Sunday, July 29, 2012

A soft word: communication help for the hapless.

Proverbs 15:1
A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

Matthew 5:37
But let your communication be, YeayeaNaynay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

We Christians are commanded to be honest in all that we do and say. We fight our human nature, which- if we're honest- desires to protect itself and lift itself up. 

We take great pride in "saying what we mean and meaning what we say." Yet, in relationships with others, this prideful bluntness can be very harmful. It can drive wedges between us and our co-workers, our spouses, our family, our friends, and our fellow Christians. It has destroyed careers and decimated families and churches alike. 

We love to say, "let your yeas be yea, and your nays be nay." When we say that, many times there's a smug self righteousness that sneaks through and is heard by others. What they hear is, "I'm gonna say what I feel. I don't care how you feel about it at all."

Proverbs 15:1, I believe, is the key to better communication. It is the method by which we can BOTH say what we mean AND not alienate most of who listens to what we have said.

While it is true that somethings we say, especially Biblical things, will hurt some people's feelings. This is a given no matter how nicely we try and word things. In these situations we need to remember: Proverbs 27:6
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Some folks just need the unadulterated truth, even if it hurts them. We cannot short cut the word of God in favor of someones feelings- no matter how much we love them. 

By the same token, however, we cannot go around swinging our sword at all who come near. This hack and slay approach may make you feel good about how much you know and are telling the "godless heathens" around you. But, it truly won't win the vast majority to your cause. If you're married, or soon to be, then swinging your sword isn't going to gain you any good will with your spouse.

When we are speaking to others, we need to be prayerful about it and try to be led by the spirit of God in what we say and do. Instead of angry retorts, try rewording what you're saying in a way that both lets them know you care and helps them see what you're saying from a different angle.

We men, as heads of the home, truly struggle with this. There is a tendency for us to parade around as "the master of all we survey" in our homes. God has named us head of the home (understood to our male ego's as "Lord of the Castle") and "by God, they had better do what I say." This attitude belittles your spouse (who is your helpmate, not your doormat) and will drive your children away from you as well. 

Rather than giving orders, try prayerfully explaining your ideas and allowing both their feedback and (if there's time) time to pray and think about it, as well. Instead of telling them what they will and won't do "because I say so", explain your reasons for your conclusions and allow them to ask questions. They may see things in a way that helps YOUR understanding, as well. 

While the husband does have the final say (in Jesus) on what can and cannot happen with his family, it is far better (and easier) to do things in agreement. In this way you truly LEAD your family. You're not trying to force them into your will. Even God allows us freedom of choice.

Granted there are times in which you will have to put your foot down, or make a decision that only you agree with- making your family upset. However, when those times come, they'll be far easier for you than if all you do is force your will down the throats of your loved ones. Remember, scripture says that, Proverbs 11:14
"Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety."

If you allow your family, especially your spouse, to be a part of your decisions, they are far more likely to follow you when they disagree. 

Major decisions, if possible, need to be done only in family unity. If all do not have peace about it, then take the time to re-examine and re-pray about it. Minor decisions, too, should be made together as much as possible. 

We have a hard enough time battling the influences of the world and our enemy without forcing battles in our homes. So, to my wife and family, I love you and am still learning. Please forgive me the errors of my past. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rarefied Air

1 Corinthians 9:25-27

King James Version (KJV)
25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

This blog post will be a fun departure from the norm for me. As most of you know, I tend to blog about Scriptures and how they apply to our lives. I try to be an encouragement to you, the reader, in your daily walk with Jesus. 

However, I am also a fiction writer (having published one book) and an avid reader of Christian fiction myself. So, to take a short break from reality, I'll pick up a good book and immerse in the world I find there. 

As Christians we are to be very careful what we watch, read, and listen to, so I tend to be very picky about what I choose to read.

Around a year ago, I picked up a copy of the book, "Lion of Judah", by Davis Bunn. I first became aware of his work when he did the "Song of Acadia" series with Janette Oke (an author my family has enjoyed for years). So, when I found this book, I was willing to take a chance. I was so glad that I did. It was a wonderful and engaging book and I wrote Mr Bunn on his website ( and told him so.

