Is anyone paying attention?

Acts 8:5-6  Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said.

distractedMost people reading this will talk today.  Some more than others.  Some way more than others.  Yes, God has given us words to use and mouths to speak.  We communicate with others throughout our day – sometimes giving instructions and other times being social.   And we all have things that are important to us.  We’ve all got our little soapbox on which we stand, proclaiming our values and our beliefs.  Yes there is much that we say in a day.  But is anyone paying attention?

In Acts 8:6, we learn that Philip proclaimed Christ and performed miracles… and the people paid close attention to what he said.  They were paying attention!  Why is that?  I would say it is because they both saw and heard the power of God working in Philip’s life.  They saw an ordinary man who prayed for people and miraculous things happened.  They heard a regular guy speak with power and clarity and purpose.  Yes they paid attention to what he said.  And what he said was life saving.  It was critical information.  It was meaningful, purposeful, and transformational.

So is anyone paying attention to you?  Are the things that you are saying and doing drawing others to actually listen?  You know, sometimes people get on Facebook and start posting recklessly about something they care about.  Maybe its politics or gun control or values or waffles.  Often what happens is not what they are expecting.  Instead of people paying attention, they hide their posts. (Yes it’s true, it really does happen.)  When we push our ideas on others we sound like a resounding gong. But when we live our lives genuinely by the power of the Holy Spirit, we draw others to him.  So we must step off our platforms that no one is listening to and start living like Philip did.  When we have a message of hope, love, and restoration to bring, people will pay attention.

*Ask yourself today: are the words coming out of my mouth meaningful, purposeful, and transformational? 

Did I do that?

2 Samuel 23:2 “The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; his word was on my tongue.”

Remember Steve Urkel?  The poor kid sure blew it a lot.  His famous line was, “did I do that?”  He broke stuff and said stuff that he probably wished he could do over.  Sometimes I wish I could have a do-over… especially in my conversations.  At times, I wish I would have been more compassionate or more bold or more gracious.  This darn tongue of mine seems to have a mind of its own!  I’m not going to beat myself over it, but I want to do something about it.  At the end of David’s life, he said these words: “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue.”  Can I say that?

Let me tell you what happens when a question like that is posed.  The first thing we do is think about our failures.  I’m sure David failed.  He certainly said some things that weren’t the Lord’s word speaking through him.  He may have said some things that misrepresented God.  Even if he didn’t, he surely he said things like, “I have to go to the bathroom.”  What I am getting at is that we should be be striving to have the Word of the Lord on our tongue at all times but not to overspiritualize it. We should be striving to have the Spirit of the Lord speak through us, without getting caught in the perfection trap.

It isn’t about performance anyway; it’s about pursuit.  If we would just pursue Him with our whole lives we would find His words on our tongue.  He asks us to give Him our thoughts, our sins, our dreams, and our plans.  In exchange He gives us His thoughts, His righteousness, His dreams, and His plans.  That’s what I want!  I want all that He has to offer.  I want to say of my life that the Spirit of the Lord spoke through me – not just every once in a while, I want to be defined by that.  When others hear me speak, I want God’s heart to come out, not mine.  When others see my actions, I want them to see the hands and feet of Jesus.  It will require effort, but it can’t happen through my effort alone.  It will happen as I pursue Him, surrender my life, and allow His Spirit to live in me and through me.  Bring it on today, Lord.  I want all of YOU!

That just kills you twice

2 Samuel 2:14-16   14 Then Abner said to Joab, “Let’s have some of the young men get up and fight hand to hand in front of us.” “All right, let them do it,” Joab said.  15 So they stood up and were counted off—twelve men for Benjamin and Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, and twelve for David. 16 Then each man grabbed his opponent by the head and thrust his dagger into his opponent’s side, and they fell down together. So that place in Gibeon was called Helkath Hazzurim.  

My kids love watching an animated movie called “Bee Movie.” One of my favorite dialogues in the movie comes when Barry [the bee] has just messed up the planet real bad by stopping the work of bees completely.  Everyone is mad at him and his friend Vanessa [the human florist.]

Barry: How about a suicide pact?

Vanessa: How would we do it?

Barry: I’ll sting you, you step on me.

Vanessa: That just kills you twice.

It certainly would have been a stupid way to die for Barry.  Fortunately for him, Vanessa didn’t go through with it.  The guys in 2 Samuel, however, weren’t so fortunate – they died a stupid death.  Abner and Joab didn’t get along real well.  One of them was following David and the other was following Saul’s son.  So they decided to pick twelve guys from each side to fight and see who had the stronger team.  The twelve guys from each side simply stabbed each other at the same time and all 24 died.  Senseless, I tell you.  So now you’ve got 24 dead guys laying on the ground and nobody’s happy.  So they all break out in a fight.

Wasn’t there a better way to solve their issues than to start killing each other?  It seems like that’s what humanity’s gut reaction is to disagreement.  It has happened throughout all history.  This country is ticked off by this country so country A declares war on country B.  Death ensues and somebody loses a brother, a son, a husband, and a friend.

Before you get all bent out of shape, you should know this is not a commentary on war.  It is a commentary on our tendency to jump to a fight.  We do it without daggers and spears, too.  We do it with words.  Our husband says something we don’t like and speak out words like daggers.  He returns the dagger and you both die a little.  Why must we respond with death to the people we love?   Because even if you win the argument, damage has been incurred.  When we seek to destroy those who we love, it might hurt them… but it really does just kill you twice.

Hitting the target with your words

1 Samuel 3:19 The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. 

When I was a teenager, I made the trek up to an Indian Reservation in Northern Canada to be a camp counselor.  The first time, I went with my youth pastor and some other teens.  The second time, I went with a friend of mine.  I’m sure I could have found a closer camp to be a counselor at, but it was worth the drive to have the experience with these kids.  We had so much fun those summers.  I remember how different the worship music was and how fun those kids were.  In fact, I believe this is where I led my first person to the Lord.  I was so nervous to lead someone in a prayer of salvation.

I also remember the bow and arrow contests we had.  As counselors, we were supposed to teach the kids to shoot an arrow.  The only problem: I wasn’t very good at it.  In fact, many of those kids put me to shame.  Maybe you remember the first time you tried to shoot at arrow from a bow.  You put the arrow in and get that string on there… you pull back and BAM!  The arrow falls to the ground at your feet.  At this point you are embarrassed and the target across the way seems to be laughing at you.  And there lies your poor arrow: far from the target, on the ground, waiting to be shot by an expert.

In 1 Samuel, it tells us that none of Samuel’s words fell to the ground. This picture of words falling to the ground is a picture of a rookie archer, an unskilled marksman.  It is like trying to shoot an arrow and having it land at your feet.  But this never happened to Samuel; his words always hit the target.  I wonder what it would be like to never have wasted words. Imagine not regretting what you just said.  That was the life of Samuel.  He was effective with his speech at all times.

I want to strive for the same thing.  I want my words to hit the mark, not fall to the ground.  So I guess there are two things I can do to give me a better success rate.  The first is kind of obvious, but not always realistic – think before I speak.  Is what I am saying life giving?  Will it hit the mark or be a bunch of babble?  Second and probably way more important – listen to the Lord.  If I just got His perspective before talking, I would probably have fewer words fall to the ground.  So are you with me?  Let’s give it a try and see what happens.