Speak Blessing, not Cursing! Love is a Verb!

Paul boldly challenges the Roman Church, and us, to “speak blessing, not cursing.” All of us, from every generation, need the reminder that love without action is not love at all. Love is a verb!

Though many themes ebb and flow through his writing to the Roman church, personally none pierces my heart more than the theme of grace. The study of this epistle a few years ago reformed my thinking and rearranged my heart to love in a new way.

Love is a verb, not a thought or emotional response.  As a new Christian, I prayed, “Lord teach me to love.” I knew as clearly then, as I do now, that love requires a breaking of my self-centered, self-righteous, independent motivations. God alone gives the ability to love in a genuine, transforming way.

Grace and love flow outward to the deserving and undeserving.

Mankind prefers rather to

crush and control,
condemn and judge,
manipulate and intimidate,
strong over the weak,
healthy over the sick,
wealthy over the poor.

This ungodly propensity exists in every culture — Christian and non-Christian. Paul calls for an intentional turn-around in these natural tendencies, no matter how justified we may feel.

Transformation

Transformation starts from the inside infiltrating attitudes, words and actions. Paul sets the defining tone of love and grace in action.

“Let the inner movement of your heart
always be to love one another,
and never play the role of an actor wearing a mask.
Despise evil and embrace everything that is good and virtuous.
Be devoted to tenderly loving your
fellow believers as members of one family.
Try to outdo yourselves in respect and honor of one another.”
Romans 12:9-10

“Lord, teach me to love,” remains a key prayer decades later. Why? Love is tough!

I once read Neigel Bigpond’s story:

“My mother was sick in the hospital, and I went to visit her one day. When she opened her eyes, she looked at me and said, “Nin-zo-de-tow-yoot.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It means I love you,” she replied.

“I love you, too.”

My mother responded, “No son, you don’t understand. Our Yuchi word for “I love you” is not like English… “Nin-zo-de-tow-yoot” means, “You are like a river that brings me life, and without you I cannot exist.”

That’s loving like God. Surrendering to Him so completely that others “are like a river that brings life and without them we know we cannot exist.” Quite frankly, God is asking for the impossible.

The Key

God knows I can’t! I know it, too! So He gave us the key to loving fully.

” Be enthusiastic to serve the Lord,
keeping your passion toward him boiling hot!
Radiate with the glow of the Holy Spirit and
let him fill you with excitement as you serve him.”
Romans 12:11

Love comes from God through the Holy Spirit. God is love — strong, unmasked, raw, pure. Only in passionate, “boiling hot,” relationship with Him will that love be evident in any of us. The dissipating of love in any dimension should drive us to our knees, “Lord, set us ablaze! Holy Spirit burn in us!”

Love is a verb! Active and powerful!

Circle of Love

Paul identifies the elements found within the larger sphere of love.

“Let this hope burst forth within you,
releasing a continual joy.
Don’t give up in a time of trouble,
but commune with God at all times.
Take a constant interest in the needs of God’s beloved people
and respond by helping them.
And eagerly welcome people as guests into your home.”
Romans 12:12-13

Another version says, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.” Love hangs in there faithfully praying. At the same time, a season of withdrawing from gross dysfunction or severe abuse may be absolutely necessary.

I have helped people recede from unhealthy relationships, giving individuals time to regain personal health and wholeness. The goal of the separation isn’t to harm, but rather to restore.

Unbroken fellowship with God remains essential for individual and corporate relational health. In Him, we regain godly perspective and the ability to love genuinely and radically.

“Freedom is not the license to do whatever we want;
freedom is the choice to love.”
– Danny Silk

Love is a Blessing

I cannot imagine a life without love — either the pure joy of loving others or experiencing being known and loved. Love is a blessing, a grace gift from heaven.

“Speak blessing, not cursing,
over those who reject and persecute you.”
Romans 12:14

The things that come from our mouths disclose the reality within our hearts. When communication becomes judgmental and negative, we can be sure we have a serious heart condition.

