my total allegiance to God, and being willing to die for Him (my life was not threatened as this "friend" posted this offense from a gazillion states away and I only saw her once a year). But the question was asked, "Are you willing...?" Yes, God.

I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb as sung by Ray Boltz (no endorsement of Mr. Boltz, but he does have a great voice.)

I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb

as sung by Ray Boltz

CHORUS: I pledge allegiance to the Lamb
With all my strength
With all I am
I will seek to honor His commands
I pledge allegiance to the Lamb

I have heard how Christians long ago
Were brought before a tyrant’s throne
They were told that he
Would spare their lives
If they would renounce
The name of Christ
But one by one they chose to die
The Son of God, they would not deny
Like a great angelic choir sings
I can almost hear their voices ring

CHORUS I pledge allegiance to the Lamb
With all my strength
With all I am
I will seek to honor His commands
I pledge allegiance to the Lamb

Now the years have come
And the years have gone
And the cause of Jesus still goes on
Now our time has come
To count the cost
To reject this world
To embrace the Cross

And one by one let us live our lives
For the One who died to give us life
Till the trumpet sounds on the final day
Let us proudly stand and boldly say

CHORUS I pledge allegiance to the Lamb
With all my strength
With all I am
I will seek to honor His commands
I pledge allegiance to the Lamb

To the Lamb of God who bore my pain
Who took my place
Who wore my shame
I will seek to honor His commands
I pledge allegiance to the Lamb

CHORUS I pledge allegiance to the Lamb
With all my strength
With all I am
I will seek to honor His commands
I pledge allegiance to the Lamb

(repeat)I pledge allegiance to the Lamb
With all my strength
With all I am
I will seek to honor His commands
I pledge allegiance to the Lamb

©1994 Word Music/ASCAP (a div. of Word, Inc.) and Shepherd Boy Music/ASCAP (adm. by Word, Inc.).

Spiritually Dry - At the Well Mondays

Heather is our hostess today At the Well. The topic she has chosen is Spiritually Dry. I encourage you to visit her blog at Emotional Purity and see what she and then the other ladies At the Well had to say on this topic.

Heather asks:

* Have you noticed a pattern of when you find yourself spiritually dry?

* What do you do to move quickly through that season of dryness?

Spiritual dryness can occur for many reasons, but it is always our fault when it happens. We seem to move away from God, giving Him time perhaps on Sundays, maybe even Wednesdays, but the rest of the time is filled with the things we desire. Busyness, unconfessed sin, not seeking God during times of heartache and sadness, these things can lead to spiritual dryness.

I have experienced being spiritually dry, and didn't even recognize it at the time. Oh, I wasn't living a "bad" life, just a busy one and one that didn't include prayer, praise and worship outside the corporate times of church. I'd get filled up on Sunday and fizzle on Monday. The rest of my week was busy busy busy! Unless I paused for prayer meeting on Wednesday night.

It wasn't until I made a commitment to seek God in prayer daily over a certain matter that I got doused with the Living Water again. Oh, it felt so good! During those times I picked up a Bible and started reading it before and after prayer time. Then I added a devotional to the mix. Quiet time. Sweet, solitary, sanctifying, soul-bearing, soaking up God quiet time.

Heather wrote, "I have a saying, framed and hanging in my dining room, it reads: Make time for quiet moments, as God whispers and the world is loud." I love that quote. It's so true.

If you make time for God, you will hear His voice whispering to you, even throughout the day. You have to practice listening for it, be in constant prayer and avoid falling into the pit of busyness and whatever made you spiritually dry in the first place. I am living proof this works.

"He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." ~ Jeremiah 17:8

When we keep God first in our lives, praising Him, worshiping Him, reading His Word and praying constantly, we can be like that tree mentioned above, for when we hit times of dryness we will still bear fruit for Him.

Sometimes being spiritually dry can come on the heels of a devastation in our lives. For me, it came on the heels of miscarriage and spending so much time between the hospital with a loved one and just going home to sleep and back to the hospital again, that I didn't have time to nourish myself with God except to say, "Oh, God, please help!" I don't know that I'd call that being spiritually dry so much as I would spiritually aching, because I had reserves to draw on.

Let's purpose to keep God on the forefront so that we won't become spiritually dry.

S - Seek God now - don't postpone it

E - engage in conversation about God with friends - He's a great topic of conversation

E - establish a routine that bring you close to God - prayer, bible reading, devotion, etc.

