The Power of Words: Adding in the Concept of Sowing and Reaping

Last week we looked at the powerful effects of positive (life) and negative (death) words, both on and in our lives, bodies, and spirit. Today I want to talk about the sowing and reaping aspect of our words.

As I mentioned last week, the Lord has placed on my heart to watch my words, but it’s really a much larger issue. I believe the Lord is calling us all to fortify our spiritual roots and clean our houses (body, soul, spirit), to refine our tuning into God and the Holy Spirit, and to prepare a clean environment for new giftings to manifest and be developed. We simply aren’t able to grow a healthy gifting in a polluted environment.

Do you know or understand the tremendous spiritual weapon you possess with your words? Did you know that your mouth is like a machine gun and that your words are like bullets that can pierce someone’s soul and spirit? Did you know that when you wish ill on others or speak ill of them you can actually be putting a curse in place that comes back on you? Yes, you can, and here’s how.

I think we’ve all heard of the notion of reaping and sowing. Non-Christians sometimes talk about Karma or a sort-of universal cause and effect. We followers of Jesus with a Biblical worldview say, in effect, that we reap what we sow; not just crops, but words, actions, thoughts, and influencing behaviors. If we’re sowing negative or curse-sending words, we’ll reap that (and worse) back on ourselves and our families – sometimes for generations.

In Job – the “poster book” for having troubles heaped upon people – Eliphaz the Temanite tries to justify Job’s predicament based on the seemingly commonsense notion of reaping and sowing, even though Job rejects this based on what he knows of his own life. And, indeed, the concept or reaping and sowing (like that of blessings and curses) weaves throughout the Old Testament, but not always as directly as when it is found in Proverbs with writings such as these: “The wicked man earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward” (11:18); “He who sows wickedness reaps trouble, and the rod of his fury will be destroyed.” (22:8); “The faithless will be fully paid for their ways, and the good man rewarded for his.” (14:14), Most relevant to our words, Proverbs 13:3 states: “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.”

The reaping/sowing notion continues into the New Testament. Second Corinthians speaks of the measure of sowing: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” 2 Cor. 9:6. Hosea, on the other hand, links sowing to positive benefits we can see in our daily lives: “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.” (Hosea 10:12).

Together, though, these two notions – the power of words (life and death) and the spiritual law of sowing and reaping – should give us great pause. For it is words, more than anything else, that can so quickly escape and become sown. Certainly, if we sow good or bad words generously versus sparingly, the Bible says we will reap accordingly. But the nature of words should remind us of the nearly impossible task of gauging what even a single negative word can do to a single person. That one bad word, spoken with malice by you or by me, might actually equal a lifetime of words spoken by someone else. In this case, given the power of words and the unmistakable surety of the law of sowing and reaping, I would treat how we speak to others in this world like one might treat philosophy of God through the lens of Pascal’s wager: do not bet your life on uttering a single bad word – whatever finite gain there may be (and I doubt there is any), it is simply crushed by the weight of potential infinite loss.

ACTION: Do you wonder why some people seem always to have difficulties and troubles? Look at what they have coming out of their mouths. Are they curses, slurs, or statements of unbelief? If you look closely, you may just be witnessing the double-whammy effect of the power of words and the spiritual law of sowing and reaping. This week make a conscious effort to speak blessings to and about people, even if you don’t agree with them. If you have done so in the past, make an effort to watch labels you have assigned to people like “stupid,” “ignorant,” etc., especially on semi-anonymous forums like social media. Give people a chance to know our God through your uplifting and positive speech that reaps unlimited benefits. Ask the Lord to reveal any unforgiveness on your part and ask for extra blessings on any people to whom you may have used any negative words. Finally, ask for those curses you have spoken on others to be recalled and canceled. Then thank God for helping you to improve this one really important part of your life!

Fear or Faith?

I’ve watched the news reports on the Coronavirus over the past several weeks, and I’ve watched the fear growing in our communities and the world. I think it’s great that we have highly educated, highly intelligent people at the World Health Organization and our own Center for Disease Control working on containment and a cure. It’s also great that there are so many resources out on the Internet giving us information about how to prevent getting it ourselves. But I don’t see very much Spiritual information to keep us healthy, so let’s explore that in this blog titled, “Fear and Faith.”

Okay, at its most basic level, faith is complete trust, belief, or confidence. Fear, on the other hand, is the emotion caused when you think something is dangerous. Theoretically, you could have complete faith in something really bad, such as the possibility that a virus will attack you, and then it would be compatible with fear. But when I talk about faith, I’m talking about faith in God. And when I talk about faith in God, then I just don’t think we can operate out of faith and fear at the same time. That’d be like saying that it’s day and night at the same time (it just doesn’t happen, and don’t be trying to argue about eclipses and whatnot). Trust in God means that we fear nothing except being apart from God.

Fear

While God certainly created the emotion of fear, it’s used most often as a tool of the enemy to distract our focus from our worship of our Lord. I lump ordinary worry into this toolbox, too, because fearfulness causes us to worry about what might happen. Once I read where someone said that FEAR means, “False Evidence Appearing Real,” and that’s a pretty good way to look at it. Usually, once we’ve had time to reflect, we can see that what we feared is actually false. But for some reason, we have a tendency to at least initially believe and fear the false evidence. God knows this, which is why In the Bible, virtually every time an angel of the Lord appears to someone (like when the angel appeared to Mary) the first thing the angel says is “do not be afraid.” God knows how powerful fear can be if it’s not used for its proper purpose, and so He wants us to keep it in perspective.