Words are indicators and predictors!

The words of our mouth create the highway of our future — whether the way of blessing or cursing.

When David became an object of cursing and scorn, he appealed to God for help and strength. He gives a warning to his mockers.

“He wore cursing as his garment;
it entered into his body like water,
into his bones like oil.”
Psalm 109:18

Negative talk about others deeply affects our own health — spiritually and physically, individually and corporately. How important to speak blessing!

Bless Actively

Just like love is a verb, so is blessing. Blessing goes far beyond the words of our mouths spilling out through active care for others. Paul lays down concrete ways to demonstrate a heart that releases blessing.

Celebrate with those who celebrate,
and weep with those who grieve.
Live happily together in a spirit of harmony,
and be as mindful of another’s worth as you are your own.
Don’t live with a lofty mind-set,
thinking you are too important to serve others
but be willing to do menial tasks and
identify with those who are humble minded.”
Romans 12:15-16

Paul calls for a sensitivity, wisdom and humility to mark our relationships. Every word challenges me! Every action is to be focused on the needs of others:

promoting others when we would rather be promoted,
serving from a state of fatigue and personal need,
setting aside personal agendas to elevate those around us.

Love is a verb – selfless and fearless!

Conquering Love

Love conquers with blessing. God’s instruction through Paul becomes even more difficult:

“Never hold a grudge or try to get even,
but plan your life around the noblest way to benefit others.
Do your best to live as everybody’s friend
If your enemy is hungry, buy him lunch!…
Never let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.”
Romans 12:17-21

This is where I often feel overwhelmed. I hear within these lines a call to Christian extremism showing extreme love and compassion to our most oppressive enemies and most aggressive persecutors.

“Through the power of Christ’s blood,
we can exchange such things as curses for blessings;
guilt for purity; sickness for health;
lack for provision; sorrow for joy;
slavery for freedom; and death for eternal life.”
– C. & R. Wagner

How? In Christ and Christ alone! Unless the fire of Holy Spirit burns intensely within us, we will miss this incredible opportunity to live, love and bless. “Set us ablaze, Lord, and start with me.”

Move Out the Old! Make Room for the New!

This year God is challenging me to move out the old and make room for the new. That means change! Even though I tend to be flexible and open to change, I like to know what change is coming.

My husband is a fully certified “keeper” of all things that may at some point be useful for any unforeseen circumstances. He is a “fixer” — and an excellent one at that! I, on the other hand, am a “thrower”. I resist clutter with a fervency. If something isn’t serving a useful purpose, I am quick to give it away to someone who will make good use of it. We have learned the benefit of “keepers” and “throwers”.

“You will still be eating last year’s harvest
when you will have to move it out
to make room for the new.”
Leviticus 26:10

 

Did you ever try to take food from a toddler? Be prepared! What a child lacks in size they certainly make up for in resistance.

Honestly, I feel the same way when I have to part with something I am enjoying!

Still Eating

It is the “you will still be eating” part that has me a little nervous. The “new” at the end of the verse sounds perfect, but what will I have to give up before actually seeing and holding the new?

“You will still be eating” implies the blessing of God in the preceding harvest was substantial. A harvest that was valued and appreciated!  However, “still eating” also means I’m not yet satisfied, full or content with that proceeding blessing.

Inwardly I groan, “Not yet! Wait until I’m full! Don’t bring change now! All is good!”

But it also bids me to ask,

“What blessings am I hanging on to?
What am I afraid to let go of?
Where is my grip too tight?”

Before every new harvest, storage bins receive a thoroughly cleaning. Any remnant of last years harvest is removed, eliminating any opportunity for the old to contaminate the new.

Jesus gave a similar illustration:

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth
on an old garment,
for the patch will pull away
from the garment,
making the tear worse.

