Monday, September 20, 2010

Ministry of Presence

This past Sunday our Pastor spoke of the "Ministry of Presence." I was already listening intently to the sermon, but my mind locked on those three words. Something clicked. Ahh...mercy, serving a meal to the sick, helping the elderly with laundry. All of these ministry activities so important. As Pastor Bernard continued, those three words cleared the confusion in my head. So there is a ministry where I need say nothing, solve nothing, do nothing but be there??? I always thought I had to be a Super-hero, a Mother Theresa born in the good ole' USA - - why try? Usually I would just make a meal and have someone deliver it as I felt inadequate to minister face-to-face.

How often do we not go to a sick person's room, someone losing their hair after chemo because we do not know what to say? We rationalize that we do not relate as we have never been in their situation. Someone else is better able to minister in that capacity. How often have we avoided a funeral service because we felt awkward and unsure about how to approach grieving family members?

I have to admit I am a "No Show" far too many times because I feel inadequate, unprepared and just downright at a loss in the "what to say" and "how to say it" department. So I just don't show up.

But God had a lot to say about "just being present" this past Sunday as our Pastor continued his sermon on "just being there". The Ministry of Presence is sitting quietly and not trying to do anything. You become a human being and not a human doing. A sort of Mary in a Martha world and just as Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and was enjoying His presence we can sit with others (or stand or lie down - no matter!) and be that sweet silent presence to them. For we are there because we care. We are there not to solve their problems but to pray over them and beseech the Only One who can solve their problems and heal them in the first place (physically and spiritually) - the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ahhh! This Ministry of Presence - such a peaceful concept. Where did it begin? I think of John 20:19, "On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" John 20:20, "After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord." John 20:21 Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."  John 20:22 And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit."

The disciples no doubt were comforted and encouraged - actually overjoyed no doubt  (I would be! How about you?) when Jesus's presence was apparent. For they had been fearful up to that point, most likely asking "Why?" "What happened?" "What now?" I can envision the Apostles pacing in the room - back and forth - back and forth - back and forth - dirt flying into the air as feet already caked with mud become dusted with more dirt each second.... Then in enters Jesus and all is suddenly well again.

We true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have the power of the Holy Spirit in us that Jesus left the disciples with.We can share Christ's enduring presence in the lives of others. It is an awesome responsibility to go. To be there as we know we are called to do (Matthew 25) and just be present. But the going need not consist of problem-solving, deep counsel or a To Do list as long as your arm. Just go. The Ministry of Presence, the first time I heard it ever this past Sunday - intrigues me and calls my name. I will never be the same! The yoke of doing that I put on myself has now been flung off and I feel free!!!

I don't have to perform. I don't have to be perfect. I don't even have to participate. I just need to be present. The Gospel must also be present in the Ministry of Presence. For if not, consoling and comforting through this silent ministry will not be possible. Christ's powerful presence will shine through a servant in this ministry of mercy, allowing light to overpower the darkness of fear and questions of the future. Perfect love casts out fear and we must invite the Lord in when we minister in this capacity.

A Ministry of Presence helps victims become survivors, which is necessary to recovery and renewal. After all - - there is only Victory in Christ.

How many party invitations have I sent out that I have scribbled at the very bottom, "No presents. Your presence is all we ask." Yet, when we are at our lowest whether it be physically ill, spiritually low or emotionally hurting - - why do we not ask for the presence of others? For the presence of others bringing the sweet perfume of the Lord is exactly what we need at that time. We may receive a bowl of soup but it may be the very hands of the giver of the meal that we need in prayer beside us reaching out to the Lord.

I am so grateful to have heard the sermon this past Sunday. I am excited for what the Lord will do with this Ministry of Presence. There truly is freedom in knowing our present is our presence. True mercy in silence. Sign me up!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Tongue

You can tell alot from the tongue. Seriously. Last year I came down with Bronchitis. I felt sick for a few weeks but made it my goal to avoid going to the doctor (I try to avoid western medicine at all costs unless ther is a life-threatening need for it). However, I eventually ended up at an Alternative Medicine/Acupuncturist's office after I began coughing up blood. I figured my chances of not receiving antibiotics or being made to enter the emergency room would be better if I visited an Eastern doctor's office.

The doctor walked in the examining room and asked me to stick my tongue out. I obliged and was told, "Bronchitis". Just like that. This wise woman told me the color of my tongue gave away my condition. I must have looked perplexed because she handed me a mirror to illustrate her point. My tongue was a chalky yellow!! And wouldn't you know it, although I escaped having to check into the hospital, I was handed a Z Pack of antibiotics! So much for alternative medicine.

Yes, I could have avoided the dreaded antibiotics if I had been educated on the complexities of the tongue beforehand and noticed the signs of illness early on. Possibly I could have bulked up on Vitamin C and sunshine. Needless to say, now that I am healthy, I make it a daily habit to not only brush my teeth upon waking, but also I use a tongue scraper with the flipside being an actual wide-angled brush for the tongue. I clean my tongue each time I brush. I am a believer. A healthy tongue = a healthy bod.

If a tongue needs cleaning and rids the body of toxicity then tongue cleaning and tongue scraping is a noble practice and may just possibly help one to avoid many illnesses.

I received an email the other day about - - wouldn't you know it - the tongue! I didn't find this email on so I am just trusting the sender that it is legit. Here is the email:

STROKE: Remember the 1st Three Letters.... S. T. R.

