Saturday, June 13, 2009

Our Spoken Words

Jesus is synonymous with his words because he acted out everything he said. His words were so much the truth that there is no difference between what he said and who he is. There’s not one promise unfulfilled, not one retraction, not a boast or uncontrolled outburst. We all know (and sometimes we are) someone who is NOT who he or she says. Either through promises broken, falsehoods spoken, or harshness and haste, we fall far short of what we profess. Jesus prayed for you and me when he said:

. . . I have given them the words that you gave me . . . I am praying for them . . . Holy Father . . . Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth . . . – from John 17: 8-17

We have the words (the WORD, the Bible) that Jesus gave us. With them we are, in fact, equipped to live out the blessing Jesus prayed over us. When we speak the truth of God’s word over the people and situations in our lives, we see real change. We can speak Bible truth to God in prayer, and we can speak it to our troubles. Jesus said:

"I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”Matt. 18:18

Jesus even gave us the awesome power and responsibility to forgive, which has a whole lot more to do with what we say in our hearts and with our mouths than it does with how we feel:

"If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." - John 20:23

Jesus gave us power to bind, to loose, to bless, and to forgive. May we receive the Holy Spirit power today to exercise our authority in Christ over the words that come out of our mouths, as well as our mental talk. Instead of the disappointment of speaking out of turn, may we see the fruit of words well-spoken. Let's agree with what God himself says about his word:

. . . I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, "My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure . . ." - from Isaiah 46:9-10

Even to life-and-death extremes, may we insist upon speaking God's truth:

. . . God . . . gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. – from Romans 4:17

Let's pledge to speak life today!

Friday, June 5, 2009

No Ambiguous Effect

The Lord's word has an equal and opposite effect on us, depending upon how it is received. Jesus says to his followers:

Already you are clean
because of the word that I have spoken to you. - John 15:3

Later, he speaks of those who reject him:

If I had not come and spoken to them,
they would not have been guilty of sin,
but now they have no excuse for their sin.

Our response to God's word determines its effect on us. Either we honor God's word or we do not. Both responses cause a profound effect on our lives. We have two alternatives: clean or dirty, innocent or guilty, with no ambiguous grey area between the two extremes.

In last Friday's Old Testament section, we see Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, as he fluctuates between the two extremes. For the most part King Jehoshaphat does things God's way in government, and causes a lot of good things to happen for his nation. Yet he stumbles, going into battle as an ally of evil.

Christians today suffer the same conflict; for the most part we honor God's word with a willing heart, yet at times we may act in direct and willful contradiction to what the Bible says. I pray you and I will have the grace today to respond with a willing heart to the word of the Lord, so that we'll stand before him clean and innocent.


What a contradiction in terms, “All we can do is . . . pray,” or “God is . . . all we’ve got.” God allows us to be put in in the painful position where our only option is to cry out to him, and it's for our own good! Then he can show us "all we've got," and the power of "all we can do."

In yesterday's reading, King Abijah of Judah was forced to call upon God to rescue him from an attacking enemy that outnumbered his men two-to-one. Judah was surrounded, and the outcome would have been sure defeat and total annihilation, if not for the presence and power of God:

. . . the men of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the LORD . . . – from 2 Chronicles 13:18

King Asa of Judah had the presence of mind to send an SOS to God in the heat of battle, at the moment when he and his people were attacked, embattled, and outnumbered against a raging enemy. He stood in the middle of conflict and verbalized his trust:

. . . O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O LORD, you are our God; let not man prevail against you. – from 2 Chron. 14:11

Not surprisingly, there was triumph that day for Judah, yet how quickly people tend to forget the source of hope and deliverance! Even in the afterglow of great victory, God sent the prophet Azariah with a pointed reminder:

The LORD is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.2 Chron. 15:2

Asa took the prophet’s warning seriously, and took immediate action to remove the objects of adoration to false gods found throughout the land. Afterward, Asa called the people together to express his intention that all his people should earnestly seek and follow God, and his leadership caused a nationwide reformation:

. . . [the people of Judah] entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul . . . – from 2 Chron. 15:12

For several decades there was rest and peace for Judah, but when the next trial came, their king forgot who to trust! When battle threatened once again, Asa called upon an allied nation to help him against his enemy. That seemed to work out fine at the time, but in truth Asa lost far more than he gained. God sent word to this proud leader:

. . . "Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars." – from 2 Chron. 16:7-9

How sad that from that time on, Judah had no rest from conflict, and their leader never again humbled himself before God. In our New Testament portion, Jesus encouraged his followers to have rest from conflict and to consciously trust in him, on the eve of the battle of their lives:

Peace I leave with you; MY PEACE I give to you. NOT as the world gives do I give to you.John 14:27 (emphasis mine)

Jesus made a fine point of the difference between the peace he offers and the peace the world can give. Let us not accept the peace this world offers in exchange for the peace that comes from God! Often in a crisis we forget God, and try to solve our own problems. Let us make a conscious effort to remember what a blessing it is when “all we can do is pray,” and “God is all we’ve got.”

Lord, save us from our own solutions, and help us remember YOU in a crisis! Thank you for the trouble that trains us to turn to you. Lord, help us remember that our answers, though they may provide immediate relief, will hurt us in the long term. Give us power to stay true to our calling today, and give us grace in our moments of distress to turn to you, our only true source of hope and help. In Jesus name, AMEN.