Filling the Storehouse

We are being bombarded by media. Everywhere you turn, brightly colored amusement and entertainment compete for our attention. It’s on our televisions, our movie screens, our radios, our computers, our cell phones, in our cars and now displayed on billboards. In every place and situation there is something or someone “hawking their wares,” announcing the latest and greatest must-have item or dazzling us with storylines that go beyond acceptable limits of morality and decency; people and machines talking at us in decibels too loud for our own good.

In the midst of the din, most of us sit mesmerized and glassy-eyed while our mind drinks it all in; recording it all in a brain that will never forget what we see and hear. On our televisions, blood, guts, gore, war, crime and chaos swirl before our eyes for hours at a time. Inappropriate slang, swear words and useless conversation is being recorded in our mind, only to be recalled at any given moment in our future. We call it something cute like “couch potato” or “vegging out.” In reality our lifestyles have become lethargic and we are alarmingly lax in setting boundaries for what we allow in our homes, hearts and minds.

Probably the greatest casualty in all of this is the collective loss of social skill and the ability to meaningfully converse with others. Gone are the days when neighbors chatted across the back fence or piled the family in the car for Sunday afternoon drives to “drop-in” and visit grand-parents, aunts, uncles and friends. Seldom do we see children outside playing with friends and neighbors until the street lights come on or Dad gives the “time for dinner” whistle. Porch swings and chairs are now simply decorations rarely occupied by chatting men and women in the cool of the evening. What we are left with are the hurting, broken lives of those who are talked “at” but never talked “with.” We are left with people who are hungry for an encouraging word, a listening ear and to know that someone cares for them.

This social deficiency is most tragic among those of us who know the Lord and are commanded to spread His gospel. Now, more than ever, it is important that we guard our hearts and minds and that we judge the things we see and hear by Philippians 4:8, “…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:” or Psalm 19:14, ” Let the…meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight O Lord…” or Psalm 101:3, “I will set no wicked (vile) thing before my eyes…” It is even more important that we spend time with our heavenly Father; to abide in His word and talk with Him each day. Then, when we are called upon to share the gospel, we can do so from the beauty of the excellent and praiseworthy things our mind has recorded, instead of the junk we’ve ingested from the media.

I heard the testimony recently of a young woman who had tried every religion known, looking for something to give her life meaning. When asked why she never tried God, her answer was that she didn’t know who He was or that He existed. I watched a talk show host interview people on the street and ask them if they recognized the name of a very well-known Bible character. Of all the people he asked, no one had ever heard the story of Jonah. No one had ever told them! You may be the only person to show Christ to your neighbor, co-worker, the cashier at the grocer or the waitress at your favorite restaurant. You may be the only person to ever share an encouraging and uplifting word with them. And, in providing that word, you have opened the door to a much greater conversation about their need for Jesus. A conversation they may have with you at that moment or with someone else at a later time. You may be the only person to ever share the Gospel with them.

I encourage you during this next week to be aware of what information you allow to be recorded in your mind and heart – your inner man. How much time do you spend viewing Satan’s realm of chaos, murder, violence and mayhem through news channels, television and the internet? How much time do you spend taking in the Word and things of Philippians 4:8? You will only give out (speak) what you’ve taken into your heart. Luke 6:45 states it like this in the Amplified version of the Bible, “The upright (honorable, intrinsically good) man out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart produces what is upright (honorable and intrinsically good), and the evil man out of the evil storehouse brings forth that which is depraved (wicked and intrinsically evil); for out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart his mouth speaks.” If what we take in from the Word measures less than what we take in from anywhere else, we may think we are speaking and giving out good things but the truth is we have no idea what God could use and give out through us if we got rid of the trash and filled the storehouse of our inner man with His Word.

Push away from the desk and turn off the computer. Get up from the couch and turn off the television. Pick up your Bible. Fill your storehouse with the treasure of His Word. Be aware of the people you meet. Strike up a conversation, give them an encouraging word and share Jesus with them out of the overflow of your heart!

The world is full of hurting people and we have the answer they are looking for. Talk with them, socialize and share HIS wonderfully life-changing, love and grace! Because, “…how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone (telling) them? …faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14, 17).

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Dark Watches of the Night

The dark watches of the night. Outside, all is hushed except for the occasional cricket song, croaking frog and distant barking dog. Inside, anxiety gnaws at the pit of their stomach, fear is a ball of fire in their heart and grief crushes like lead weight.

Read between the lines and picture the disciples between chapters 19 and 20 in the book of John. They have locked themselves away to mourn and grieve. Sleepless nights find them gathered in dark rooms, talking in hushed tones about what they have seen and reminiscing about good times with their friend, their teacher, their Lord.

The question of where to go from here is the gnawing anxiety they feel.

Fear for their lives is that ball of fire in their heart.

Grief for their murdered friend and Lord is the crushing lead weight.

Mary Magdalene visits the tomb in the dark early hours of morning after her own sleepless night.  As soon as it was “tomorrow”—at the earliest opportunity—she was up and on her way to the tomb of the Savior she loved. Can you feel her fear as she races to tell Peter and John that she found the stone rolled away from the tomb that morning?  Can you see the worried lines that crease the disciples’ foreheads as they quietly rush to investigate? The moment he saw the empty tomb, John believed. But, surprisingly, John 20:9 says, They (the disciples) still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.