There are several verses in scripture telling us not to fear. Most of us have heard the familiar 23rd Psalm, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil for you are with me.” Similarly, Psalm 46:1-2 states, “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give away and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” Psalm 91:4-5 states that with trust in God, “you will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.” Isaiah 41:10 states not to fear simply because God is with us, and in Romans 8:15, Paul writes that as believers we didn’t receive a spirit that makes us “slaves” to fear.

The Bible speaks of the “fear of the Lord,” but don’t take that the wrong way. As Pope Francis correctly stated, “The fear of the Lord, the gift of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t mean being afraid of God, since we know that God is our Father that always loves and forgives us,…[It] is no servile fear, but rather a joyful awareness of God’s grandeur and a grateful realization that only in him do our hearts find true peace.” It’s a reverential respect for our Lord and a fear of displeasing Him so that we strive to walk more intentionally in obedience and repentance.

Faith

Like fear, the Bible has a lot to say about faith and belief – with hundreds of references to both terms. By the way, as a rule of thumb in the Bible (and in life), if something is important enough to mention more than a few times in must be really important. That’s certainly true of faith and belief.

Our entire relationship with our Lord is birthed out of faith and belief and grows from these foundations. If the enemy wants to get us off track, all he really needs to do is to plant a bit of fear, doubt, or unbelief, and that automatically starts to erode our faith. He did it in the garden with Eve when he said, “You will not surely die.” Just a little bit of doubt, and suddenly everything changes. Fear is especially potent because it’s such a strong emotion. “Sure, I believe in God,” one might say, “but I’m really afraid that I might lose my job (or house, or health).” That sentence, and others exactly like it, requires a “but” in the middle of it simply because deep down we know that the two things – fear and faith – are foundationally incompatible.

So, how do we combat fear? Through our recognition of faith. And there are lots of ways to do that. I know from personal experience that the only way I can have a measure of peace in this tumultuous world is to constantly feed my faith through the Word of God. I’m routinely assaulted by outside influences, so I have to remind myself of God’s Word, and I have to be in the Word daily. Reading the Bible strengthens my faith, just as playing a lot of video games might strengthen my thumbs. It’s just a natural byproduct of the action.

But there are other ways to recognize and build faith. My husband spends a lot of time looking up answers to thorny theological/philosophical questions. The more he knows, he says, the stronger his faith becomes. You don’t have to start with such complex topics, though; you can build your faith intellectually by reading other authors’ books, articles, and blogs about faith or their stories of how they built their faith. Other, more “spirit walking” ways include prayer, meditating on the attributes of God, and talking with other followers of Jesus. That fact is – as I wrote before in my book – the more you go looking for God, the more you’ll see God at work. And seeing God at work automatically increases your faith. These days, I look at a car driving down the street and marvel at God’s creation.

Paul talks about faith being a shield (Eph. 6:14) that can deflect all of the arrows of satan, so it’s defensive in the sense that it blocks the lies and fear thrown at us daily to take us out of alignment with God. But faith can also be offensive, giving us the foundation to confidently wield the sword of the Word and spirit-filled prayer. That’s why Jesus said if we have faith even as small as a mustard seed, we can move mountains. (Matt. 17:20) It’s faith that heals, faith that raises the dead, and faith that protects.

And that’s why our faith in God should cause us to look at this virus – or any virus – differently. Remember, saints, that although we are in the world, we are not of the world, and we are indwelled with the Spirit of the God who created the universe. So, bottom line, is that our faith should erase any fear of disease. Now here’s the hard part: that doesn’t mean that we won’t get a disease. And it doesn’t mean that we won’t die from a disease. It means that we shouldn’t fear it.

Throughout my book, I talk about understanding the supernatural world, but not forgetting to do the natural world things. So, yes, wash your hands! Cover your cough! Don’t sneeze on your friend! Sure, go ahead and buy supplies – you ought to do this anyway, by the way – and try to limit your exposure to places and things that can give you an illness. Do all this “world” stuff. But don’t worry, because your life in this world is only a prelude to the eternal.

Last week our pastor said that he had zero fear of the coronavirus, simply because if he got it, he’d either come through it on this side, surrounded by nurses giving credit to doctors and drugs, or the other side, surrounded by the angels of heaven singing praises to God. Either way, fear simply shouldn’t enter into it.

Faith Not Fear

This isn’t the first big virus, and it won’t be the last. And yes, one day it will be this or something else that takes you home. My personal belief is that God keeps us alive so long as we are completing our calling – the thing that God wanted us to do to grow the Kingdom. I call this a sort-of “spiritual immunity,” and it keeps me constantly working, making sure that when I do get called home I haven’t been called because I gave up. There’s really no time for fear in a life like that.

So, continue using your own spiritual immunity by helping others to see what a follower of Jesus looks like when he or she presented with something people think is fearful. Show them a life without fear. A life with faith. A life walking in the Spirit of God.

Romans 10:17 states, “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” And the word of Christ, in this instance, is saying “do not fear.”

Facebook?!

I woke up this morning with a heaviness and an urgency on my heart concerning the state of our believing body of Christ on social media. Over the past month or two, we’ve been blogging about, “The Power of Our Words,” “Are we awake?”, “Are our eyes open?”, and last week “Roots and Fruits. I had hoped that this would open some eyes and generate healthy Spiritual change, but I now feel the need to address the elephant in the room (or world) – Facebook. My Spirit is truly disturbed by things that I have seen on Facebook for some time. I’ll address those things in no particular order.

