Perilous Poison

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The warning, “leaves of three, let them be,” is good advice when approaching unfamiliar plants. Poison ivy is a vine that possesses three potentially dangerous leaves.

As a young girl walking to school each day, I detoured around a large elm tree growing adjacent to the sidewalk. I gave the tree a wide berth due to the prolific poison ivy vines winding around the trunk. I had heard horror stories of the reactions people contracted from touching poison ivy. I’d also heard it rumored that some individuals could be exposed to poison ivy without experiencing an adverse response. Each day when I walked past that mass of vines swirling around the tree, I wondered which poison ivy theory applied to me. The suspense was more than I could tolerate. One spring day I broke off several leaves, crushed them in my hands, and rubbed them on every exposed area of my skin.

Occasionally children are guilty of impetuous, irresponsible behavior, unfamiliar with the art of predicting consequences for their actions. Fortunately, I was unaffected by the poison ivy rub down, causing me to conclude that I would be one of the few who were immune to the toxic effects of poison ivy for life. Had I possessed the courage to admit my reckless experiment to an adult, I may have learned that the first reaction to poison ivy merely exposes the immune system to a new substance. If I were confronted with the tainted chemicals again in the future, the urushiol oil on the plant would cause an immediate response.

Later in life, I accidentally brushed against poison ivy leaves in the woods while clearing brush. It wasn’t long before an itchy, red rash developed. Poison ivy was the farthest diagnosis from my mind due to my neutral childhood experience. The second exposure triggered my immune system to recognize the chemical and it produced an allergic reaction. By the time I sought medical evaluation three weeks later, the rash was profusely covering my limbs. The itching was so intense, I couldn’t sleep at night, eventually requiring aggressive medical intervention to treat the tenacious rash.

Urushiol oil is the poisonous chemical of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac plants. Brushing against the berries, flowers, roots, or stems of the poisonous plants leaves a smear of oil on skin, clothing, garden tools, or heavy equipment, remaining viable on those items for years, even surviving freezing temperatures.

There are many other poisons in our lives that carry the potential for causing greater harm than poison ivy, leaving permanent scars and sometimes irreversible damage. What instills more fear than poisonous snakes, the venom of which may cause nerve paralysis within minutes?

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No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil,
full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).

Expressed alternately, “This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—It’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image” (James 3:8, The Msg.).

When a friend’s confidence is betrayed, poison has been emitted from the tongue. Some people feel they can justify “a little white lie.” However, the color of a lie has never been determined.

The Lord detests lying lips,
but he delights in men who are truthful” (Proverbs 12:22).

Our tongues can be  dangerous muscles, spouting harmful poison. Unlike poison ivy, the vitriol a tongue spews is not always reversible. Its poison multiplies in creative, unimaginable ways.

Poisonous plants should never be burned in an inside fireplace or an outside bonfire.  Urushiol oil attaches to smoke particles that can be breathed, causing swelling of the respiratory tract,  compromising breathing, or perhaps shutting down respiratory muscles. “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also 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” (James 3:5-6).

An area of forest desecrated by a raging inferno is a chilling sight, killing every living thing in the vicinity. Fire annihilates, toppling giant trees, displacing wildlife, and destroying underground plant roots as it paints the surrounding environment black, the color of death. The ruinous effects of a consuming blaze cannot be reversed for decades, much the same as the destructive injury caused by sinister words. Damage remains both in the path of a fire or gossiping words, frequently lost to redesign forever. “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife” (Proverbs 26:20).

“Rumors are the vehicles that turn life into a demolition derby, and gossip and slander are the tracks on which they travel. The tracks of gossip and slander are paved with careless, idle chatter as well as the malicious intentional sharing of bad reports…..Having a tongue is like having dynamite in our dentures—it must be reckoned with” (Tongue in Check by Joseph M. Stowell).

If I had known poison ivy was potentially dangerous, I would have learned to recognize and avoid the trifoliate plant. Our words function in much the same manner. If we monitor our negative emotions, admitting that anger, jealousy, and bitterness have the potential to inflict immeasurable heartache, we might be motivated to hone our ability to control hostile verbal outbursts. “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (James 1:26).

Have you ever wanted to retract a comment you made in haste, but instead of apologizing, you offer the feckless excuse, “ I was only thinking out loud?” Thinking is purely a mental function. Once uttered, our thoughts have been transformed into words. “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18). Soothing, comforting words serve as a balm to heal.

From the inside out—our heart to our tongue—our inner monologue is filtered.  Noble words are first purified mentally. Only God can assist with such an important mission, as we pray in humility and obedience:

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May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

What is Habakkuk Syndrome?

Blogos is a great outreach of Got Questions Ministries. It is a collection of blogs that are—according to the site—”dedicated to the Logos – Jesus Christ and the Bible.”

If you recall, I did a series on Habakkuk last year. You can read it here, here and here. This article by S. Michael Houdmann fits in very well with the series. While you’re at Blogos, take the time to look around and read some of the other great blog posts.

 

What is Habakkuk Syndrome?

By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries

Other than in my daily “through the Bible in a year” readings, I don’t read the minor prophets very often. But, my favorite book in the minor prophets is Habakkuk. I read through Habakkuk recently, and I was astounded at how easily the message could have been written to the USA in 2015 instead of Israel in 600 BC.

