Speak Softly, and….

Speak Softly, and….

Teddy Roosevelt, US President:
“Speak softly, and carry a big stick.”

Jesus of Nazareth
spoke softly, and carried a cross.

Isaiah 42:1-3

1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.

The Sacrifice of Praise

I grew up singing “We bring a sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.” It wasn’t until a few years ago that I began to think about what that means. Yesterday, I was thinking again about this phrase. The longer I walk with the Lord, I find it easy to praise Him but there are some who may find it harder to praise God as they walk through very trying circumstances. This is when praise becomes a true sacrifice.

First Thessalonians 5:16 and 18 tells us to “Rejoice evermore. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Easier said than done sometimes but it is one thing that God requires of His children. Anyone can praise God when things are going well. It’s during the times of heartbreak and tragedy that our faith is tested and we have to choose if we are going to curse God or praise Him.

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I hope you will choose the sacrifice of praise. As difficult as it can be at times, you will find strength like you have never before experienced. Listen closely and you will hear the Father whisper, “Fear not, My child. I love you and am with you through even the most difficult times. You do not have to bear your burden alone. Draw near to Me, and I will draw near to you.”

No matter what life is bringing you right now, take time this week to count your blessings. There is always something to be thankful for and, most of the time, our blessings are many. We just need to look at life differently than the world does.

Curing “Oh My Goodness!”

We are appreciative to Pastor Jon Gleason for writing the following article which is a follow-on to a previous post on taking the Lord’s name in vain. May this be a profit to you in your life. Jon has graciously given us permission to use his articles here at Defending Contending and this one is certainly very timely.

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Curing “Oh My Goodness!”

Mark Escalera at Defending. Contending. ran (with permission) my post, “OMG” — and Other Ways Christians Take God’s Name in Vain (this continues to be, by far, my most shared post).  In the comments at DefCon someone said she has tried to break the habit of saying, “Oh my goodness!”

This also is something Christians might say from time to time that has no real profit, is often just a “sanctified swearing substitute,” and is highly dubious theologically as well:

Philippians 3:9

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

So much for “my goodness” — that pretty much covers it, doesn’t it?  The only “goodness” we have is the goodness of God, so He is our goodness, our righteousness.  What exactly do the words “oh my goodness” mean, for a Christian?  If you say this, your words are not saying what you mean by them….

It seems this is another expression we really could do without.  It isn’t something I ever said a lot, but I became convinced a while ago that I would be best looking to stop.  As with most things we want to do to please our Lord, Scripture provides some help, and I thought I would take the time here to briefly expand on my answer over at DefCon.

Step 1.  Memorise the following verse, or at least the first half of it:

Isaiah 64:6

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

 

Step 2.  Whenever you slip into the habit and say, “Oh my goodness,” remind yourself your goodness is as filthy rags.

If that doesn’t do it, engage step 3.

Step 3. Tell people close to you (friends, family) you are trying to break the habit, and ask them, every time you say, “Oh my goodness,” to respond, “…is as filthy rags.” If nothing else, you’ll stop just because you get tired of hearing that response!

If they don’t know the Lord, so much the better.  You are giving them an important part of the Gospel in a way they will not be likely to ever forget, showing them your commitment to please the Lord in small things as well as big, and demonstrating a humble awareness of your own sinfulness and need of a Saviour.

In fact, maybe you should just jump straight to step 3!

As with so many other statements that we make unthinkingly, the Christian who says “Oh my goodness” almost certainly never means any disrespect to God, never means to exalt himself or be self-righteous.  It is almost always just a habit into which he has drifted without even thinking about it.

If our Lord has blessed you with a relationship which permits it, perhaps when you hear another Christian say it you can give a gentle reminder of how that expression matches up with Scripture.  Or, if he has a sense of humour, just be ready with a quick response:  “Oh my goodness”” — “…is as filthy rags!”

What Are You Worshiping?

In Exodus 20:3-6, God gives the first commandment, and I think possibly the most important commandment since, if we master this, we will have no problem obeying the others.

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You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make to you any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy to thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

When you think of idols, you probably think of Bible days where people would build statues or poles and bow down to them, praying or worshiping their “god” made of wood or stone. Today, people don’t seem to do that as much but this doesn’t mean that we don’t have idols just the same.

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Here in America, we are inundated with so many things that can replace time we could spend with the Lord. Whether it’s TV, a relationship, sports, activities, etc., it is easy to get to the end of the day and realize God received a small portion of your time while these other things occupied a good bit of it.

God has blessed us with many things but everything serves a purpose. If any person or possession means more to you than your relationship with God, that thing needs to go. If you spend hours watching TV and only a few minutes with the Lord, your priorities are horribly misplaced.

I am currently evaluating my life in these areas as well. I hate the phrase “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good” because we must be heavenly minded to be any good on this earth. Everything we do should be centered around Christ and what pleases Him. If something does not please Him, it needs to go.

How do you spend your days? Are you daily seeking His face, drawing near to Him, worshiping Him as you go about your daily tasks? Or is he a tack-on to your already full day? I would encourage you to truly ponder this and ask God to show you if there are things in your life that are hindering the close fellowship that He desires to have with you. We often adjust to life and don’t realize that God has so much more for us. This is not a matter to be complacent about. Matthew 6:33 tells us, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” That needs to be our priority every single day of our lives.

Amid the frantic pace of life, don’t neglect quality time with your Savior, the only One you should be worshiping.

Falling in Love with Jesus All over Again

Let me fall in love with You all over again
Let me know You as never before

As I was praying this morning, this song, sung by the late Kenny Hinson, became my prayer. There is nothing I desire more than to fall in love with Jesus all over again.