I have to admit that I sometimes find myself a little annoyed with the disciples. Wouldn’t you think that after sleepless nights, grieving over the death of Jesus, they would be overjoyed to find His tomb empty? Wouldn’t you think they would remember all He had said and know that He had risen? But it is my annoyance and impatience with them that only enhances  the loving picture of the Savior throughout the rest of John chapter 20.

For you see, instead of being angry because of their unbelief, instead of throwing up His hands in frustration and returning to heaven to take His place at the right hand of the Father, Jesus instead appeared to them multiple times. He appeared to a sobbing Mary in the garden where she stayed after the disciples returned to their homes that morning. He tenderly calls her name and her grief is replaced by the joy of seeing the risen Savior, Rabboni, her teacher.

On the evening of the first day of the week He appears to the disciples who are locked away in their fear. He shows them His hands and side and then breathes on them the precious gift of the Holy Spirit.

Thomas wasn’t with them when Jesus came and he wasn’t just going to take his friend’s word for it! It was too far-fetched! Even though he had walked with and been taught by Jesus for three years, he still wanted to see Him with his own eyes before he would believe. And so, one full week later Jesus appears to the disciples again, specifically to Thomas. He is not upset by Thomas’ doubt—He welcomes it. Thomas wanted and needed proof that the Savior had risen and Jesus was more than happy to provide it. He not only appears to Thomas, but He patiently and lovingly invites Him to touch His hands and side.

When they needed visual evidence, Jesus appeared. When just one of them needed tangible evidence, Jesus became touchable for him. He appeared to them so that they would believe beyond any doubt; so that these men, his disciples and friends, would know and emphatically believe that He truly was the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior.

I suggest to you that the Savior appeared to them multiple times because of His great love not only for them but also for us!  Looking through time, Jesus saw us and knew we needed to hear this story! The disciples’ unwavering belief and love for the Savior would be the catalyst for their lifelong preaching of the Gospel and the telling of the story for millennia! In order to believe in Him as our own Savior, the story—the Gospel—needed to be told and passed down through all generations.  For …faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ (the Messiah Himself). (Romans 10:17 AMP)   

Sleepless nights filled with anxiety and fear? Where is it that you need Him to meet you? What is the reason for your doubt? He will meet you at the point of your need and show you what you need to see. He welcomes your questions. Just like the disciples, He wants you to know and emphatically believe that He IS the Christ, He IS the Messiah, He IS your Savior. BELIEVE!

…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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10 NIV)

 

The Power of an Encouraging Word

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. (Proverbs 25:11)
Congenial conversation—what a pleasure! The right word at the right time—beautiful! (Proverbs 15:23 MSG)

I love words! I especially love personal, handwritten, beautiful words. I love words of hope, words that bring peace and comfort, and words that push me on to greater things. Yet so many words we hear these days do anything but make us feel loved or full of hope.

We are told we need something to make us prettier, something to make us thinner, something to make our hair shinier, something to make our teeth whiter, and the list goes on. In addition to all of this are the hurtful, wounding words that often come from those we love most. Sometimes words can be ugly and destructive, leaving a bruised, battered mess in their wake.

That’s why I appreciate the fact that our loving, heavenly Father took the time to see that His words were handwritten for us. The God of all creation took the time to personally communicate with us. I came across this verse recently, For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Rom.15:4) He (who knows us better than anyone) knew we would need His beautiful encouraging words along our walk in life.

Don’t you love the encouraging word of a friend? Is there anything better or more inspiring than a good word spoken in love? We already know the worst things of our own nature. Everyone does. We certainly don’t need them repeated back to us. Wouldn’t you rather hear those words that give you the strength to take that next step? Wouldn’t you rather hear the “Atta girl/boy! You can do it!” that spurs you on toward the goal and across the finish line? I would!

God’s Word gives us much needed instruction and correction. But His Word is also an encouraging revelation of His love and His thoughts toward us! Kari Jobe and Klaus Kuehn drew from several scriptures and wrote beautifully of God’s love for us in their song, “Beloved:”

“You’re My beloved, you’re My bride.
To sing over you is My delight.
Come away with Me, My love.
Under My mercy come and wait, till we are standing face to face.
I see no stain on you, My child.
You’re beautiful to Me, so beautiful to Me.
I sing over you My song of peace.
Cast all your cares down at My feet.
Come and find your rest in Me.
I’ll breathe My life inside of you.
I’ll bear you up on eagles’ wings and hide you in the shadow of My strength.
I’ll take you to My quiet waters. I’ll restore your soul.
Come rest in Me and be made whole.”

If you don’t already, please take the time each day to read His words to you. It will center you; it will give you hope, encouragement, and the strength you need to face each day. Don’t allow the enemy to tell you that you don’t have time, or that His Word is boring, or that you can’t understand it. He’ll do his best to keep you isolated from the one source of all you need. Read His Word before Facebook or Twitter, before watching the news, or reading the newspaper or your favorite novel. Make it your goal to spend more time in His Word than you spend on any other media or written resource.

Read His Word, talk with Him, rest in Him, be encouraged and be made whole. Then share His encouraging words of hope with those around you!

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2Thess 2:15-17)