What’s In Our Wake?

06/10/2008

A few weeks ago I was watching as tornadoes blew through an area of Oklahoma. As a news crew in a helicopter filmed the dark storm clouds, we watched and waited for the tornados to form and reach down out of the sky. I was astounded at how seemingly random a swirling cone of wind would descend towards the earth below. When the cones touched down, they would start to whip up anything they came into contact with. The view from the helicopter wasn’t close enough to capture what the objects were, but in seeing the news afterwards, it was obvious they came from homes that were being destroyed. Many lives were disrupted and sometimes lost as we sat and watched it on our T.V. screen. The people in those neighborhoods could do nothing but run for cover—one day their homes stood strong and sturdy, filled with a family and mementos…the next day they were torn to shreds. In most cases, the people physically survived the fierce winds, but there’s no question that they were emotionally shaken from its powerful force.

After talking with my sister today, an interesting point was brought up about how we touch each others lives, and I was reminded of those tornadoes. What are we leaving in our wake? As we pass through neighborhoods, as we walk in and out of our churches on Sunday morning, as we spend time with our family and friends, or finish a day on the job…we have a powerful affect on each other. Are we human tornadoes bringing destruction, or a gentle breeze that brings calm and restoration?

What does the wind of God look like as opposed to the wind of Satan in this world, and which wind is the driving force in our lives? Satan is like the funnel cloud of destruction that seems to come out of the darkness hanging over our heads, and God is the goodness of the Holy Spirit that lives inside each believer on earth while reigning in Heaven above. These battling forces, or “winds,” are spiritual warfare—they are unseen to the human eye, but very much felt in human emotions because of the power they yield.

We have to be aware of these battling forces.
We have to know whose wind we’re riding on.
We have to know what power drives us.

John 3:6-8 says in The New Living Translation:

“Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven. So don’t be surprised at my statement that you must be born again. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

The Message Bible says in John 3:7-8:

"When you look at a baby, it's just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can't see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit. So don't be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be 'born from above'—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it's headed next. That's the way it is with everyone 'born from above' by the wind of God, the Spirit of God."

And the New International Version of John 3:6-8 is written this way:

“Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

These are three different versions of the same text in the Bible. All three, plus others, can give us different ways of seeing God’s living Word. God’s Word in all its different translations has a magnificent way of reaching the depths of our soul and helping us to see things we might not have seen before. Sometimes God uses His Word, or sermons, perhaps music, or even a phone conversation to make us aware of not only the path we are on personally, but the trail we may be leaving behind us—reminding us of the lives we’ve touched and those that have touched ours. When we look back, do we understand who had the greater influence in those interactions—was it God or Satan? Our Father in Heaven wants the best for us, and Satan is the one who has been known to roam the earth looking for those he’d like to destroy.

In two recent conversations, I was made more fully aware of how deeply we touch one another’s lives—some for the better, some for the worse. One story was of my niece’s adoption. She is a precious three-year-old child who needed a new home, but whose home would it be? As my brother and his wife visited with a friend who had five children, some of whom had been adopted, they expressed their fears of adoption to her. Their greatest fear was taking a child into their home and then possibly having to release that child again before the adoption became official due to circumstances that might change in the process. The woman they were visiting very simply said, “None of our children come with a guarantee.” On the drive home that day, my brother and his wife decided to “risk” adoption, and because of one woman’s simple words of truth, they have been blessed with little Libbey, and she has been blessed with being a part of their family. The wind of God blew through and left beauty in its wake!

In another conversation I had it seemed just the opposite was taking place, as I listened to the story of two siblings who have difficulty getting along. In some relationships, we can be each other’s downfall. Sometimes when we’re carrying the baggage of our childhood into our adult lives, the rivalry can continue on. It can cause jealousy and envy and a feeling of, “I don’t measure up to you and I never will.” Because of this, sometimes words are spoken that bring a wind of destruction into our lives. These words can cause us to struggle with who we are. We can have difficulty seeing our own self-worth because it seems to be hidden in the tall shadow cast by a brother or a sister. This can happen among God’s children also! Even Cain and Abel didn’t seem to hit if off so well…

