The Power of Words #12 May 22, 2018

With the same tongue, we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men…Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  James 3:9-10

Worship is one of the greatest privileges and responsibilities of the disciple.  It honors our beloved Lord and looses blessing into our own lives.  Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, you may remember, that ‘the Father seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and truth.’  John 4:23

I dare say that our worship on earth, at its best, is less than perfect for perfect worship will be our joy once we are in the presence of God in heaven.  Eternally gracious as He is, God accepts even our imperfect worship.  However, for the heart that loves God with passion and devotion, there are guidelines for making our worship as honorable to the Lord as possible.

In the verse quoted above, James directs our attention to an important consideration.  With the same tongue that we spit out sarcastic or hurtful words to someone, we then turn and ‘worship’ God.  Considering everything we have pondered in the past eleven lessons, this one may well be the most important of all.

In writing of praising God and cursing men with the same tongue, James by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, calls us to sit up and take notice.

1. Do we bless the Lord in the morning in our private prayer time and with the same tongue criticize and judge others throughout the day?

2. Do we sing praises to God in our fellowships while holding a grudge towards another?

3. Do we glance at our watches while singing the praises of the Lord, wishing it would end?

4. Do we meet with the Lord in our quiet place with no shame or remorse over the gossip we spread yesterday?

5. Do we express our love for God while outside of church or our place of prayer we easily slip into making critical and judgmental remarks about our fellow disciples?

6. Do we listen to the Pastor’s sermon and apply it to everyone but ourselves?

7. Do we faithfully attend church yet routinely speak critically of the pastor?

8. Do we enter into praise and worship with anger in our hearts towards another so that our lips sing the words but our minds are on revenge or self- defense?

9. Do we thank the Lord for the power of the Blood of Jesus in washing away our guilt while we easily send others on guilt trips?

10. Do we sing our praises while being jealous of the person singing next to you or in the seat in front of you?

James says very simply: ‘this should not be.’  James 3:10

Not only is our worship imperfect in situations such as I have described, but additionally, we grieve the Holy Spirit.  ‘Do not grieve the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.’ (Ephesians 4:30)

Before Jesus ascended, He promised that the Holy Spirit would be given to us as our Helper and our Teacher. He would abide with us to remind us of all the Jesus said and He would ‘show us things to come.’ The word ‘grieve’ in Ephesians 4:30 literally means ‘to get your feelings hurt.’  There is a reason why the Holy Spirit is often portrayed as a dove.  The dove is a very shy bird that cannot bear tension and dissension.  It will fly away quickly. When we grieve the Holy Spirit – which means when we are acting and speaking in ways that do NOT reflect the presence of Jesus within us – we grieve Him and the result is that we are left to ourselves, usually irritable, confused and less than pleasant to be around.  Entering into conversations that Jesus would never enter into grieve the Holy Spirit.

James asks: ‘Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?’ James 3:11.  Every born again child of God has a well, a spring within their spirit.  That well is the Holy Spirit and that which flows from Him is described in Galatians 5 as love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, etc.  Grieving the Holy Spirit most often happens when we open our mouths and what comes out bears no resemblance to Galatians 5: 22-23.

It is offensive to the Lord – and it should be to us as well – to worship and praise Him, sit under anointed teaching of the Word and enjoy the fellowship of those with like precious faith and than allow words to roll off our tongues that reveal bitterness, anger, jealousy and selfishness.

‘Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you know how to answer everyone.’  Colossians 4:6

‘Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.’  I Peter 3:9

Here’s a simple guideline to help us improve in controlling our tongues?  Ask your self these four questions before you speak.

N – Is it necessary?

E – Is it liberating? Will it free or bind the listener?

E – Is it inspiring and edifiying?

D – Is it dignifying to the listener?  Does it affirm them as a child of God?

Do I N-E-E-D to say this?  If it doesn’t meet the criterion, let’s zip our lips.

This series on the Power of Words comes to a close today with this final post on the subject.  I pray that it has been an exhortation and encouragement to all of us to grow in the area of tongue control so that when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, He will be able to say to us ‘Well done, My good and faithful servant.’

‘Think on these things.’  Philippians 4:8b

The Power of Words # 11 May 15, 2018

This week I want us to look at one verse and in particular one word.

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

We’ve already learned that our words mirror the state of our heart.  As we listen to what we say, we get a glimpse of what our heart is really like – and sometimes we cringe at our own words, don’t we?

