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Christmas Traditions that Teach Our Children Pt. 1


As we approach this Christmas season, we are “life-instructing” our kids about what this most holy day signifies. The old axiom may sound trite, but it’s painfully true that “A picture is worth a thousand words”. We are painting pictures everyday with our lives. How we act and react in front of children results in mental image reinforcing mental image, day after day, year after year. What we say often cannot be heard because of what we do and how we do it. What kind of permanent images are you impressing on your children? What kind of “stuff” for tomorrow is filtering into their minds today?

Children learn through a song on the radio that Santa Claus is omniscient: “He knows when you’ve been sleeping, he sees you when you wake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!” But do they also know that God is omniscient? That what He sees in our lives is far more important than what a fictional character sees?

How do you handle yourselves during the Christmas season? Harried, rushed, short-tempered, neglectful of your family and your spiritual responsibilities? Do you withhold gifts all year but give more than you can afford at Christmas? Your children are watching and learning what Christmas is all about.

More to come . . . See Part 2


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Complaint Department: Closed Indefinitely


Do you ever find yourself complaining to the Lord? Did I hear you say “frequently”? What if He just stopped listening to your complaints? Or maybe that’s the very thing you are complaining about – that feeling that God is not listening. Or if He is, He is not responding.

We’ve all been in that place before. That place of doubt.  And we’ve sometimes wondered if indeed God just wound up the universe and left it to run on its own, as some philosophers have proposed.

There are Scriptures, especially in the Old Testament, where God’s people felt that way. For instance, in Psalm 77:1-9 we read:

“I cried out to God for help;

I cried out to God to hear me.

When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;

at night I stretched out untiring hands,

and I would not be comforted.

I remembered you, God, and I groaned;

I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.

You kept my eyes from closing;

I was too troubled to speak.

I thought about the former days,

the years of long ago;

I remembered my songs in the night.

My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

‘Will the Lord reject forever?

Will he never show his favor again?

      Has his unfailing love vanished forever?

Has his promise failed for all time?

Has God forgotten to be merciful?

Has he in anger withheld his compassion?’ ”

There are very strong feelings of abandonment behind those words; feelings of being alone in the moment; of having nowhere to turn.

When God is all you have, the One you have depended on, and He seems not to be there; or not to be aware; or even not to care – it calls up the image of the clock maker who wound up the clock, went off on a trip, and has forgotten to return; when the clock winds down, it will simply stop and time will cease. In the meantime, it’s up to you to fend for yourself the best you can.

At times like these the enemy whispers, as he did in the Garden to Eve, “Did God really say . . . ?” . . . and . . . “If you eat that fruit, you’ll be as smart as He is and can figure it out for yourself; you won’t need Him.” . . . and . . . “Maybe He said you would die if you eat that special fruit, but you won’t surely die.” (Read the dialogue in Genesis chapter 3.)

I had a moment not long ago – a brief moment – when I felt that God had forgotten about this creature which He has made. I told Him that what I am going through is very hard; and the hardest part is waiting – for a change, for a miracle, or for new direction. It’s interesting that when we have to “wait on God” we doubt that we heard correctly from Him, while doing what we were sure He led us to do.

Anyway, in that unguarded moment I said to the Lord, “You don’t know what it’s like to have cancer, you never had cancer.” I spoke those words with utmost sincerity.  And though I expressed what I felt at the moment, I suddenly caught a glimpse of Jesus’ face, and I felt embarrassed; and then I felt ashamed.

It brought back memories from years ago when my wedding engagement was broken and I cried to God from my pain , “You don’t know what it takes to make me happy. Or You don’t care?” (Even though I had prayed for His will in whom I was to marry.) And when I later married and miscarried after waiting nine years to get pregnant, I accused:  “Why did you let this happen? I was better off before, not caring if I had a child.” Aka: You don’t know what I need, and if you do, where are you?

I didn’t feel ashamed at those earlier times, though God taught me some valuable lessons in spite of my complaining. But now, years later, with more maturity and more experiences of God’s love and care, I seem to be more sensitive to His pain – immediately after doubting His love.

Last week at our weekly Lifegroup meeting the question we discussed was a random question that someone had placed in our question jar:  “How do you know God is real?”