K - keep looking up - if you're in a spiritually dry well, er, place, reach up - God will get you out

G - Get some praise music on to lift your spirit toward God in worship and praise

O - Omit the busyness or sin that has moved you into the land of spiritual dryness

D - Decide to leave the land of the spiritually dry. You have to *want* to leave before you can actually leave it.

Father, I have been spiritually dry before, and didn't even realize it at the time. Later, I went through seasons where I was full of heartache and spiritually hurting. Whatever the case, may I recognize immediately where I am if I end up there again, and may I take action to stay close to You in the busyness of this life so I will be less likely to wind up there again anytime soon. I pray for those living in the land of spiritual dryness. I pray they would see Your outstretched hand and reach up and take it. Lead them back beside Your living water. Help us to prosper for Your glory and honor, Lord. In Jesus' Name I pray...Amen.

Award's Day

Kat, at Faith in All Seasons, has gifted me with a beautiful award. Debra, at Clothed With Scarlet has also gifted me with the same one. How sweet are they?

This award encourages us to share the love and helps to bring attention to organ donation and is a much welcome award.
The rules for this award are to pass it along to some people whose blogs you love. They make you laugh, smile, leave encouraging comments on your blog. You would like to share some love with them because they have uplifted, inspired, encouraged or prayed for you.

From Nancie - More than Conquerors & Kat - Faith in All Seasons & Debra - Clothed With Scarlet

There are no set number of people you have to pass it on to, so I'm going with 4.

1. LauraLee - LauraLee's Lifesong
2. Cheryl - Hope for Each Day
3. Melanie - The Fruits of the Spirit
4. Tracy - My Cup Runneth Over

Ya'll are such encouragers and I dearly love your blogs. You mean the world to me and I count you as dear sisters in Christ. I praise the Lord for your inspiration and encouragement and know you are great prayer warriors. I'm so glad God has brought us together through blogging.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Down here in the South, we love our redneck jokes and pics. They're a favorite email passtime of ours. (Passtime is one word in the South - it's how you pass time.)

Redneck Fire Alarm

Please visit Kim, the hostess for Friday Funnies, for more laughter material.

Happy Friday, ya'll!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Iris, the hostess of Thankful Thursday, has chosen change for this week's theme. (Happy early Birthday, Iris!)

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”~ Romans 6:4 (ESV ~ emphasis Iris')

There are many changes I've gone through in my life, and I haven't always been thankful for them, especially during the process. Change can be difficult, but it's often necessary. It's essential to growth in many aspects, and it pushes us toward transformation. Think of the caterpillar. What if he always stayed a caterpillar of didn't ever come out of his cocoon? He would never morph into the beautiful butterfly he was destined to be.

Like the caterpillar, we have to embrace change, and one change I am so glad I embraced is making Christ my personal Savior and Lord. Walking in the newness of life is awesome. I see things in a brighter and more colorful way. I seek His counsel, I study His Word, I love drawing near to Him in prayer, and I enjoy living my faith for His glory.

Another change we'll be embracing, if we believe in Christ, is His return.

"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality." ~ 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 (emphasis mine)

I don't know about you, but that's one change I'm so looking forward to. I'm so excited to know that I will receive a new body, a resurrected body. For someone with chronic illnesses, believe me, I'm ready! Not only for a new body, but to change homes. Go from this present earth home to Heaven. Spending eternity worshiping God. That's a change I could get used to. Here on earth we can get so entrapped by the business of our lives that we have to pick and choose when to worship God. I have a feeling in Heaven we won't have to schedule our quiet times or devotion to Him. Exciting changes are coming, my friend. Perhaps ours will be the generation to see His return. I hope so.

Father, I thank you for the changes you've brought my way in life. You've given me so much and taken away as well. It has all worked out to Your glory. I thank you for my husband and his precious daughter. Thank You for the privelege of being her bonus mom, and that she overcame so much in her life and went on to marry and have a healthy son and one more on the way. Thank You for my extended family and the changes they've gone through regarding health, age, giving new children to the family, and much more. Bless them and keep them, Lord. Thank You so much for Steve. He is my earthly rock and I love him so much. Thank You, Lord, for the work I have outside the home. It keeps me busy, but not so much that I don't have time for a life. Thank You so much for my friends. They bless my heart. Thank You, Father, that one day You will call us home and we will be changed in the twinkling of an eye, forever to worship You. May it be in my generation, Lord. I would love to see Your coming! I pray that You would use me to reach more people for You, sharing the story of the gospel with them as I have the opportunity. It's not one of my strong suits, but Lord, I'm willing to change. If You'll help me, that is. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Please visit Iris for more Thankful Thursday posts. You will be blessed, indeed! I love this day!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New Poll

Please take time to vote in the poll in my side-bar. This will assist me greatly in preparing my last Fruit of the Spirit post for next Wednesday.

