Friday, March 29, 2013

Why Am I Thirsty?

It's a good question, don't you think?As humans we have a few different systems running together in our bodies that make up something we call life. Without our digestive system, we would not survive. The same is true with our nervous system and our reproductive system - well, maybe we could survive, without the latter - ah never mind.

Today's Holy Week verse is I am thirsty. John 19:28.

Our human bodies have drives and instincts that respond to all sorts of stimuli as well as an ongoing chemical analysis going on in our body. We have the drive to eat, to drink, to reproduce, and instincts, senses and emotions that drive us to what it is that we do as humans.

The good news is that we, unlike any other animal, have an other system, another dimension which we call spirit. There is the unredeemed version we call evil, and the redeemed version that most evangelicals refer to as "saved." I confess, I don't really know how God's Spirit co-mingles with our spirit, but I know when it happened.

Thirst, even the thirst which Jesus had on the cross, is often analogous for spiritual thirst. As a longtime Christian, for me, it's sort a worn out analogy. I want something more, something deeper, something meaningful.

There are many symbols for the Holy Spirit in the Bible. Psalms refers to the "deep calling deep." (Psalm 42:7) There are terms for rivers (Matthew 3:16) and rivers of living water (John 7:38) and water so deep we can measure it by another cubit. (Ezekiel 47) So?

But isn't there more? Isn't there something deeper to our thirst than just another sermon, another worship tune, and another Easter service?

I don' think we thirst for more of God, or a deeper understanding of Jesus. If that were the case, more Christians would be flocking to church and more of them would be asking less questions about his existence, moral character and his ability to do things like heal.


As Christians it's easy to be like the Israelites and demand water from a rock. Demanding things from God won't work. Why? Because what we thirst for is PURPOSE. Each one of us has a God-given purpose and destiny. Our choices bring us closer to it or farther away; at the very least, they keep it at bay.

Today as you ponder the crucifixion of Jesus, and again on Sunday morning as you celebrate His resurrection, ask Him to give you a drink of His especially designed purpose in your life - to take a drink of your destiny in Christ. For you to be in the Kingdom of God here on earth, "like it is in Heaven!"

Isn't that what you are thirsty for, to know the will of God for you family, your job, and flow with that? You want to know where God is going, right? The good news is that, like a cold beer on a hot day, he is never stingy.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Forsaken by Linda Maynard

                                   "Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani"
which means, "My God, my God,why have You forsaken me?"
Matthew 27:46

I will never leave you or forsake you
…Hebrews 13:5

This week in KB we are each talking about one of the seven things that Jesus said from the cross.

My assignment was the above scripture in that Jesus is crying out, in a loud voice, to God, about being forsaken.

Forsake  abandon, to withdraw companionship, protection or support from somebody, desert, leave disown, cast off, reject.

When Jesus said this, was it that God the Father could not look at sin? Jesus took all sin upon Him, and is that the reason He turned His back to Jesus? To me that makes sense, yet some disagree. But I propose that, at the very least, the intimacy and fellowship that Jesus shared with His Father was broken.

We see in Genesis, Adam’s (the first Adam) intimacy with God, was broken by his disobedience. That happened in the Garden of Eden, at the same hour of day, as when darkness settled over the earth at Golgotha, where Jesus was on the cross. Jesus (the second Adam), was destroying sin by dying on the cross and restoring fully what the first Adam had lost.

While listening closely to what people are saying, you can pick up clues.

We go to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus goes with his disciples to pray. (Boy, did He ever need prayer support!) After telling the disciples that His soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, He asks them to watch and pray. Going further, Jesus falls to the ground and prays, "My Father, if it be possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will… Mt 26:39

He returns to the disciples and finds them asleep. (I used to judge them harshly until I admitted that I have "slept on my watch" too.) He went away a second time and He implores…" My Father, if it is not possible, for this cup to be taken away, unless I drink it, may Your will be done… Mt 26:42

Jesus, still in the Garden of Gethsemane, is calling God, His Father. Then, on the cross, He is referring to Him as God. That to me is telling that there was a breach in the intimacy, which Jesus previously enjoyed with His Father…His ABBA.

Jesus felt abandoned, rejected, cast off. To Him, God the Father seemed indifferent. We have to remember again that Jesus was FULLY God and yet FULLY man. And as man, the Word says that He is touched and familiar with our infirmities.

My "go to" Life scripture is Hebrews 13:5. "I will never leave you or forsake you." I cannot tell you how many times it has settled storms in my life. It has also given me hope, as well as reassurance when I have blown it. I am reminded of God’s consistent Love.

Because Jesus endured the cross, along with feeling that He too was alone and no longer in fellowship with God the Father, I can say "Lord, You have defeated a sense of aloneness for all, on the cross for all mankind."