The verse quoted above says that the tongue is ‘full of deadly poison’.  James is speaking about an undisciplined tongue that spews harsh, angry, sarcastic, hurtful and profane words without compunction.   He’s talking about his own tongue, Peter’s tongue, Daniel’s tongue, Isaiah’s tongue, Abraham’s tongue, King David’s tongue…and your tongue and my tongue.

So let’s talk about that word ‘poison’.

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Poison destroys. In order to injure, cripple or paralyze members of the Body of Christ, the enemy of our souls appeals to our fallen nature to speak words that our full of deadly poison; i.e. to say things that make other people look bad and feel bad.  That’s the currency he trades in – words that kill.  Didn’t the Lord say ‘The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy…’ John 10:10?

The old saying, ‘Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me’ is utterly false!  Words can do far more damage to the human soul than physical violence.

Because the Word of God tells us that the tongue is ‘full of deadly poison’, it follows that the degree to which we say unkind, hurtful and negative things to and about other people is the degree to which we have an undisciplined and un-Christlike tongue.

Speaking without thinking is tantamount to swallowing deadly poison, writes R.T. Kendall. It is almost like committing spiritual suicide.

So, how do we poison others? When we speak harshly, sarcastically, profanely, unkindly to other people it is tantamount to giving them poison to ingest.  Poison can make you deathly ill, or kill you.  There are too many people walking around today deeply wounded inside from the ‘blows’ of another person’s tongue.  They may look alive on the outside but their emotional person inside is bleeding and perhaps dying slowly because of verbal abuse.

It really doesn’t matter whether the person you’re speaking to is old or young, saved or lost, red, yellow, black or white, each person is made in the image and likeness of God.  Mark Twain once wrote: ‘Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.’

Never assume that people are unmoved or untouched by what you say.  They may cover it up but your negative or harsh words leave an internal scar. People who appear to take everything in stride and therefore we think they’re thick-skinned are often the most sensitive of all.  Even Jesus was affected by what people said.  The only difference between Him and us is that He was able to handle it without sinning.

Secondly, it’s not just what we say to people but what we say about them behind their back that emits a poison.  Gossip and slander poison the attitude of others towards the person you’re talking about and it poisons your own soul because gossip and slander are sins.  And here’s something else to remember: Don’t assume that what you say about someone will never get back to them.  More often than not, it does and that never ends well.

What about those ugly or unpleasant things that people say to you?  You have a choice.  Will you drink the poison? In other words, will you take it to heart and get angry, resentful, bitter?  Or fall into the trap of shame, guilt and self-condemnation?

Or will you make the godly choice to forgive quickly lest the poison make you spiritually ill?  You may say, “I forgive but I can’t forget what they said.”  That’s understandable but not an excuse for holding a grudge or staying angry.  The anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.  James 1:20

So what do you do if you find it difficult to forget what was said? Maintain a forgiving spirit, remembering the forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling.  When the thoughts try to get you down, put on some praise and worship music, get busy with a worthwhile activity or find something to distract you from the devil’s attempt to chain you to anger or depression.

The whole purpose of James’ letter to the early disciples – and to us – is to change lives, to help us in practical ways as we seek to become more like Christ in our thoughts, words and deeds.

Application:

We react with horror when we hear that someone committed suicide by drinking poison or murdered someone else by poisoning their food.  As tragic as those situations are, there is something more tragic that affects all of us.  A holy fear and awe of the LORD calls us to be utterly serious in disciplining our tongues that words of life, peace and encouragement would be the currency in our relationships with others.

‘The words that I speak to you are spirit and life,’ said Jesus in John 6:63

 

The Power of Words #10 May 8, 2018

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.  James 3:5-6

Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Proverbs 18:21

It’s hard to imagine how we would live without our tongues. We use them to speak, to feel, to taste, even to express emotions at times.  I think of Zechariah in Luke 1 who lost his power of speech for several months.  How hard that must have been!

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Our tongues are instruments for tremendous good.  With our tongue we praise the Lord and sing to His glory.  The psalms are full of verses that allude to this privilege.  With the same tongue, we can share our testimony and draw others to the Lord. The tongue is the instrument by which we teach our children and build lasting friendships through honest and open conversations.  And it will be with our tongues one day that we will proclaim the name and glory of our Savior throughout the universe for Paul wrote in Philippians: ‘every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.’

All of that said, in the course of my studying to present this series, I was shocked to discover that the word ‘tongue’ is used in the Bible one hundred and thirty times.  What was even more shocking was that a great majority of those times, it is in the context of a negative or potentially damaging situation. I had to really look to find verses that used the word ‘tongue’ in a positive light!

Look at these examples:

Trouble and evil are under his tongue.  Psalm 10:7

Keep your tongue from evil.   Psalm 34:13

Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor.  Psalm 52:2

I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin.  Psalm 39:1

Dear friends, the potential for good is unlimited: ‘A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.’ Proverbs 25:11

Gentle words can end arguments and resolve strife.

Kind words can lift a downcast spirit.

Prayerful words touch the heart of God.

Yet James warns us that ‘no man can tame the tongue.’(vs. 8)

What then do we do??

Control of our tongues cannot be achieved by an gift or talent we may have. It is not a matter of education or the level of our intelligence. James offers us no promise that if we meet a certain condition, God will swoop in and fix our tongue!

What James – and the other epistles teach us – is that God expects us to take responsibility for our tongues.  His enabling grace is always there, ready to empower us but you and I have to make a FIRM decision that we want to clean up our manner of speaking.

WE have to decide that we want our words to reflect the Lord that we love.

WE have to ask the Holy Spirit to impart His grace and when we fail, to convict us QUICKLY!

It boils down to this: How much do you want to be like Jesus?  How much do you want to delight His heart? How much do you want Him to look upon you and smile?

If we are able to discipline ourselves to curtail our eating in order to lose weight, then we can surely discipline ourselves to bring our speech under the control of the Holy Spirit.

Application:

A favorite morning prayer of mine is this one: Holy Spirit, please keep me on a very short leash today. Hold me close and if I even begin to think of something to say or do that does not reflect the Lord Jesus, yank my chain and do it quickly!

It may not be the most sophisticated prayer, but I promise you, it works.

He will do it if you ask Him.

 

The Power of Words #9 May 1, 2018

Sooner or later it had to get to this – that uncomfortable topic of Self-Control.

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The Bible describes it as a “fruit of the Spirit” though we prefer to dwell on other traits in that list, such as joy, peace, etc.  But surely one of the distinguishing characteristics of one who loves God and desires to follow Him is the evidence that we are no longer enslaved to sinful or inappropriate habits; i.e., we have developed self-control.

James writes: If anyone can control his tongue, it proves that he has perfect control over himself in every other way.  Jam. 3:2 TLB  If we read this verse carefully it’s pretty powerful.

Are we prone to excessive eating?  Excessive sleeping? Addicted to certain TV programs that we can’t bear to miss?  Driven to check Facebook before prayer in the morning and every fifteen minutes thereafter?  Enslaved – yes, enslaved – to our cell phones?

The Bible says: If anyone [that means you…and me] can control his tongue, it proves that he has perfect control over himself in EVERY OTHER way!

That’s a pretty daunting statement! The evidence that you and I possess self-control is determined by how we speak.  Whoa!

Look at how the Passion Translation renders this verse: If we’re able to bridle the words we say, we are powerful enough to control ourselves in every way and that means our character is mature and fully developed.  Jam. 3:2 TPT

The Scripture is challenging us to overcome unguarded, impulsive and offensive language and comments.

Strength of character is refusing to say what you know in your heart will make things worse or offend those around you.

Strength of character is restraining ourselves from speaking in ways that can damage not only those around us, but also our own testimony of belonging to Christ.

Strength of character is refusing to say what the devil wants you to say and instead speaking what the Lord would say if he were right there in your place.  As a matter of fact, He is!  If you are born again, He lives within you by His Spirit.  One of the best deterrents to ungodly or coarse language is remembering Who lives inside of you. Would He speak like that?  And, if you could see Him with your naked eye, would you say ‘that’ in His presence?  I doubt it!  Then just don’t say it!

How we speak reveals the condition of our hearts. ‘Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.’ Matthew 12:35 NKJV  So if we really want to know what’s in our heart, we need to listen to how we talk.  Do it for a day and we’ll find lots of reason to repent.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between temptation and sin.  It is not a sin to have the thought of saying something nasty or vulgar.  That’s precisely where the self-control comes into play.  It’s when the thought of doing so comes out our mouths in words that do not reflect the indwelling Christ that we sin….and prove that we have yet to gain self-control.  At that point the only reasonable reaction is to repent, ask forgiveness and pray that the Holy Spirit will convict you quickly so you avoid making that mistake again.

If ungodly speaking is a habit, we need to take these scriptures very seriously and pray for the Lord’s help to break the habit of unkind, sarcastic, hurtful or inappropriate speaking.  Are we willing to make that commitment and see it through to victory?