If you don't wish to vote publicly, please feel free to drop me a line at sisterchick1@yahoo.com

Thanks so much!

Blessings & Hugs,

IPOP31 Bible Study Part 2- Shattering the Myths

There was much to be learned in shattering the myths of the Proverbs 31 Woman. I encourage you to join in this study by clicking on the button above.

Proverbs 31

Sayings of King Lemuel

1 The sayings of King Lemuel—an oracle his mother taught him:

I thought King Lemuel, mentioned nowhere else in the Bible but here, had a great Mother who only wanted the best for him, but I never realized that King Lemuel was Solomon. I have always believed Proverbs 31 is a heartfelt prayer for her son's future wife. I didn't realize that it Proverbs 31 was probably written by Bathsheba, Solomon's mother, until Amy pointed that out.

But who is King Lemuel? According to www.scripturetext.com, "Lemuel Lmuw'el (lem-oo-ale')(belonging) to God; Lemuel or Lemoel, a symbolic name of Solomon -- Lemuel."

That works for me, and helps me see that Bathesheba, Solomon's mother, had some very wise words and deep-seated hope for her son's future wife. I wonder if she knew he would go on to marry a gazillion woman? Well, not a gazillion, but he was on up there in numbers. David had a strong passion for women, too, so I think he somewhat followed in his father's footsteps. I love David, so this is not a slam against David or Solomon, more of an observation. That I probably could have kept to myself. I'm just saying, is all.
The second myth that was shattered for me was that the Proverbs 31 Woman was not an actual wife at that time. See above. She was what Bathsheba wanted for Solomon.

Myth number three was that Proverbs 31 is a set of guidelines we should follow. Amy writes, "Not everything recorded in the bible should be interpreted as literal guidelines. The majority of it is to allow us to learn from example. The example we should focus on here is the thoughts from the heart of a woman. If scholars are correct and the mother who wrote it is Bathsheba, then it should be easy to see why her heart would yearn for so much for her son.God reveals Himself to us spiritually. If we put our effort into growing our relationship with Him then we will develop a deeper understanding of who He is and what He is showing us though His word.

If you are looking for guidelines for Christian women then they can be found in many other places in the bible."

Then she gives Scripture. Titus 2:3-5, Ephesians 5:22, Proverbs 14:1, 1 Peter 3:1.

She encouraged us to read Matthew 6, and I did. I found many PoW (Pearls of Wisdom) there.

Giving to the needy, prayer, fasting, setting priorities (or treasures), and not being anxious are all discussed in Proverbs 31!

Words of Amy in Blue:

Focused Thoughts:

Proverbs 31 is not about a compilation of women, is not an actual wife, and is not a set of guidelines or a "to do" list for Christian women.

And you have no idea what pressure just lifted off my shoulders! God would never weigh us down with the impossible! We can strive to have these characteristics, but these are not commandments.

We cannot believe our natural assumptions when reading scriptures are the right ones. We must consult with God, study, and pray to receive revelation.

A hearty Amen!

Proverbs 31 is a spiritual lesson.

And one I'm looking forward to studying and growing closer to Christ as a result.

Scripture for Memory:

John 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

Write It Down (or post it):


Be sure to record your revelation and thoughts in your bible, notebook, or let us all share in what you are learning and write a post about it and link it here! I'd love to know what God revealed to you while reading Matthew 6. I'll even post my own thoughts and notes later in the week.

Done - see above. I loved the parallels I found!

For Study Purposes:

Look up the words: virtuous (vs.10), stretcheth (vs. 20), and feareth (vs. 30) in the concordance.