1. Is Facebook a reputable news source? NO, and emphatically NO! Please stop using Facebook for world news. I see so many things posted (or typically re-posted) from some site that people think is news, and yet it’s not from any respectable journalistic site, and half the time (or more), it’s not even true! It’s actually quite embarrassing that we, as Americans, are so gullible and lazy that we would just post something that looks like it supports our point of view without fact-checking anything. And, folks, posting false or misleading stuff puts your “friends” in a difficult situation. I mean, what, exactly, are we to do when a friend or relative posts something that’s blatantly false, short of pointing it out and making them feel stupid? Personally, I usually just delete it. Sometimes (If I’m really close to the person), I’ll message them and say it’s false. But realize, Saints, that this sort of reckless sharing of falsity is keeping the world blinded from the Truth of both the natural and the supernatural, and we have enough of that happening on purpose to not let it happen by accident. I know this because once, on 60 Minutes, a guy was being interviewed because he was one of the main instigators of the Pizzagate conspiracy on the web. He admitted to lying about the whole thing on 60 minutes, and so the interviewer asked, “Don’t you think your web viewers will resent the fact that you lied?” And he basically said, “Oh, they’ll never even know I lied, because they don’t ever watch 60 Minutes.” See what we’re up against? People lie to you and assume you’re not ever going to do the work to find out the truth. So, bottom line, Facebook is not news. Don’t treat it like news by posting without doing some serious verification. Better yet, test your posts to see if they’re loving and honor God. If they don’t, then don’t post them.

2. Stop feeding the hate machine! Most of what I see posted is done out of at least subtle hate, and this seriously troubles me. I get it. Everyone has an opinion, and most people don’t care what anyone else’s opinion is, especially these days. But your opinion doesn’t have to include hate. If you’re a follower of Jesus, this should worry you like it worries me, because I often see so-called Christians posting something about God, only to quickly follow that post with something about “hating Republicans” or “shooting liberals.” Stop it! As Joyce Meyer once said, “Just because I sit in my garage, that doesn’t make me a car.” And just because you say you’re a follower of Jesus does not mean you’re following Jesus. Facebook thrives on the constant novelty of posts being shared one after another, most of which contain blatant or even subtle notions of hate. It’s a machine, and its existence is based on the creation and sharing of ever-nastier memes. Every time we share one, we need to seriously ask ourselves, “Is there any part of this that I wouldn’t say to someone in person?” “Is there any part of this that would shock me if I read it in the Bible?” Look, I know that God created hate, but he did so to give us a righteous hatred for things that harm his people. I also know that we’re called sometimes to correct the saints, but when we do that, we do it with love. If you’re not sure if it’s hate – meaning, maybe, you just think it’s funny, or a clever way of showing you don’t like being politically correct – insert your own child or mother into the role of the object of the derision, and pretend it came from someone else. Then you’ll know what to do. Here’s a quick example. I happen to know a guy who posts things about God. Clearly, he’s a believer in God, and professes to believe in Christ. But I just went on his FB feed and saw two posts in addition to the God posts, one saying, “Always carry a knife with you, just in case there’s cheesecake or if someone needs to be stabbed,“ and the other a clear reference to hoping that Ruth Bader Ginsburg will die. Funny? Barely. Hate as their source? For sure. Would you want someone you didn’t know to joke about stabbing your daughter or hoping your mother might die? Of course not. So why re-post? Bottom line, don’t be a part of the hate machine.

3. Stop sowing spiritual confusion. More specifically, when we post things about God or scripture, and then follow those posts with hate, such as posts about “our” political party that are hateful of the “other” political party, we sow spiritual confusion. God’s people should be first and foremost illustrating the persons of God and all things Godly. We’re not perfect, but we should at least be striving to be better each day, constantly asking for guidance and forgiveness when we fall down. When we sow spiritual confusion, though, the world calls us hypocrites, and they’re RIGHT! This is the opposite of what God has in mind for us, for the Bible says that we’re to be the salt and light in the world – we’re called to be clear beacons and not to confuse the world. We’re to be the ambassadors of Christ to those who don’t know him.

4. Don’t be confused by the issue of judging versus correction. Not long ago, I re-posted an article with a picture of so-called “evangelicals” praying over the President. I was disturbed that these people were publicly displaying their work and wanting the world to see how great they were – which completely calls into question their motive. I was also disturbed that they were praying for President Trumps’ world and political agenda instead of praying over him for salvation, Truth, Light and behavior worthy of our Lord. When I posted this, though, I had a seeker ask me about it. He said he thought it was great that people were praying over the President, and he wondered how I, as a Christian, might think that was bad. That began a long conversation over correcting with love versus judging, and that’s a thorny issue for anyone. Mostly, he thought I was judging the President, when I thought I was mostly correcting the church. But that’s almost always too complicated to express on Facebook. Accordingly, after that conversation, I personally decided that I would be extra careful in what I post or re-post, and I have since decided to only “follow,” “like,” or express opinions of things worthy of my Lord so that my behavior or testimony will not turn a seeker away from knowing God or will not lead a believer down a wrong path. When I come to my final days, I do NOT want my legacy to be that I misled His people in any way! This doesn’t mean we can’t lovingly correct the church – my pastor does it, my prophet friends do it, my husband does it, and heck, because my ministry is “arming the saints,” this blog is often concerned with loving correction to better arm people for supernatural battles. Just don’t be surprised if people don’t understand the distinction. I encourage you to pick the most honorable and worthy path to show people the love of our Lord. Maybe it doesn’t involve correcting the church, especially if people mistake it for judging. This political season and our life in this world will pass away, but our belief is based on eternity, so err on the side of avoiding confusion.