Neither do people pour
new wine into old wineskins.
If they do, the skins will burst;
the wine will run out and
the wineskins will be ruined.
No, they pour new wine into new wineskins,
and both are preserved.”
Matthew 9:16-17

You Have To

“You have to” doesn’t exactly sound favorable either. Give me choice!, Show me the options allowing time to weigh and assess benefits. I can adjust with that! Add the words “you have to” and the dynamic changes!

What makes change so difficult?  Here are my top five reasons for resisting change:

  • Change is awkward! More of my life than I care to admit is lived by learned behaviour! Adjusting to something new takes time and patience.
  • Change costs! Want an example? My old computer stopped working; the new replacement has added features but was expensive. Change often carries an unseen price tag — sometimes financially, maybe relationally, or even emotionally.
  • Change is a process! It is the undetermined span between the now and then, the here and there, that requires effort and time. This unknown discourages movement.

  • Change awakens fear! What if it doesn’t work? Will it be worth it? What will people think?
  • Change requires confidence and trust! When the change isn’t my choice, I need to have a deep trust of the one asking me to change. I need to know my best interest is considered or there is a higher goal or purpose for change.

Some things I will gladly let go of, however. The sooner poor habits, destructive thought patterns, or nagging fear exit my life the more content I’ll be.

Thankfully God attached a promise with the “have to”; it includes “make room for the new.

Make Room

I am an expert at making room! We had five boys in just over eight years in a relatively small three bedroom home. Making room for one more created a welcome challenge.

Now with family grown, we have downsized into a much smaller home. Over the years, I have become proficient at making the best use of even the smallest spaces.

The changes necessary to make room for others includes far more that external space

to broader dimensions of love,
devotion, care, provision,
to sharing and giving,
preferring and protecting.

Just like I am unsure of what I may have to let go of, I am equally unsure of what God is asking me to make room for. These unanswered questions create tension, an uneasiness, that only faith in God can resolve.

The New

Not every harvest is prime quality or quantity on the Canadian prairies. There can be infestations of disease or pests, adverse weather like drought or hail, and any number of other issues that significantly affect the new crop. As a matter of fact, there is no guarantee the new crop will even be realized!

Yet, God promises us new!

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:18-19

It is virtually impossible to forget the “former things” when the flavour is fresh in your mouth. However, there will be no appreciation for the new unless we willingly release the old.

Being a seasoned veteran at “letting go”, Corrie Ten Boom offers us solid advice,

” Hold everything in your hands lightly,
otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”

Perhaps the reason change becomes increasingly difficult is previous experiences with both positive and questionable changes. Such resistance to letting go of something firmly possessed for something not yet visible is understandable.

Faithful

With confidence I step into God’s promise purposefully laying aside fear and comfort. Why? The One who promised is faithful!

If God is asking me to let go of the old,
if He is saying in no uncertain terms,
“you have to”,
I know He has a greater plan
than I can presently see.

I trust Him and His word! Not blindly, but fully!

Faith is never blind! Though I cannot see what the future holds, I see clearly the God who holds my future. He never fails in His promise.

“For all the promises of God
find their Yes in him.
That is why it is through him
that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”
2 Corinthians 1:20

Laying aside yesterday’s blessings, yesterday’s provision and yesterday’s anointing is for the sole purpose of taking hold of today’s increased blessing. I will never fully realize God’s best while stubbornly holding on to yesterday’s good.

So I am prepared “to move out” all that is necessary “to make room” for what is ahead!

It sounds like work! But I’ll let you know how God works it out!

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Time to Refresh – New Strength and Energy

Are you in need of refreshing? Perhaps  you need an activity, or lack thereof, to renew personal strength and energy particularly after pouring out physically, emotionally or mentally. These moments usually don’t just happen! Taking time to refresh often takes planning.

What ways have you developed to refresh yourself? A good book, a movie night, a vacation, a relaxing bath, a game of golf, a walk in the woods, a lounge on the couch, or time at the gym? For each of us it might look quite different.

Refresh! New Strength and Energy!