I may "feel" abandoned or rejected, but His Word always trumps my feelings.

He has given me His Word that He will not disown me. He is not a man who would lie and withdraw His protection and support.

When I ask, "God where are You?’

He will whisper, "I am right here, my child"

Whew! I can breathe again and let out a deep sigh of relief.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Celebrate Passover! by Jenna Vick Silliman

Exodus 12:22-24 "And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. For God will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, He will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons FOREVER."

Jesus celebrated PASSOVER with His disciples. (See Matthew 26:17-19.) The word in Hebrew is Pecach or Pesach. It is from the root verb Pacach, meaning to pass over, to spare or to skip. Jesus is our Passover lamb that takes away the sin of the world. All we have to do is BELIEVE. Jesus is God become a man so that He could shed His blood for us. His blood covers us and so we are spared just like the Hebrews were spared by the blood of the Passover lamb on their doorposts!

If you haven’t yet, say this simple prayer to God and you will be made holy and blameless before Him for all time and abundant LIFE will be yours to enjoy!

“Thank You, Lord Jesus God, for Your blood shed for me and for the forgiveness of my sins forever. Thank You for peace, joy, and abundant life. I believe in You!”

In Hebrews 10:17 we read that by the blood of Jesus, God remembers our sins and lawless deeds no more. Now that is a PASSOVER TO CELEBRATE! Happy Passover everybody!!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"Today you will be with me in Paradise."

Paul Miller, in his book A Praying Life, describes Jesus' amazing ability to have a one-person focus even in a crowd: “When Jesus interacts with people, he narrows his focus down to one person... that person is the only person in the room. The way he loves people is identical to the way he prays to His Father. This one-person focus is how love works. Love incarnates by slowing down and focusing on just the beloved” (Miller, p. 46).

Astoundingly, Jesus manages this even on the cross. He is in agony. Nails have been driven through his hands and feet. Earlier, he had been scourged (for a description of the physical torture Jesus would have received as a prisoner, click here). But his agony is more than physical: for the first time in his 33 years, he is separated from his heavenly Father (see Matthew 27:46).

He has been abandoned by his disciples. The Jews who had welcomed him just days ago with praises, are now heckling him. Jesus is even jeered by one of two thieves hanging from crosses on either side of him.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him.
“Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:39-43).
Jesus’ one on one ministry extends even from the cross! The thief to the left wants down from his predicament and curses Jesus for not fixing things for himself and them. Even in the face of death, this man’s heart is hard and fixed. The thief to the right sees the reality of his own sin and the innocence of Jesus. Not just his innocence, but his divinity. What faith to see God in this suffering, blood-covered man. What depths of love our Savior had for a repentant criminal. What hope for humanity, that it is our faith in Christ, not our works, not a religious process, that saves!

“Christ upon the cross, is gracious like Christ upon the throne. Though he was in the greatest struggle and agony, yet he had pity for a poor penitent. By this act of grace we are to understand that Jesus Christ died to open the kingdom of heaven to all penitent, obedient believers. It is a single instance in Scripture; it should teach us to despair of none, and that none should despair of themselves; but lest it should be abused, it is contrasted with the awful state of the other thief, who died hardened in unbelief, though a crucified Saviour was so near him” (Matthew Henry).

"View from the Cross," James Tissot, 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum.
Miller, Paul. A Praying Life (NavPress, 2009).
Matthew Henry Commentary, retrieved online:

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Last Mortal Words of a Savior (By Tony C)

This Holy Week, like the past two, I will be going dark on all forms of social media. I do this to cut out a lot of the background noise we all are inundated with each day and to focus more on the events of this week over 2000 years ago...and how it impacts my life personally.

This week your Kingdom Bloggers are going to each write on one of the seven phrases spoken by Jesus from the cross as recorded in either the Gospel of Matthew or Luke.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”  Luke 23:34 NKJV

Scholars and medical professionals alike have studied and shared with us the agonizing death that crucifixion caused. It was plain and simple torture. Not only was the victim exposed, literally, for all to see and to the effects of the elements, the process was grueling and punishing. Death for many came by asphyxiation or drowning in fluids gathered in the victims lungs. It took hours for death to mercifully arrive.

Add to the fact that Jesus was flogged so severely that the injuries from that task alone could have ended His mortal existence, and you have a morning and afternoon of unimaginable suffering. have the act of sacrifice that would see the sins of all mankind placed on a person and entity that had never, repeat never, personally experienced sin in an eternal life.

I think we often overlook the physical aspects that Jesus suffered because, well, He is God. But Jesus suffered tremendous physical pain and I believe anxiety. Yet through the bodily suffering, the humiliation (some from His own people), and the soon to come bearing of mankind's sin...Jesus looks to the Father and ask Him to forgive those who tortured and mocked Him below the cross.

