Seasoned With Salt

c3f11d8wyaa6ghm

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:5-6

As Christians, we have a testimony we need to lovingly and carefully maintain. Our speech is so important it is one thing that is often criticized by non-believers. It is often said that although we speak about the things of God, but we do not show love. They say we are too critical of worldly things, that we are judgemental toward others. Often times we are because the Bible clearly admonishes us to live in the world but to be separate from it at the same time. The closer we are to God the more we will view the world as He does. However, when dealing with non-believers we must never forget that while we hate the sin they do, we are to love the sinner in order to win them to Christ.

So what difference should this verse make in our lives? Plenty. Your conduct and speech before an unbeliever is so vitally important. Your conduct should be with wisdom, your speech filled with grace.

I know a Christian who years ago worked with an unbeliever. For several years, this Christian answered the unbeliever’s questions; he was gentle and kind in his conduct in all situations and always tried to point his friend to Christ. He sought to be wise and gracious. Today that unbeliever has become a missionary. The Lord used that Christian, his wise conduct, his gracious speech, to help bring another into His kingdom. To Jesus be the glory. Amen.

So, what does it mean to have our speech seasoned with salt? Salt enhances the natural taste of foods so that we want to eat more. It also makes us thirsty. Our speech ought to be fresh and inviting, full of spiritual flavor, causing others to be desirous, hungry, and thirsty to hear more.

Advertisements

Stepping Out In Faith

85ad881398d41afb0cf11cad57a0976a

“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27

Have you ever been exhausted waiting for God to answer your prayers? Or have you ever prayed for something so much bigger than you—that only a God-intervention makes it happen?

Last week, I started praying for something that on the surface seems insurmountable. I am stepping out in faith like never before.  This is a prayer request a couple years in the making.  My faith bubbled up in me as I put my request through the filter of God’s word.  I was not asking with wrong motives, in fact, I felt the Lord would be glorified. I have been reading through the book of Deuteronomy and have been overwhelmed at the mighty hand of God that moves dramatically throughout the pages of His Word. The Bible say’s that as Moses neared the end of his life, he reminded the people of Israel about the mighty hand of God.

Because the Lord loves you … the Lord has brought you out [of Egypt] with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage” (Deuteronomy 7:8, NKJV).

After Moses died, the Israelites stood on the banks of the overflowing Jordan, ready to cross into the Promised Land. It looked insurmountable. The water was swift and deep. But God told Joshua to instruct the priests to go and “stand in the Jordan” (Joshua 3:8). As they approached the rushing torrent, nothing happened.

But when they touched the water’s edge with their feet, God worked a miracle and stopped the river. The priests stood in the middle of the Jordan until a million or more Hebrews had crossed into the Promised Land. When they stepped out on the other bank, the water resumed flowing.

After studying the scriptures I started realizing, that I have a tendency to put human limitations on my prayer requests.  Now I am not naive enough to believe that God is going to give me everything I ask for simply because I ask for it. He is too wise and too loving for that. He knows much more about my situation than I do, and many times will override my prayers because He knows He has a better plan. I decided if I was going to go out on a faith limb, I was going to go all the way out. I called several of my prayer partners and asked them to pray for the impossible with me.

Jesus said, “The things that are impossible for people to do are possible for God to do.” Luke 18:27

Is it impossible for God?  Our Heavenly Father made everything we see, and everything we can’t, with a word. He breathed life into this world, He designed and created it all. There are no limitations to His power. He can (and does!)

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. Genesis 2:7

Oh, how this must grieve the heart of my Heavenly Father when I limit His power. He knows how much more He wants to do in my life if only I’ll invite Him.

Let’s start to be bold with our prayers.  I want my prayers and faith to go beyond human power. I want to bring everything to my Heavenly Father, every care, every need. Not with a demanding heart, but with one with positive expectation.

I don’t need to worry about how God decides to answer. How wonderful it is that we can trust our Heavenly Father with ALL our requests.  Knowing with all certainty that He and only He knows how to answer my prayers.

