Monday, October 28, 2013

Be the Light

"Mommy, why is the light so bright?" My four year old son asked this question as he walked into the bathroom right after he woke up.  His squinty eyes worked hard to block the brightness.  It was too much after sleeping in his dark bedroom all night.  I explained that it takes a few minutes for our eyes to adjust to the light.  And within a minute or two, his eyes were ready to welcome the light and all the good that comes from it.

Now let's contrast this conversation with what happened when my four year old son turned off the light right before bed the next evening.  His room transitioned from brightly lit to completely dark with the flip of a switch.  And he did not like the darkness this time.  He couldn't see the way to his bed, and that can be dangerous when a stray toy might be in his path.  So he decided to solve this dilemma by carefully walking to his closet and pulling out his biggest glow in the dark star.  He stuck it to the wall and was satisfied with the little bit of light it offered.  And then, he was ready for bed.

Have you ever considered how our spiritual walk can model my son's experience with light?  When we first hear the truth, it can catch us off guard.  God might gently convict us while reading the Bible or through a sermon or with words from a friend.  We might try to squint our eyes to keep the light of God's truth out because the darkness of our sin is more comfortable.  Yet as we choose to obey... as we repent and ask God to help us change ... as we begin to embrace His way for us... the light doesn't hurt as much.  We start to experience the blessings of our obedience... the blessings that were hidden when we were covered in darkness.  And God's light shines in us, just like Psalm 34:5 promises:  Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

It takes time to learn to be the light.  It's not an overnight transformation.  It's a moment by  moment decision to follow Jesus like John 8:12 encourages us to do: 

John 8:12 AMP
Once more Jesus addressed the crowd. He said, I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the Light which is Life.

Did you know that Jesus calls us "the light of the world"? 

Matthew 5:14-16 AMP
14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men that they may see your [z]moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and [aa]recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.

We have a bright role to play in our fallen society.  We are not called to blend in.  We are called to shine by holding tightly to God's word.
Philippians 2:14-16 New Living Translation (NLT)
14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. 16 Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.

Are you willing to shine brightly for Jesus?  Are you ready to step out of the darkness of sin and embrace the glorious light and freedom that Jesus offers?  It's so worth it because the Light of Jesus reveals beauty.  Just think about it... You can't see the beauty of leaves changing colors in the dark of night.  Obstacles in your path are hidden once the sun sets.  Christ's Light might sting at first, causing you to squint.  Remember to give your spiritual eyes some time to adjust to this new way of life.  Jesus will guide you every step of the way.  Let's learn to be the light... one day at a time. 
And if you need some inspiration on learning to be the light, then check out the song Learning to be the Light by Newworldson:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Speak Life

Have you ever paused to consider what kind of words come out of your mouth?  Do you speak encouraging words or do you tend to have a negative outlook on life?  Are you gentle or harsh?  Kind or hurtful?  Confident in your speech or insecure? 

Words are powerful... they can build you up or tear you down.  And my morning began with unkind words shared among brothers.  These words stung my son.  And while an apology was given, along with five compliments to put a salve on the sting, it just didn't seem to erase the original message.  And so began a day filled with reflections on the power of our spoken words.

While driving the boys to school, Speak Life by Toby Mac played on the radio.  It was a perfect song for my word musings because it poetically explains how our words have power to transform others.  Take a moment and listen to the song:

Guess what?  I discovered that my words were not words of life today.  After my buttons were pushed one too many times this afternoon, calm correction went out the window.  I became impatient and harsh.  My correction was not gentle.  And as I put my son to bed, (the one who received the harsh, impatient words), I started our nightly prayer with a confession... asking God to forgive me for the harsh words spoken to my son.  I thanked God for being so patient with me when I mess up. And I spent some time thanking God for my son and how he brings joy to our family.  (Yep, it was my turn to share compliments after harsh correction.  The Magic Ratio recommends five positive comments for every negative comment.  Unfortunately, I think I'm still in the hole a bit even after the prayer.  Check out this article for a good read on the power of words:  ).  I'm so grateful that God convicted me so my son and I could end our evening with words of life. 

The Bible has lots to say about our words.  I need to keep these verses top of mind... especially when my patience is fading quickly like the sun at sunset. I wonder if these verses will help you too?

Ephesians 4:29
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.
James 1:19
 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

Proverbs 15:1
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.

Proverbs 15:28
The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words.