In life, we are all given certain gifts—some have the gift of helps, or encouragement, or faith. Some are good in areas of hospitality, or administration, or teaching, and so on. When we’re gifted in certain areas, things can seem easy to us. We can actually be surprised that certain acts of help, or administration, or teaching might make someone with a different gift feel “less than”—especially if that person isn’t aware of their own giftedness. It could leave some of us saying, “I could never be like that.” The thing is, we’d be right, because we weren’t meant to be. We are meant to be exactly who God designed us to be, not someone else. It’s not a competition; it’s a working together with all our special gifts so that the body of Christ is a well-oiled machine, with Christ as the head. If we start to feel “less than,” then our words might become destructive—we may try to bring others down since we can’t seem to measure up. This is a tornado-type wind, coming from the wrong direction! The devil would like nothing better than to see God’s gifted children shoved into a closet, or putting up bigger and stronger walls of protection, making us less useful for Kingdom work here on earth. We have to recognize Satan’s powerful force that can pit us against each other, and we have to say “no” to it! It’s vital that we strengthen the body of Christ, not tear it apart. It’s vital that we recognize who we are in Christ and what we’ve been gifted to do, and work in those areas, and encourage others to do the same. As a wise friend, Ty Taylor, used to say, before he left earth for Heaven, “Find the one thing you can’t not do, and do it with passion!” Instead of feeling less than, let’s feel blessed by the help “our siblings” are able to give us on our own journey.

Sometimes, God is the One who sends strong winds of change into our lives, and those winds can be very painful and cause brokenness—but God’s windy ways are very different than Satan’s—God’s ways are for our eventual good. The Devil’s plan is always to twist us up and then spit us out on the other side of earth’s storms bruised and broken. Satan’s plan is to cause harm and to thwart any plans God has to grow us and teach us—he’s all about using his “winds” for destructiveness. We must be aware of the enemy’s tactics, and choose our words with godly wisdom in the wake of his evilness.

Jennifer Rothschild wrote:

Oh, the power of our words! Our tongues must be governed so they won’t destroy us. Even the unspoken words you speak to yourself can bring life or death (Proverbs 18:21). The Psalmist lamented the sad fact that hearts filled with destruction will produce destructive words.

There is a definite and undeniable link between the soil of our hearts and the words that blossom from our lips. That’s why we need God to cultivate the soil of our hearts. We need truth planted deep within. The words we say (even silently to ourselves) are the direct result of the thoughts we think and the emotions we feel... So plant some truth within your heart where it will spring up and overflow!

If we tear ourselves or others down with our words, then those very words can squelch the usefulness of the gifts we’ve all been given. You may say, no way…I’ll do what I’ve been gifted to do no matter what anyone says—but think back, was there ever a time when you started to do something helpful or generous and stopped, or even just took a slight pause because of words that had been spoken? What if we’ve heard, “I could never do that,” or “You just do that because…,” or “That’s a really useless thing to do.” The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 12:14-15, “Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says ‘I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,’ that does not make it any less a part of the body.’” The lies of “less than” come into our lives on the wind of Satan who is trying to stop or slow up what the wind of God desires to do in and through us! We know they’re lies because God’s Word says, “In fact, some of the parts that seem weakest and least important are really the most necessary.” (1 Cor. 12:22)

Rick Warren wrote:

“There are many things that work to keep us from completing our life-missions. Over the years, I’ve debated whether the worst enemy is procrastination or discouragement. If Satan can’t get us to put off our life missions, then he’ll try to get us to quit altogether.”

What we may not realize is how much we need each other, how much we should be encouraging each other, or even how much two very different halves make a whole. Many divorces come on the wind of, “We have nothing in common.” “Why did we ever get married in the first place?” The truth is, many times the very person we have so little in common with is the very person we need in our life to fill in all the places that we couldn’t possibly fill in ourselves. Every Mary needs a Martha. Mary doesn’t want to make dinner, Martha sees the need and fills it. Every Florence Nightingale needs a patient to tend to. Every Jonathan, as an armor bearer, needs a David in battle to be of service to. Even angels have been designed to help us, just take a look at how they freed Peter from prison in the book of Acts! Whatever gift, skill, faith, strength, wisdom, or supernatural ability we have, it isn’t for us, it’s been given to us so it can be given to others!

What’s the use of the gift of “wise advice,” if no one is in need of it?
What’s the use of the gift of “healing,” if no one is ever sick?
What good is the gift of “speaking,” if no one wants to hear it?
What reason would I have to write, if you weren’t willing to read?

A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a
means of helping the entire church.
1 Corinthians 12:7 (NLT)

(On a side note…An interesting fact learned about Florence Nightingale concerning her name: Her parents were William Edward Nightingale (1794–1875) and Frances Nightingale née Smith (1789–1880). William Nightingale was born William Edward Shore. His mother Mary née Evans was the niece of one Peter Nightingale, under the terms of whose will William Shore not only inherited his estate Lea Hurst in Derbyshire, but also assumed the name and arms of Nightingale)

Florence Shore? That has an “interesting” ring to it!