I don’t know how the Lord will answer my leap of faith, I have peace knowing He knows the hearts involved.  I pray the Holy Spirit will go before me, preparing the way.  I’m tired of playing it safe. It’s time to cast off my fears, remove the limitations I’ve placed on God, and invite Him into every situation I face — especially those that seem hopeless. It’s then I’ll see God’s power, not mine.

God will get the glory when we press forward in prayer and faith. We refuse to give up or give in and God will honor it with answered prayer in His perfect timing.

Empathy Is Important For Christians

empathy-meme

The one thing that I am learning is that as Christians we need empathy.  Why?  The reason is simple, so we can share in the suffering and pain of our friends and fellow Christians.

I have found in my life that the Lord often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad to our deepest calling.  It is because of the hardships the Lord has allowed in my life, I’m able to feel more than sympathy and give my friends the gift of empathy. It’s a hard-won, precious gift.

The definition of empathy according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is the “feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions.” It’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s place when you have no point of reference. But as God allows certain experiences in our lives, we don’t have to imagine empathy because we feel it automatically; it is a gift we can give a hurting person.

My second child Casey passed away from congenital heart disease.  The pain of losing my son is something I carry with me always. I know what it is to live with pain — emotional and physical. It is from that hardship (among others), I am able to draw from a deep well of empathy.

I was talking with a new friend the other day, and she started sharing how she lost a daughter a few years ago. The hurt she felt was still so raw that she started crying. Tears came to my eyes as I shared that I knew exactly how she felt, because I had gone through the same thing. I explained my feelings of loss, how there will always be a hole in my life where Casey should be no matter how much time has passed. How I often think of how old he would be now and how the pain deepens on important days like his birthday, when he would have graduated from high school etc.. Yet I know my son is with the Lord, and it is only sad for those of us left behind. My friend nodded through her tears and said no one ever understands how she feels. Empathy is a bridge of understanding; through my own loss I could share in hers.

The apostle Paul says in Romans 12:15. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”  We are taught as Christians to share our friends emotional experiences. I am drawn to the action words of this statement. It doesn’t say, “Feel bad for those who are mourning.” It says we need to literally cry with them. Have the same emotion they are having — with a passion — one that brings forth tears. This is a powerful teaching Paul is trying to get across to the church in Rome and ultimately to all Christians. We are all called to show grace and love to hurting people, even when we can only guess at how they feel, but the true depth of empathy is achieved through experience.

Christ was our ultimate example of empathy. He literally put himself in our place when He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. So when God allows us to go through a hardship, we should consider it a privilege to suffer as our Lord Jesus suffered and use our experience to bless others.

It takes a brave person to pray for empathy, braver than me, but God allows experiences in my life that “teach” me this gift. Trials in our lives have many purposes; it took a long time of walking with the Lord and studying His Word for me to discover the lessons hidden in my own hardships and sufferings. They are often for our growth: to teach us reliance on God, to draw us back or closer to our Savior, or to give us empathy for our neighbor.

As Christians, we have a higher calling. We have been bought at a price and are no longer our own, but humble servants to our Heavenly Father. The greatest commandments are to love our Lord with all our hearts, minds and souls, and to love others as ourselves. In a world rampant with selfishness, vanity, bullying and greed, God offers us a better way. We are after all His hands and feet, and what better way to represent our Lord and serve others than with the gift of empathy?

Word Of God

in-the-beg-was-the-word

I remember being a new Christian and wondering “How can Jesus and the Bible both be the Word of God?”  As my walk with the Lord grew I began to realize some really important truths:

That the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Jesus showed us a link between the written Word of God and Himself, in that He is the subject of the written Word, it is His biography: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39).