Using http://bibletab.com/

virtuous - 5 occurences. Ruth 3:11, 1 Samuel 16:18, 1 Kings 1:52, Proverbs 12:4, and Proverbs 31:10

stretcheth - 33 occurences. Genesis 12:8, Genesis 26:25, Genesis 35:21, Genesis 39:21, Exodus 8:6, Exodus 8:17, Exodus 9:23, Exodus 10:13, Exodus 10:22, Exodus 14:21, Exodus 14:27, Joshua 8:18, Joshua 19:13, Judges 4:11, 2 Samuel 21:10, 1 Kings 17:21, 1 Kings 18:42, 2 Kings 4:34, 2 Kings 4:35, 1 Chronicles 15:1, Job 9:8, Job 15:25, Job 26:7, Job 30:24, Job 39:26, Proverbs 31:20, Isaiah 31:3, Isaiah 40:22, Isaiah 44:13, Isaiah 44:24, Hosea 7:5, Zephaniah 2:13, Zechariah 12:1,

feareth - 36 occurrences - Acts 10:22, Acts 10:35, Acts 13:26, 1 John 4:18, Genesis 28:17, Genesis 32:7, Exodus 2:14, 1 Samuel 28:5, 1 Samuel 28:20, 2 Samuel 6:9, 1 Kings 1:50, 1 Kings 1:51, 1 Kings 19:3, 1 Chronicles 10:4, 1 Chronicles 13:12, 2 Chronicles 20:3, Job 1:8, Job 2:3, Psalms 25:12, Psalms 112:1, Psalms 112:8, Psalms 128:1, Psalms 128:4, Proverbs 13:13, Proverbs 14:2, Proverbs 14:16, Proverbs 28:14, Proverbs 31:30, Ecclesiastes 7:18, Ecclesiastes 8:13, Ecclesiastes 9:2, Isaiah 19:17, Isaiah 25:3, Isaiah 50:10, Jeremiah 26:21, Ezekiel 18:14

Find two other scriptures that are guidelines for women.

List three things about Bathsheba that stand out to you.

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." ~ Titus 2:3-5

"Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear." ~ 1 Peter 3:1-6

Three things about Bathsheba that stand out to me:

1 - She received God's mercy and grace and didn't live a life beaten down by guilt for her sin

2 - She loved her son Solomon enough to dedicate time to making an acrostic as to the attributes she desired for his future wife (wives)

3 - Despite her shady past (bathing on a rooftop and later commiting adultery) she was used by God

Questions to ponder:

What is the one verse in Proverbs 31:11-28 that you would most like to accomplish?

v. 11 - "Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value."

Steve has full confidence in me, but I want to make sure I make wise decisions that leave him lacking nothing of value.

Who do you personally know that you would consider to be a true Proverbs 31 woman? Tell us about her.

I know many women who strive to be a true Proverbs 31 woman, but I'm not sure I know one who already is. Hopefully, later in this study as I learn more about this woman and dispel the notion that she is perfect, I will recognize her for who she is.

One WFW, I began a Fruit of the Spirit theme. My first post started with the verse, and each week I have been led to post one on each fruit. I have posted on love, joy , peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness.

This week's fruit is gentleness. This picture tells the story of gentleness.

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."

~ Ephesians 4:2

This is a picture of Kristyn, my bonus daughter, who was 22 when Nolan was born, taken by her husband Corey. If you knew my daughter's eyes as I know them, you would see them as I saw them, full of post-partum depression, operating on very little sleep, scared because her baby was so "floppy". He came home from the hospital weighing 5 lb., 3 oz., and at the time this picture was taken, he was recovering from jaundice and had his days and nights mixed up. But look at her hand on that precious baby. She was so gentle with him, despite her circumstances. She was humbled at being a new Mommy, and was very patient and gentle, bearing with him in love. It's a perfect picture of gentleness to me. (Notice Curious George beside her? That's not Nolan's toy, hah hah! Curious George was with her even in labor!)

And now, onto gentleness....I found in Easton's Bible Dictionary that gentleness, or meekness, means in part, a calm temper of mind, not easily provoked.

In times past, I have thought of meekness as being weak, but it's not.

Christ and Moses, along with Abraham, David, and Paul are referenced in the full defintion as being gentle and meek. Their tender spirits working with the wisdom of not being easily provoked inspire me.

At times these men could be very bold, and certainly all were powerful, especially Christ; however, power and boldness is not what totally characterized their lives when they were on earth, in fact, I think it was a fruit of their lives.

I believe it could be said that gentleness is "power or boldness under control."

Let's look at illness and vaccines as an illustration. Without the flu vaccine, illness would start running rampant and become a world-wide plague. It would be out of control. But scientists and great doctors have developed a vaccine that has brought influenza into a controlled enviornment and has saved many from not only illness but a lot of them from death!
Christ offers us a great exchange (or even vaccine) for the illness in our lives. When we feel like we're spinning out of control and need to be reigned in, He offers...

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." ~ Matthew 11:28-30

It's up to us to come to Him and receive the rest and gentleness He so richly and freely offers.

Definining the place that gentleness has in our lives as Christians is easy, given the fact that it is a fruit of the Spirit.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." ~ Galatians 5:22-24 (Emphasis, mine)

Sometimes being gentle is the last thing we want to be, but knowing we, as Christians, should bear this as a fruit in our life make it worth striving for. Although it may go against our grain, we read above that when we belong to Christ, we have victory to cultivate and grow this fruit.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ~ Philippians 4:4-6

As we walk with Christ, we should let our gentleness be evident to all, even when we are anxious, worried, tried and oppressed. Let's let it be our fruit, borne from the Spirit within us.

"By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit." ~ Matthew 7:16-18

The good fruit of gentleness in controlling our behavior regardless of our circumstances will be a glory to God the Father through Christ Jesus our Lord. When we stay connected to the Vine, bearing this fruit will be easy.

Father, I ask for an extra measure of your grace as I seek to honor You by bearing the fruit of gentleness in my life. I want it to be evident to all, not for my glory but for Yours. I want to honor You in all the fruit that I bear, and I trust Your Word when it says that a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Help me exchange my burdens and weariness for the humbleness and gentleness of Your precious light and easy yoke. Let me cultivate characteristics of gentleness, such as being kind, even-tempered, and totally humble to You, oh Lord. Thank You for being my Gardener. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen.

Please visit Amydeanne, hostess of Word Filled Wednesday, to see what she and the others are blessing us with left and right in their posts.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Chelsey is the hostess of In "Other" Words Tuesday today. Please visit her at Joyfully Living for His Glory to see what she and the other ladies have to say on today's quote.

“Hospitality is becoming an almost forgotten Christian virtue in our style of life today… In the New Testament, however, hospitality was a distinctive mark of Christians and Christian communities.” ~Alexander Strauchfrom The Hospitality Commands~

One definition for hospitality, or philoxenia in greek, is love for strangers.

"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." ~ Hebrews 13:2

I admit that I sometimes find it easier to have a love for strangers and show hospitality to them by giving through charity or food, mainly because I'm not as outgoing as you might think; in fact, I am quite the introvert. I shudder at the thought of opening my home and hosting parties or even Bible studies. Not because of the people, but because of a certain level of anxiety on my part. I know I shouldn't be anxious, but there it is. I am. (And since I am being truthful, I will say that I have had the most awful time with words today (I'm writing this Monday)! I think it's because of the At the Well post on the Words We Speak I wrote yesterday! The Enemy is after me. Him or my flesh. It's hard to know which.)

Getting back to hospitality, when I think of that word in New Testament terms, I think of believers offering a sacrifice of hospitality. Another greek word for hospitality is philoxenos - which means given to hospitality, lover of hospitality, use hospitality.

Based on the definitions given above, I've learned, or re-learned, that hospitality seems to come from a heart of love, it is a verb, and that we are commanded to be hospitable. After all, "philos", in greek, means, in part, friend, to be friendly to one, wish him well, a friend, an associate, he who associates familiarly with one, a companion..."

Friendliness was one of the trademarks of Christ. After all, before He was even known as Christ or performed His first miracle, He was invited to a wedding. (See John 2) Usually, unless you are family or a friend, you don't get invited to these things. Jesus was well-liked, thus invited. And He gave us many examples of hospitality.

After He was gone from earth and the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, the Christian church came together in a whirlwind of hospitality toward each other.

I love this story of the fellowship of believers told in Acts.

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." ~ Acts 2:42-47 (Emphasis, mine)

I especially love the result of the hospitality - daily the Lord added new Christians! Amen!

In what ways is hospitality becoming an almost forgotten virtue in our style of life today? I think we live in a more fast-paced society and tend to look out for ourselves and the needs of our families first. We say there are only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 52 weeks in a year...how much can we really be expected to do? Times were admittedly slower back in the day.