I just spent a few days with others who are involved in ministry at a lakeside retreat. Those few days away with others of like mind was refreshing, enabling me to return home encouraged and with renewed vision.

It wasn’t without struggle though!

Reinvigorate

To refresh means to reinvigorate, or give new strength or energy. I must admit I set out on this little adventure feeling tired. My mind and body were in need of some down time!

Those present were in full time ministry and have been most of their lives. Honestly, I felt like the odd man out or the ugly duckling – the one that just didn’t fit!

I can easily identify with farmers and labourers. It is a culture I know. Such has been my life’s work. The full time ministry environment is relatively new and feels a bit uncomfortable. like wearing a new pair of shoes.

After the first evening’s activities, I snuggled into my sleeping bag to read again from Romans.

“I urge you, brothers and sister, by our Lord Jesus Christ
and by the love of the Spirit,
to join me in my struggle
by praying to God for me.”
Romans 15:30

Now Paul’s struggle was serious! There were those seeking to take his life! He goes on to say…

“so that I may come to you with joy,
by God’s will,
and in your company be refreshed.”
Romans 15: 32

Sometimes God has to speak clearly! This was one of those nights! My struggle was a serious struggle of identity and belonging.

Come with joy and be refreshed!

Here I was in the company of amazing men and women. God gently whispered His confirmation to this little servant that yes, it was His will, that I be here at a “Refresh” conference to, in fact, be refreshed!

I almost laughed at the simplicity of God’s affirming word. I began to recognize I am in His perfect spot at the right time to be reinvigorated, strengthened and energized.

To Stimulate Memory

Is it just me who knows, but forgets?

My bible is an important tool to refresh my mind. The words within at times feel like a gentle reminder of truth, and at others like a baseball bat to the shin!

When I am weary and in need of refreshing, I can easily forget who I am in Christ.

“…with an anxious mind,
eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart.
You will live in constant suspense,
filled with dread both night and day,
never sure of your life.”
Deuteronomy 28: 67-68

I am being painful honest. When I am feeling drained emotionally, physically, mentally or relationaly, I fit this description!

Refresh in the waiting and resting!

Back up a few verses! You will find this is not a condition associated with the blessing God promises, but rather the result of opposing God. There is no victory on this side!

Even though these verses describe my feelings, they sure don’t describe my true position! Go back a few more verses and we taste of the real truth as a son or daughter of God:

“You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
The fruit of your womb will be blessed,
and the crops of your land
and young of your livestock
Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.
You will be blessed when you come in
and blessed when you go out.”
Deuteronomy 28:3-4

No room for anxiousness, weariness or despair here! My circumstances may be a long way from lining up, but there is nothing to keep my mind and heart from agreeing with God’s truth about me and my family!

It is time to remember what I know!

To Refill a Container

The third main meaning of refresh is to refill, recharge, or replenish like a drink in a container.

I leak! That probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you, but sometimes I forget that too!

I need to take time to refill, recharge and replenish those areas where I have been pouring into the lives of others. God is a never ending Source; I am not!

Splash it around and others will be refreshed!

The only way to truly fill up is in the Presence of God. There are no “drive-through windows” or “fast-track” to refuel. It requires time with God, waiting on the Holy Spirit, and lavishly worshiping Jesus. To refill our emptiness we must wait in the stillness of quietly knowing and resting in Him. It is the beautiful being “with” God.

Here alone is the place of ultimate refresh!

“… be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Ephesians 5:18

Holy Spirit is ready to “keep on filling constantly and continually” our leaky containers. It is like being  thirsty on a hot day, a sip of water is never enough! In the same way, only Holy Spirit satisfies are deepest thirst!

We come into His Presence one way and leave changed. Then when we “leak”, we leak Him! We leak His love and goodness! We leak His grace and truth!

In so doing, our refreshing, becomes the refreshing others can taste and see for themselves. I think leaky buckets is an apt description of God’s intention for us. God refreshes us for the purpose of leaking enough to refresh others. I like that!