To summarize the Book of Habakkuk:

Habakkuk asks God how long He is going to allow the wickedness in Judah to go unpunished (1:2-4).

God declares that He is going to send the Chaldeans/Babylonians to destroy Judah (1:5-11).

Habakkuk questions God as to how He can use the Chaldeans when they are even worse than Judah (1:12-2:1).

God essentially tells Habakkuk to trust Him, and assures Habakkuk that He will judge the Chaldeans as well (2:2-20).

Habakkuk declares his faith in God and trusts in His salvation (3:1-19).

Living in the USA in 2015, I sometimes feel like Habakkuk. It blows me away how quickly the USA has descended into depraved wickedness. Romans 1:28-32 could be our national slogan.

Read the rest here.

 

What We Believe-Part 5

Believe in God

Our church is currently going through a sermon series on what we believe, which is a good reminder for all of us. This is the outline from the first sermon in this series, very basic—sometimes it is good to get back to the basics! Since it is quite long because I decided to fully quote the referenced Scripture passages, I will post a portion of it each day for 7 days. Today’s post is #5 of 7. You can read Part 1 here, Part 2 here , Part 3 here and Part 4 here.

I have chosen to repeat the heading portion on each of the 7 posts for your remembering pleasure.

What We Believe: A Doctrinal Primer

The need for sound doctrine –

Proverbs 1:7—“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

2 Timothy 1:13—“What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.”

Titus 2:1—“You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.”

Colossians 2:4—”I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.”

Humanity: We believe that God created Humanity but they fell into sin. We believe that those who trust in Jesus alone are restored to God.

Genesis 1.31

Genesis 1:26-31—“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.”

Adam-Eve

Genesis 3:1-14—“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.””

Rom3-23

Romans 3:10-26—“As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.

All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

“Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.”

“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”

“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”

“Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

Beloved, tune in tomorrow for Part 6—Church: We believe in the Church, the body of believers in Christ whose goal is to make disciples.

AnnaSmile

Faith in Hard Times

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Yep, it’s Wednesday again. What’s so wonderful about that? It’s just another day to struggle with all that’s wrong in our lives, right?

Unemployment, sickness, finances. How to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. Why is it that we seem to be going through so many bad weather situations? And what about all the evil deeds going on in our world? Exactly where is God in all of this and why doesn’t He seem to care?

The other day I caught myself grumbling and complaining several times [can “several” mean less than 10? I sure hope so!] about how horrible I was feeling. I was having another reaction to mistakenly eating something with gluten in it, and this affects my entire body: migraine, nausea, mind-numbing fatigue… my body even itches horribly in a lot of places. When I get “glutenized,” it takes me days to recover. And all of this is on top of my normal migraines and fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms.50art

As I was praying that night, the Lord brought the day into sharp focus and all I could see was me complaining—sometimes to myself, sometimes to my hubby, sometimes to no one. And I was horrified at how much of a grumbler I had become. The Lord then brought to mind Philippians 2:14: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing…” I couldn’t believe how far my complaining heart had gone.

So what does this have to do with Wonderful Wednesday?

Everything.

The first thing I did was ask the Lord to forgive my bad attitude and then I asked Him to help me overcome this tendency I have to moan and complain. I also talked to my sweet hubby about it and asked him to lovingly let me know when I fall back into that grumbling pattern.

And then I decided to do some Bible reading about grumbling and complaining, and that led me to search out passages about faith and trust. Not the usual verses about faith like Abraham’s that I’ve somewhat memorized. No, these are more about digging in and having faith that God is with me and at work:

in me…

through me…

and all around me…

even though I may not feel that He is. It is an unconditional trust that in spite of how I might feel about what’s going on with me, God is allowing certain things in my life to hone more of those rough edges. And that enables me to walk closer with Him.

That is the wonderful part. In spite of how much I’ve let my pain overshadow my joy—the joy of knowing Jesus and basking in the knowledge of His saving grace—He still loves me and has been patiently waiting for me to finally get it. And I do!

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Here are a few passages that bring me a wonderful combination of comfort, peace and hope. The first one from Psalms is something the Lord pointed out to me in my daily Bible reading:

We wait in hope for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
    even as we put our hope in you.

—Psalm 33:20-22

This next one from Habakkuk is the last few verses of that small book, what I call Habakkuk’s Statement of Faith. In the margin next to this passage is my handwritten note: “Habakkuk was scared, but waiting. Faith waits on God to take care of things.”

I heard and my heart pounded,
    my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
    and my legs trembled.

Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
    to come on the nation invading us.

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

—Habakkuk 3:16-19

And one more:

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming.

See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.

You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! —James 5:7-9

Thank you for allowing me to share this with you. In an attempt to keep things real, I wanted to make sure you understand that limping with joy through a difficult valley does not mean that I am satisfied and happy with this struggle. I am definitely not! But what it does mean is that I have found the only way to live with any of it and still have that peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

It’s a fine line I walk with this complaining issue. Sometimes I need to let Rick and others close to me know exactly what’s going on with me because I usually don’t look like I’m feeling horrible. As Rick is fond of telling me, “But you look so good!” So I’ve asked Rick to specifically let me know when sharing the facts of how I feel turn into complaining.

Beloved, what are you struggling with today? Have you found your hope in the one true God? The One who is your Strength and Salvation? Please contact me with any questions about any of this: annap at annapopescu dot com.

AnnaSmile