Various members told why and how they came to know that God was real. For some it was an internal witness of the Spirit, that experience of a gentle presence; for others the stories were of dramatic provisions and life-saving miracles – called “coincidences” by unbelievers.

The life event that God called to my mind involved an auto accident I had about 30 years ago. (You can read about it in my post entitled Accidental Encounters.) As I shared the many God-pieces of that accident experience, I relived the awe all over again, and in the re-telling I sensed His Spirit moving in me; so-much-so that during the next several days I recalled other incidences of provision, and rescue,  and fruit that has resulted from obedience to God’s voice over the years.

The Psalmist had a similar experience to mine, which he recorded in the next section of his Psalm of praise:

“Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal:

the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;

yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

I will consider all your works

and meditate on all your mighty deeds.’

Your ways, God, are holy.

What god is as great as our God?

You are the God who performs miracles;

you display your power among the peoples.”

If you are in one of those “free-fall” moments and you are not sure how you are going to land, don’t panic.  And don’t allow the enemy to trap you into complaining – to God or to others. Stop and take a breath. Make a cup of hot tea; sit down in a comfortable chair, and remember.

Remember all that God has brought you through so far. Even though you may not have recognized God’s hand in your circumstances, see if you can picture Him there now – in the loving act of a friend or the kind deed of a stranger; in an unbelievable “coincidence”, an unexplainable calm in the midst of an emergency, or an unexpected peace in the midst of tragedy. These are all small miracles that point to the God of big miracles; the God who can be trusted with your life and every need you have.

Complaint department is closed. And God’s arms are wide open.

©2013, Marcy Alves

Teamwork: Getting the Job Done


Are you a team player? Or are you a control freak? Does your individualism or perfectionism get in the way of teamwork?

We’ve all seen teamwork’s amazing results on the football field, basketball court, and baseball field, but how about in your church, at your job, and in your home?

We have had the privilege recently of working on a video project for our local church association conference. It has taken quite a few people and many man-hours to video tape, participate on-camera, edit, polish, critique and re-mix, just to do a 10-12 minute DVD. And no one person can take credit for the finished product. It took teamwork.

Teamwork takes not only hours of time, when sometimes any one of us would rather just “do-it-myself”. But effective, God-pleasing teamwork takes grace, patience, kindness, understanding and willingness to compromise. It also involves faith in team members – in their abilities, integrity and character. And it takes unity of purpose and direction.

In His prayer for the disciples in John 17:11b, Jesus prayed that His followers would be a team:

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.”

This theme of unity among followers of Christ was also spoken of by the Apostles Paul:

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Eph. 4:3-5 (Paul)

In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, Paul compares the church to a physical body that has many parts, yet all the parts are necessary and work together in perfect harmony. No one part is better than or more important than another, and teamwork is essential for the proper functioning of the body. All the spiritual gifts given to the body were for the whole body, not just he person chosen to deliver or operate in a specific gift.

Jesus also called us to teamwork with Him in Matthew 11:29-30:

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This principle of yoked teamwork proves itself in the world of nature, as with oxen teams: two oxen, yoked together, can pull more than double the weight that one ox can pull alone.

Teamwork allows for the “learning curve”. Hopefully, as we grow, we are learning how to be better team players and giving grace for immaturity and lack of experience in our teammates, as they also grow and learn.

There are marriages and families where teamwork is missing. Sadly, there are many Christian marriages/families which fall apart because members are not pulling together, each person wanting his/her own way and not willing to submit to Christ or to each other.

Often, individual churches in the church at large are not pulling together. Jealousies, self-concerns, superiority or inferiority complexes, and controlling spirits hinder the work of Christ on earth.

In a world where teamwork and unity of purpose are so needed, in order for the kingdom of God to affect the culture around us, Satan often distracts believers from the real work of faith, drawing them off by petty differences or selfish ambition.

A friend from Kentucky forwarded to me a message by Pastor Ken Klaus from a radio broadcast of “The Lutheran Hour”. The message included an excellent example of what teamwork, operating in faith can do.

“The cause of Christ cannot be accomplished in retreat and the world can never be turned upside down for Jesus when God’s workers are wracked by retreat, defeat, indecision, and indecisiveness.