I learned that the phrase “word of God” means more than the printed words on a page. God is a communicator and has been speaking to us since the beginning. He speaks through His creation (Psalm 19:1), through ancient prophets (Hosea 12:10; Hebrews 1:1), through the Holy Spirit (John 16:13; Acts 16:6), through Scripture (Hebrews 4:12), and through the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ (John 14:9). We can learn to know God better by seeking to hear Him ( and really listen) in every way that He speaks.  Isn’t that good news!   All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

(Deuteronomy 4:29 NKJV) “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

(Jeremiah 29:11-13 NKJV) For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. {12} Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. {13} And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Walk Humbly

micah6-8

God’s Word says, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”

To “Walk humbly” is a heart’s attitude toward God.   God’s people depend on Him rather than their own abilities.  Instead of taking pride in what we bring to God, we humbly recognize that no amount of personal sacrifice can replace a heart committed to justice and love. The response of a godly heart is outward (do justice), inward (love mercy), and upward (walk humbly).

Have you ever thought about this? Doing justice is having empathy and concern for those who are left out, unwanted, abused, and oppressed. Loving kindness is being considerate, compassionate, thoughtful, and actively working and looking for the good of others. Walking humbly with God is seeing God and yourself from the right perspective, being thankful for His grace.

Today, when it seems that religious faith is seen by the world as negative and even bigoted, I hope you will consider God’s Word. Only one person in all of history has lived up to this standard, and that was Jesus Christ. He alone was just and kind and walked with His Father, God. He can help you live out life today as a demonstration of what true faith is. Why not try it?  We are sometimes the only Jesus people see.

Enough Is Enough

enough-is-enough-2

My favorite paragraph in this article by Gary Thomas is:

I want a man who was abusive to have to explain to a potential second wife why his saintly first wife left him. Let men realize that behavior has consequences, and that wives are supposed to be cherished, not used, not abused, and never treated as sexual playthings. If a man wants the benefit and companionship of a good woman, let him earn it, and re-earn it, and let him know it can be lost.

 

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26

What does it mean to “hate” someone we are elsewhere called to sacrificially love? We are told to love even our enemies, yet Jesus here tells us to hate some of our closest family members. What could that mean?

Hatred here is Semitic hyperbole. In essence, it means “love less than.” There are times when our love and allegiance to God may be at odds with human loyalties; in those cases, love for God, His light and the way of truth, must always prevail.

It’s okay (actually, commendable) for me to love the Seattle Seahawks. But if my wife needs me to take her to the hospital in the middle of a game or needs me to pay her some attention, I have to act like I hate the Seahawks and not even consider my love for them in service to my wife.

Let’s apply this principle in regards to how the church views marriage and divorce.

I recently spoke at a long-standing North American woman’s conference and was overwhelmed by the quantity and horrific nature of things wives are having to put up with in their marriages. Between sessions, I was bombarded by heartfelt inquiries: “What does a wife do when her husband does this? Or that? Or keeps doing this?” It broke my heart. I felt like I needed to take a dozen showers that weekend.

This may sound like a rant, but please hang with me, as I think this conference was a divine appointment. I can’t get this out of my mind.

One wife began our conversation with, “God hates divorce, right?”

“Yes,” I said. “I believe He does.”

“So I’ve just got to accept what’s happening in my marriage, right?”

When she told me what was happening, I quickly corrected her. “If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than he loves institutions.”

Her husband is a persistent porn addict. He has neglected her sexually except to fulfill his own increasingly bent desires. He keeps dangling divorce over her head, which makes her feel like a failure as a Christian. He presented her with a list of five things he wanted to do that he saw done in porn, and if she wasn’t willing, he was through with the marriage. She agreed to four of them, but just couldn’t do the fifth. And she feels guilty.

God hates divorce, right?

This is monstrous and vile. This woman needs to be protected from such grotesque abuse, and if divorce is the only weapon to protect her, then the church should thank God such a weapon exists.

A young wife, barely in her twenties, held a baby in a blanket and looked at me with tears. Her husband has a huge temper problem. He’s made her get out of the car on a highway with her baby,twice. “But both times he came back for us,” she said in his defense when I looked absolutely appalled. They were separated and she was living with her parents. She wanted to know if she should take him back because his psychiatrist supposedly said there wasn’t anything really wrong with him. Her husband doesn’t think he has a problem that, in fact, the problem is with her “lack of forgiveness.”

