Archive for September, 2007

Wild Ideas

I’m rereading the book “Wild at Heart” by John Elderidge as part of a men’s group that I hope will become a true band of brothers. That will no doubt take a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit to happen.

After our first session I had many ambivalent feelings- some hopeful and positive and some feeling that there are problems in the whole enterprise. One concern that I had was the list of movies that kept coming up in the DVD and discussions. Many of these flicks are not what I desire as a Christian to feed my mind with. I cannot speak for anyone else but the very few of the ones mentioned that I have seen I regretted because the images still give me trouble and the others would, too, no doubt. I’m not squeamish about blood and guts but I do feel a slight deadening when I see brutality in the form of entertainment and varying forms of sensuality only intensify the difficulty I have maintaining pure thoughts as I walk about in our sensual society.

During the sermon this morning something raced through my mind about the perfect movie analogy for “Wild at Heart” for sensitive consciences like me. The storyline is superhero stuff but the plot is more real to life for where I live than any battle scene. It’s the cartoon “The Incredibles”. By no fault of his own Mr. Incredible is stuck in a 9 to 5 where he can’t be who he is designed to be, not to even confront the inequities at his fingertips, let alone the injustices just outside his window. He has lost his heart and is losing his family in order to play by someone else’s rules that seem to him both necessary and unavoidable. The situation turns from bad to worse when his anger over not being able to right a wrong results in the loss of his job. Then while bemoaning his low ebb the solution and the temptation come packaged in the same invitation. It involves all that he wants in again living up to his potential but with several hooks- a beautiful woman, flattery, deception toward his wife, and unbeknownst to him his destruction. It appears as though his family rescues him but in reality it turns out that they have to do the job as a team or none would have made it. Mr. Incredible finds his heart in rescuing his beauties (wife and daughter), calling out his son, being wild and dangerous in beating down the bad guys in battle, and preparing to meet each new dangerous adventure with satisfaction. The movie ends when they prepare as a team to meet the next foe-resolute, confident, together.

Too fake! Just a cartoon! Not real! But I don’t fancy that I’ll be wielding a claymore in my community or machine-gun on any manicured lawn or a bomb in a backyard or anyplace else for that matter. But temptations and death by the mundane are ever present battles to fight.  I need God’s help, direction, warrior spirit, and superhero strength to confront evils I meet about me everyday.  Wild ideas I guess, but it’s more where I live.

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Verbal Connection

Allow me to muse for a few moments on a subject far beyond my ability to understand and all the more beyond my ability to explain. So why babble? Though holding no illusions that I can add new insight to the subject I would like to influence you to think deeply and increase your awe for God in His giving of power to words.

How does the spoken word bring results? I don’t mean simply a reaction from those who understand. For “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’…” (Genesis. 1:3). Amazingly “He spoke, and it was done, He commanded, and it stood fast.” (Psalms 33:6). Things non-existent became; the inanimate came alive; the non-communicative, non-comprehensive obeyed.

Verbal communication has power assigned to it somehow by God. Oh, but I have slipped in a change here- verbal. Though concerned with words, verbal does not merely concern itself with that which is uttered or oral, extending also to the written. So what are words but extensions of thoughts, concepts, or a will to act? And so not only “the voice of the Lord is powerful” (Psalm 29:4), but also “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Romans 4:12). God’s speech, will, and written Word are efficacious [link]. He through His Word is the Cause and the existence, change, or continuance of anything is the result. When “God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’…” (Genesis 1:22) it happened. And Balaam said, “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed?…When He has blessed, then I cannot revoke it” (Numbers 23:8). And God’s intention was accomplished “who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’…” so that it “‘shone in our hearts’…” (2 Corinthians 4:6). This power is not always directed to the benefit of the hearer as when the “tree which You [Jesus] cursed has withered” (Mark 11:21) or when its archetype, Israel, heard “thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I am bringing evil on this place and on its inhabitants, even all the curses written in the book [of Moses]…'” (2 Chronicles 34:24).

A few of His permanent words: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” and “I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 24:35, 5:18).Basis of the rule of lawWhat amazes me yet more than the concept of power in God’s words, an almost given to a definition of ‘God’, is His desire and making of the words of man to have power. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs18:21). I believe that Scripture and experience give abundant evidence that this blessing and cursing, more than the ability to affirm or crush the emotions of a person, is powerful. Balaam’s example again instructs when Balak said to him “he whom you bless is blessed and he whom you curse is cursed” (Numbers 22:6). Balak did not believe this to be idle superstition since he was willing to pay Balaam a great sum to accomplish a curse on Israel. And “God returned… the curse of Jotham… upon them” (Judges 9:57), thus validating Jotham’s curse. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7), a fact I have personally been the recipient of through prayer numerous times. Stephen says of Moses that “he was a man of power in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22). The time referred to in Moses’ life was before God commissioned him and said, “Who has made man’s mouth?…I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say” (Exodus 4:11,12). God’s words were powerful in the writers of the Bible when those “moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:21).

God is concerned about our use of words precisely because He has endowed them with power. Therefore, He warns us of the dangers when we “bless our Lord,… curse men…from the same mouth” (James 3:9-10). He encourages us through Paul to “bless and curse not” (Romans 12:14). It is great comfort to know that along with the psalmist I can say “this poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles” (Psalm 34:6). It is a greater comfort yet to know that “if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

God is also gracious to nullify speech that would be harmful. “The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations;…the counsel of the Lord stands forever” (Psalm 33:10-11). God foretold salvation through the prophet when He proclaimed, “Your covenant with death shall be canceled” (Isaiah 28:18). He protects many undeserving when “a curse without cause does not alight” (Proverbs 26:2), but “visiting the iniquity [even curses] of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me” (Exodus 20:5).

God created language “speech sounds (and “letters representing such units of language”) to communicate meaning”. These words bring results in the hearers which is why they should “prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22). Also remember to “let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6) and “not speak against one another” (James 4:11).

Ultimately all verbal communication is connected to the Originator of language and meaning and is therefore the Source of its power. We can acknowledge that in many ways. But if we “instead, say, ‘If the Lord wills’…” (James 1:15) we request His blessing and witness to His Sovereignty. If we “call on the name of the Lord” (1 Kings 18:24) as Elijah did we demonstrate that “He is God” (verse 24) by our “effective prayer” (James 5:16). Wow! What power there are in words.

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Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18


Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains