Have you ever thought about the incredible creativity of Jesus? Only very few of His teachings are not accompanied by an illustrative story, analogy or a metaphor each of which is so fitting and relevant. He was able to capture people’s attention, captivate them, interrupt their lives and point to a better alternative they can have in God. He offered tangible and familiar pictures to help people understand the Kingdom.
In our busy lives, surrounded by technology and unceasingly working on our tasks, there is no time to observe wild flowers and birds so no wonder we cannot use them as an analogy! We do not stop and contemplate on how people work; Jesus did and it enabled him to see the parallel between a sower and God which later helped people understand the Kingdom of God.
Taking time to notice our surroundings and reflect on it is crucial for our personal life and ministry alike. If we want our words to be relatable for people who do nott know Jesus, if we want to be quick to hear God’s voice and notice his work in this world, we must take time to to see these things first.
It is alright to slow down. Take time to appreciate the little things and bring them to God – ask Him what they speak about Him. Put your phone away for a few minutes and look around; find one thing that catches your attention: a huge tree, a homeless man, an unfamiliar smell, warm wind or the sound of the crowd. Slow down and really see it, feel it, hear it – be really present with all your senses and then think, what is God saying to you through it? You won’t believe what amazing things He will reveal to you! He has so many things to show us and to get excited about with us if we just give him the attention.
Slow down, observe, contemplate and talk to God. It is that simple. Be truly present in everything you do and expect God to speak to you because there is nothing better in this world than seeing the world through our Father’s eyes.
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV)
Here’s a confession: I am a girl who loves a hot shower – rain or shine, summer or winter, springtime or harvest. I need my water pressure high and my shower just short of boiling. As the water flows, I think of the events of the day or plan for the day ahead.
I will stand under my shower head replaying conversations, analyzing interactions, deciding what I could have done or should have said. I feel free to share all of my feelings without biting my tongue.The timid girl from the office is free to have an attitude, to tell off that coworker, to yell out the car window at that inconsiderate driver. And sometimes, this version of myself that lives in my daydream rears her ugly head in the real world.
Do you ever struggle with the tension that exists between saying the right thing versus saying what feels good in the moment?
I certainly have, and too often, I have allowed myself to give in to the temptation to “put someone in their place.” Angry, vicious words have a way of making their way into a room and infecting the air with their invisible influence. Spreading like a sneaky virus, it can almost be impossible to stop those words. This does not only apply to angry words. Criticism, judgement, gossip, slander, sarcasm, cruel jokes, and complaining all have a way of making their way through a room.
It is especially easy to use words as weapons against the people we spend the most time with such as our family, friends, and coworkers. However, in this age of constant interaction via the internet and the ability to hide behind a computer screen, even strangers and people in authority are not exempt. It is a toxic culture where everyone seems to take an offensive posture, because anyone can be a victim.
Though times have changed, human nature has remained the same. Scripture describes this phenomenon in James 3:2, 3:5-6:
“Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.” James 3:2 (NLT)
“In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” James 3:5-6 (NLT)
Can you see it? The mean-spirited comment that changes the atmosphere in a room, spreading like wildfire? And just like a fire, once negative words are spoken, the initiator no longer has the power to stop the series of conversations and events that follow.
The gossip or mean-spirited comment has taken on a life of its own. When a person cools down, the comment rages on in another form, on another’s lips. Words said in the heat of the moment can break down friendships that were once solid.
Gossip cannot only destroy a person’s self-image but can ruin a hard-earned good reputation and lead to that person isolating themselves. Because words once spoken cannot be unsaid, this is a situation where an ounce of prevention is better than curing after the situation.
What steps can we take today towards taming our tongues?
Search for the source of the fire
“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” Matthew 15:18 (NLT)
Our words reflect our hearts, and fortunately for us, the Lord is an expert at heart work.
Ask Him to show you what is at the root of any patterns of negative speech. Is it insecurity? Bitterness? Pride? Ask Him for discernment to recognize your heart condition and for the desire to lay it down before Him so He can weed it out.
Practice fire safety
“Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear.” Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)
Be intentional about speaking life. Keep an eye out for opportunities to encourage, comfort, praise, and build up. A kind word at the right time can change a life. Just as negative words can have a domino effect, so can positive ones.
Train as a firefighter
You may not be the one who started a negative conversation, but peer pressure is powerful and soon you can find yourself joining in with gossip or complaining because it is just easier not to swim against the tide.
Brainstorm ways to subtly redirect a conversation that is headed in the wrong direction. For example, many of us may find ourselves at work when the conversation becomes a session to sound off on everything that dissatisfies them about the job. This can be an opportunity to empower someone about their gifts and how their presence in the workplace can make a difference or make an improvement in the workplace.
Changing our patterns of speech can be uncomfortable and downright difficult at first. It is a lot like choosing to walk through the trees in the forest instead of the well-worn path, but the more we take this new route the easier it gets.
May we pray with the psalmist David daily,
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (NLT)
This was my first encounter with prayer. When I was a little girl, my aunt bought me a stuffed animal that had a recording of this prayer in it when you pressed its paw.
Every night I would hop into bed, tuck my head underneath my covers and whisper this prayer to God. God was not someone I really knew or even knew much about, but I believed. I believed He existed, and I really enjoyed saying this prayer to Him each night.
Years went on, and I slowly forgot about my stuffed animal and the little prayer I said to God each night. As I approached teenage years, my prayers were as if I was wishing at a wishing well, rather than having an intimate conversation with my Heavenly Father.
This all changed when I was confronted with my sin and the love of Jesus Christ at a summer camp at the age of 15. I opened up and told God the whole truth – how I had sinned and how I was so in need of a redeemer like Him. He was gracious and gladly welcomed me into a relationship with Him as He does for all of His wayward children. I dove deep into His word and deep into conversation with Him.
But over the years, I would go through highs, lows, and even lulls in my prayer life with God.
In 2018, I found that I was fed up with the highs and lows of my prayer life and dove into simply asking God, “what is prayer?”
Webster defines it as, “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.”
As you can imagine, this definition did not help me much. I was looking for a Holy Ghost answer, something that would knock me over and leave my prayer life never the same.
To my surprise, God showed me what prayer is not.
Firstly, Prayer is not regurgitation.
We learn this from Jesus himself in Matthew 6:7-8 (NLT)
7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.
8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!
Secondly, I learned that Prayer cannot be paired with unbelief,
“I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.” Matthew 11:24-24 (NLT)
Lastly, I learned that Prayer is not for show,
“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” Matthew 6:5-6 (NLT)
After the Holy Spirit showed me what prayer is not, He compared a believer’s prayer life to intimacy within a marriage. He showed me that just like a marriage cannot thrive or be sustained without intimacy, neither can a Christian’s life/walk with God thrive or be sustained with the absence of prayer.
We are already one with God, but prayer is the continuation and sustainability of our marriage with God. I do not know about you, but I would not want to be in a relationship or marriage with a man who does not talk to me.
Just like intimacy in marriage must be paired with vulnerability and exposure, so should our prayer life be with God. We must learn to get naked before the Lord. Take off the masks, the church lingo, religious speech, and lies before Him.
Our Heavenly Father sees all things and knows all things. We do not have to cover up our heart, our hurts, questions, or disappointments when we come to talk to Him. He actually welcomes all of our concerns and longs to change our way of thinking, our hearts, and our circumstances.
Maybe you find that your prayer life is in one of the three categories I mentioned above. Trust me; I have been there. However, this is not where your conversation with God has to stay.
Today, I want to encourage you to just get real with God about everything. Do not be afraid or allow the enemy to tell you that God does not care about your situation. Your Heavenly Father longs for intimacy and closeness with you. He is not looking for you to have the right things to say, but for you to leave nothing unexposed before Him.
“The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalms 145:18 (NLT)
As we go through the hustle and bustle of everyday life, God is watching us. He longs for us to gaze upon His face in the midst of our busy, and at times, hectic schedules.
We have all been taught that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Those are really big words that mean God is all powerful, all knowing, and that He is ever present.
These are great facts, but if we are not careful, we will fail to let the very truth of those words sink into our heart. We can instead put lids on God, doubt His power, His wisdom, and that He is with us always.
Most of the time, we associate God with what we are doing instead of who He actually is. We notice God’s presence inour devotion time, when we read His word, or when we sing Him songs of praise. However, if we are not doing something that feels spiritual, we think God’s gaze upon us has left. That is simply not true!
God is very much in the moments when we feel spiritually high, but He also in the mundane tasks we do at work, while we are changing our baby’s diaper, and while we are watching movies.
“Where could I go from your Spirit? Where could I run and hide from your face?
If I go up to heaven, you’re there! If I go down to the realm of the dead, you’re there too!
If I fly with wings into the shining dawn, you’re there! If I fly into the radiant sunset, you’re there waiting!
Wherever I go, your hand will guide me; your strength will empower me.” – Psalms 139:7-10 (TPT)
One person I can relate to in the midst of my crazy schedule is Martha in the Bible. She loved Jesus, and just like me and you, she had a full plate of tasks to get done.
Luke 10:38-40 (TPT) says this: “As Jesus and the disciples continued on their journey, they came to a village where a woman welcomed Jesus into her home. Her name was Martha and she had a sister named Mary. Mary sat down attentively before the Master, absorbing every revelation he shared. But Martha became exasperated by finishing the numerous household chores in preparation for her guests, so she interrupted Jesus and said, “Lord, don’t you think it’s unfair that my sister left me to do all the work by myself? You should tell her to get up and help me.” What Martha failed to realize is that the Creator of the Universe was speaking, the one who could tell her all about who she was, was in her midst.
We often read this passage of scripture, and we think Martha should have reacted and done the exact thing as Mary and sat at Jesus’ feet. I’m not sure if that is the case, simply because these two sisters are different, and their relationship with God was different.
Maybe Jesus would have been pleased at Martha’s devotion if she had simply listened, heard, and hung on every word Jesus said while she was working and doing mundane tasks.
Devotion, prayer time, worship nights, and Bible reading are fantastic things to do and things we should be doing. But, outside of those moments, we must recognize that the Creator of the Universe longs to also speak to us during mundane tasks and the hustle and bustle of this crazy life.