Published every Monday
Our words are powerful. Words today seem to be used to shout one’s opinion over all the rest. This world is so preoccupied with expressing yourself. As nice as that sounds, that’s not why we are here. We are here to express Christ in us to a broken world. Words are a powerful tool we have been given. Words can speak life, hope, and joy to a world that is full of death, decay, and despair. I’ve been studying Proverbs today and there are so many wonderful verses that discuss this very thing.
Proverbs 11:9 - “Evil words destroy one’s friends; wise discernment rescues the godly.”
Proverbs 15:1 - “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but hard words stir up anger.”
Proverbs 15:4 - “Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”
Proverbs 16:24 - “Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”
Proverbs 18:4 - “A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.”
Proverbs 18:20 - “Words satisfy the soul as food satisfies the stomach; the right words on a person’s lips bring satisfaction.”
James 3:9-12 says, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
I challenge you this week to only allow praise, life-giving and sweet-as-honey words flow from your mouth. It’s going to take self-control (this is a fruit of the Spirit for a reason!), it’s going to take stopping yourself. It’s going to take studying the Word. To reflect Jesus we need to know Him well. How would He react? What would He say? What DID He say? The best life-giving words are directly from the Bible.
The Bible also says as you do this, your own soul will receive the life-giving encouragement you are giving to others. “Your own soul is nourished when you are kind, but you destroy yourself when you are cruel.” (Proverbs 11:17).
What are ways you can speak life to your family, friends, coworkers, or church family this week? What are ways you can correct areas in your life where previously you spoke with spite, hate or anger to bring the life-giving words of the Lord to those situations?
My one-year-old son has been going through a separation anxiety phase. If I leave the room or disappear from his sight in the slightest, he’s crying and looking for me. His tearful “Mama” just breaks my heart for him every time. When his eyes are on me, all is well. What divine lessons this phase of his has been teaching me, bringing me closer to the Lord.
If only we had the kind of desperation babies have for their mothers for our Heavenly Father. If only we were that hungry for His presence. If only we realized much like my son Oliver does daily, that I was near all along and so the Lord is to us. Proverbs 18:24 says, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Dear reader, as we enter into the weekend I challenge you to step back when possible and press into His presence. He sticks closer than a brother, He is near even when we don’t realize it. Renew your desperation for Him. Your life will be greatly enriched when lived wholly in His presence.
We can easily become spiritually lukewarm in this day and age. I think there have all been times that we kept the Good News we have silent and we tiptoed around hot topics so as not to offend anyone instead of clearly and boldly teaching what the Bible says about it.
Jesus taught with authority. “And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mark 1:21-22). The scribes and other teachers of that day would quote other teachers and read the text. Jesus was different. He spoke with the authority of God Himself. He lived what He taught. He spoke at their level, applied His teachings to their every day lives.
His authority and example give us all the confidence we need to teach boldly. It’s imperative that we do. We represent Jesus to a broken world. If Jesus has not been bold, if He’d tiptoed around all of the rules, we wouldn’t be saved today. What if He’d decided not to heal someone on the Sabbath? What if He’d decided not to say anything or do anything to upset the religious leaders at the time? They wouldn’t have tried to have Him killed and we would have no hope. We must ask ourselves this then - if we tiptoe around the truth, if we keep the gospel quiet, who are we denying salvation from today because we are timid?
If you’re in need of some inspiration in being bolder, read Paul’s letters, especially those to Timothy! There are so many great truths there for teaching boldly:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:6-10).
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16)
Father, I ask forgiveness for moments I have been ashamed of the gospel, moments I have been lukewarm. I want to please you above men. I want to speak boldly and proclaim the Gospel, the Good News, to everyone I encounter. Help me to understand Your word, help me to teach and correct with love. In Jesus Name, Amen.
It’s a divided world we live in. It seems arguments are more prevalent than regular conversations in many cases. Hostility is the tone of a generation and I believe that this grieves the heart of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Matthew 5:38-40 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”
Judges in this time and culture did indeed use the code of “An eye for eye and tooth for tooth” for serious crimes that made it to trial, but the Jews at this time brought this ideology into their more trivial personal matters. It sounds familiar right? Our flesh cannot stand not having the last word, not fighting back, not getting revenge. We do these things in the name of justice, but may I remind you, dear friend, of Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Just a few verses later in Matthew 5:44-45 Jesus says, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Jesus preached a truly unconditional love. It’s so easy to say we love someone unconditionally, but that isn’t always entirely true, is it? The minute we have a falling out or a fight with a friend, the minute we enter into an argument, we don’t show love, we show hate. We show hostility and the desire for revenge. Jesus challenges us to love even when it hurts, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when it disagrees with our flesh, even when we are not loved in return. If the kind of love we are showing others stops the minute they sin or commit an offense against us, we aren’t loving with the love of God. We are loving with a cheap, earthly version of love. If God loved us with the kind of love we often give from our flesh, we would be lost.