Love is not a big enough's just not.

I'm blessed to write about this subject on my last post for the near future. I'm taking a hiatus to focus on another issue, but please know that I not only covet your prayers, but I would be honored to do the same for each of you. I leave my writing position on Mondays to someone I both love and respect, and I look forward to reading her future post about God's Kingdom. Thank you Joyce.

Praise God! The tomb was empty that Easter morning!  

Friday, March 22, 2013

We are the Hands and the Feet and the Heart Of Jesus..Where is He Leading ? Linda Maynard

Where would I choose to go on a 6 month Missions trip, if the opportunity was presented to me? That is the subject up for discussion on KB this week.

My immediate thought was Poland. Both sets of grandparents are from that country in Europe. I feel a strong sense of connection with the Polish people.

My main focus for the trip would be to talk to the people. I would share as one brought up in the catholic tradition, about my own experience of finding the Lord Jesus as my Savior. I would like to talk to them, preferably in their own homes. I would share, one on one, about how I had a level of understanding about Jesus and how I came to realize that head knowledge of who He is differed from the heart knowledge, which I have come to embrace.

In this, I would pray that my discussions would whet some appetites to further study about Jesus, especially through the Bible. Perhaps they might, as I did, come to know Jesus rather than just know about Him. Giving mental ascent was what I did and I surmise that many Catholics do the same. Through non-confrontational discussion; I would pray that our times of fellowship would cause them to hunger for more.

As I left, I would be confident that even though my trip did not involve mass meetings, it would have touched the hearts of families and from there, they could spread the good news of the Gospel with their community. I would pray for that to become a ripple effect and in that many Catholics in the area, would come to a genuine faith in Jesus Christ.

Because there was no steadfast “rule” about the 6 month period, I would like to split up my time in Poland and Tapachula Mexico.

I’ve come to know a couple, who are missionaries in Tapachula.  Hope and Steve are the parents of my daughter in law.

They themselves had been on several trips, through their church. As time passed and as circumstances changed, they felt a pull to become full time missionaries.

The focus of what they do is children. They have established 2 boy’s homes and 1 girl’s home in the same neighborhood.

You may wonder where the children come from, as they are without their parents and yet the homes are not orphanages.

They come from prisons.

Yes, you heard that right, from prisons. They have not committed any crimes, their parents have. And the way things are governed in that region is that, when an adult is convicted of a crime and sent to prison, the whole family has to go with them.

As you can imagine, they are deplorable places for adults, let alone children. In this dark place, they witness despicable behavior and they themselves are victims of all forms of abuse…sexual abuse being the major one.
So, through Mission on the Move, and the efforts of Hope and Steve, these children come to a place of hope with a future.

To get into to the Home, they have to be granted permission by the parents.

There, they are “cleaned up”…body, mind and soul. They are taught things like basic manners, as well being provided with regular schooling. They learn to trust adults. They receive counseling to deal with the aftermath of the squalor they have lived in. whether through the prison and the lifestyle of their parents previous to their incarceration. Most of all, they are introduced to the Savior Jesus Christ and receive instruction in the bible.
Some of them arrive as young as 5 and others at an older age. As of now, 3 boys are attending college and I know of 1 girl, who has graduated from college.

The home provides them everything that a healthy home would provide. Sadly it is not perfect in the sense of the ultimate family would be one in which healthy parents would provide all the resources for their own children to grow up with a good future.

As a bonus, some of these parents have become Christians as well. They are provided with instruction through a Prison Ministry.

I would like to be part of the ongoing process to teach, nourish and encourage these children…especially the girls.

If an opportunity arose, I would be willing to speak in public to raise awareness about this beautiful ministry. I would hope to raise funds for college scholarships for them and to start a fund to establish, not only an additional girls’ home, but more homes as well.

Up front personal ministry and prayer would thrill me, to bring the Good News of the Gospel to these 2 very different people groups.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Missionary Lifestyle by Jenna Vick Silliman

When Jesus said to GO I considered myself SENT and now I am on a MISSION everywhere I go. However, the Lord has not given me any desire to travel anywhere in this season of my life. I am to bloom and grow and bear fruit right here in Clallam County where I live and where He has planted me. As I abide in Jesus I will bear much fruit as Jesus promised. (See John 15.)

To establish a mindset, I have five declarations that I speak out and keep before me to help me in my missionary lifestyle:
1. I am a connecting link to God's loving kindness.
2. People are open and ready to hear about God's love and to believe.
3. Through me God's love is drawing people into a relationship with Him.
4. Everyone around me has powerful encounters with God's presence.
5. I have Jesus as Lord in my heart; I'm always ready to share about Him.

My focus is on God and worshiping Him. He inhabits the praises of His people. I walk habitually with the Lord 24/7 and continually give Him thanks for this is the password to His presence. I am a host for His presence!

Yesterday after teaching my children's dance class I danced to a song of worship to show my students "worship dancing." My son Peter did a video so I can share it with you. The song is called "The Paintbrush" from the album "Paint Your Picture" by Julie Meyer. As I dance I am praying and asking God "Pick me up like a paintbrush, God, dip it in the colors of my life, paint Your picture, Father, fashion a heart that is wholly Yours...Take Your fingers God, Master Potter come mold the clay. Tell Your story...and write Your name in the clay and sign Your name on the picture."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Six Month Mission Trip Next Door

This week KB is asking its writers to choose a country we would work in as missionaries for six months.

I wouldn’t have to go very far.

We live in a quaint village along the historical Eire Canal. Three seasons a year, I can walk along the canal, soaking in nature, crew teams, pleasure boaters and lots of shops and restaurants. My teenage daughter can walk home from school and spend a Saturday afternoon at the local Starbucks or the library. It is idyllic.

But not nine miles from us is the crescent of Rochester, New York, a swath of geography across the city, east to west, throbbing with violence, drugs, and poverty. The high school drop out rate is the highest of the largest city school districts in the state: 45.5%. In our town, 98% of students graduate from high school, and most then attend college. Rochester is known as one of the ten smartest cities in the nation because of top colleges, yet its public schools are fraught with problems.

To live in the crescent would be out of my comfort zone. I like knowing my family can go to sleep without bullets flying through the walls, and not having to address the issue of a crack house next door. But the problems of our nation’s cities, like Chicago, Hartford and Rochester, require a radical mission.

There are many churches in the city, including Brighton Presbyterian where my husband and I work and minister. But the problems of neglect, drug abuse and poverty can’t be fixed just by Sunday church attendance or even a weekly Bible study. Something more radical is required: ongoing prayer, mentoring, dedicated outreach and perhaps a live-in situation.

Nearly two years ago, I met a couple who are not only living in the city, they have dedicated two decades to raising other people’s children in a Saturday program called Bethel Express, which they now base at our church. Its focus and mission is on what its leaders call the "S Factor: Spiritual Strength, Social Stability and Scholastic Success." Children can begin the program between the ages of 6 and 12 (but no later) and the volunteer leaders feed and mentor them every Saturday until they graduate from high school. The program has a nearly 100% graduation rate. The adult volunteers love, encourage, and pray for these children for years.

Another couple I know established an inner-city healthcare ministry called His Branches 35 years ago, choosing to live just two blocks from their medical practice. The neighborhood has drug dealers, robberies and the occasional shooting. Eighty percent of HBI clients are at or below the poverty line.

We also know of three families who have made the decision to live in a tough area to make a difference in the neighborhood, and to be part of their church’s efforts to “re-neighbor” broken communities: 441 Ministries.

I do have a dream missionary trip (Ireland; Bible studies in a pub). But for me, the radical mission next door causes me to tremble.

Monday, March 18, 2013

If I Could, I Would Leave Right Now!

This week, the faithful and varied Kingdom Bloggers will be writing again. I would add, that I have not written here for quite some time, so it's nice to pop in on one of my favorite subjects, missions! 

This week, we'll be answering a hypothetical question: If you went for 6 months, what country would you go on a mission to? Some of our answers may be based on dreams and hopes, and others, such as mine, will be based on previous experience.

I am choosing Brazil!

The classic version of missions has been to spread the church and the Kingdom of God in heathen nations; to go where Christianity wasn't and bring it there. Brazil still has Indians in the Amazon region, there are Aborigines in the Outback of Australia, and other, often tribal peoples, scattered at various places around the globe. And then there are those that live in entire nations which are closed to Americans.

I didn't always have a heart for missions. They sounded awful, and it seemed, people made so little progress when the money and time could be better spent at home. All of that changed one day. I was at a meeting and the minister said "I see planes flying here and flying there. I see that God has given you a heart for the nations." Although I didn't care for uncomfortable conditions in a country where I didn't speak the language, oddly; it resonated in my spirit.

Later that year I was leaving a church service at the Salvation Army. A friend of mine was preaching that evening. It was a very small group, less than 10. There was a drunk woman, a Brazilian. The pastor wanted to help her, so he sent one of the men at the meeting down the street to see if there was someone at the Brazilian church who could interpret.

As I was leaving, the man came back with a pastor from the Brazilian church. I decided to stick around to see what was going on. Before I left I spoke to Carlos, and we became great friends. Not only did we preach and teach in the US, but I traveled with him 3 times to Brazil.