Will the negatives, the naysayers, the re-interpreters of God’s salvation have the final word? Will Christianity leave the battlefield for men’s souls without ever having engaged the enemy? God grant that not be the case. May He bless those who are willing to come together to take a stand; who are willing to take a stand like . . . like the friends of Herman Ostry who lived near Bruno, Nebraska. From what I was told, a number of years ago Herman purchased a piece of property and put up a barn. Things went well until the nearby creek flooded and put the floor of Herman’s new barn under 29 inches of water. Those of us who hail from the city may not know this, but 29 inches of water on your barn floor is not a good thing.

Inspecting the mess, Herman joked to his family that if they only had enough people, they probably could lift the barn and carry it to dryer footings. Herman’s son, Mike, took him seriously. Using his calculator, Mike estimated the barn’s weight at 19,000 lbs.; further, he guesstimated that in order to move the barn they would need 344 people who could lift 55 pounds each. 344 people seemed a doable number.

Mike moved forward in faith and devised a web of steel tubing which he nailed, bolted, and welded to the inside and outside of the barn. On June 30th Herman had his 344 volunteers – 344 people ready to lift that barn and move it. Herman shouted, “One, two, three — lift!” To everyone’s astonishment, the barn went up. Then, moving as one, they, with shuffling steps, took that barn 143 feet, uphill, and three minutes later placed it on its new foundation.

A few people, committed to a cause went forward in faith and made a change.”

It took both faith and teamwork to accomplish what was impossible for one man’s family working alone, but committed teamwork got the job done.

David and I have learned through 33 years of marriage how important teamwork is, and how important the other elements are to that teamwork: grace, patience, kindness, understanding, willingness to compromise, and faith in each other’s abilities, integrity and character. Both in our individual and personal challenges, we are in this together – equally yoked, pulling the plow as a team.

How about you, are you a team player? Gotta go now, David and I are doing yard-work this afternoon – as a team.

©2012, Marcy Alves

Credit Cards Not Accepted


Last weekend David and I drove to VT for an overnight.  I was slated to speak for a Christian women’s group and we decided to combine the ministry with a visit with some friends who live in Newport Center, VT.

On the drive to VT on Sunday afternoon, I got a blog idea and reached for my purse where I always carry a small notebook and pen – only to discover that my purse was not there. To say this was a bit disconcerting is putting it mildly. For a woman, forgetting her purse is like missing an essential piece of clothing. It’s kind of a “naked” feeling.

My husband said not-to-worry, I wouldn’t need my purse because he was there. I reminded him that he was not going to be driving when I went to speak at the women’s group the next night and my driver’s license was in my purse at home. He told me to just be careful and drive slowly (I guess he meant, not my usual how-fast-can-I-drive–without- it-being-fast-enough-to-get-a-speeding-ticket).

We arrived at our destination about two hours later, got settled in our guest room and prepared to leave for dinner with our friends. Remembering that we were treating our friends to dinner, David reached into his pocket for his wallet to make sure he had brought the proper credit card with him, only to discover his wallet was not there. He then recalled that earlier that day he had used one of his credit cards in my car and had laid his wallet on the console. And there it remained – back at home.

So, here we were with no money or credit cards between the two of us. Our very gracious friends offered to treat us to dinner, which was very embarrassing, but under the circumstances, and since we were all hungry, we had no other solution.

There have been many times in each of our lives when we have been short on funds, but never been so thoroughly without resources. No money and no way to buy anything. It struck both of us that this is what many people face on a daily basis – no job, no money, no way to pay bills or buy even the most necessary supplies. It must be discouraging at the least, and frightening at the extreme.

Two days later we began our 2 ½ hour drive back home with a half-tank of gas. Though our friends would have gladly filled our gas tank, we decided to exercise our faith muscle. We arrived home with the tank registering empty. After stopping off at the house to pick up David’s wallet, we had enough gas to get to a local station for a fill-up.

As I thought back on the unusual turn of circumstance with our missing wallets, I was grateful that we discovered our lack of resources before receiving the bill at the restaurant.  I can only imagine our extreme embarrassment at not being able to pay.

In regard to our spiritual debt to God, there will be a day when the bill comes due. On that day, we will all discover we have left our wallets behind, with absolutely no provision of our own to purchase what we need. Good works won’t do it, moral lives won’t do it, “spiritual” service won’t do it. No amount of praying, witnessing, or genuflecting, or self-denial will meet the need.

