Monday, September 26, 2016

Ears to Hear

If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.
Matthew 11:15
Mark 4:9
Mark 4:23
Mark 7:16
Luke 8:8
Luke 14:35

See all those references?  Apparently Jesus said this a lot, but He wasn't talking about simply listening. He was assuming that hearing caused an action.  

In James 1:19,20 it says, "But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God."  There is a logical progression in this instruction.  James is assuming that you're listening to something, it apparently is offensive to you that makes you speak and makes you angry.  But instead of simply reacting to what is being said, he wants you to slow things down.  Be quick to listen - actually hear what is being said to you, but then slow to speak - think through your response or even better, think through what has just been said to you.  Is there truth in it?  Are you being defensive because it hits too close to home?  And then, be slow to anger.  Don't let things rile you up quickly.  Make sure your anger is righteous, not selfish.  

All of this goes back to the premise that when you really hear something, it causes an action.  Jesus, in all His above quotes, wanted His audience to pay attention and hear, so that they can act on what they are being told.  Unfortunately we tend to hear all day but not act. Or when we do act, we REACT rather than purposefully ACT in righteousness. So maybe we don't really have ears to hear?

Do you have someone in your life who constantly wants your advice? They come to you with their struggles, wanting you to clearly understand the difficult situation they are in, and then ask you what to do?  Then, after you give your words of wisdom, they either defend why they can't do what you have suggested or they leave and never put into practice what you instructed?  Come on, you know those people.  As a matter of fact, you can watch the interest in their eyes disappear as soon as you begin to speak. It's as if they have their hands over their ears while you are speaking. So why are they even coming to you in the first place?  Perhaps a better question is this:  are you one of those people who constantly comes to Jesus with your hands over your ears?

There's not much we can do about friends who don't listen, but Jesus isn't instructing us to encourage others to hear - He's telling us, if you have ears, then listen to what I am saying...and act on it.  Just two verses later in James 1, it says, "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves."  We delude ourselves by thinking we have sought out counsel for our problems but are still struggling.  We've cried out to the Lord and He's just not answering.  We've listened to sermons and Christian radio and nothing in our lives has changed.

Just because you have ears doesn't mean you're hearing.  When you act on the Word, in faith, doing what is right rather than what feels right, then there is evidence that you are actually hearing.  So today is a Monday.  Most of us heard something yesterday at church or read something this morning in our devotions.  Let's make the choice today to prove our hearing works just fine and put what we have heard into action.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Context, Context, Context

I can do all things through Him 
who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

Great verse.  Great motivator.  When it seems like you are in the midst of a storm, or at the base of a mountain, or at the edge of a canyon, this verse can give you the resolve to overcome.

But do you know that this verse is talking about contentment?

Hmmmm...really, Kristen?

Yep.  Want to know how I know?  I read the context. 

Paul is ending his letter to the church at Philippi, and he explains to them that he had..."learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

Paul's ability to survive whatever circumstance he found himself in was grounded in contentment.  That contentment was accomplished through strength given to him from the Lord.  

So, yes, in storms or when you have a mountain in front of you or a canyon to cross, Jesus is the power source to accomplish anything, but is Jesus your power source to be content?  By definition, contentment is a state of happiness and satisfaction.  Is Jesus your source of happiness (I like the word joy better) and satisfaction?  If the answer to that is yes, then why aren't you content?

We are a very discontented people:
  • we don't like our jobs and our co-workers
  • we don't like our homes and our communities
  • we don't like our hair color or our body shape
  • we don't like our spouse, for that matter
  • we don't like our options for president
  • we don't like the weather
  • we don't like our options in our closet
  • we don't like our options for dinner
  • and we can hardly tolerate what's on tv
In a world of unhappy and unsatisfied people, the child of God should stick out like a sore thumb - or should I say a content thumb.  We should be a light that points to true, deep joy and satisfaction, but if we are riding on the complaint train, no one will ever see the light within us.

So how do we turn this around?  How do we find contentment when life is hard?  We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.  The answer is clear - our contentment has to come from our relationship with Jesus:
  • He knows where you work
  • He knows where you live
  • He knows you inside and out
  • He knows your spouse better than you do
  • He knows where He is steering the world
  • He knows what what weather He sent your way today
  • He knows what's in your closet and your fridge
  • And I'm pretty sure He's not into tv either
All of these things are a part of life, but knowing the sovereign God of the universe should be what calms your heart.  He wants you to call Him Father.  He wants you to trust that He is intimately involved in your life.  And He wants you to stop whining and complaining and be content where you are, because your lack of contentment is evidence of your lack of trust in Him.  

You can survive the storm, the mountain and the canyon because you are fully known and fully loved.  You can get through another day at work and another day of marriage because you are held in the palm of your Savior's hand.  What could possibly make you more satisfied or joyful than Jesus? Has He not invested enough into you?  You have been completely restored and your future is secure in Christ, so run to Him, walk closely to Him and choose a life of gratitude and contentment because He personally is strengthening you.

Somehow this blog turned into a "Momma Wisen Talk" - sorry about that. It was not my intent.  Dear friend, may I encourage you that it is the things in life that we don't like that push us to our Lord. Why would He calm the winds if those very winds force you to cling to Him?  Rather than long for a life you don't have, find your contentment, find your joy and satisfaction in Jesus.  Then your circumstances will simply be opportunities for you to shine.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

4 Pertinent Questions

"And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity;
 the tongue is set among our members 
as that which defiles the entire body, 
and sets on fire the course of our life, 
and is set on fire by hell."
James 3:6

Whoa.  Did you read that verse? Rough.