Proverbs 16:24
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones

Proverbs 15:23
Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!
2 Timothy 2:25
Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.

Ouch!  These verses convict me.  I find that sometimes it's easier to put these verses into practice with those outside my family, however, I'm called to watch my tongue all the time.  This is definitely something I can't do on my own. And you know what?  God doesn't expect us to do this on our own.  He tells us in Philippians 4:13 NIrV, "I can do all things through the power of Christ.  He gives me strength."  Isn't that encouraging?  And one way to tap into Christ's strength with our words is to pray this simple verse each morning:  Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.  (Psalm 141:3 NLT).

While reflecting on how I corrected my son today, God reminded me to tap into His divine wisdom when I'm in the heat of battle... when I'm on the verge of choosing unwholesome talk instead of words that will build others up (Ephesians 4:29).  How?  By putting 1 Thessalonians 5:17 into practice:  Pray continually.  That's right... God invites us to pause BEFORE we speak and ask Him for wisdom.  We can stop and ask God to speak through us.  Trust me, this is not my first reaction... stopping in the heat of the moment to pray and ask God to speak instead of me.  But I can imagine the positive results if I did pause before speaking... can you?
Tomorrow is a new day.  I get a fresh start... and you do too.  Let's tap into Christ's strength and choose to speak life today, one conversation at a time.
So speak Life, speak Life.
To the deadest darkest night.
Speak life, speak Life.
When the sun won't shine and you don't know why.
Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted;
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope,
You speak love, you speak...
You speak Life (From Speak Life by Toby Mac)


Friday, October 11, 2013

Speaking Lion

Do you remember the line from Finding Nemo where Dory confidently claims, "I speak whale!" and then proceeds to prove it?  Well, I've come to discover that my son speaks lion.  I know, it's hard to believe, but I've witnessed this talent on more than one occasion at the zoo.  Let me explain his latest demonstration of "speaking lion."

During a recent visit to the zoo, we witnessed several kids yelling "Lion!" at the lion exhibit.  The male and female lion were sleeping and didn't budge at the noise.  My son approached and joined in the fun, yelling "Lion!" with the other kiddos, and nothing changed.  Then, my son started to roar.  And when my son roars, it starts at his toes and travels up through his body.  Then, it explodes out of his mouth.  Yet my son's mighty roar had no impact on the lions.  They didn't move.  My son is one persistent kid, so he didn't give up that easily.  After a series of roars that might shake your ear drums, the lioness got up.  She started nudging the lion, who then roared back.  It was so exciting to watch it unfold!  And then, after a few minutes, the lioness nuzzled her king affectionately and led him to the cave.  I think they had enough of human lion speak!  

I was surprised to watch how the two lions communicated.  A simple nuzzle, a few laps around the lion king and walking toward the cave was all it took for the lioness to influence her "man" to follow her to a new location.  I never witnessed that before.  It was fascinating to watch this intimate exchange.

Have you ever thought about how God communicates with you?  How God speaks __________ (insert your name here)?  Is it through the Bible?  Nature?  Biblical blog posts?  A Tweet?  Your pastor?  Words from a friend?  Something else?  God used some creative communication strategies to get me to follow Him recently.  While it wasn't a roar or an actual nudge, He made His plans so clear to me.  I'm calling it "The rest of the story..."  (Insert Paul Harvey's distinctive voice here.)

In my last blog post (Confident Confrontation), I shared how I became confused after receiving new information regarding a family decision.  We prayed and conducted research, God provided wisdom, and we decided to stick with our original plan.  Peace was back.  And now for the rest of the story...

The same day my Confident Confrontation blog posted on Facebook, I received a phone call that encouraged us to change our original plan.  We were at a crossroads... again.  And if I was in typical Heather-mode, this new information could have sent me in a worried tailspin... leading me right back to where I started... worrying about what decision to make and if we were doing the right thing.  But you know what?  God didn't let that happen.  God made sure He was "speaking Heather" so I would confidently follow Him down this new path.

How did God "speak Heather," you ask?  First, He made sure that my husband and I both received the same information independently.  Then, God validated His plan by having the new information perfectly synch up with data I gathered during the research phase.  And to top it all off, His peace covered me as I received this information.  This peace was truly the peace that passes all understanding that God promises when we choose to present our requests to God instead of worrying.

Philippians 4:6-7 NIV
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

My husband and I agreed on the new direction.  We decided to follow where God was leading us, just like the lion followed where the lioness led him.  And God walked before us, opening all the necessary doors to get us where He wanted us to be.  I'm in awe of His love and how He's constantly at work, speaking in the ways that we understand best because He designed us and knows exactly how to communicate with us. 

Are you confused?  Maybe you're in the midst of a worried tailspin.  If so, ask God to communicate in your language.  Ask God to "speak __________."  (Insert your name here).  And then be willing to wait for His answer like Psalm 62:5 (AMP) encourages us to do:

My soul, wait only upon God and silently submit to Him; for my hope and expectation are from Him.

Then, after you hear from God, choose to follow where He leads you.  The lion didn't have to follow the lioness.  My hubby and I didn't have to change our decision.  We had to choose to seek God and trust His leading.  We had to choose to put Proverbs 3:5-6 into practice: 

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Are you willing to trust God?  Are you willing to follow where He's leading you?  If not, what's holding you back?  Let this song, He Is With Us by Love and The Outcome, inspire you to trust God completely and follow where He’s leading because He really is with us... always.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Confident Confrontation

What comes to mind when you read the word Viper?  A fancy car?  A poisonous snake?  Fear?  Anxiety?  For me, the answer is a poisonous snake.  Why?  Because I got to see a viper up close and personal at the zoo this past weekend.  I would typically run far away from any type of snake, but when there is a 6 inch piece of glass separating me from its poisonous fangs, there's nothing to fear, right? And so with great courage, I approached the glass.  The viper's face was front and center, and he looked right at me.  I put my face as close to the glass as my hat would allow, and the snake looked me straight in the eye for a moment, and then slithered away.  He repositioned his head away from the glass so he couldn't see me any more.  Hmmmm... I thought.  Pretty interesting that the snake slithered away when confidently confronted. 

My thoughts then turned to the Garden of Eden, equating this viper with the serpent that tempted Eve.  Remember how Eve entertained the serpent's questions, allowing the serpent (aka Satan) to plant seeds of doubt in her mind?  And remember how Eve ultimately disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit? (Genesis 3:1-13)  How would things have been different if Eve fought Satan with confidence, using her sword of the spirit (Ephesians 6:17) to defeat the lies hurled her way...

Satan carries many descriptions in the Bible:  liar, murderer, and father of lies (John 8:44); a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8); a thief that comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) and a schemer (Ephesians 6:11).  He's good at what he does... and what he does is no good.  We can so easily fall prey to his schemes, lies and tricks if we are not watching out for him. 

I fell into one of his subtle traps this week.  A major decision was made on behalf of my family and I was at peace with it.  This is kinda uncharacteristic of me because I've been known to worry about decisions of this nature.  It felt great to trust God with where He was leading our family.  And it was exciting to think that I was growing in my faith.  And then... dun, dun, duuuuun... I randomly come across a piece of information that took that peace and tossed it to the wind.  Doubt filled my head.  Worry crept in and found a nice home in my mind.  And the wrestling began.  What do I do with this new information?  Is it God guiding or Satan inviting confusion to stir up worry and doubt when I was at peace?  What do we need to do? 

I spent the next day praying, wrestling through our options, discussing the situation with my hubby and getting advice from someone with experience in this area.  It is such a blessing to have those trusted people you can turn to when you're faced with big decisions that are muddied with your emotions.  I was blessed to have my hubby and friend think clearly for me when I couldn't think clearly on my own.   

With a strategy in place and prayers lifted up, the research phase began.  And within 24 hours, I received the answers I needed to confirm our original decision.  God was faithful...  we asked for His divine wisdom (James 1:5), and He provided.  And peace has found it's home again in my heart and mind. 

It would have been easy to stay on the worry, doubt, insecure path that I started on... but God protected me.  He answered prayers.  He exposed Satan's confusion.  And I can stand firm and look Satan directly in the eye and watch him slither away, just like the viper at the zoo did. 

Are any of you on the worry and doubt path?  If so, ask God for His divine wisdom.  And then apply James 1:6, or you might find yourself right back on the worry path again...

James 1:5-6  New International Version (NIV)

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Don't let Satan blow and toss you around with his lies and schemes.  You have the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) as your weapon to defeat him.  And he doesn't stand a chance when you confidently claim the promises of God's word.  You have the power... use it and watch Satan slither away.