Why do I like to be in Brazil? It is the very thing that God has made me for. When I am there, I am free to participate in meetings, do street evangelism, and most of all fellowship with a wonderful culture and people.

Most importantly, it is where I God and I connect as we partner to build the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Some People Tell You What You Want to Hear. James Tells You What You Need to Hear by Linda Maynard

Can you remember being in school and having a demanding teacher? One that didn’t take any nonsense and expected the best from you?

At the time, you may have been frustrated and even a little angry BUT, when you look back, they probably are on your list of favorite teachers.

Why? Because, by “pushing you”, beyond what you thought you were capable of, it brought results that you didn’t expect.

However, if all they did was demand from you, that would border on abusive. With certain character traits, this teacher had integrity and modeled speaking the Truth in Love... And that my friend makes all the difference. They earned your respect.

That is how I view the author of the Book of James
Many years ago, a friend told me that this was her favorite book of the Bible. Why did I then feel, that when I read it, I kept saying “ Ouch!”...That hurts!”...”Owie!” …” That’s me!”…”That’s not me!”…”You’ve got to be kidding”?

At the very beginning, the book says, “Count it all joy, when you face trials of many kinds…” James 1:2
“ STOP RIGHT THERE!” That’s crazy I thought (sorry I am being honest). I didn’t read the complete thought, but eventually came to realize that this wasn’t “Let’s throw a party with Happy Feet”, but that the Lord’s intention is help us build spiritual muscles.

The writer in 1:5-8, talks about asking God for wisdom. THEN after hearing that wisdom, applying it to our lives. Again, my eyes skipped over too quickly and all I focused on was a person who doubts. James describes them like one tossed in the sea, blown here and there. And that person is double minded. In this particular area, I had to “work out” this truth, with a lot of effort.

My thinking can get scattered. It has been an ongoing struggle. In the past, I had prayed, asked for wisdom and got wisdom. I don’t feel I doubt God, having the wisdom and wanting to impart it to me. My struggle seems to stem with wondering if I discerned correctly. The consequence is the same…I am tossed all around and not at peace.  

The enemy can tempt us in a bunch of ways. He tries to keep us from obeying God and/or lying to us telling that we cannot do anything right.

The other day, on the issue of taming the tongue, i.e. “Out of the same mouth, come praising and cursing. James 3:10. …no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:8 I had a blowout. I have been taking a medication that can, as a side effect, cause angry outbursts. The other day, all %^#@* broke loose. I spewed angry words over my husband. I was horrified. Did I have a legitimate explanation because of the medication? Although, it was a contributing factor, junk seemed to be hidden in my heart. 

There certainly are times when we can over focus on the enemy and his tricks. However, ignoring the acts of his presence is a mistake too. Without having the “devil made me do it” excuse…I better believe that he is out “to kill, steal and destroy.” 

This brings me to the final section.

“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7a.

 Again, I glossed over what preceded that verse. SUBMIT yourselves to God THEN resist the devil and he will flee.

So James has taken on a whole different tone or me. It is a practical book with a lot of wisdom.

I am not sure I could call it my favorite, but it is a book that has much value in my life.

Anytime I sense myself wavering or slipping and sliding, I think it would be a good time to check in with James.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Faith and Works by Cliff Silliman

As a young believer I decided to read the New Testament from front to back. I kept going and ran into the book of James. I got more excited about my faith as God spoke to me through His word. That word continues to speak to me fresh each time I read it.

My wife asked me the other day if I had read James lately. I gladly open the Bible and went to see what would resonate in my heart anew. I wondered if it would be an old familiar verse like "count it all joy brethren…” or “let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak…” or “pure and undefiled religion is this…” or would it be in the verses about the tongue? Maybe the Lord would highlight to me “draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Maybe I would sense something special in the verse that talks about the laborer who mows your field--as a guy with lawn business appreciate the Lord speaking about what I physically do. Maybe He would reveal more depth to me about healing from the verses in chapter five, or provide me encouragement from seeing that I am just like Elijah. All these things passed through my mind as I prayed and open to the Book of James. 

What jumped off the page starts in the second chapter of James, verse 14, "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?" Continuing in verse 17, ”Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” And verse 18, “I will show you my faith by my works.” and the kicker is verse 22, “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made complete?” Wow! Do my actions reveal that I have faith? Has my faith so permeated me that I reveal that I have faith in the living resurrected Christ?

Many times I am abundantly aware of my shortcomings. The devil is good at reminding me of them, trying to cause my focus to be diverted from what is good and holy. But here is scripture calling me to look and see if my actions really reveal that I believe Jesus is with me 24/7. Do my actions speak of the glory of the kingdom of my God? Have I yielded today to His Lordship over every area of my life? Ah these verses also reveal that it is a work of God in my life leading me into deeper and deeper faith through works. Through the process of applying my faith, and having compassion for others, my faith will deepen.