 

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Read On!!!

The 3 Keys of Effective Ministry! Secrets of Success!

Do it Again Lord! Renew! Restore! Revive!

A Refreshing Stream – A Good Rain is Coming!

 

 

 

From Curse to Blessing – God’s Redeeming Character

Curse to Blessing

Since we all live real lives with dusty feet and bombarded minds, it is hard to fully fathom the truth sometimes. As Christians we are bound to blessing. In every situation, we are victorious in Christ.

As I read my bible, I am often overwhelmed with God’s great grace in turning curses, failure, and disgrace in blessing. It is evidence of His redeeming character.

Examples

Look at Balaam (Numbers 23 & 24). The king of Moab hired Balaam to “come and put a curse on” the people of Israel. However, much to Balak’s distress, again and again Balaam could speak only blessing.

“But the LORD your God refused to listen to Balaam.
He turned the intended curse into a blessing
because the LORD your God loves you.”
Deuteronomy 23:5

What about Joseph? Sold as a slave by his brothers, falsely accused and imprisoned by his employer, forgotten by those he helped to release, ”

“They bruised his feet with shackles,
his neck was put in irons,
till what he foretold came to pass, 
till the word of the LORD proved him true.”
Psalm 105:18-19

This wasn’t a fifteen year cake-walk for Joseph. Yet, he learned to depend on the faithfulness of God to turn the worst of circumstances into the greatest of blessings.

You intended to harm me,
but God intended it for good to accomplish
what is now being done,
the saving of many lives.”
Genesis 50:20

Haman was determined to have not only Mordecai but all Jews executed. The book of Esther is a beautiful illustration of God turning the evil intentions of others into freedom for an entire nation. I could mention DanielDavid, Paul and the early apostles; the greatest example is Jesus Himself.

“…You disowned the Holy and Righteous One…
You killed the author of life, But God raised him from the dead…
Repent…turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out,
that times of refreshing may come
from the Lord.”

Acts 3:13-19

Undoubtedly, Jesus Christ  is the greatest reversal of curse to blessing, bearing the full weight of all curse to bring humanity full blessing.

Crown of Thorns

Expect Trouble

In Canada being a Christian may not always be popular, but it is still safe. Not so in many other nations, and maybe not for long here either. If true persecution for our faith arises, how should we respond? Actually my bigger question is, “Lord, how will I respond?”

“If you falter in a time of trouble,
how small is your faith.”
Proverbs 24:25

Perhaps, it would be wise to settle ourselves before the day comes. God delights in using trouble and struggle as a channel bringing spiritual good to many.

Afflictions have a way of humbling and teaching us:

“Then Job replied to the LORD:
I know that you can do all things’
no purpose of yours can be thwarted…
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know…
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job 42:1-6

Difficulties help us to see and understand in ways that were impossible for us before. It is proof of God’s nature to bring blessing.

“The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.” vs 12

Yet the turn around does not always come in our lifetime!

Paul says,

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed,
but will have sufficient courage
so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body,
whether by life or by death.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
(Phil 1:20-21)

Christ must be first! Always!

Again eternal perspective offers solid ground ,

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving
for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

( 2 Cor. 4:17)

Back up a few verses and you see Paul is talking about being “hard-pressed… crushed… perplexed… persecuted… struck down“. Hardly light or momentary unless viewed from eternity!

The Source

Perhaps the first thing to do is a little self-examination. Perhaps God is using the opponent or critic to help us deal with a blind spot or sin in our own lives. Even when the opposition comes harshly or with poor attitudes it may be worth taking a moment and asking God what His thoughts are in the situation.

Ask God

Jesus wants us to see that our enemies can actually be our greatest allies. Listen to His command:

“But to you who are listening I say:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Luke 6: 27-28

Let’s Get Practical

When we begin to believe God intends to turn curses into blessings, it will change the way we see adversity.