No one can boast,“ I have earned my way in; I did it on my own.” For the Scriptures are clear:

Eph. 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

We have to humble ourselves to receive His provision, His gift to us, just as David and I had to humble ourselves before our friends and let them treat us to the restaurant meal.

It’s also important to realize that God does not grade on the curve.  We are not in competition for a few admission tickets into the kingdom of God. We cannot clean up our act and offer our best selves to God. We are totally impoverished – nothing to offer of self or personal substance. There is only one way to God’s heart; one door through which we enter into his kingdom of eternal life.

John 10:7-9 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. . .  I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”

John 14:6 “Jesus said  . . .“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

No other way in, no layaway plan, and credit cards are not accepted on that day. But God the Father accepts us on the basis of the credit of His Son on our behalf, and on the humbling of ourselves to accept His provision.

1 John 4:10 “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

You can save yourself embarrassment later, by accepting His free offer now. Don’t wait until the bill comes due.

What’s in your wallet?

©2012, Marcy Alves

The Waiting Room


Does “waiting” seem to be a normal part of your life? What do you do with unexpected “waiting” times? I am not a very patient “waiter”.

Yesterday was going to be a day for writing and a trip to the hair dresser; I hadn’t decided which to do first, because I was waiting for a return call from my beautician.

Just after my shower, I received an emergency call from my niece; she was having muscle spasms in her back which caused intense pain; she needed to go across town to the walk-in clinic. Due to that spasm, she was neither able to lift her 20-month old daughter, Ellie, nor to drive herself to the clinic. So, my decision between a morning of writing and a visit to the hair dresser was resolved for me.

I drove my niece to the clinic, then, sat with Ellie while her mom was in the examination room. We waited and waited for the exam to be completed. The wait lasted about 2 hours; the examining doctor had decided that x-rays were necessary for a proper diagnosis.

Have you ever sat in a waiting room for 2 hours? With a 20-month toddler in your care?

Actually, Ellie is more than a toddler; she is a runner – with lots of energy!  And the waiting room had lots of running space, including a space in front of an automatic sliding door. It amazes me that a 25-pound tiny toddler can activate an automatic sliding door. It also seemed to amaze her . . . and amuse her. I didn’t actually remain seated for much of the 2-hour waiting period.

Someone once said that a natural way to meet people is through dogs or children. Ellie is a very out-going child, which became evident in the waiting room – each new patient who entered those automatic doors was soon greeted with a “Hi!” and a smile, adults and children alike. As a result it became easy for me to start conversations with some of the other “waiters”, particularly those with young children. In a couple of instances I said we would pray for the sick child, which I did silently, so as not to embarrass or offend.

However, as I look back on the waiting room experience, I feel that I was more distracted by my very active grand-niece than attentive to the Lord. It was only after coming away from the experience that a light bulb clicked on in my head; a waiting room experience can be a natural setting for a season of prayer.

Ephesians 6:18  ”And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert . . .”

People who find it necessary to come into a walk-in clinic are usually faced with an immediate need – a pain, a high fever, a bad cough that won’t go away, numbness, a disabling symptom of some sort that aspirin or Tylenol won’t relieve. Many of them are worn out from coping with their own or their loved ones’ presenting symptoms – many are fearful of what the cause of the symptom might be. Some are anxious about how to pay for the medical expenses related to the illness or disability.

What a potential place of ministry!  According to a clinical double-blind study conducted at a Boston hospital, patients who are prayed for, even when they don’t know they are being prayed for, respond better to treatment and heal faster than those receiving no prayer. It seems to have little to do with their faith, but with the faith of those who pray, in the God who answers prayer.

I wrote last year about a young woman from our church family who was at death’s door; in fact she was thought to be dead several different times when she stopped breathing. In a Boston hospital where we visited her, there was an attendant assigned to watch her. For much of that time, Georgia was unconscious. But the woman prayed sincerely and fervently and with total faith that Georgia would be raised up. Georgia is currently home and working again.

When we spoke with that nursing attendant, we found that her habit is to be a prayer warrior for each of the patients to whom she is assigned as a watcher.