5. Don’t be one of satan’s tools! Saints, my own personal opinion is that, whatever good something like Facebook brings to your lives, it also presents an enormous opportunity for the enemy to harness for his purposes of stealing, killing, and destroying God’s people. The Bible states that, “many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” (Mt 24:11) Satan often uses imitation to deceive, and so he will continue to put up “prophets” that speak to his agenda and deceive believers. They’re false because they don’t speak the Truth. Accordingly, even if a follower of Jesus says he or she is a prophet (I’m one of those people who believes in modern day prophets – if you don’t know why, then that’s another blog!) we should not blindly follow them. Instead, we must continually test what they say. Even if it’s laden with scripture, test it! Ask the Lord to reveal the Truth of who they are. If they’re false, they’ll reveal it with a slip or a slant on the scripture that will prick up your ears. I’ve spent the last two years in fervent prayer asking God to open my eyes to the Truth of what’s happening in the world. God and I have an agreement that I always look for confirmation as to Truth and what He wants me to say so I don’t always go off half-baked or partially correct in my words. Don’t get me wrong – I still stumble, but the more I ask for spiritual awareness, revelation, grounding, and correct words – the less stumbling I do. Bottom line is that because Facebook is used by people for news, because it can be a machine of hate, and because it can sow spiritual confusion, satan will be using it.

6. Facebook is doing deep spiritual damage to the entire world! There’s a not-so-subtle chipping away at our civility and humanity by what goes on with Facebook. I’ve deleted comments from people physically threatening other friends on my feed, and, when I do, they sometimes complain that I’m “not following the first amendment.” And that’s just one blatant example. People think Facebook is anonymous, but everyone reads it. People think it allows them to argue with others, but they’d probably never do that in person. People think it allows them to “keep it real,” or to be “politically incorrect,” but often those phrases are simply justifications for past actions. People think it doesn’t hurt anyone, but we know of kids who have committed suicide over it. And, above all, people think that all of this hatred is allowed as some sort of American “right” of expression. All of these thoughts are wrong. Real people read posts and apply them to themselves, and they can be affected in ways that make the world a much worse place to live. And this happens, folks, millions of times a day, every single day. It causes families to argue, friends to stop speaking, and people to avoid other people altogether. I’ve personally been reluctant to visit even family, for fear that their posts reflect the way they’re going to behave in person. Here’s one small way that we can reverse that trend. My husband has “Facebook rules” that he applies to anyone who wants to comment on any of his posts. Rule number one, which is a good one, is that my husband will never, and I mean NEVER, post anything that is degrading or in opposition to someone on their own feed. That first rule is crucial to the rest of the rules, simply because the other rules apply to people who decide to post demeaning things on my husband’s feed. He claims that since he made that rule – which he’s had to post periodically – people have stopped coming on his feed to trash him. He’s also much, much calmer about what other people post, and he’s convinced that those other people are calmer about what he posts. What he’s done is to subtly insert a notion of mutual respect into Facebook. Now, don’t get me wrong, both his and other people’s feeds might be wrong or crazy, but at least – for those people and for my husband – there are fewer arguments (and thus less hatred) simply because they’re looking at Facebook as a personal opinion site, which they’re required to respect. I know people without that rule who feel compelled to respond and argue with someone else’s post. I also see people afraid to say something simply because they fear someone will come on and pick a fight. Think about creating your own personal rule of mutual respect for posts, no matter how crazy. Hey, it’s a start. The bottom line is that every single thing we say and do either uplifts or chips away at the spirit. We can decide which way it goes.

7. Is there any good in Facebook? Yes, and maybe that’s the problem because it does have benefits. Facebook is a great place to reconnect with friends and family and see what they’re doing in their lives. I love seeing pictures of vacations, time out with family/friends, hobbies, etc. Every morning, Tim reads a pastor’s mini-sermon that only appears on Facebook. He often says, “It’s also great for jokes and birthdays.” And, true enough, I have to admit that I love looking at the funny things that are on Facebook. I only look at it about once a week on the weekends, so that’s why you’ll almost always get delayed responses and well wishes late from me. And I love some of the funny (clean) jokes and videos being shared. My most recent favorite was a video of a dog carrying a plastic sled up a snowy hill and then hopping on it to slide down! I laughed out loud when I saw it, and It makes me giggle just writing it down here!

I know I might be preaching to the choir here, but now’s the time for us to speak for the Truth of what’s being put forth in the world and to stand up against the falsity. I encourage you to consider sharing this blog on your own Facebook page, even if you say, “Look at this crazy post!” More broadly, the Bible talks about a little bit of yeast getting into dough and permeating the whole batch (I Cor 5:6), so think hard about sharing only the kinds of posts that speak of God’s love and respect for others. Share posts about how to view Facebook in a Godly way. Share posts that uplift and edify. Share the Truth.

Roots and Fruits

My pastor gave a message this past week on our spiritual roots and fruits, and this has prompted me to share what has been on my heart for over a year now. Check out the full message at https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/aplacetocallhome/episodes/2020-02-02T07_22_44-08_00. Overall, it provides a warning to Christians that are seemingly – and possibly imperceptibly slowly – being lulled into a place of spiritual complacency and have lost their ability to see that their roots are rotting and their fruit is being spoiled.