You can imagine the thrill I felt when I was given the opportunity to read and critique the sequel to "Lion of Judah." I was on pins and needles awaiting the arrival of "Rare Earth." 

As a former Army Medic and a preacher, I have long stood for the idea that Christians are not just patsies. We are not made to simply roll over and be killed like lambs to the slaughter. Rather, we are commanded to fight (sometimes physically, if need be) the evil in this world and make a difference in the lives of others.

"Rare Earth" is about a man, Marc Royce, who does just that. A strong Christian man, he is also an intelligence agent trying to correct injustice and make a difference in people lives- many of which he's never met. Yet, he does it because it's the right thing to do. 

Along the way, he must weed through the mine field of political intrigue, dangerous enemies, financial offers made to side track him, strange tribal customs, and even an erupting volcano. This story has it all: Mystery, danger, intrigue, politics, corruption, romance, action, and the main character has to make it through all this while still standing up for biblical living. Marc Royce has to pray and seek God's advice on who to trust and not to trust, something we can all learn to do.

The action is breath taking. The romance is subtle and sweet without giving in to the tendency of many books and being graphic (Thank you, Mr Bunn!) The politics are realistic. The danger is heart pounding. You can't help but find yourself rooting for Marc Royce to be successful. After all, the future of the Kenyan (and some Israeli) people is at stake and Marc has to figure out what's going on in order to stop it and bring true freedom to them all. Not to mention trying to stay alive himself.

There are many poignant moments that leave you thinking how you would react in that situation. There are many plot twists and turns that leave you guessing about what's next. 

The Characters are well written and have real depth to them. The descriptions of the landscapes are vivid enough that you can almost feel the volcanic ash falling around you. The action is fast paced and realistic. Marc is not made out to be Superman. He's just a man who loves people and God. 

I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I did "Lion of Judah"- probably because I was in Iraq in the 90's. I did very much enjoy "Rare Earth." I heartily recommend it for any Christian who wants to read some good fiction and stay away from all the junk the world tells us to read. 

This book is in rarefied air. My only question now to Mr Bunn is: will there be a third installment to the series? Please?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

When the Lord refuses a sacrifice.

15 Samuel also said unto Saul, The Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the Lord.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.
Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.
And Saul gathered the people together, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah.
And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and laid wait in the valley.
And Saul said unto the Kenites, Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them: for ye shewed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.
And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt.
And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.
But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.
10 Then came the word of the Lord unto Samuel, saying,
11 It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the Lord all night.
12 And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal.
13 And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord.
14 And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?
15 And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.
16 Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the Lord hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on.
17 And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel?
18 And the Lord sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed.
19 Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord?
20 And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.
21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal.
22 And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.
24 And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.
25 Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord.
26 And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.
27 And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent.
28 And Samuel said unto him, The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.
29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.
30 Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord thy God.
31 So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the Lord.
32 Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past.
33 And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.
34 Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul.
35 And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.

Saul was given great position, blessings, honor, and responsibility. He loved the position, blessings, and honor. But, he tried to circumvent the responsibility. Therefore, he lost out with God.

Popular teaching today says that "God always honors our sacrifices." Really? He rejected Saul's. He rejected Cain's. Why? He rejects all sacrifices that are contrary to his word and ways of doing things.

When God's word says for us to live one way, but we reject that and live another, how can we expect God to bless what we try to do for him?

We buy into the popular theologies of the day that tell us of God's love for us, his desire for us to prosper, and all the blessings he wishes to give us. But, a half truth is a whole lie. These "doctrines" don't give the whole picture.

Samuel told Saul, "to obey is better than sacrifice..." The Lord is looking for a people that will submit and obey him. Many are the people who try, like Saul and Cain, to reach God their own way- without following the whole counsel of God.

Jesus' response to this attitude rings loud and clear: "narrow is the gate that leadeth to life, and few there be that FIND it.."