So, the next time you find it necessary to go to a doctor’s office or a walk-in clinic, or an emergency room – or the next time you visit someone in a hospital or nursing care facility, make attentive, listening prayer a part of your reason for being there.

Philippians 6:4b “ . . . in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God . . .”

There are miracles waiting to be delivered, if we learn to make faith-filled intercession a part of our daily lives.

Have you had any “waiting room” prayer experiences you care to share with me? I’d love to hear about it. Are you in one of those waiting places now?

©2012, Marcy Alves

From Shame to Honor


Have you ever suffered embarrassment from harsh, unfeeling, and undeserved words that have been spoken in criticism or judgment? Have they left the mark of shame on your life?

After a message I shared with our church regarding two things the devil uses to disable followers of Christ – pride and shame – a woman from our congregation asked to share with the congregation. She said that during the past week an acquaintance of hers had derided her concerning her faith in God, that her friend shamed her.

Her prideful ‘friend’ said: “Your daughter was sick almost to death, your car was in an accident, you have money problems – what good does it do to go to church and believe in God, He doesn’t answer your prayers. I don’t go to church. I have four children and none of them are sick and I’m doing well without depending on God.”

Our church member continued: “It made me feel so bad. I’ve been feeling discouraged. And I have been crying all week. I know I was supposed to be here today for this message.”

Shame is debilitating; it causes believers to live under the cloud of doubt and uncertainty, hesitancy and timidity, depression and hopelessness – shame is not meant to be in the life of God’s child.

Some of our shame comes from others – from what they say and what they do to us. And some of our shame comes from our own participation with things of the flesh – things that end in our personal sin.

When we come to the foot of the cross and drop our burden of shame – seeing the Savior dying for our sins, shedding his blood to pay our debt, giving up His life to give us life – we should walk away from the cross with our heads held high, not hung down with a cloud of gloom surrounding us.

BC – before the cross – we had reason to be ashamed. AC – after the cross – things changed. Jesus came to do away with our guilt and our shame, no matter how that shame came upon us; to give us new life.

There are several reasons we no longer have to be ashamed:

  • Because we trust in Christ for salvation and the forgiveness of our sins:

Romans 6:22-22 –   What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

1 Peter 2:6 For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

  • Because we have made Jesus Lord of our life

Romans 10:8 “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.

  • Because God calls us “sons”*

Hebrews 2:10-11 In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 Both the one who makes men holy [Jesus] and those who are made holy are of the same family.

  • Because Jesus calls us his “brothers”*

Hebrews 211-12 – So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. 12 He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.”

You are no longer an outsider, an outcast, a failure, a loser, a no good son of a gun. You are a child of God, a member of His family.

Recently I shared on Facebook and Twitter a God-tube video of Christopher Coleman­.

He was born dead and laid aside; when his twin sister was born about 15 minutes later and cried, Chris suddenly gulped a breath and cried. But because he was oxygen-deprived for 15 minutes – the doctors were certain he would be severely handicapped and suggested putting him away in a permanent facility. Christopher’s parents made the decision to keep him. Only those who have raised a handicapped child know the hardship of such a decision.

Since the video does not go into detail, we can only guess at the difficulty of attending to this young child’s needs. Yet, Christopher’s mother always gave him encouragement and planted hope in him from early childhood.  She was his cheerleader and pointed him toward his Savior and Maker, the Lord God.

Christopher was not sent to school with his twin sister when she started attending, but at age 5 he taught himself to read from his sister’s school books. He later graduated high school and at God’s instruction attended a college in Marietta, GA where he graduated with honors in a Communications major.

God told Christopher that He wanted to use him.  Chris can’t walk, has limited use of his hands, and labors to speak clearly. Yet he travels and shares his testimony about how much God loves him and saved his life for a purpose. The Lord has chosen him to “confound the wise”.

God has a different philosophy than the world does: the world worships success, wealth, material things, popularity, education, intelligence, influence, abilities, skills, but God chooses the foolish things of this world to shame the worldly wise – the arrogant.

1 Cor. 1:27  “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; “ (Authorized Version)

“Confound” means to stun, amaze, puzzle, mystify, bewilder, baffle, perplex and leave people speechless. That’s what God wants to do through the weak and foolish from the worldly view.

Maintaining our trust in a loving God in spite of circumstances is what confounds the “wise” around us who don’t know our God. We have no reason to be ashamed.