Women didn't have to work outside the home, parents didn't spend weeknights and weekends practicing or traveling with team sports or other activities for children, and children were taught at home, not carted back and forth to school for the majority of the day. Not that all these things are bad - I'm just saying times seemed slower back then and life was led at a more leisurely pace. It just seems to me that there was more "time" to practice hospitality.

There were no major chain hotels for visitors to stay in as they traveled proclaiming the gospel of Christ. They relied on people to open their homes (and their hearts) up to them, and people had time to do that. They had very little to give in return. Paul worked for a living some of the places he went, relying not on others for his living, but paying his own way.

How can we get back the lost art of hospitality?

"The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." ~ 1 Peter 4:7-10

I think an abundance of love for others is needed. We need to keep our focus on Christ and live to serve Him by serving others. We need to not see hospitality as a burden and not grumble about. If God has gifted us with a special gift (speaking, hostessing (is that a word? you know what I mean), witnessing, etc.,) we are to use that gift to serve others faithfully. It's an extension of God's grace and love for us when we do.

Normally we don't give to receive, but Christ tells us when we do offer this form of hospitality we will receive an inheritance, a kingdom prepared for us since the creation of the world!

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' " ~ Matthew 25:34-40

In offering hospitality, we serve the Lord our God! Hospitality is borne out of the love our Savior gave us. In showing hospitality to others, whether strangers or friends, we serve God.

I mentioned above that I was anxious about hospitality. I think I know why! I'm Martha! I get distracted.

"As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." ~ Luke 10:38-42

I would love to say that I am Mary. Indeed, I have said it before, because I'd rather be at God's feet, but through this quote and in reading Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver, I have found that I get distracted.

Got the handy lexicon on crosswalk running again and found that that could mean to be anxious, to be troubled with cares, to seek to promote one's interests, or disturb, trouble, to be troubled in mind, disquieted.

To seek to promote one's interests....could I be selfish? I pray not. Maybe for me that means wanting the house to be perfect, wanting the dog to behave (we don't have kids), and wanting the food to be great. Ouch! Nothing like a good dose of Scripture and the definition of greek words used in Scripture to make you feel convicted!

I will probably know more when I finish the book I mentioned above, and I look so forward to reading other's posts. Join Chelsey and visit the others who have participated in this meme, I beg! I need to learn more, not only from God, but from your examples!

Father, may I offer hospitality, which I am learning is an extension of love, to all - strangers and those who belong to the body of believers, in a way that is holy and pleasing to You. Help me to humble myself and put the needs of others before the desires and even the anxieties of my flesh. Make me into the extrovert you want me to be for You, Lord, so that in serving the least of the brothers, I will have served You. I truly want to honor You, Lord, and I know that in Scripture You tell us several times to "fear not" and to present our requests to You. Make me less anxious about opening up my home and help me continue to reach out to others through love. Love for them out of love for You. Change me, Lord, into "Mary".

The Words We Speak

I'm so excited to be hosting At the Well today! Thanks for joining in. This is a meme born out of the heart of Chelsey at Joyfully Living for His Glory. It has had a special place in my heart from the moment she shared it with us. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the topics we've discussed. I've grown so much and learned so much At the Well. The topic I chose to discuss this week is The Words We Speak.

This subject has special meaning to me because of the result of a commitment I made last year to God to read His Word completely. I had tried and failed before, but the Holy Spirit impressed upon my heart that as an avid reader and self-proclaimed bookworm, I had not taken the time to read, really read, the Bible the way I should.

Oh, I knew passages and stories and some memory verses, but I had never read the Bible from start to finish. I committed to honor God in reading the Word so abundantly available to me, and in doing so, I found that throughout the Bible there is much to be said about the words we speak.

From the Genesis to Revelation, my heart was convicted periodically through God's Word. I've never been much for using profanity, so it wasn't that.

What then? Let's begin by revisiting Titus 2:3-5.

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." ~ Titus 2:3-5 (Emphasis, mine)

Whether we realize it or not, the world is watching. It's been said that we are the only Bible some people will ever read. As Christian women, it is our responsibility not only to proclaim the gospel of Christ, but to carry out Paul's admonition, prompted as given to him by God, to "teach what is good".

With that in mind, I ask the questions...

Do the words you speak reflect your reverence for Christ?