Not just the visible actions like when I went on mission trip to Mississippi to help after Hurricane Katrina, but how I handle my role as husband, father of eight, employee, friend, homeowner, businessman, person in the community, even those actions that no one would see but me, they are all a part of the process of works that complete my faith, that cause me to grow into to being more pleasing to Jesus who I love with all my heart.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Taming the Tongue of a Sass-Master

Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 
James 3:11 KJV

In the book Tuck Everlasting, a family discovers a spring that bestows immortality when its waters are consumed. At first, they find the advantages of eternal youth to be awesome: they never aged, remaining as they were when they first drank from the spring. But over decades, with the passage of time, they yearned for a normal, mortal life. The water of the fountain of youth was both sweet and bitter.

The fountain spoken of by the Apostle James, however, is not one of youth, but of the everlasting impact of our words. This fountain, our tongue, according to James, should not be producing words of both love and hatred.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. James 3:9-10, NIV.

As newlyweds, my husband and I wanted our marriage to be centered on our faith in God. We both worked full-time, but carved out time to develop as believers in prayer groups and Bible studies (not all at the same time!) with others, many of whom became lifelong friends. 

One afternoon, I exchanged some sharp words with Tim. Actually, it was less of an exchange and more like direct fire aimed at my husband. A few minutes later, I sat alone at our kitchen table and flipped open my Bible randomly. These words from the epistle of James seemed to be in neon lights: “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?”

I knew immediately that the Lord was addressing my sharp tongue. Here I was, sitting down to study the word and bless the Lord with my praises directly after spewing venom at my life-partner. Gulp.

Anyone who knows me will wonder if that spectacular moment of sweet conviction truly sparked change in me. I have a way with words: a teenager recently told my daughter that “your mom is a sass-master.” Gulp again.

But I never forgot the gentle admonition from God that day. I apologized to Tim and began to see the truths of the Word of God to be very real and applicable to my life.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:7-8, NIV.

Our words can carry such weight: the cold boulders of ill-will, anger or envy, or the warm, thick honey of love, encouragement, mercy and laughter.  We have the power to choose which words we hurl at those around us, even those who appear to deserve the best a sass-master can deliver. Lord, tame my tongue!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Because I love You...please help me do this right (Tony C)

Hope everyone had a terrific weekend filled with worship for our most worthy Father! This week, your Kingdom Bloggers are writing on stand out passage from the Book of James. Hope you find blessing in what we share.

James writes a line of scripture that yours truly takes serious and to heart.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James 3:1 (ESV)

The KJV translates the word teachers as masters, but the original Greek word is didaskalos and is predominately used in the New Testament to refer to someone who teaches about the things of God (Blue Letter Bible).

So why would God hold teachers to a higher standard?

The answer might seem obvious to some but elude others who hold that God's mercy is equally applied to everyone. Isn't God's mercy equally applied to everyone? I would argue no based on the fact that some come to God's gift of grace after a lifetime of sin. Jesus covered that life just as He did the one who lives a life in close walk with Him. Having said that, I don't believe God loves one more than another. Let me explain...

I have three daughters. I love them equally which means I love them completely. However, my patience may be tried a lot more with one of the three over the course of their lifetime, well, their lifetime that I'm still around to see. Does that one therefore require more love from me? I would argue no. My love is still the same unconditional love (agape) for all three...even if the one feels she may have required more of my love to overcome causing more disappointments.

In the end, each of us is destined to only one of two places for eternity. We each will face our Creator in a revealing moment that will reflect how much, or little, we showed love and obedience to Him with the time we were given here on Earth. Is it possible to disappoint God? Absolutely! But, that doesn't mean that disappointment will lead to an eternity of separation from Him. If disappointment were the damning criteria, I'm afraid Heaven would be near empty of mankind.

Imagine that moment of reckoning, your moment, and you've spent efforts to teach His word in any type of false manner. Being a teacher comes with an inherent or implied notion of knowledge...a position of intellectual trust...people lean on that as truth. Leading just a single person away from the gift of salvation in those duties has an eternal consequence for that person. How crushing to realize that fact when your moment comes! God expects and deserves so much more in a teacher's efforts.

Christians are called to be the salt and the light by Jesus, and I believe part of being the salt involves preserving and protecting the Truth. Doing so is an expectation of God, especially if He has blessed you with a talent for teaching the Good News. Don't disappoint the Father. Take James 3:1 serious as you serve God teaching His word and make Him proud of your efforts for His glory.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Technology in My Life--Seven Favorites by Jenna Vick Silliman

With the technology of my i-pod full of awesome worship music, plugged into a boom box with an aux cord, I dance with my white flags and "make His praise glorious." (See Psalm 66:2.)