We have a couple of apple trees in our front yard. Because the trees had years of neglect before we acquired the property, the apples that come from those trees are misshapen, wormy, and small, with somewhat tough skins. But when I cut away the apples’ “shame” they are very tasty. They make wonderful applesauce.

I take the time each autumn to “redeem” these apples – to make something good out of them. They would go to complete decay if I did not intervene – like Jesus intervened for us.

Our Heavenly Father sent his Son, Jesus, to redeem us; to take fallen, misshapen, sin-stained, shameful and shamed people – some of us with very tough skins – and make something “tasty” of us.

Because Almighty God, Ruler of Heaven and Earth, is a God of love, He delights in taking his creatures from shame to honor – to leave the wise of this world stunned, amazed, puzzled, mystified, bewildered, baffled, perplexed and speechless.

Are you ready to give up the shame of your life – to exchange it for a life of honor?

 

©2011, Marcy Alves

* “sons” and “brothers” – in the New Testament refers to both men and women. This is actually an elevation of women in the culture of that time – particularly in the Jewish culture where only sons inherited from the father. In Christ we all have the rights and privileges of “sons” and “brothers”. (see We’re the ‘sons of God’ . . . So What?)

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A Dangerous Weapon


What weapon is more dangerous than a gun and does not need a permit for its use?

If you guessed anthrax or a nuclear bomb, you’re wrong. If you guessed a germ (as in germ warfare), you are wrong again. If you guessed fire, you are close, but still wrong.

This weapon is even more dangerous than any of those things listed, because it can be used at unlimited distance, from a few inches to thousands of miles, with equal deadly impact?

I’ll give you one more clue, this weapon is owned by every person, in every country of the world. You may have guessed it by now, it’s the tongue.

The Scriptures speak about this weapon and its power:

James 3:5-11 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?  My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

A Greek philosopher asked his servant to provide the best dish possible. The servant prepared a dish of tongue, saying: “It is the best of all dishes, because with it we may bless and communicate happiness, dispel sorrow, remove despair, cheer the fainthearted, inspire the discouraged, and say a hundred other things to uplift mankind.”

A few days later the philosopher asked his servant to provide the worst dish of which he could think. Once again a dish of tongue appeared on the table. The servant said, “It is the worst, because with it we may curse and break human hearts; destroy reputations; promote discord and strife; and set families, communities and nations at war with each other.”

He was a wise servant. (Knight’s Master Book of New Illustrations)

In Proverbs 21:23 King Solomon said, “Whoever keeps his tongue, keeps his soul from trouble.”                    

We may be tempted to think that words are harmless;  you’ve heard the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Names are merely “words”, right? And what can words do? They have no material substance.

But I have met many people who have been crippled for life by “names”, mere words that have come from a parent or some authority figure in their lives: names such as “stupid, dumb, ignorant, worthless, a whore, ugly, bastard, human garbage” etc.

Sometimes the absence of positive words has been as destructive as negative words. I spoke to a woman recently who said, “My father never said, ‘I love you.’ I’m sure he did love me, but he never spoke it to me. He never assured me of his affection verbally.” Another woman said, “The first time my father said, ‘I love you,’ was recently.” She’s in her late 50s.

A woman who was raised by her grandmother – both mother and father were absent in her up-bringing – shared how hard is it for her to experience God as a loving Father because of the absence of parental words of love and affirmation; it’s hard for her to read Jer. 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” as God’s love words to her.

I don’t recall my father saying he loved me until I was a young adult, though his every act showed that he did. However, as a child, hugs from Dad when he got home from work were the norm. And though my dad would push for more achievement when I brought home my report cards, “You could have had all A’s instead of those 2 B’s”, still he affirmed me by “You did real good, honey.” Affirmative words, as well as acts, were food to my soul.

It’s important to think of the impact of your words, for words are powerful.

Death and Life

Prov. 18:21 says, Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

What kind of fruits is this verse talking about? The fruits produced by the words spoken; the fruit of life or the fruit of death.

The New Living Bible paraphrases the verse by saying: “. . . those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”

I have seen marriages die because of harsh and bitter words, angry words, demeaning words spoken to or about the spouse. Words used as swords in the struggle for control in the relationship. Words intended to get back at a spouse for some disappointment or indiscretion that left wounds. Words intentionally flung out to inflict pain on the partner because forgiveness was withheld.