Onward…

The only way we can stay on the path of least destruction, not only in our own thoughts but also with how our words touch the lives of those who we do life with, is by keeping our focus on heavenly things at all times…at all times! When our thoughts are heavenward, our actions will more closely resemble our Savior’s, the One who gave His all so we could have the Holy Spirit living inside of us on this day.

Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.
Colossians 3:2 (NLT)

Have you ever heard it said, “Some people are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good”? Are these words from the wind of God, or from the wind of the enemy? Is this Truth or a distraction from the Truth? Yesterday, I heard this saying and it didn’t settle well with me. I went looking for who said it and I found out that Oliver Wendell Holmes did. Now Holmes lived from 1809-1894, which means none of us has ever met him, and yet how many of us have heard this very famous quotation? How many of us have used it? Is it a Christian viewpoint? There are those who go to church every Sunday, those who believe in the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and use these famous words of O.W. Holmes. I’m not picking on Oliver Wendell Holmes as a person, I don’t know the man, I don’t know what he believed, I don’t know where he is living out his eternity, but I’m picking on the words he left us with because they are destructive to the body of Christ in functioning as it has been designed to. Since the Apostle Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” in Galatians 2:20 (NIV), it’s obvious Paul wasn’t keeping his focus on this world, and we know that Jesus didn’t either—so I would venture to say as believers we shouldn’t be! As my brother says, “Some people are so earthly minded, they are of no heavenly good.” That’s a heavenly viewpoint!

When we realize that Jesus was not earthly minded, and that everything He did and everywhere He went was in obedience to His Father, we’ll get a glimpse of how we should be doing this life. Jesus said, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me.” John 14:10 (NLT) And when the disciples finally got wind, literally, of the truth of Who Jesus is, their eyes were no longer on this earth but on being obedient to their Lord’s every command. The wind of God blew through on the day of Pentecost and left a life-changing wake in its path!

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.
Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm,
and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or
tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was
filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy
Spirit gave them this ability.
Acts 2:1-4 (NLT)

Now, that’s a strong wind, and one that can set us all in the right direction in life! When the Holy Spirit fills us up from the inside out, we have to shift our minds heavenward, day by day, step by step—it’s a process. Most times we will not be blinded by a light on the road to Damascus like Saul/Paul was. Most times we will not be given a Heavenly vision like John was. Most times, it’s a practical, prayer by prayer, drawing nearer to our Lord each day—getting to know Him through the good times and the bad, until we fall so deeply in love with Jesus and what He’s given us that we want nothing more than to give Him our whole lives to be used in Heavenly service on this earth. That’s where the real good on this earth comes from, not from those that are focused on this world, but from those that aren’t!

Earthly good does not come from earthly good; earthly good comes from Heaven, period. There is no good in Satan—he is the father of lies, deceit, misunderstandings, pride, envy, slander, and so on. Let’s take a look in Galatians where Paul writes about what happens when we follow the “windy” desires of our own sinful nature. He says: “…your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outburst of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin.” (Gal. 5:20-21 NLT)

If we don’t find ourselves somewhere in those sins, we’re not human. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we won’t be tempted by Satan by those things, it means we need to be able to recognize where they come from, and learn how to be rid of them as quickly as possible. The minute we find ourselves dealing with jealousy, or an outburst of anger, or envy, or any other kind of sin…let’s start to be aware of where the focus is…is it earthly or heavenly? I guarantee you, it’s earthly. Yes, there may be reasons, someone may have been wronged—there may be thoughts of being perfectly right in the “feeling that everyone is wrong except those in” our “own little group.” We’ve all been there, focused on the earthly things, wanting to take a stand on what’s happened and why. We’ve all been ready to argue until we’re blue in the face about our opinions, or to defend ourselves—but there is only one thing to truly argue about until we’re blue in the face, and that is the Truth concerning Jesus Christ—and even with that, as I’ve heard it said, “Preach the Gospel. And if necessary, use words.”

If we are not heavenly minded, this earth will suck us up into a whirlwind of division and selfish ambition and impure thoughts and ugly words almost before we know what happened! How can I say that? Because that’s what God’s Word says, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature,” we will be angry and selfish and hostile. No, it’s not just how we are, it’s just how Satan is, and when we’re listening to Satan’s powerful force instead of our Lord’s, we’ll act out in ugly ways.

We don’t have to like Biblical truths—I don’t always particularly like them—but we do have to come to grips with them if we are to find God’s peace on this journey called life. My flesh wants to rebel most times too, I want to do what I want to do, I want to say what I want to say, I want to listen to the words of the enemy that say “Charge!”—but then from deep inside the promptings of the Holy Spirit start to bubble up and this is where heavenly mindedness and earthly mindedness come to a parting of the ways! This is where the spiritual battle begins…not against flesh and blood, but against forces we can’t see with our human eyes, forces that influence our thoughts and emotions. These forces can only be handled with prayer!