What, exactly, do I mean by the root? In the Bible, Jesus says he’s the “true vine,” and to “remain in me as I also remain in you.” (John 15:1, 4) In a sense, then, he is the vine that is connected to the root of God, from which all things come alive. The root and the vine metaphor is all about being connected. It’s knowing God, it’s having a relationship with God. It’s understanding our eternal being and life with God. We are in Jesus, Jesus is in us, Jesus is the vine, and it’s all connected to the root, which runs deeper than anything else we can know.

What, exactly, do I mean by the fruit? In that same chapter Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4). According to the Bible, the moment you invite Christ into your life you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of God, which immediately begins forming a new person, who is known to be a Christian by demonstrating the “fruits of the Spirit.” Those fruits include love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galations 5:22-23) Paul contrasted these “fruits” with what is seen when one does not walk “in the Spirit,” which include “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” (Galations 5:19-21)

According to Billy Graham, if you asked him, “Am I a Christian,” he would answer you by looking at which fruits you tended to produce. In Galations, Paul went so far as to say, “I warn you . . . that those who live like this [producing the acts of a sinful person] will not inherit the Kingdom of God” and “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galations 5:21, 6:8)

Now it’s possible for a person to show all of the bad stuff and none of the good stuff and still technically be a Christian – Christian apologist William Lane Craig called this sort of person a “carnal” person – because, broadly speaking, becoming a Christian is an inward process based primarily on belief. Plenty of people indwelt by the Holy Spirit do not live a spirit-filled life (indeed, the Corinthian church even showed charismatic gifts and yet was one of the most carnal). But even in the broadest sense, in addition to belief in Christ and who he was, becoming a Christian involves the ability not only to recognize sin, but at least some attempt at repentance.

Indeed, when a person does not display the fruits of the Spirit, there are really only two possibilities: (1) he or she is not a Christian – instead, he or she is what Paul might call the “natural” or “unspiritual” person, with utterly no relationship with God because he never invited Christ into his or her life; (2) he or she is saved but living in the flesh, showing literally or virtually none of the fruits of the Spirit, which is practically the same thing. But whenever I see someone wholly incapable of recognizing sin (let alone an ability to repent of it), along with no sign whatsoever of any of the fruits of the Spirit, I tend to think they’re likely in category number one. It is not an unreasonable position, and if it didn’t matter, the Bible wouldn’t talk about it.

So, we all need to ask ourselves if our actions and words are displaying the fruits on this list. Is it kind? Loving? Or is it immoral and impure? Is our outward behavior befitting of and giving glory to the God we profess to know and serve and to Jesus, who lives within us? Are our actions in alignment with the Word of God and His desires for our behavior? Are they consistent with our own hearts?

In previous blogs, I have talked about the power of our words, and they tend to especially illustrate or indicate the fruits of the Spirit. Jesus said, “[T]he things that come out of the mouth come from the heart.” (Matt. 5:18) This is why it is so slippery to say, “Well, his words are hateful, but I know he has a good heart.” Maybe not.

As in the parable of the sower, you should consider your heart (soul) to be a garden. When the soil (i.e., your heart) is planted with good seed (i.e., the Word) and watered properly (i.e., given time with God, fellowship with Godly people, prayer, etc.) it produces excellent, healthy, Godly fruit. But, again like the parable, if weeds (i.e., the natural world) get in there and start to take over, they can choke out the good roots/plants. And this, in turn, leads to bad fruit.

My pastor basically said that if you want to be displaying “Jesus Fruit,” you need a “Jesus Root.” Think about how amazing it is to have a Jesus Root! We are entrusted with such a root when we become believers, and we need to take our caretaking responsibility seriously. Specifically, we need to keep a check on the garden to keep it clear from sin, unforgiveness, hate, judging, pride, greed (to name just a few weeds). As you know, when you leave a garden untended for a while it takes a lot of work to clean it up so the good plants can grow, be healthy and provide good fruit that is not malnourished or rotten. So, realize that all of this takes a bit of time.

Finally, it’s also important for us to notice the fruit of the people we’re following. Did you know that when you put a piece of rotten fruit in a batch of good fruit, eventually the good fruit will start to rot as well? It turns out the old adage of “one bad apple” is scientifically true, and I am pretty sure you may have even experienced this firsthand! The same is true with our spiritual fruit when it’s around our own bad fruit or the bad fruit of others.

Now we can do something internally about our own fruit, but we have to really watch that someone else’s bad fruit doesn’t spoil our own. It doesn’t matter if they live in our house with us, work with us, you, or speak to us from the computer or the news on TV. Because others’ fruit can spoil our own fruit, we need to guard our roots by protecting them from the pollution of the un-Godly and worldly actions of those speaking out in public forums.

It’s all the more important in this day and age where people are turning their back on the Lord and, despite professing to be Christians, are actually blinded and leading others astray from the Truth of our God. Isaiah warns us in chapter 5:20 “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,” and I have to tell you, until recently I wasn’t even fully aware how this passage could even happen. These days, though, we a lot of people calling evil good in our world, and this, my friends, is bad fruit. Bad fruit does nothing but line us up with satan, who works through men and women to destroy our connection to God. In the garden metaphor, if there is such a thing as a weed killer, then there is such a thing as a weed grower – kind of like an evil Kool Aid – that, when drunk, can destroy someone’s root and fruit. Remember that satan is the great deceiver who slyly orchestrates things to steal, kill and destroy the TRUE followers of our Lord. He wants to separate you from the Love of our Lord and from your salvation – yes, your eternal salvation! He is masterful in getting people that look like us, walk like us, and talk like us to lead us astray.