Eph. 4:29-32   Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Maybe it’s time for some of us to surrender our mouths to the Lord; to ask Him to set a guard on our lips and to give us a jab in the heart when we have misused this wonderful gift of communication.

What is the proper use of the tongue? It should be used as an instrument of healing, not a weapon of destruction; a giver of life and encouragement, instead of pain and death.

May God grant you grace today as you set a guard on your tongue.

©2011, Marcy Alves

When God’s Voice is “Indistinct” part 2


Part 2 of 2

If you have not already read When God’s Voice is “Indistinct” part 1, please go back and do so, or what follows might not make sense. Thanks.

Often when we experience delays from God, we are not sure whether He’s saying something new about our situation, keeping us on the older track, or not speaking at all; or whether we’re just not hearing – like wax in our spiritual ears.

I had one of those times recently. And the thought came to me, that I should again ask God to confirm my particular journey of faith, or redirect it. I figure I either need to keep waiting or change what I’m doing regarding the experience of cancer.

So I asked God for confirmation of the earlier words I received when this journey began. Of course, I also hinted that a visit from an angel would do wonders to bolster my faith walk.

I have had some remarkable dreams from the Lord during my lifetime that have fueled faith in my heart. But thus far, no angelic messenger from God to deliver to me His unmistakable assurance.

After asking for the Lord’s confirmation, I opened a daily devotional book, Streams in the Desert, that I received as a Christmas gift from a friend. The verse for the day was Matt. 9:29  “According to your faith will it be done to you.”  Whoa! Was that you, Lord?

There was a reminder in that reading that “no earthly circumstances can hinder the fulfillment of God’s Word.” Also, there was the encouragement to pray through, “to the point of assurance . . . that your prayer has been accepted and heard . . . [and] actually becoming aware of having received what you ask.”

I said “thank you” to the Lord, but also reminded Him (or maybe He reminded me) that 2 Cor. 13:1 says  “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” when a matter of truth needs to be discerned.

So I asked the Lord for confirmation of 2 more witnesses, that I was to stay the course or that He will specifically direct a change of course for me. I then went back to my morning writing work.

I was looking through some things that were in my “Marcy’s Writing” files, when I came across “Sabbatical Insights” – a piece I wrote last April when David and I were on our sabbatical. This was witness #2.

God revealed something to me through a book by Henry Blackaby entitled Experiencing God, which I read during our sabbatical last year. That is when I got a couple spiritual “ahas”!

Last April’s “Sabbatical Insights” excerpts:

When reading the Bible or a thought-provoking book or blog or twitter, or listening to a speaker (recorded or live) a truth insight breaks in, at that point I am experiencing God. Recall that Jesus said, “I am the truth.” So an experience with a spiritual “truth” is an experience with God – not just the words on a page. Wow!

As I read further in Blackaby’s book, other “God encounters” took place. I entered the following in my journal:

Silence from God in response to prayer should increase anticipation for the answer He is preparing to send at just the right time – not our “right now” time, but His absolute best time. Meanwhile, God’s silence is to draw us deeper in to where He waits for us – waiting to reveal Himself to our spirit in a more profound way. When we pray we need to keep our spiritual eyes open and our senses alert to see what God is already doing to prepare our character for His well-timed response to our prayers.

My on-going experience with breast cancer has moved me to just such a place of waiting for His timing. I know what God said to me early on:

1.This experience is not just for you, but for also for others.

2. Wait on me.

3. Don’t be afraid.

4. Trust me.

5. Be still and know that I am God.

And as time has gone on:

6. This sickness is not unto death but for the glory of God.

7. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.

8. Let the peace of God “rule” in your heart.

9. Stay the course.

So, in the meantime I am doing my part: waiting, listening, trusting and enjoying the peace of God’s presence. When I feel any bit of anxiety creeping in, I run into Him who is “my strong tower”.

Back to now:

I’m now waiting for the third witness. I’d still like the visit from an angel, but I’ll take whatever God sends to establish the truth of what I am to do or not do.

What do you do when God’s voice seems indistinct? Or when the memory of His word to you becomes a distant whisper?

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