Be warned though, sometimes when we turn our thoughts towards heaven in dealing with earthly dilemmas, it can feel like we’re sort of losing the battle at first, or giving up, or being walked on—but in actuality, we are claiming victory that rests in the power of God alone. How do I know? Because Paul tells us further down in Galatians about what happens when we allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives.

“But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

This is really what most of us want in our relationships—these are the signs of victory in battle—but it’s not what most of us want to choose when troubles arise. When we’re in the midst of needing to be quiet, or of being patient, or of keeping our tempers in check, what our flesh wants to do is to let it rip, and let the chips fall where they may! The problem is, there’ll be destruction on both sides—we’ll all be buried in the very disaster we could have avoided! When we choose to get sucked into the dark funnel cloud that is forming, everything will be twisted and contorted and broken into pieces—we will have a big mess to clean up in the aftermath of the devil’s destruction.

It reminds me of Bill Cosby’s routine where he’s talking about his wife’s conversation with their children about their bedrooms, “Just look at this mess you’ve made! Well, look at it!!” It will be hard to take our eyes off of it because what we’ve let control our actions will have pulled our thoughts farther away from the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Oh, our intentions seemed good in the beginning, they seemed right…we’ll think we had the right to do what we did. Perhaps we did, perhaps we had the human earthly right, the green light from the ways of this world, but as Holy Spirit-filled believers we are always called to choose what is right in the eyes of God! That’s what Jesus would do!

“So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit.
Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The old sinful
nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants.
And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature
desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices
are never free from this conflict.” Galatians 5:16-17 (NLT)

We shouldn’t be shocked when we are tempted to choose destruction. God isn’t surprised, Satan isn’t surprised. Paul warned us in this Scripture that we would never be “free from this conflict.” The thing is, when we choose God’s way and have seen the results from that vantage point, we’ll be amazed by it! We’ll be amazed at the eventual peace we can have when there should be no peace in what we are dealing with. God’s Word says, “Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” Ephesians 4:3 (NLT)

We have to “keep” doing this, because there will always be a next time—bringing us a different sort of temptation, maybe a little harder challenge, perhaps a little more deceptive way, and we’ll have to choose again, and again and again—and so it goes…yes, we’re never free from this conflict, but as we learn the ways God provides through these battles, He’ll fill us with more and more of His wisdom to deal with them. That’s truly the only way to stop leaving destruction in our wake…the only way to keep our thoughts and our words as God would have them be.

When Christ lives in us, things should slowly but surely be changing in us. I’m not talking about “over-night success.” In most cases, it’s a slowly-evolving, daily-praying, minute-by-minute learning journey. Sometimes the lessons are extremely painful, and sometimes there’s great joy, but most days are filled with small things that we have to practice, practice, and practice some more. During these practice sessions, we’re learning to identify the enemy for just who he is, and getting to know God for just who He is, all the while desiring more and more of a heavenly mindset than an earthly one.

What is Jesus seeing today as He sits at God’s right hand? He’s seeing Heaven, He’s watching over us, He’s seeing those in Heaven that have gone before us, He’s welcoming those that are arriving Home, He interceding for us with the Father as our prayers ascend to Heaven…and He understands that we get weary here on earth.

“Don’t get tired of doing what is good.
Don’t get discouraged and give up, for
we will reap a harvest of blessing at the
appropriate time. Whenever we have the
opportunity, we should do good to everyone,
especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.”
Galatians 6:9-10 (NLT)

God gives us opportunities on this earth to touch other lives, to do good to people or not. The devil will do everything within his power to thwart heavenly-minded endeavors.

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights
on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the
place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think
only about things down here on earth. For you died when Christ died, and
your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your
real life is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)

Through God’s Heavenly ways, we will gain a greater and greater understanding of how this all works together for good. It’s not beyond us, it’s not saved for the super saints of old, or for just the so-called super saints of today, it’s for you and me, the ordinary, common, everyday saints—those of us who believe in what Jesus died to give us, and who have chosen to walk out this life of faith with the one true God!

“Remember me to every saint (every born-again believer) in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:21 (Amplified Bible)

When we leave here, let it be said that our wake stretched far and wide, having touched many souls with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Let it be said that our words were like a cool breeze on a hot summer day, perhaps pleasantly unexpected but always welcomed! And let our thoughts have been on what our purpose is for being here…loving God and loving others above all else.

Until we meet again,

Diane