They had been married only three years and she had already lived through more torment (I’m not telling the full story) than a woman should face in a lifetime. My thoughts weren’t at all about how to “save” the marriage, but to ease her conscience and help her prepare for a new life—without him.

Church, God hates it when a woman is sexually degraded and forced to do things that disgust her. It should also make us want to vomit.

When a young man is so immature he puts his wife’s and baby’s life in danger on a highway (amongst other things), the thought that we’re worried about the “appropriateness” of divorce shows that our loyalties are with human institutions, not the divine will.

As Kevin DeYoung so ably puts it, “Every divorce is the result of sin, but not every divorce is sinful.”

Another woman told me about putting up with her husband’s appalling behavior for over forty years. I was invited to look in her face, see the struggle, see the heroic perseverance, but also be reminded that counsel has consequences. So when I talk to a young woman in her third year of marriage and it’s clear she’s married to a monster, and someone wants to “save” the marriage, I want them to realize they are likely sentencing her to four decades of abuse, perhaps because of a choice she made as a teenager. When these men aren’t confronted, and aren’t repentant, they don’t change.

Jesus said what he said about divorce to protect women, not to imprison them. Divorce was a weapon foisted against women in the first century, not one they could use, and it almost always left them destitute if their family of origin couldn’t or wouldn’t step up.

How does it honor the concept of “Christian marriage” to enforce the continuance of an abusive, destructive relationship that is slowly squeezing all life and joy out of a woman’s soul? Our focus has to be on urging men to love their wives like Christ loves the church, not on telling women to put up with husbands mistreating their wives like Satan mistreats us. We shouldconfront and stop the work of Satan, not enable it.

Look, I hate divorce as much as anyone. I have been married for 31 years and cannot fathom leaving my wife. I have prayed with couples, counselled with couples, written blog posts and articles and books, and have travelled to 49 of the 50 states and nine different countries to strengthen marriages in the church. By all accounts, I believe I’ve been an ambassador for improving and growing marriages.

The danger of what I’m saying is clear and even a little scary to me, because no marriage is easy. Every marriage must overcome hurt, pain, and sin. No husband is a saint, in the sense that every husband will need to be forgiven and will be troublesome and even hurtful at times to live with. I’m not talking about the common struggles of living with a common sinner, or every man and woman could pursue divorce. (There are many men who live with abuse and could “biblically” pursue a divorce as well.) Charging someone with “abuse” when it doesn’t truly apply is almost as evil as committing abuse, so we need to be careful we don’t bear “false witness” against a spouse to convince ourselves and others that we can legitimately pursue divorce to get out of a difficult marriage.

That’s why I love how some churches will meet with a couple and hear them out to give them some objective feedback, helping them to distinguish between normal marital friction and abusive behavior. Some women need to hear, “No, this isn’t normal. It’s abuse. You don’t have to put up with that.” Others need to hear, “We think what you’re facing are the normal difficulties of marriage and with counseling they can be overcome.” There’s no way a blog post (or even a book) can adequately anticipate all such questions.

I love marriage—even the struggles of marriage, which God can truly use to grow us and shape us—but I hate it when God’s daughters are abused. And I will never defend a marriage over a woman’s emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

I went back to my hotel room after that woman’s conference and almost felt like I had to vomit. I don’t know how God stands it, having to witness such horrific behavior leveled at his daughters.

Enough is enough!

Jesus says there are “levels” of love, and times when one loyalty must rise over another. Our loyalty to marriage is good and noble and true. But when loyalty to a relational structure allows evil to continue it is a false loyalty, even an evil loyalty.

Christian leaders and friends, we have to see that some evil men are using their wives’ Christian guilt and our teaching about the sanctity of marriage as a weapon to keep harming them. I can’t help feeling that if more women started saying, “This is over” and were backed up by a church that enabled them to escape instead of enabling the abuse to continue, other men in the church, tempted toward the same behavior, might finally wake up and change their ways.