Jesus modeled this love for us on the cross. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” A direct correlation to what Jesus says about love in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.”
We cannot evangelize with our lives, we cannot show people the love of Christ, if we are only outwardly practicing the desires of our flesh. I encourage you this week to think of these verses when you’re presented with challenges. When you’re presented with the temptation to have the last word, to trade an eye for an eye, to “get even” or get revenge, choose unconditional love. Everyone you encounter is someone that is fearfully and wonderfully made, loved unconditionally, and paid for by the blood of Jesus just like you are. We are charged by Jesus to love them, to turn the other cheek, to practice 70x7 forgiveness.
Isaiah 26:3-4: You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” (ESV).
There are going to be times in life where the road ahead is a dark one. There will be times in life where it’s time to accept the challenges and the trials. There will be times where we have to go through the fire. Maybe your fire looks like struggling family members, maybe it looks like financial stress, the death of a loved one, chronic illness, etc. Our first instinct in many of these seasons, I being the most guilty of all, will immediately be, “Why, Oh God, are You allowing this to happen?” or, “What did I do to deserve this?”
For the latter, the same question can be applied to the Lord’s blessings. What did we do to deserve those? The answer to that is - absolutely nothing. The answer to the same question when it comes to our trials and valleys? We truly deserved much worse. Romans 4:25 says, “He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.” Romans 5:8 says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (NLT). Jesus Christ bore all that we truly deserved, and although His death on the cross did not free us from the troubles of this world, it did secure our victory over them. John 16:33 says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV).
The first question: “Why, Oh God, are you allowing this to happen?” is perhaps more commonly asked, and more painfully asked by us when our spirits are weary and broken, when God seems silent and life is spinning far outside of any illusion we ever had of control. Charles F Stanley said in his book “Every Day in His Presence”: “When God calls you to a task or allows a trial, He assumes full responsibility for removing the hindrances that would keep you from succeeding. Therefore, you must respond in faith.” God does not author the trouble in our lives, but when it happens, He is there for us. He hurts with us, and He works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).
The next time you find yourself accepting a new challenge, the next time you find yourself in serious hardship, I encourage you to have faith all the more. It might not agree with what the world says, what logic says, what fear says, and those voices all seem so much louder than a still, small voice, but it will agree with what the Bible says. We can have faith in a God who has won the victory, who has overcome all the trouble we will ever experience in this world. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”
John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV).
I’ve been going through some really painful things in my personal life lately. The pain can get unbearable and I’ve asked God how will I ever be a proper evangelist if my spirit is broken and not even close to the type of joy and hope that I’m describing. How can a person believe in “Good News” when my face is so grim and my heart is so heavy?
Then I looked a lot closer, and I realized that Jesus openly wept when Lazarus died. He didn’t hide his pain, He didn’t fake it. He felt so nervous the night in His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane and He begged His disciples to stay awake and pray with Him. Jesus was vulnerable with His followers, He was vulnerable with us. He said “in this world you WILL have trouble.” (John 16:33). He didn’t sugar coat a single thing. He didn’t tell us we wouldn’t ever have pain, or that we would have to always outwardly express the joy found in Him, He simply offered us hope.
If Jesus was vulnerable, then we can be vulnerable. Sometimes I wonder if we make Christianity feel unattainable to the non-believer because of our habit of saving face, of putting on our church mask, of pretending things are going great. Vulnerability never made Jesus less powerful, influential, or wise to His disciples. It never made them doubt Him. It made Him authentic. He wept. He was tempted. He needed time away sometimes after preaching to large crowds. He felt pain, sadness, anger. And He showed it all, and in those times you always see Him finding time to slip away to pray. Take your burdens to the Lord in prayer, let Him comfort you and remind you that you don’t have to ever lose hope, but don’t hide them from your family, your friends, your congregation. It’s the best evangelism when others can see how God is with us in both the hills and valleys. Your authenticity and vulnerability will show others not a religion or an unattainable version of you that’s always happy. It will show them a relationship with the Living God, who felt all we will ever feel and has overcome it all and is here to assist us and intercede for us and loves us through every season, every day.
One of my biggest flaws is how selfish I can be if I am not consistently checking my heart. To be selfish is human nature but it’s also now encouraged by our society. There are so many little sayings I have noticed becoming the norm and being celebrated that the Bible directly contradicts. Most of them have to do with putting yourself first.