God's not gonna force us to live for him. He died for us. He'll help us to live for him and make heaven. But, he won't force us to obey. That choice is ours to make. We can give all we own to the needy, and still not make it. We can sing or preach to thousands, but be lost in the end.

We MUST obey him. The christian life is simple, really. It's a walk of faithful obedience to God. No matter what come our way or who comes against us, we must stay the path. If we will choose to obey him in all we do, we will barely make it in. Peter said, "If the righteous SCARCELY be saved..."

So, what is our choice? To obey, or not to obey? That is the question. (Sorry Shakespeare) Do we try Saul's way and go through the motions but cut corners off that we don't like? Or, do we pray and study and follow what we find there?

Time will tell. "As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord."

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I'm declaring my independence day!

2 Timothy 3:12
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

Ephesians 4:14
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

1 Corinthians 15:58
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

I'm tired of it. I'm sick and tired of it. This life is very hard-especially living for God. Life is hard enough, but it seems that when a person decides to give their all for Jesus, the naysayers come out of the woodwork.

Living for Jesus is good and honorable. It is holy and righteous in the eyes of God. It all sounds fantastic to the young Christian. When the preacher/teacher begins to discuss living for God, the young child of God gets an almost euphoric feeling. They see things as rose colored and wonderful.

Then, when they begin- through prayer and effort- to implement the changes in their life that the scriptures declare they need to, it's "Katy bar the door" from their "friends" and "loved ones." Then comes the battles.
They begin to hear things like:

                              "Do you think you're better than us?"
                              "That's not how I raised you to live."
                              "It's not necessary to live that way."
                              "Don't you think you're taking this Jesus stuff a bit too far?"
                              "Well, Jesus loves us all and we don't all have to live that way."
My personal favorite is when you've never said a word to the person about how they live. All you've done is change how you live. Then, they get mad at you? Ever heard this one? "How dare you tell me that I'm living wrong!" The truth is that your lifestyle is stepping on their toes without you ever speaking a word.

I've been living for God for nearly 22 years, now. I've made many mistakes in that time. I've stumbled and fallen along the way. I've hurt some folks along the way- unintentionally.

I've worried and lost sleep sometimes over the opinions of people that I love and friends that I care about. I've suffered from that very human disease- trying to win people's approval. Let me tell you that this has added more than a few gray hairs to my head.

Folks will share a scripture that they think contradicts what God has shown me, and I go through a time of worry. Am I wrong? Did I mishear God? I begin to pray and search it out. Sometimes, I discover that I was wrong and my understanding changes. Other times, I discover that the person who gave me the scripture was wrong in their understanding. I then gently try to explain the correct understanding- usually to an increasingly angry person.

This causes more stress to me. If the word of God tells us how to live. If the word tells us something different than how we've been living, don't get mad at the messenger. We need to change our lifestyles to adapt to the word of God. Not the other way around.

I'm tired of the finger pointing. I'm tired of the nay-saying. I'm tired of worrying about the opinions of others who have no heaven or hell to send me to (no matter how much they may personally wish me to go to either place).

Therefore, today- as we celebrate the July 4th holiday- I'm declaring my own independence.

No more will I concern myself with the opinions of others. No longer will I worry about the finger pointers and Pentecostal fruit inspector's alike. Let the chips fall where they may. As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord in word and deed. If folks don't like how we live, that's their prerogative. If folks don't like the way we look- don't look. Don't like what we say? Don't listen. Have issues with what I write? Don't read it.

Hard times will come. But, we will stand- stedfast and unmoveable. Nay-sayers will come and go, but we will stand for Jesus. It's not that I don't care about you, it's that I care about Jesus MORE than I care about you. I'm not trying to run anybody off, but if I have to choose between Jesus and you, I choose Jesus- every time.

It's a free country and you have a right to move on down the road if you don't like my house (or writing, or Facebook page). I'm done worrying about you. I'm free. Why? Because "he whom the son hath set free is free indeed."