Christians are more likely to have one-income families, making some Christian wives feel even more vulnerable. We have got to clean up our own house. We have got to say “Enough is enough.” We have got to put the fear of God in some terrible husbands’ hearts, because they sure don’t fear their wives and their lack of respect is leading to ongoing deplorable behavior.

I want a man who was abusive to have to explain to a potential second wife why his saintly first wife left him. Let men realize that behavior has consequences, and that wives are supposed to be cherished, not used, not abused, and never treated as sexual playthings. If a man wants the benefit and companionship of a good woman, let him earn it, and re-earn it, and let him know it can be lost.

Enough is enough.

I know I’m ranting. But I don’t think it was an accident that I was constantly stopped at that woman’s conference and forced to hear despicable story after despicable story (“forced” isn’t the right word. I could, of course, have walked away). I think God wanted me to see the breadth and depth of what is going on, and in this case, perhaps to be His voice.

Message received! We are called to love marriage, but when marriage enables evil, we should hate it (love it less) in comparison to a woman’s welfare.

Painful Wound Of Divorce

My eyes filled with tears as I scrolled through the Facebook news feed. Yet another couple was celebrating their anniversary. “Can’t believe it’s been 20 years since I said ‘I do’” the post read. “More in love than ever!”I felt the painful wound of divorce tear open once again. Why didn’t I get my happily-ever-after? What is so wrong with me that I can’t be loved? I did all the “right” things and everything still went wrong! This isn’t how I planned my life!

There are times when you’ve done all you can do to save your marriage, but it still ends in divorce. I know the feelings of guilt, shame, loneliness, and disillusionment because I have been there. Love never gives up, right? Doesn’t the Bible say that? How did this happen? What happens when “happily-ever-after” shatters?

The truth is, the only thing we have to offer is love. That’s it. And the only thing a potential spouse can offer is love. And what greater love is there than the love of Christ?  The love of God liberates us from shallow mockeries of intimacy. Sometimes this means that breakups are even more difficult (something deeper is at stake).

It’s not that you don’t feel loved right now — it goes further than that. You feel unloveable. How do you receive the love of God when someone has thrown a rejection bomb into your heart, closed the hatch, and broken off the key?

Look, every human wants the same things; to be valued, respected, honored, loved, appreciated,needed…all emotional needs.
Before we begin to seek someone else to fill a void that we desperately want, why do we not realize that in relationships you Are going to be hurt, you will get your heart broken, and there will be times you ask yourself how in the world did I get in this mess?
Sometimes, we get into abusive relationships that so break our spirit,that we buy into the lies that we deserve exactly what we get,so we stay and become beaten, abused, and demeaned (by the person who once said I love you).  It doesn’t matter what others think, it matters whether you want to live or just continue a life of existence. To learn that before you can give love you must be able to love yourself enough to admit sometimes when we want something so badly, we will accept any behavior including abusive behavior in relationships. Being betrayed,Yes,it hurts but you never can go forward in life driving a parked car.
How can you or anyone give away what they don’t possess?
Life hurts. Roses are beautiful flowers, however,they also have thorns and depending whether you acknowledge the thorns, knowing they can inflict pain if not properly respected; we can realize much about life and love if we stop, think before we jump.
The reality is marriage is not always a clear path with a guaranteed outcome.

So, What do you do when you’ve done everything Jesus told you to do, but your spouse is hard-hearted like Jesus describes in Matthew 19:8? The Bible assures us He is close to the brokenhearted and those whose spirits are crushed (Psalm 147:3, Psalm 34:18)  Divorce is one of the most painful events you can go through. We are not meant to carry the pain alone.

Sometimes, people need permission to be broken. And it is from that broken place that they are finally able to become whole again.

Time and time again, when faced with some of life’s hardest moments, I have shared my secret: “It’s okay to be not okay.”  Sometimes we just need to surrender and fall into the arms of our Heavenly Father.