It's rough because we all have a tongue, don't we?  In the spirit of learning not to poke the bear, I have another tongue post.  As I was driving to church on Sunday, I was listening to a sermon on the radio and the preacher was in James 3, speaking on the power of the tongue.  As I drove, I was like, "Really, Lord? I thought I had a good week and this is what you want me to hear?" (I tend to personalize sermons on a regular basis - that's what happens when you're the pastor's wife and you never know how you're going to inspire a message or how you're going to be used in an illustration).  

It ended up being a really good message, with a very powerful and practical application which is now being turned into my blog.  And so, I now have some guidelines for conversation.  Yes, I still believe that our words need to edify and build up each other, which I mentioned in my bear poking blog.  Let's just build on that premise by adding 4 pertinent questions to ask yourself before you talk:

1. Is this true?

The first question is just common sense.  Is the thing that I want to share or talk about - is it true?  Philippians 4:8 tells us to set our mind on things that are true, lovely, pure, righteous - it is important that our words drip with truth and it starts with setting our minds on truth.  So, ask yourself, is this true?  If it's not or your not sure, then zip it. 

2.  Is this confidential?

Am I talking about something that was told to me in confidence? Why is it that we love to share a juicy story?  We must be trustworthy, and if we're told something in confidence, then we must not share it or pass it along.  This is especially true in the small group settings - we have to be able to share our requests and concerns with the confidence that they won't be passed around outside of the group.  It's an integrity thing. If it was told to you in confidence, then zip it. 

3.  Is this necessary?

Why am I talking right now?  Why am I sharing this? Does it add to the conversation?  Is it important that I share this?  I am starting to think that a high percentage of what I talk about is not necessary, zip, zip.

4.  Is this kind?

So what I am saying is true, it is not confidential and it's possibly necessary - but is it kind?  Am I being kind, are my words kind, is the subject matter kind?  This is the one that will change most of our conversation.  It will stop the bear poking dead in its' tracks.   For some reason we don't like to communicate kind things.  We like to communicate judgments and negativity, rumors and gossip that tend to be unkind by nature.  So if it's not kind, then...well, you know.

True, confidential, necessary and kind.  

These are four great boundaries to put around your speech.  Remind me again why we are doing this?  Because poking the bear is costly?  No, it's bigger than that.  It's because the tongue is a powerful tool in life - a tool that can be used for God's glory or a tool that can start a fire and burn down a forest in the blink of an eye.  James 3 warns us of the dangers of an unbridled tongue and any restrictions that we can put on our tongues are a help in life.  Ultimately if we change how we think, we will change how we talk.  If our desire is to build up and edify, then naturally our speech will be true and kind.  We won't be breaking anyone's confidence and our speech will be necessary, as edification is always necessary!  

Poor Dave, it's getting mighty quiet around the house...but maybe it's a refreshing change!  Of course, he won't have as many sermon illustrations, so that might become a problem.  How's the noise level in your house?


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Are You a Counselor?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
the Father of mercies and God of all COMFORT,
who COMFORTS us in all our affliction
so that we will be able to COMFORT
those who are in any affliction 
with the COMFORT with which we
ourselves are COMFORTED by God.

II Corinthians 1:3,4

I'm just going to say it.

If you are in Christ Jesus, you are qualified to counsel.

Ugh.  I can hear your resistance already. "I can't counsel!  What do I know about anything? It's not my calling.  There are others who are way more qualified than me to counsel!"

Personally, I don't even like the word "counsel" - I'd rather call it "disciple" but no matter what you call it, if you know Jesus, you are qualified to comfort those in affliction.

There is a mindset in the church that in order to walk through a valley with someone, you need to have walked there before.  Now, I am not going to de-value the wealth of knowledge that comes from  experience, but  experience alone does not qualify you to counsel.  

I also want to add, I say "in the church" because in the world, you need degrees.  In the church, you need experience.  If you've had an abortion, then you are qualified to counsel women who are post-abortive.  If you have been divorced, you are qualified to counsel women who are in the throes of divorce.  If you have had addictions, then you are qualified to work with the addicted.  This is what seems to open doors in counseling in the church - what is your past sin and who can you reach out and touch?  What this produces in the mind of the counselee is,  "I can listen to them because they know what I am going through."  

All of this makes sense in a very limiting way.  Past experience does open the door for great testimony of God's love and provision, and when someone who has walked through a divorce can come alongside someone who is currently entering this experience, it is a blessing to have that knowledge and past to identify with the pain.  The problem is that valleys aren't identical.  If we rely on common circumstances as our foundation for understanding, then we are limiting the call of counseling to those who have very specific past sin to share.

Then there's the problem with God.  You see, God says that if you are in Christ, then you understand the brokenness that sin produces and you have experienced the grace that all men need, therefore you are qualified to extend compassion and comfort because you have been comforted.  That's what II Corinthians 1:3,4 tells us.  Because God has comforted us in our affliction (which is the condition that brought us to Jesus), then we are able to comfort those in ANY affliction (because what they need is the grace and mercy that has already been extended to you.)

You are qualified because you have experienced the mercy and comfort of God.


The great commission is to go and make disciples.  This is the call of every believer.  Counseling is simply disciple-making.  Is life hard?  What does God say about it?  Are you depressed? What does God say about it?  Are you suffering? What does God say about it?  Are you angry? Are you lonely?  Are you frustrated?  Are you sorrowful?  Are you lost?  Tired? Hopeless? Addicted? You name it, what does God say about it?

This is basic discipleship:  taking the troubles of today and bringing them to a loving God, who has given His Son so that we can know Him and have life.  It doesn't matter where you have come from - if you have come to Jesus, you can bring others.

You know the way.

You are qualified.

So who are you discipling?  Who are you walking through the valley with?  To do this, you must know God's Word, so keep studying and ask the Father to bring someone who needs help into your life.  Then watch what He does next!

(((By the way, I haven't poked the bear in a couple of weeks and life is so much better!!!)))