Tuesday, May 31, 2016

"Dancing Through Life"

James 1:19 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

Hello friends! I am eager to dive into the Word together again. So let’s jump right in!

When I was a little girl I enjoyed dancing. I never took classes or anything structured but I loved going into my bedroom, turning on my favorite song, and dancing. There was something so exhilarating about it. Of course, my stuffed animals always told me I was the best as they begged for an encore.

In high school I was swept away by the “Cha Cha Slide” and “Cotton-Eyed Joe” line dances that took my youth group by storm.

You’ve probably guessed that when Zumba came out I was a big fan (although I am terrible at it).

And the first time I danced with a boy was the evening my husband asked me to marry him (Wouldn’t you know that my first slow dance was to “Beauty and the Beast?” Insert everyone’s “aww” here).

With that short synopsis you have the extent of my dancing career.

I am sure by now you’re asking yourself why you’re wasting your time reading about my meaningless dance experience.

Isn’t it ironic how you always ask the right questions?

James may not have intended to do this, but in James 1:19 he provides us with the dance steps of life, as I my childhood pastor, Bob, called it. It’s a simple quick, slow, slow.

Today I would like to share my personal thoughts on this dance with you. 

The first step in this dance is being quick to hear. The work hear is a verb. It’s active. We make the decision to actually hear. Sure our ears take in sound all the time. But when you really want to hear something you focus on it. We should be quick to do this with God and with other people.

First, when you hear God speaking, through the Word or the Spirit, be quick to hear. Listen to what He is telling you. I am positive that it is important and to your benefit to hear His words. So stop what you’re doing and actively listen to His voice.

Second, when you’re talking to other people, be quick to hear them. So often we are consumed by our daily woes that we do not actually hear what people are saying to us.

When the barista says she has had better days and you reply “Good!” That’s a problem. You’re not listening.
When your husband tells you about His day at work, put down your cell phone and listen. Actively engaged your ears to hear him.
When someone asks you to pray for them, listen.

Be quick to hear. So many people are hurting and need someone to hear them. Therefore, we as ambassadors for Christ, need to listen like He does.

The second step flows directly out of the first. We slow down the dance a bit as we become slow to speak.

Just as dancing demonstrates, many of us have two left feet. The same goes for the James 1:19 dance. Friends, I am guilty of fumbling through this step so if you feel as though this is the one that trips you up, you are not alone.

Most of the time those of us that are quick to speak have good intentions. We want to help people -- share our wisdom with them. Or we do not see adults at all throughout the week so the minute we are in the presence of anyone over twenty we explode like a pressurized soda bottle sharing every detail of our life. Or we simply do not pay close attention to how often we dominate the conversation. We do not mean to take up every second but we do. We do not mean to redirect the conversation to our story but we do.

Remember, I told you that I am guilty so please do not feel like I am throwing you under the preverbal bus. I assure you that is the last thing I want to do. However, those of us who get this portion of the dance backwards tend to stumble our way through and end up with our foot in our mouth.

Words are powerful. When we gab on and on we run the risk of saying foolish things or alienating those we are in conversation with. This can ruin our opportunity to share the gospel.

Therefore, be slow to speak. Give others the opportunity to share their lives with you. You’ll never know the impact listening has on someone’s day. Also, if you’re the only one talking then you may never know when the chance comes to share the gospel. We might miss it if we are not slow to speak.
Being slow to speak provides us with the opportunity to listen. Just as in a dance these two steps flow in and out of each other. If we are slow to speak then we will be quick to listen. Isn’t it beautiful how that works out?

The final movement in this dance of life is the most difficult of all. For this step we must be slow to anger.

James instructs us to be slow to anger and gives us a reason (probably anticipating our rebuttal and complaint). Why are we to be slow to anger? Because anger does not produce the righteousness of God. Simple enough.

When we are quick to anger we glorify no one but ourselves. It doesn’t say that it is not right to experience anger as an emotion during certain times in our lives. It says to be slow to anger.

As followers of Christ we must practice self-control. This is a fruit of the Spirit. It is essential. Too often we attempt to defend our emotional impulses. We make excuses for why we yell at the driver in front of us, speak disrespectfully to our husbands or unlovingly to our wives, lose patience with our children, or run our fists into walls. Usually it is the other person’s fault. Or it’s our right to express ourselves. Perhaps, it’s just “one of those things.”

Friends, we are called to be slow to anger. If you have found yourself in any of this, like I have, than ask the Holy Spirit to make you slow to anger. As life presents you with opportunities listen to Him as He instructs you to control yourself and submit your emotions to Him.