How do I try to figure out whether my root is compromised or you are blinded?

First, I try to remove my thoughts from current events (and especially politics) and take an objective look at my own fruit and the fruit of those I am following. I try to disregard what they say about their spiritual nature and affiliations, or their position in the government or church, and I simply look at the fruit.

Second, I ask our Lord to reveal to me where I might be blinded and then I get prepared for the answer. I don’t always like that answer, but if I feel like I’m drifting outside of the light and I want to get back into it, I need to hear the hard Truth.

Third, I ask for forgiveness and for our Lord to help me to weed out and clean up the garden of my heart. Essentially, I’m asking God to put a bit of Jesus weed killer on the weeds and throw out the bad fruit, and then I thank God for giving me the ability to have a spiritual, horticultural check-up.

Fourth, I make a serious effort to STOP listening to every so-called spiritual authority and happily slurping down everything they say. I hold literally everything up to the Word, and I hope you will too. I can tell you with confidence that I’m seeing so-called Christians on television who are not displaying the fruits of the Spirit. In short, when I truly look at them objectively, I sometimes see them displaying contempt, fear, judgment, and hatred, which is simply bad fruit. If the people I am seeing are showing bad fruit, then I’m certainly not going to buy their fertilizer. Go to the Word. Test the spirits. Hold up all things to the teachings of Jesus. Checking up on spiritual teachings is not only okay, it’s required. No one will EVER do more for us than our Lord, so everything else must be held up to that standard. I guess what I’m saying is that when I see bad fruit, I don’t try to whitewash it, or say, “Well, that’s bad, but . . .” To me, checking one’s fruit is a basic test for determining right from wrong, and we should use it continually.

Fifth and finally, I get deep into the Word and conversation with God so that I can apply a bit of what I like to call “spiritual Miracle Grow” on my root and fruit. There is simply no understating the importance of knowing the Word. Unlike every other world religion, the God of the Bible reached out to us to tell us his plan for the universe, and what he told us is within the pages of that book. It provides our connection to God, and so it talks about our root. It says what happens when we follow God, and so it talks about our fruit. And learning about those two things – roots and fruits – help us to walk in the Spirit despite the increasing chaos of the natural world.

The Power of Words: Do they Dictate Your Path?

I thought I was finished, at least for the moment, talking about the power of our words, but the Lord has been impressing on me the extreme importance of this topic. I’m always looking for confirmation in things I dream, hear, or that are put on my heart to research or blog, and, once again, this topic popped up. This week I was given confirmation when the topic kept coming up in a discussion group with whom I meet, which is made up of developmental believers anointed as prophets. After that I heard a teaching by Glen Berteau on this topic as well. Glen taught a new dimension that I hadn’t thought of when it comes to our words, so I want to share this with you today.

Glen taught from James 3, which likens the tongue to the bit of a horse bridle or ship rudder.

James 3:1-12

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 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 [and sisters], this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers [and sisters], can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Using the bridle as an example, Glen mentioned how a 2,000-pound Clydesdale horse can be guided from right to left simply by attaching a tiny bit that weighs ounces into the horse’s mouth. Clearly, our tongues act much like this bit and bridle. Unlike the horse, however, we don’t always have the careful guidance of the rider to move us from place to place. Instead, we move ourselves by our words, and those words move us directly toward the thing of which they speak. This means, for example, that we can move toward positive (blessings) or negative (curses) positions based on those words.

For example, let’s say you get a medical diagnosis, and let’s say it’s bad, like cancer. You can move toward the cancer by constantly talking about it, how bad it is, how unfortunate you are, how your family genetics likely caused it, etc. Or you can move away from it by using words of healing and thanks to God for a long and healthy life.

As another example, we may find ourselves constantly talking about something or someone that simply isn’t in the will of God for our lives. As a theological concept, free will means that you can speak those words and move toward that thing or person. But don’t be surprised when you ultimately recognize that the thing or person wasn’t the best thing for you and something you likely could have known by holding it up to the Word.

It’s like driving on the highway. You tend to veer slightly toward the thing upon which your eyes focus. So, it’s not just a spiritual law; the notion that you’ll move ever closer to the things you think, say, and repeat is also true in the natural world. What makes it different is that in the natural world people don’t necessarily have the grounding needed to focus and make this law work for them.

People with a natural worldview might say that there is “power” in positive thinking, or that the “universe” somehow moves to bring things about when spoken in the right way. With a biblical worldview, we remember a few important truths. First, what comes from the tongue indicates what is in your heart – “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34) – but you can dramatically change your heart through your words, starting with words that confirm Jesus as God and asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit – “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17) Second, God moves when people are expectant of his power: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24). Third, the Bible actually tells us what we should focus upon: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Phil. 4:8-9) By the way, if you haven’t figured it out already, these things are somewhat circular. The more you speak in faith, the more your faith grows; the more positive your words, the more expectant of blessings you become.