Sit down today with pencil and paper; begin to write down every adverse thing that is coming against you and your family right now. It probably won’t take long to create a good-sized list.

Curse to Blessing

Now on a second piece of paper write out the opposite; write out what God’s blessing would look like. I remind you that in Christ, you are forever bound into blessing.

“…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us…”
Romans 8: 39

The final step is completely destroying the first list!

David used the very sword of Goliath that was coming against him to defeat his opposing giant.  As a result, the whole nation followed in victorious courage. Quite often. the thing that is coming against us the strongest is the very place God desires to use to bring victory and blessing.

When the day is difficult,
the future scary
and the past painful,
remember God’s redeeming character.
When overwhelmed by circumstances
call on Him 
who delights to turn curses
into blessings.

__________

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__________

Firstfruits – The Most Important When it Comes to Giving

Firstfruits - You Only Get One Chance to Give

You only get one chance to enjoy the blessing of firstfruits, after that it isn’t first fruit any more. That is why firstfruits are the most important when it comes to giving.

An Avid Gardener

Spring is the season of anticipation! The first signs of tulips and blossoms after the cold darkness of winter revives something in me. Anticipation of the taste of fresh veggies and fruit lifts as bedding plants are placed out to harden and soil is worked. Earth under finger nails and between toes is a familiar comfort to every gardener.

One of the pleasure of gardening is sharing with others. Whether the beauty of a well landscaped yard, the abundance of fresh tasting eats, or homemade pies, gardeners labour to share! Giving is part of the joy – the natural overflow of abundance.

Every gardener also knows that though they may plant the seed, weed carefully and water faithfully, he is not the one that produces anything!

Garden Sprouting

A man scatters seed on the ground.
Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up,
the seed sprouts and grows,
though he does not know how.
All by itself the soil produces grain –
first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.
As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it,
because the harvest has come.”
Mark 4:26 – 29

Thankfulness

Giving God the first part joyfully recognizes He is the Giver of all good things; He is the Supplier of all I possess.

Giving

“And this same God who takes care of me
will supply all your needs from his glorious riches,
which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:19

Though I enjoy the hard work involved, my hard work produces nothing but sweat and fatigue unless God blesses! Giving Him the firstfruits is simply setting my little basket of thankfulness before Him.

Others Reap

When we give, only God knows how many others will benefit. II Kings 4 :42-44 talks of a man bringing his firstfruits. Elisha takes his little loaves and uses them to feed over 100 hungry men, with leftovers to spare! I’m sure the giver had no idea what would come of his simple gift! Little did he know that generations later some other little giver would be encouraged by his act of obedience.

“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish,
but how far will they go among so many?”
John 6:9

Fish

Yes! I know that giving is also a command. The people told Nehemiah,

“We also assume responsibility
for bringing to the house of the LORD each year the firstfruits…”
Nehemiah 10:35

 

Responsibility is a weighty word.

“It is the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something…of being accountable
the opportunity or ability to act independently…
the thing required to do as part of a job, role..”
(Websters)

Blessing of Firstfruits

But don’t let the weight fool you, the benefits far out-measure anything. God makes it clear that with the giving comes a blessing for your whole household. Who doesn’t want that?

Listen to a snippet from the book of wisdom

Honour the LORD with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.” Proverbs 3: 9-10

Bread & Wine

The barns speak of everyday needs; the vats of new wine refer to spiritual blessing – fresh filling and anointing. In both, there is promise of overflow! It is a picture communion – of bread and wine.

I can’t help but think of the greatest gift of Firstfruit, Jesus Christ, in the implications of bread and wine. I am so thankful for His overflowing gift of life to us all. His disciples were his firstfruits perpetuating faith in other, right down to you and me.

“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead.
He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.”
I Corinthians 15:20

The cycle of life continues in and through Christ like the passing seasons of my garden. We have many opportunities to share from our little or much.

Here’s another related article

Thankfulness – Painting On a Canvas of Gratitude

When Life Begins is Up to You – Today you Choose!