1.       I like how technology helps me connect with people all over the world. I have friends in Germany, Canada, Vermont, Florida, and New Zealand and many more places. We have sweet fellowship over the phone, through texting, Facebook messaging, Facebook posting, and by e-mail. I love to hear what God is doing in their lives and how He is speaking to them through Scripture and through life. I feel rich when I think about all my awesome friends!
2.       Music is everything to a dancer. My i-pod with thousands of songs, all organized with a “menu” and my own playlists, will never cease to amaze me. I have it with me wherever I go and by plugging it into my boom box with an aux cord, I am ready to worship and dance everywhere I go. At our home church we enjoy music from bands all over the world—the very best! I am so thankful for our awesome worship music when we gather. With the technology available, I have so much awesome music to explore, enjoy, and share with the touch of a button or two!
3.       I have an active curiosity and I love to learn and discover new things in all different arenas. Life is so interesting. School is always in session. I like how I can ask any question in the world and get answers! As a dancer, I enjoy learning from other dancers on the Internet. They are available to teach me whenever I am ready.
4.       Technology has helped me study the Scriptures and discover deeper meanings of words and contexts and what God is saying. I like to search out a passage that God is using to speak to me. What fun to explore on the Internet what the Word is saying!
5.       Something I used to hate is now a fun time--standing in lines waiting for my turn at the check-out in grocery stores. It seemed like such a waste of time. Now I just use my cell phone and get on Facebook and start “liking” my friends’ posts or I go to the Internet and check out something or I go to You-Tube and watch something. Thanks to the technology of “smart phones” this dead time is now filled. Yay for technology!
6.       I love photographs. I have an awesome collection going on my laptop and I add to it every week. I see what others are posting on Facebook, or I go to Google Images, or the Internet and I “save” on my computer the pictures that speak to me.  One of my favorite things to post on my Facebook is a picture with a Scripture and/or an inspirational thought or quote.  My cell phone has an awesome camera and it is so fun to take pictures and “share” them on Facebook or sending them on to my friend’s phones. Pictures speak a thousand words—or more!
7.       I am a writer and a communicator. My laptop is portable and easy to grab and start writing. My website with my blog , my Facebook, my e-mail, and my blog here with Kingdom Bloggers all give me outlets for creative expression. I just checked my blog and in February, just last month alone, I had 547 readers. Thanks to technology I can share with all these people what God has put on my heart. I have many wonderful opportunities to express myself and the abundant life of Jesus!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bring Data

The topic for Kingdom Bloggers this week is how technology has benefitted our spiritual lives.  While not an active Kingdom Blogger anymore, when I saw the topic I jumped at it.  The other bloggers were gracious enough to let me guest blog and even asked me to lead off the week.

So why was I so anxious to write about this topic?

Back in the mid-90’s, I was hungry for God.  I heard and read on the internet about God’s spirit moving in various parts of the world.  I wanted God and I couldn’t travel.  Since God is everywhere, I prayed He’d show up in new and powerful ways in my own life.  What I read caused my spiritual mouth to water.  I kept reading.  One day, I read a post from someone in Connecticut (where I was living at the time) who had been to a spiritual hotspots.  The shyness I have in the real world is absent in the virtual world.  I emailed him.  He was a pastor in a church about 35 miles from my home.  He answered me!  Then we had a live chat on AOL – yes, this was the mid-90’s! 

That contact ultimately led me to Lin Maynard and David Johndrow.  Lin became as close to me as the sisters I don’t have.  Time and distances have changed our relationship and we miss our frequent coffee and lunch meetings.  Later, I went to Norway on an amazing mission trip with this pastor in 2002.  Lin was the one who first told me about the trip.  On that trip, I met David and he became a lifelong friend.  David ultimately convinced me to be a Kingdom Blogger!  I often hear David’s echo saying – write that book!

My life was rearranged in 2008 when I moved for a three-year sojourn to the spiritual and emotional wasteland of South Dakota.  You can read about my struggles in my blog, Storehouses of Snow.  Once again, the virtual connections saved me.  Chats with friends, encouragements, and nudgings – even an occasional poke renewed the smile on my face.  David convinced me to blog.  Lin’s emails cheered the dreariness and let me know that she was a forever friend.  Other old friends would daily Skype with me.  Technology was my savior from isolation and its twin sister depression.

All these experiences gave birth to what would become a research project.  I’m a nerd.  I love school.  If you read this blog in the past, you know I went back to school to pursue a doctoral degree.  Well, I made it!  On May 4th I’ll officially be Joyce A. Johannesen Lighari, EdD. 

In God we trust; all others must bring data.  W. Edwards Deming

Data and research sum up the last three years of my life.  What did I find from this research?  My research produced data to support the positive impact of “Internet-Mediated Social Networking” (Facebook) on spiritual growth and development. 

I always knew that technology had affected my spiritual growth!  It whetted my spiritual appetite and at times gave me just what I needed to go on.  It also gave me precious contacts and friends.  I knew that – but my story was just that, my story.  Was I the only one?

Three years of data collection and research now shows what I knew to be true – technology, particularly the internet and social networking cause Christians to grow spiritually.  It might surprise you, but the group that showed the most growth was not the face-to-face Bible study participants, but the virtual group (one was even led by David Johndrow!) showed the most significant growth.

It has been said that when history looks back at the development of Web 2.0 it will be compared to Guttenberg and his printing press.  Others have said Web 2.0 is as significant as the discovery of fire. Guttenberg’s invention spurred the Reformation and changed Christianity.  What will Web 2.0 ultimately do?  It is too early to tell.  But, a small research study by a woman passionate for God has shown that technology does have an impact on a person’s spiritual growth and development. 

In God I trusted; now I have data.

Friday, March 1, 2013

When I Set Foot on the Soil of Israel, I Will Cry Because I Shall Be Home, by Linda Maynard

We are familiar when incidences  happen  that seem to have a serendipity tone to them. WE might even say a happy coincidence happened…but coincidence nonetheless.

As we get used to the ways of God, we realize these “happenings” are not coincidences but are God incidences.

At times, it is very clear that God’s intervention is what happened. We can be very dull at times though. We deserve to be looked at straight in the eyes and have someone say “ DUH!”

Other times the hints are subtle it isn’t until later that we are exclaiming “God DID that!”

This week as we are talking about Israel, I put myself in the first category. As we speak, I can see something beautiful unfolding in my life about Israel.

This week’s topic was chosen a month ago. Monday, I was trying to slog through a loaded email box and as I was scanning the list, one of the posts caught my eye. 

On Monday, women and men from around the world, pray on a Conference call. They are from a highly reputable ministry. I have participated on the call before, but as of late have not been able to.

On Tuesday, a text of the call goes out. Again, I have just been unable to read these texts for a while.
Two of the main issues that are prayed for are Israel and Islam, both of which this ministry has a mandate for.

At the end was a prayer about their upcoming trip to Israel. The prayer had declarations about the Lord tapping people on the shoulder to attend this trip. The prayer continued asking the Lord to remove all blockages their might be. Finances…time off from work…family responsibilities etc. 

My faith leapt. I took a hold of this “offer/gift” and said to the lord “YES, I want to go!”  He knew that has been a dream of mine for years. The difference this time was that I had a deposit of faith poured into me that said “YES! The Lord can provide the funds! I can trust that!”

Israel became a state, the very year I was born. 1948.

Why am I enamored about Jewish people beyond praying for the Peace of Jerusalem? It is because the Lord was Jewish. He has an Everlasting Covenant with His people, which I believe, is still to be completed.

My Uncle “Hoppy”, a Polish Catholic, fought with the Polish Army during Hitler’s reign. He was imprisoned. When asked about those experiences, all he could do was cry. 

I have no way to prove this as I have not had a DNA* test done (yet) but I strongly believe that I have Jewish heritage in my bloodline. Having had my ancestors all from Poland, it makes that a greater possibility.

Having been a supporter of the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, I received a Calendar once that pictures of various that helped their fellow men. I looked at a certain month, my mouth fell open. Starring back at me was my brother Ray. Ok, it was not really my brother Ray, but a “twin”.

You may think…Linda, that’s nice and we know that you “think” you have Jewish in your bloodline. What “proof” do you have? “None, but isn’t that God speak sometimes? Against the laws of nature and human understanding?
 I thought everyone here agrees it looks like Ray. But why don’t I send it to him and see what he would say.

The verdict? Ray and his wife said, “ Yes!” I thought that was important as if we saw a picture that someone said looked like us, we would be the most likely to disagree.

There is/has been a Haman spirit, that since the days of Esther, that wants to annihilate the Jewish people. I believe Hitler was the embodiment of this diabolical destructive force. I contend that the Haman spirit is alive today and its agenda is the total annihilation of the Jewish people and Israel as a nation. 

Sometimes Christians feel a love for certain people groups The reasons can at times be obvious and other times not.

I am drawn to the Jewish people. Oh yes, I see so many Jews never practice or believe a thing about their heritage. Haven’t our hearts been that way as well…far from God…clueless?

.I am believing and asking you to join me in prayer that funds would come in for a trip.

 I will send you greeting from Israel…April/May 2013!  

*NOTE* I wrote my blog Thursday during the day. Thursday evening there was an offer to get a DNA test at 65% savings. A  coincidence? I think not.