"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." ~ Exodus 20:7

The Hebrew word for vain is Shav', which means emptiness, vanity, falsehood, emptiness, nothingness, vanity, emptiness of speech, lying worthlessness (of conduct)

I know we are not to take the name of God in vain, but I admit that I found myself using abbreviations when I typed like OMG. As my bonus daughter used to say, "No big diff." No difference. I was just abbreviating it, even if I didn't really "mean" it. We need to be aware that each time we speak God's name, we need to be speaking seriously and reverently about Him or to Him. In fact, we should be offended for God when someone does misuse His name. I have a friend who says, "Jeezum". I know what she's saying, and I understand that she's trying to substitute a different word so she doesn't say His name in vain, but isn't she doing so anyway?

What then, should we say? I would never presume to know! I would recommend, "Wow!" or my personal favorite, "Get out!" Whatever works, as long as it's not impure and irreverent. I believe with all my heart that when we need to be hyper-aware of how we use God's name and His endearing qualities associated with His name.

There is another way of misusing His name, other than uttering it directly. Any time we make commitments regarding Him and break them we misuse and misrepresent God's precious name. When we speak words like, "Praying for you..." spontaneously without following through, we're being irreverent toward our God. It's pretty much a dishonor to His name to use anything about God's name or His character when we don't follow through.

God's name is beautiful, and should be revered. We need to honor it and use it wisely; even the characteristics of His name should be honored in my opinion.

And to answer my own question...I am by no means perfect. I have gotten better, though. I think reading God's Word has brought me closer to Him and wanting to protect and revere His glorious Name. It's made me more sensitive to misuses of His name and speaking hollow words. When I say, "I'll pray for you," you better believe that I will, if not that moment, soon!

Would you consider your speech to be self-controlled and pure?

"The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." ~ Luke 6:45

I have found this area of speech to be a matter of the heart. I believe when that when we begin to work on speech that is self-controlled and pure, we need to look our hearts. When our hearts are dark with unconfessed sin, we are more apt to let the ugly come out in our speech.

"If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless” James 1:26

As we seek to set an example to others around us, we need to carefully guard the words we speak. If we have someone watching us, so impressed with the way we walk so closely with God, we can blow that testimony in a New York minute by one unbridled word that just "comes out." I'm speaking mostly of profanity here, but purity in speech also extends to more than the normal four letter words. A while back, I got in a habit of saying, "Key-rap!", which basically means crap, which basically means *$%! Not a good thing to be saying.

My motto with speech is: "Try not to say anything you wouldn't have heard Jesus say when He was here on earth." I cannot imagine hearing Jesus utter, "Key-rap, Peter, the fish *did* have a coin in it's mouth!" No, He would have excercised restraint. Why? Because not only because He was perfect, but also because He knew others were watching. He had quite a following of people who traveled with Him, not only listening to His preaching but attending to His needs and the needs of those who traveled in the group.

Preparing our hearts for the words we speak begins with following the example Christ gave us.

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." ~ Mark 1:35

When we begin our day by talking to God (purely, of course!), it helps us set the tone for the rest of our day. I encourage you to pray for self-control and purity of speech. God will help us in that area. While we won't always be perfect, we can aim high.

If you're around someone who lacks the quality of self-controlled and pure speech, consider whether you need to cut back your time with them. I did. I don't respond to emails where impure speech is written, and for a time I tempered my time with a friend who cussed often. Very often. She noticed and asked why, and I told her that her speech offended me. She graciously cleaned it up quickly and now only stumbles once in a while. She respects my wishes not be around people who cuss.

To answer my own question, again, I am by no means perfect. I have gotten better, though. I'm not given to profanity, but I struggle with the self-control part. I am very quick to answer without thinking. "Can you help me with this?" "Sure!" When I really don't have time or don't want to. "Can you watch the baby for me?" "Absolutely!" Then I find out Steve has unloaded 10 pallets of paper that day in 100* heat and the last thing he may want is a little one to keep his eye on that night. I have to reign in the impulsive speech and even the speech that talks just for the sake of talking.

In our speech, we need to keep the main thing the main thing. We don't need to just pop off and speak without considering the sparks we set off (see James 3) with our tongues. We need to guard our hearts so our speech will be pure. Monitoring what goes into our hearts will help, as will spending time with God each day.

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." ~ Psalm 19:14

Do you find gossip and slander hard or easy to avoid?