Where is your tongue leading you – to life or to death? To blessings or to curses? To the spiritual best for you or to secular notions of success? Once again, I ask you to take your words and thoughts captive and to pay attention to what you’re thinking and what you’re speaking. Even if your situation does not bear witness to the blessing at the moment (for example, prayers for healing often find immediate purchase in the spiritual realm but take time to manifest in the natural) continue to thank our Lord for his work on the situation and for His continued blessing and protection for you and your family.

Dare to Be Different

While traveling in Jerusalem, our tour guide thanked us for showing our love for the Israeli people by visiting Israel and desiring to see the holy sites. He then told a story that touched the center of my heart about observing a group of Christians from Africa parading through Jerusalem with signs that read, “We love you Israel.” During that parade, our guide said that he overheard a young boy saying to his father, “I thought the Christians hated us.” Our guide said that he felt a deep sadness to hear this question, for he, too, was a Christian – a Messianic Jew – with a deep knowledge of Israel’s history and culture. And yet, he became instantly encouraged when he heard the father’s response to his boy, which was, “Son, not all Christians are alike.”

This father was teaching his son to be discerning rather than to lump great groups of people into uniform stereotypes based on often misleading or incomplete knowledge. And the whole narrative runs somewhat counter to the narrative we have seen in the past and that we sometimes still see in America today. In America, until very recently, if you would have told people you were going to see Israel or that you actually “love” Israel, you might have had a great number of secular persons trying to debate with you over Jewish “settlements.” “What’s the deal with Israel?” one person asked me several years ago. “Why does our country support them so much no matter what they do?” More recently, if you say you “love” Israel, they lump you into the category of so-called “political Christians,” who are often people with a shallow knowledge of their own worldview, but with a firm conviction that self-described “evangelical” Christians are politically required to show their love and concern for Israel. Our notions of what it means to love or support Israel – and why we might do it – seem to sway dramatically in even recent winds.

In Israel, however, the concept of time and history is much deeper. The Jewish peoples’ idea of what people think of them comes from thousands of years of often supernatural survival, glossed with an indescribable hatred that can only be understood through the lens of the Bible. Unfortunately, many in the Jewish community believe that Christians do, in fact, hate them, a notion that is not altogether assuaged when one looks at history. Whether it stems from the completely misinterpreted notion that Jews killed Jesus, the evil ramblings of insane tyrants such as Adolf Hitler, or more subtle understandings of White Nationalist tenets that are moored to a deeper, if unstated, hatred of Jews, the idea that Christians are not necessarily in lock step with Jews is always just below the surface.

Accordingly, in this blog I am asking for all of us to develop a deeper understanding of Israel and the Jewish people. In some ways, I’m merely asking for a stronger understanding of the Biblical worldview, which would automatically call us to love all humans, including Jews and those who hate Jews alike. But we must never forget the Biblical history, which clearly shows a nation chosen by God to achieve His ends for all of civilization.

It’s a call to an understanding that can ignore whimsical changes in attitudes based on political power. It’s a call to love everyone, but with full knowledge of the special nature of the Jewish community and Israel now and in the future. But mostly it’s a call to love God and to trust Him when he makes promises to whom he chooses. Are we so vain that we think we can either slow or hasten God’s plan?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, history is replete with misunderstanding and even hatred of the Jews, but that hatred is often the symptom of a larger community disease. So, as in all things, I rely on the teachings of the most famous and influential Jew ever to walk the earth, Jesus Christ. He said, “A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

How can we do that? We must continually assess our thoughts and words to keep our hearts, minds, and spirits clean of the kind of hatred too often seen in the world. We must love others, but we must also be certain that the love we share is grounded in the Truth of the Bible and in the Father’s love rather than in some fleeting political notion or worldly desire. We must study the Word, which provides the Truth not only of a people, a nation, and a messiah, but also the Truth of a universal plan designed to save each of us despite our natures.

Most people don’t take the time to develop a worldview that explains the nuances of belief in Jesus. Dare to be different. Dare to dive deep into the faith and develop that worldview. Dig into the Old Testament. Learn about Israel, the Jewish people, and the supernatural story of their existence. Above all else, though, show your allegiance to the teachings of Jesus through your love. Do your part – however small it may seem at the time – to make the statement, “I thought the Christians hated us,” so absurd that no one will utter it ever again.

Are You Awake? Are Your Eyes Open?

We just returned from a blessed dream vacation in Israel for two weeks. I call it a “vacation” even though it was more like an intense college semester abroad. We learned so much, and we connected with the Holy Land in a way that I’m not sure I can even describe (even though I’ll try in future blogs).

Even before I went, though, I’d been praying for revelation on the things happening in our world and here in the USA, and requesting confirmation that my eyes are open and that I’m not blinded by the worldly propaganda I seem to be seeing. Fortunately, I’ve been getting that confirmation, but it only makes my heart ache from seeing the hate and division being sown by so many people, including those professing to be “Christians.” This blog is about “hate,” and the spiritual darkness it causes.

We know that hate has been a big factor in human history since the Fall. And a lot of that hate has been advanced in the name of God. History is replete with wars, disputes, invasions, conquests, etc., by seemingly well-meaning persons hoping to satisfy their own notions of what God wants for the world. Some of these things “done in the name of religion” are what caused me, ultimately, to refrain from using the word Christian at all. Too much worldly baggage. I use “follower of Jesus” instead.