During a BBQ, a woman stumbled and took a little fall - she assured everyone that she was fine (they offered to call paramedics) ..she said she had just tripped over a brick because of her new shoes.

They got her cleaned up and got her a new plate of food. While she appeared a bit shaken up, Jane went about enjoying herself the rest of the evening. Jane's husband called later telling everyone that his wife had been taken to the hospital - (at 6:00 pm Jane passed away.) She had suffered a stroke at the BBQ... Had they known how to identify the signs of a stroke, perhaps Jane would be with us today. Some don't die.. They end up in a helpless, hopeless condition instead.

If a neurologist can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he/she can totally reverse the effects of a stroke...totally.. He said the trick was getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed, and then getting the patient medically cared for within 3 hours, which is tough.

Remember the '3' steps, STR . Read and Learn!

Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer severe brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke.

Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:

S *Ask the individual to SMILE.
T *Ask the person to TALK and SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (Coherently) (i.e. It is sunny out today.)
R *Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.

If he or she has trouble with ANY ONE of these tasks, call 911 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher..

New Sign of a Stroke -------- Stick out Your Tongue

NOTE: Another 'sign' of a stroke: Ask the person to 'stick' out his tongue... If the tongue is 'crooked', if it goes to one side or the other, that is also an indication of a stroke.

God's Word Regarding The Tongue
As I often ponder the deeper truths in life, I realized God's Word had alot to say about the tongue. We have choices. Those in the Bible had choices as well. We can know this for sure by reading their accounts as inspired by the Holy Spirit written by God.

We can stay out of trouble by holding our tongue Esther 7:4 as Esther did back in the day. Job knew a thing or two about the tongue Job 6:24. When he asked, "Is there iniquity in my tongue? cannot my taste discern perverse things?" In Job 6:30 we hopefully pause and ponder the meaning of that question. Another version, the NLT poses this question differently but is just as reliable, "Do you think I am lying? Don't I know the difference between right and wrong?" Yes, Job had alot to say about the tongue (Job 13:19, Job 15:5, Job 12, Job 20:16, Job 27:4, Job 29:10, Job 33:2, Job 41:1).

How does God remind us that our tongue can be a tool to bless or a cruel weapon used for destruction? Hmm...Immediately unloading gossip in the form of a prayer request and criticism in the form of concern come to mind. How cunning Christians in particular can be in disguising a tongue of cruelty as a tongue of kindness! They truly know better yet artfully unleash their tongue to deceive, disguise and disrespect.

The Lord speaks to this matter in Psalm 5:9. He compares our tongue to an open grave or sepulchre. Harsh? No. Not when you read the verse, "For [there is] no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part [is] very wickedness; their throat [is] an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue."

Unfaithfulness, wickedness, flattery. The result of this choice? The next three verses following Psalm 5:9 should surprise no one - for God is a righteous God and there are consequences for good and for evil.

Psalm 5:10 Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee.

Psalm 5:11 But let all those who put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.

Still with me?

Consider James 3:1-12:
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.

Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.

Can both fresh water and salt [fn] water flow from the same spring?

My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Back to Psalms....

Psalm 5:12 For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as [with] a shield.
Oh how I long to please the Lord with my tongue!

Psa 10:7 His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue.

Psa 12:3 May the Lord cut off all flattering lips and every boastful tongue

Psa 15:3 and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman,

Psa 16:9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,

More of God's Word concerning the tongue...

Psa 22:15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.

Psa 34:13 keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.

Psa 35:28 My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long.

Psa 37:30 The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just.

Psa 39:1 For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David. I said, "I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence."

Psa 39:3 My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:

Psa 45:1 For the director of music. To the tune of "Lilies." Of the Sons of Korah. A maskil. A wedding song. My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.

Psa 50:19 You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit.

Psa 51:14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

I don't know about you, but as I daily maintain my physical tongue I also daily seek to surrender my tongue spiritually for I truly want the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart to be pleasing to God. Even if I have to bite my tongue now and then, I will do so in this season and hopefully this discipline will become a part of me.

I am not going to pretend I do not get frustrated or angry by not being able to freely lash out against an injustice. Instead I go into my prayer closet and confess to God how I want to use my tongue as a tool to hurt, control or manipulate and even - - yes to defend myself when I know I must remain silent (nowadays more often than usual [Matthew 24:14].

Because we are human, we all struggle with these behaviors and will continue to do so until the Lord Jesus appears in the sky to take us to our eternal home. Please know that I do not advocate repression as a godly trait. Instead, giving it to God first is wise. Until you spend time in prayer about something which you desire to passionately protest or put down,you will be moved by your emotions and may make a big mistake. Giving it to God in prayer first is always the best choice. He has a way of making our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). God will always tame the tongue....if we allow Him to do this for us.
So - how about you? How is the condition of your tongue? Brother or sister - please don't wait til you are spitting up blood or suffering a stroke to get your tongue examined. Go to the Lord now - Romans 10:9-10. A Z Pack won't save anyone really, it will just merely get one back to where they need to be healthwise so they will have another day, week, year, lifetime to glorify the Lord - another chance at using the tongue to praise Him.

God sings over us (Zephaniah 3:17). Did you know that?  We can do the same. We have a choice. We can choose to bless or curse with our tongue. Or we can remain silent Psalm 37:7. When we are in fellowship with the Lord we will know what to do and when to do it and when not to do it (Romans 12:2). We must step out of our comfort zone. Job did. Esther did. Jesus did. We can too. We can sing or we can sin. It's our choice. Choose today.

Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. ~ Psalm 51:14