In the last few years, I’ve gone through a number of changes, some of which I struggled with a long time before surrendering to the direction God wanted me to take. I don’t like change, and I had to be absolutely sure He was leading. As I look back now, it is so obvious to me that He was indeed calling, and I am overwhelmed by His love for me and His willingness to use this weak, stubborn vessel.

In the last few years, God has also brought some wonderful people into my life–those who are willing to intercede for me, bear with me, and encourage me whenever God lays me on their heart. They say if you can count on one hand your true friends, you are very blessed. If I think about it, I can probably do that and more. At the same time, no one can replace my first Love.

loving-jesus

I am not always faithful. I do not always embrace the tests He brings but have instead cried and begged Him to remove tests when I thought I could not stand it. In the end, though, like the apostle Paul, I found His grace to be sufficient and His strength to be made perfect through my weakness.

I was watching Joni Tada last night on the True Woman Conference’s webcast, and she talked about the importance of surrender to whatever will draw us closer to Jesus. That is a lesson I am still learning but, if I desire a closer walk, I must be willing to accept whatever He knows will rid me of myself so that I can have true communion with Him.

Being over 40 years old and single, God has been my husband and Father. He has been the friend who is there in the middle of the night when all I can do is cry. I have felt Him hold me and assure me He is there, even when I knew I had failed Him. True to His Word, He has never left me or forsaken me but He has blessed me much more than I will ever deserve, and He has surrounded me with people who love me.

I have had an ear infection for several months and, yesterday, I finally got in to get my ears cleaned out. I cried as the doctor worked to remove all the junk in there, but I knew the pain was necessary if I was going to be able to hear again and heal completely.

This experience brought home the reality that it is the same way with life. The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. The longer we live, the more sin accumulates until we meet Jesus and He begins to chip away the sins that ensnare us. Even after walking with him for over 20 years, there are still things in my life that need to go. Humanly, I don’t want to go through the pain I may need to go through so He can chisel them out of my heart, but I realize it is necessary in order to have more room for Him. He cannot dwell where sin is present and so surrender I must. If I do so, I will feel more of His love and peace, and I will in turn love Him more than ever before.

God, make that truly my desire, that I love You, not only on the mountain when the sun is shining bright, but also in the valleys when it’s dark and I can’t see You. Keep me looking straight ahead and not on what is going on around me for, with You holding my hand, nothing can touch me and, one day, You will lead me to my eternal Home where nothing will ever harm me again. Thank You, Father. Amen!

Don’t Forget

I am reading through the book of Numbers and remembering how important it is to not forget the good things God has done. Unfortunately, humankind hasn’t changed and, when trials come, it’s easy to wonder how God can do these things to US–His servants! Bad things do happen to Godly people, however, and you must remember it is these things that increase our faith and have the capacity to make us more Godly if we would surrender.

This is a reminder I needed today. I have seen God’s hand at work so many times and, even when I can’t see, I need to trust and know that everything He allows in my life is for my good and His glory. It is often in the valley that I take more time to seek His face and listen for His voice. I admit this to my shame but it is something I think about when trials come. If this is the only way that God can get my attention, then I need not complain but, instead, I should be praising Him for His faithfulness in continually drawing me closer to Him.

I pray I never forget His goodness and His love for me. I hope you don’t either. Over and over in Scripture, God told the Israelites to Remember. God is still saying that today. Thank Him for His blessings for they are many.

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A Call to Repentance and Surrender

After Bible Study the other night, we were sitting around talking, and someone mentioned that, before he knew the Lord, he wouldn’t attend church because he knew he wasn’t living right. Thankfully, he finally hit a place where he surrendered to the Lord, changed the things he knew needed to change, and surrendered his life to Christ.

I understand why churches stress the importance of coming to Jesus as you are instead of waiting to be cleaned up but it also seems like way too many stay as they are, even after making a profession of faith. Isaiah 1:18 says, “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ said the LORD: ‘though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.'” This doesn’t mean your sins become white but that your life of sin disappears as you begin to serve God.

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In Romans 6:1, Paul asks, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” In verse 2, he answers his own question, “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”

In Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” We know Christ knew no sin so, if He lives in me, I won’t live a life of sin either.

Many times in Scripture, people were told to repent. That call still goes out today. If you are one who looks nice on the outside but inside, you are full of uncleanness, repent. If you are nice to the people at church but mean to your family, repent. If you are living a life that you know is not honoring to God, it is never too late to turn from your sinful ways and surrender those areas to the One who loves you more than you will ever be able to comprehend. The answer isn’t to stop going to church; the answer is to understand your need and turn to Him today.

Pretend that you are about to take communion. Think about the horrendous death that Jesus suffered because of your sins and mine. As you begin to bring the bread and cup to your lips, does your heart well up with gratitude for what Christ has done for you or do you find yourself squirming because you know that you are not able to take communion worthily but you know that others have no idea what your life is really like? Worse yet, do you not feel that sense of guilt about the life you are living?

Hebrews 12:6 says, “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and whips every son whom He receives.” If you are able to sin and not be disciplined by the Lord, you should really search your heart to know if you are truly His.

Let me also say here that there is a difference between conviction and condemnation. Condemnation feels like there is no hope. Conviction is the mercy of the Holy Spirit tapping you on the shoulder and showing you what you are doing wrong so that you can change. That is what I want you to feel today: the conviction that only God can bring. I don’t know your life. I don’t know what you’re going through. But I do know that God loves you, and He can change you today, whether you have gone to church for a day, a month, a year, 5 years, 65 years, or not at all. His arm is not too short, and He desires you to spend eternity with Him. Won’t you surrender today?