Through biblical history we see people’s insecurities and imperfections flare up when they’re challenged for their beliefs, and I see a lot of that as a root of the hatefulness in our world today. Importantly, I also see how the enemy is blinding people – using what psychologists call “confirmation bias,” which is a powerful motivator for fueling nascent belief. In short, people seek to confirm the beliefs they already have to avoid cognitive dissonance, which causes even physical discomfort. Confirmation of the Truth can be a very good thing, but knowing the Truth of God often means having a fully developed theological worldview, and I’m not sure a lot of followers of Jesus have that to begin with. People will try to confirm what they believe, but if their belief of the Truths of the Bible is only superficial, they will, instead, confirm notions that occasionally (or even often) go against a biblical worldview. This includes hateful notions, and this makes the whole thing very dangerous. In the world, confirmation of hateful notions has led to all sorts of desensitization and horrible atrocities.

In writing to a group of believers, John reminded them of the slippery path toward spiritual blindness caused by hate when he said, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister] is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” (1 John 2:9-11). Notice the temporal progression: hate causes darkness, and then the darkness causes people to stumble.

And remember, too, that as with all sinful behavior, Jesus set the bar so that we would not be able to justify small or “insignificant” amounts of hatred; even what we might consider miniscule amounts of hate – going even to our thoughts – is sinful to a perfectly loving and righteous God. Indeed, as in other places in Scripture, Jesus corrected our notions of sin by articulating this new bar. For example, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48) Love your enemies? Be perfect? Yes, indeed. That’s the bar Jesus set to keep us out of the darkness.

So, in my opinion, just a little bit of hate from a follower of Jesus – such as a random post on Facebook, screaming at another driver, or even wicked thoughts – has the potential to create spiritual darkness, which then causes him or her to stumble further on a myriad of theological tenets. Is it any wonder that a follower might quote the Old Testament out of context when he or she has been blinded by his or her own hateful thoughts? Indeed, is it any wonder that followers might do or say anything unbiblical when even seemingly small instances of hate have blinded those persons to the Truth and Light? If they’re stumbling in the dark, they’re stumbling in the dark. Don’t expect them to do a crossword puzzle. Expect them to break their toe.

We need to be sure that we aren’t in the darkness. To do that, we must pray for revelation of the Light and for recognition of even the smallest of behaviors that can lead to spiritual darkness. Keep your focus on the Lord and his Word. Measure everything against what Jesus taught. Keep your spirit clean. Stay awake. Open your eyes.

The Power of Words: Gossip

God loves all people, including sinners and unbelievers. Remember, though, that there are things that people do that our Lord hates – including lying, deception, violence, denigrating others – basically anything people do that is not edifying for the person or body of Christ. Oh, and gossip. He’s not a fan of gossip, either. And since we’re finishing up with a series about our words, let’s take a peek at this particular variety.

In my opinion, there’s a difference between relaying positive facts to other people versus telling secrets or things told to you in confidence, or even just talking about others for no decent reason based on things you’ve seen, heard, or surmised. The difference is a tough one to navigate, though, and I’ve struggled in this area because I like knowing what’s going on (especially at work) and being a confidant to people. After all, when you think that at least part of your life is ministering to others, you want them to tell you things.

So, lately I’ve been asking the Lord for revelation on what gossip really is. It turns out that the answer is pretty simple. Basically, if you’re repeating (or tweeting, blogging, Facebook commenting, emailing, or texting) something that you would not want the person to know you said, then I’d say it’s likely gossip. I’m fond of a quote that has been attributed to many different folks (and especially Eleanor Roosevelt) in various iterations, and that goes something like this: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” It doesn’t mean that it’s always true – people do, naturally, discuss other people. But the quote serves as a bit of a reminder to me that whenever I’m talking about other people, I need to really think hard about what I’m saying and how I’m saying it.

Biblically speaking, there’s a lot written about making sure your words “edify” – or build up – others, whether spoken directly to a person or not. Ephesians 4:30 states: “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.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 states: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Ephesians 4:15 talks about “speaking the truth in love” as a basis for edification, and those two things – truth and love – should be seen as prerequisites for using our words. Biblically speaking, if what we’re saying is not building someone up, or is not spoken in love, or even if we are agreeing with someone who is speaking in a non-edifying manner by spreading secrets, complaining, or disrespecting others, then I think we could lump all of that into “gossip,” too.

Proverbs 26:20-22 speaks to how gossip can stoke the fire of a quarrel: “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.” Moreover, Proverbs also indicates that while certain secrets are likely to be told, gossips are the ones who can’t keep them: “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” Proverbs 11:13

It’s that simple. And, really, it’s one of those areas where, if you have to ask yourself, “I wonder if it is gossip?” then it probably is, and it’s best just to stop.

Accordingly, I believe the best course of action is to err, once again, on the side of silence. We must watch our tongues and try not to repeat things or engage in non-edifying speech, regardless what we think we might know. We should always ask ourselves, “Is this something I would say directly to the person I’m talking about?” Additionally, if someone comes to us with information about another person, we should ask, “What is their motive in telling me this thing?” If it’s something that’s none of our business, we should refer the person to the person being spoken about. It’s most important that we DO NOT agree (even politely) or participate in the gossip with the gossiper. As we covered in the last post, polite agreement to gossip might be one of those things that can open the door to spiritual attack. It’s subtle, but a door cracked open is still an open door.

ACTION: Ask for an extra measure of discernment to recognize gossip, to help you bridle the weapon of your tongue, and only to use it to build someone up and to edify God’s people. Pray for both the gossiper as well as the person about whom the gossiper is speaking. Pray for Truth and Light to be revealed, and that you do not add any fuel to the gossip fire.


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