In the Bible (NIV), the word gossip is used 10 times throughout the old and new testament. Slander is used 46 times. Obviously gossip and slander are of great importance to God. Simply put, we are not to do them.

Gossip means to murmur, whisper, murmurers, backbite, slander, talebearer, backbiter, slanderer, tale bearer, informer

"A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret." ~ Proverbs 11:13

"A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much." ~ Proverbs 20:19

Solomon was a very wise man. He penned these words, and as I believe all Scripture to be God-breathed, I believe we are to adhere to the wisdom and commandments we glean from the reading of His Word.

Simply put, gossip hurts. It hurts not only the one we're murmuring, whispering, or telling something about, but it hurts our hearts! It's sin. It damages our testimony to speak it and to hear it. How can we lead by example if we just have to share what someone asked us not to with just one person, because we just *know* they will keep our secret? If we didn't keep the secret to begin with, how can we expect them to?

Gossip is not only repeating something shared in confidence, it's speculation about things, and even talking about others. Confidentiality is becoming a thing of the past in so many areas of our lives. Do I really need to share that Sabrina told me that Joe said that he may have to get a second job? Whether she told me not to tell it or not, why do I feel that I have to share that information? What if I preface it with, "Ya'll, we have got to pray for Sabrina, bless her heart! She said Joe...." Nope. That's gossip, too. If Sabrina asks for prayer, yes, I will share it. If she is very open about it and we share a friend in common and that friend already knows, we may talk about them, but not in a negative way. With compassion. With love. With hope for a positive outcome. Not how in the world they got themselves into that position. "Joe drinks too much, don't you know, and Sabrina can't keep herself out of the mall long enough to..." Nope! Don't go there.

We must be as trustworthy as we can in our speech! Certainly there are times we need to vent and share, but I would encourage you to take it to the Lord or either your spouse. If I can't talk to my spouse about something, I can't talk to anyone. I try my hardest to make it a rule not to say anything about anyone that I wouldn't say to their face.

Regarding gossip, what I'm working on is my motive for sharing. There are things that I do need to share and I run it through the self-control and purity checkpoint first, to see if it's just an utterance or something I really need to talk about and get feedback on.

To answer my own question....I'm not perfect. I confess, repent and try hard not to whisper, murmur or over-share.

Slander....oooh. That's a biggie. What is slander? Slander can go hand in hand with gossip. Some of it's meanings are whispering, defamation, evil report, defamation, defaming, unfavourable saying.

We read in Titus 2 that we are "...not to be slanderers...." Some other good verses on slander are found below.

"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." ~ Matthew 15:19

"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." ~ Ephesians 4:30-31

Slander is also a heart issue. And the words we speak come from the heart. Slander can come in even the subtlest of forms. If we feel justified saying something bad about someone, it doesn't make what we say right. Even if it's true. Even if it's said behind closed doors. Even if it's said to their face or in print.

What about me? Slander is something I try not to practice, but again, I'm not perfect. I stumble, I confess, I repent and try again. I try to see people as God sees them, as people that He loves, and it helps.

In closing, we have some pretty good guidelines to follow on our speech. I'm sure we have to be careful not to become so rigid in our speech that we are like Pharisees, but I do believe it's important for us to be aware of the power of the tongue. That said, again, I believe we should aim high.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

"But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;" ~ 1 Peter 1:15

I hope I've not bored you to death with such a long post, but I had so much to write on this topic. Like I said, it's something God dealt with me on when I read through His Word completely for the first time ever, and I'm learning that the words we speak matter to Him, to us, to others, and most of all, that the words we speak really show what's in our hearts.

"...For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips."~ Proverbs 4:23-24

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." ~ Ephesians 4:29

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." ~ Ephesians 4:32

S - self-control is so important in guarding the words we speak

P - pray about the words you say, do they honor God, do they honor others

E - expect fallbacks - we are not perfect, but we can be forgiven

A - always count to 10 before you share something or respond to something "questionable"

K - kindness goes such a long way in setting an example for others to follow

I - invite God to be your mouthpiece before you begin your day

N - notice the speech of those around you - it can rub off on you

G - grumbling mouths are a sign of grumbling hearts

Please join us in sharing At the Well today. What do you have to say about the questions asked above? What are your thoughts on The Words We Speak? I look forward to hearing from you and reading what you share on your blog. Sign up with Mr. Linky below and let's draw our water buckets full...