This step is very important. When we are slow to anger we appear different from the rest of the world. Look at the society you live in. There are fights in open areas. People are shooting other people. Children are stabbing other children. Parents are abusing their children. Husbands are aggressive towards their wives and increasingly vice versa. Verbal abuse is becoming a common problem in the home.

Why?

Because our society gratifies itself. It lives for each emotional whim (that’s a different blog post all together). When the world is angry they are quick to express it. Let us be slow to it so that we may, in turn, glorify God. When we appear different, people will take notice, and it will present us with the opportunity to share Christ.

You see, that is the purpose of this dance. When we “quick, slow, slow,” through life, people will notice. However, we do not want them to notice us, what’s the point of that? No, we want them to notice Christ within us. This dance will capture their attention and which, in turn, will allow you to share why you dance and who you dance for – you’ll be able to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.



Holy Spirit, help me to dance the dance of James 1:9. Would you make me quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger today? Help me to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit by being self-controlled. Please present me with the opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus with someone as I live out your dance today. Amen.

Now… Let’s dance!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Alone

“Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” 1 Kings 19:18

Have you ever felt alone? I mean totally and completely alone. In a room filled with people, you felt like the only person. You lived on an island all by yourself. Due to your loneliness, your heart filled the empty space with worry and fear. Daily circumstances became impossible because you had to conquer them alone. All by yourself. No one to call. No one to help you. No one to talk to. Just you. Poor, pitiful, you.


There was a man in the Bible who went through a period in time where He felt just like you. He felt completely alone. If that was not difficult enough, his queen wanted him dead. So now, he was on the run all alone. He believed what his lonely heart told him. It would be better to give up and die.

This man’s name was Elijah. Just to brush up on the story, Elijah was one of the greatest prophets in Israel. God used him to do some pretty incredible miracles. At this point in the story he has just proven God’s superiority to the prophets of Baal, an idol. These false prophets experienced the full power of God before being slain for their idolatry. No big deal, right? Wrong. These prophets were employed by Queen Jezebel, who personally worshipped Baal. She was not pleased to hear that her men had been annihilated. Therefore, she sent a message to Elijah threatening his life. Due to the timing of this message, Elijah was not prepared to receive it. He felt alone. He felt abandoned. He felt vulnerable. He was scared. So like any normal person Elijah ran away. His plan was to curl up and die before Jezebel could find him. 

So what happened?

Well, after four attempts, God finally got Elijah’s attention. He sent wind, fire, and an earthquake outside of the cave Elijah was hiding in. Yet, God didn’t speak to Elijah through any of those phenomena. No, Elijah heard the voice of our Creator, soft and still. God told Elijah the plan He had for him. Elijah was to train the next great prophet of God, Elisha.
The last bit of news God tells Elijah is what leaped off the page for me. He says, “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

What has Elijah’s problem been this entire time?

He’s felt alone. He felt as though he were the only one doing the work of the Lord and living righteously before Him. He was scared that Jezebel would find him and there would be no one to help.

But...

God informs Elijah that he is not alone. God will leave seven thousand people of God in Israel. Elijah had not been alone and would not be alone. There were seven thousand people that had not bowed down to Baal or cowered before Jezebel and her threats. They would help Elijah. They would take God’s message to those who had been deceived. Best of all, Elijah was not alone.

Too often we believe the lie of our heart that we are alone. We’re here on earth slugging through the muck and mire all by ourselves. No one understands. No one cares. No one...

My friend, you are not alone. God left seven thousand in Israel and He has left people with you. They fill the seats of your local church and are called the body of Christ.

No, they are not perfect.

Yes, they might let you down.

No, they cannot read your mind.

But...

They are God’s hands and feet extended to you. He has left them here to transform the world. That includes your life.

Do not walk through this life lonely. Not only is God with you each and every day, but also He has given you His church. Lean on them.

If you need help – ask.

If you need companionship – seek it out.

If you need support through grief or pain – allow them to love you.

No matter what you face, you are not alone. 

God has left millions here on earth that have not bowed their knees to Satan. They are with you.

If you don’t attend a church, please find one today. You need the church in order to survive. They are Christ’s body. With their hands they will hold you. With their hearts they will love you. With their feet they will support you. With their mouths they will train you. With their ears they will hear you.

If you attend a church but feel alone and without support, open your heart to the body around you. Do not be too proud to ask for what you need. Then receive it. You are not alone. Do not believe the lie.

Elijah almost lost everything because he believed the lie of his heart, but God rescued Him. He provided Elijah with support and hope.

God provides the same for you today through the church. There is support. There is hope.

You, my friend, are not alone.

W.W.J.D.

W.W.J.D This was once the “it” phrase in church youth groups around the country. When I was younger I had bracelets in various color...