Jesus spoke on this in Mark by saying, “
And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
The apostles in the New Testament further communicated this with the early Christians. James writes, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (James 3:14-16). Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
The Kingdom of God is not an “every man for himself” kind of kingdom. It’s not dog-eat-dog, it’s not “if I don’t do this myself it’ll never get done.” The Kingdom of God is very clearly set up as a place where we all take care of each other with the fruits of the Spirit rich in our hearts because we put God and others first. I serve others and become last, and others will serve me.
1 Corinthians 10:24 says, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” Paul’s instructions for the church on this seem lost in such a self-serving and self-focused culture we live in. Dear friends, don’t let this instruction be lost. The world will paint a very convincing picture of the importance of prioritizing yourself, but the Bible paints an entirely different picture. Ask the Lord today what areas of your heart are self-serving or self-focused. Ask the Lord how you can better serve your family, your community, your church family, and anyone else you encounter. When you do this, and others do this, the church will thrive. Ask yourself today, do I have a selfish heart? Or a servant’s heart?
There are not many things that hurt our pride and flesh more than forgiveness – true forgiveness. The kind of forgiveness the Bible teaches us is not a simple, “it’s okay” after someone apologizes. It’s a deep matter of our hearts.
When my husband and I were taking our premarital counseling courses (which I highly recommend for every couple intending on marrying!) the pastor let us in on a rule that he and his wife had that had at that point translated down through their children as well. Whenever someone wronged a person and apologized, they would not say, “it’s okay”, they would make sure to say, “I forgive you.” The difference there is crucial. Saying “it’s okay” can imply that the wrong they caused you is no longer an issue. It can imply indifference. It can be said but not meant sincerely. I forgive you is a response of the heart. It is inherently Christ-like to forgive.
We are created in the image of a forgiving God. Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the easy is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (NIV). Isaiah 43:25 says, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Micah 7:18-19 says, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” Jeremiah 31:34 says, “I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.”
CS Lewis once said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” Forgiveness is a matter of our hearts more than it is even absolution for the recipient. There is no room in our hearts for both Christ and His love and for harbored anger, resentment, and spite. When we forgive, we are in agreeance with Jesus’ heart for us, with what He already accomplished on the cross, and with his unconditional and lasting love. Jesus spoke about forgiveness in Matthew chapter 18. “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”
Rabbi Jason Strobel wrote on this passage, “Peter thought he was being very spiritual by being willing to forgive someone up to seven times. So Jesus’ response – commanding him to forgive someone up to 490 times – must have been quite a shock! Everything Jesus did and said was very purposeful. He never wasted a word. So the number of times He instructs us to forgive must have some deeper significance. But what is it? As we have already discussed, every word in Hebrew has a numerical value, and these values frequently communicate deeper spiritual insights. That is certainly the case here. The number 490 is the numerical value of the biblical Hebrew word tamim, which means, “complete”, “perfect”, or “finished”. A person who can’tforgive will always live an imperfect and incomplete life that lacks a true understanding of the “finished” gracious work of the cross. The number 490 is also the value of the Hebrew phrase “Let your heart be perfect” (1 Kings 8:61). Forgiving helps make us complete, and it is key to perfecting our hearts before the Lord. But there are some even deeper connections. In Hebrew the word for “my nativity” (moladati) and Bethlehem (Beit Lechem) – the city where Messiah was born, which means “House of Bread” – each individually adds up to 490. This makes perfect sense, since Jesus was born so that we might be forgiven. And forgiveness is associated with bread in the Lord’s Prayer, which says: “Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:11-12 TLV). Just like a person can’t live without their daily bread, an individual can’t survive without forgiveness. The psalmist wrote, “If You, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3). We need to learn to forgive and to be forgiven. How do we celebrate the forgiveness Messiah has brought us? By partaking of the broken bread of the Lord’s Supper, concerning which Jesus said, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Jesus, who is the Bread of Life, was born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread, so that we might both experience forgiveness and extend the bread of forgiveness to others. When we fail to forgive, its like we are spiritually withholding food from a starving person! Forgiveness is not an elective; it is a requirement for followers of Jesus. We must forgive because we have been forgiven by the Lord. Extending forgiveness should not even be dependent on receiving an apology, as Paul wrote: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). For this reason, forgiveness is one of the greatest acts of faith and a true sign of faithfulness to the Lord. We must forgive because we have been forgiven. The practical benefit of forgiveness is that it frees us as well as the other person. Unforgiveness keeps you imprisoned and chained to your past, but forgiving is a key that sets you free. Don’t delay! Ask yourself as well as the Lord, “Whom do I need to forgive today?” Do you need to forgive yourself, a friend, or a family member? May the Lord give you the faith and grace right now to forgive in Jesus name.” (Excerpt from The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi by Kathie Lee Gifford with Rabbi Jason Strobel).
I have never been comfortable with change. I’m not very adaptable. Just when I get situated, just when I feel the ever-desired illusion of permanence, life has a funny way of pulling the rug out from under me. But the only way to the fold of a steadfast and unchanging God is to change everything, to drop everything to follow Him, to step out of our comfort zone to enter into the only real comfort - The Great Comforter.
The world is a completely different place than it was a year ago. Drastic changes have a way of making our hearts troubled. When this happens, it’s a good reminder to step back and ask myself who or what my source of peace is. Am I feeling worried, anxious, unsettled, afraid? Generally that means I’m placing my faith in myself, in things here on earth, in other people. While I'm not immune to these feelings, if my source of peace is the Lord, I'm able to deny their hold on my heart. I am able to have true hope regardless of the prognosis of my circumstances. I’m able to remind myself that God has a plan and all things are possible. I’m able to cast my cares on Him and take up His yoke and burden because when mine are so heavy with the weights of this world, His are easy and light.
If you’re needing that reminder today, if you’re needing to make Him the source of your peace once again, here are some passages that I pray will bring comfort to you. The Bible is full of details and beautiful characteristics about the Lord our God, and one of the main characteristics both the Old and New Testaments focus on is his steadfastness and faithfulness. So many people in the Bible needed this constant reminder when life seemed uncertain, and we do too.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. -Hebrews 13:8
So that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. -Hebrews 6:18
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. -James 1:17
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? -Numbers 23:19
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. -Isaiah 40:8
Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. -Psalm 102:25-27
If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. -2 Timothy 2:13
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. -Isaiah 40:28
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, -Deuteronomy 7:9
There was a time I prayed for four years for something. Life got even harder as I prayed. The odds stacked up against me and I never thought that what I prayed for would ever come to fruition. I went through periods of intrepid hope, deep despair, and overwhelming desperation. I would cry so hard I’d silently scream. I asked God why. I was angry. I was hurt. But it hurts to be shaped, molded. It hurts to shed the skin of your former self and become who you were destined to be. It hurts to die to self. It hurts to give up control. It hurts our flesh, and it should and it needs to. God taught me more about prayer and a relationship with Him through this season and I’m so grateful. I am just as grateful for the shaping and the waiting period as I am for the answer that did eventually come.
I learned to pray. I studied the Lord’s Prayer hard, and although it hurt my flesh, I prayed every day that God’s will be done, and not my own. I learned to be in constant conversation with the Lord. Every year on my birthday I make a list of lessons I learned and goals I’ve set for the next year. I do this to make sure I’m stewarding this wonderful gift of life well and to check my heart because although I’ve grown in age and wisdom, I still have much to learn and far to go on my journey. I remember one of the things on my list being: “learn to be in constant conversation with the Lord.” I wanted to be aware of His constant nearness, I wanted to be in tune with His heart, and I wanted to learn to listen. I wanted my prayers and my relationship with Him to stop being a monologue and start being a dialogue.
In the waiting He was doing something even more valuable and precious than I thought the thing I was praying for was - a strengthened relationship with Him. A crucial way to strengthening your relationship with and faith in the Lord is to listen. You can’t know someone truly until you listen to them. We can’t know the Lord’s heart fully unless we listen to Him through His word.
Sometimes we can fall into a dangerous habit of treating God like a genie - we make our requests known, but we don’t seek His heart to find His plan for us. We don’t listen. If my walk with the Lord doesn’t feel like it’s satisfying my soul, I have to step back and ask myself if I’ve allowed it to become a monologue. Am I spending time in His presence? Am I making reading His word a priority? Am I seeking out His will over my wants?
Psalm 27:4 says, “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in His temple.” Other versions interpret the last line as, “to meditate in His temple” or “to study at His feet”. I cannot stress enough the importance of studying the word of God. I cannot stress enough how much learning His heart and His character and “gazing on the beauty of the Lord” is not just a joy to discover, but also shows us how deeply we are loved and we have no other choice but to fall more deeply in love with Him. When I seek Him first, the desperation for things in this life is replaced with peace and trust in His wisdom and provision and plan for my life.
The desires of our hearts are so important to the heart of the Father. Jesus says in Matthew: “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11 NIV). But please don’t seek your desires harder and more passionately than you seek Him yourself. David puts it perfectly in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”