Application:

The Father’s call on every one of us is that we be conformed into the image and likeness of His dear Son, the Lord Jesus.  A great proof that we are progressing in that pursuit is displayed in how we speak; what kind of words we use and our tone of voice.  The ‘perfect’ man or woman is the one who can ‘bridle’ his tongue and thereby ‘bridle’ his entire personality so that the light of Christ can be spread abroad through each of us.

I do believe that praying in the Spirit is a great help towards our goal of controlling our tongues.  I encourage you to make it a regular practice.

This is a journey we’ll be on for the rest of our lives but every day counts.  So let’s get on with it, shall we?  Today…let’s watch our words.  Today – it’s all we have right now – so today…let’s watch our tongues.  One day at a time.

 

 

The Power of Words #8 April 24, 2018

This week let’s look at a concept that perhaps some of us may not have thought of with reference to our words.

In the book of James, the apostle writes: Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, before you who that we who teach will be judged more strictly.  James. 3:1

It is easy to dismiss this verse as applicable only to Pastors or Bible teachers and if you are neither one, you may breathe a sigh of relief.

Not so fast!

First of all, notice that James makes no reference to ‘words’ in the verse.  Of course, pastors and teachers do a great deal of teaching with words but the broader meaning of this verse includes not only our words but our behavior.  You’re familiar, I’m sure, with the concept that children learn more by observing their parents’ behavior than by listening to their words.

TasteWords

There is a notable difference between a ‘believer’ and a ‘disciple’.  The word ‘disciple’ means ‘one who is a follower, one who is ‘under discipline of a teacher.’  The devils believe and they tremble, the Word says.  Jesus never commanded that we should make ‘believers’ but ‘Go, make disciples…’

It follows then that if you are a devoted follower of the Lord, eager to do His will and obey His word, you are a disciple, which carries with it the responsibility to represent the Lord in everything you do and say.  The truth is we are ‘teaching’ all the time, whether we realize it or not.  They way you and I live our daily lives is a constant journey of ‘teaching’ to those around us – good or bad.

Once you have accepted the call to be a disciple of the Lord, like it or not, people will perceive you differently and they will expect better behavior, particularly in your manner of speech. If you used coarse or harsh language before you gave your life to the Lord, those around you will expect your language to change.  By refusing to use inappropriate words, you are “teaching” those around you that you have changed and you invite them by your behavior to do the same.

Not only will those around you expect to see a higher standard, but so does the Lord.  Our highest calling – and this applies to every single disciple of the Lord – is to be conformed into His image and likeness.  This should be our most fervent prayer for ourselves and our most demanding goal – to consistently change how we think, speak and act so that we become more like Jesus every day.

A lofty goal, you ask? Yes, it is, but God never calls us to do something without giving us the grace to accomplish it.  There IS grace for you on a daily basis to make the choices that will change you into a ‘little Christ’.  That in fact is the meaning of the word ‘Christian’.  You are a ‘little Christ.’

So… are you?  Are you more like Him today than you were yesterday? Is your manner of speaking improving? Are you even aware of how important your manner of speech is to your testimony for Christ?  To go to church on Sunday and use nasty, sarcastic or impatient words on Monday with your spouse, your children or your co-workers is a contradiction.

James goes on to say that ‘If anyone can control his tongue, it proves he has perfect control over himself in every other way.’ (TLB)  That’s a pretty big statement and yanks our chain, doesn’t it? James makes clear how vitally important it is to control our speech for it affects our entire life and the lives of those around us.

Application:

Every disciple of the Lord – that’s every person who is born again – is called to Christ-likeness in order to inspire others to want to know the Lord.

Therefore every disciple of the Lord is automatically a “teacher” by word and deed.

Disciplining our tongue is a lifelong commitment which the Lord expects and for which we will be responsible when we stand before Him.

Therefore let us resolve, for our own sake, and for the sake of those we know and love, to exercise control over our tongues that God may be glorified and we may be changed into the likeness of His dear Son.

 

 

The Power of Words #7 April 17, 2018

Do you know that God does not want you to beat yourself up because you’re not perfect?  The greatest of biblical heroes had their flaws, including successes and failures with regard to controlling their tongues.

We read in the book of James: 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.  James 3:2  Notice the word ‘all’. All means all – that includes you and me. It is clear from his letter that  even he struggled to maintain control of his tongue.  This should give us a measure of comfort – not excuse, but comfort in realizing that everyone faces this challenge.  You are not alone in the effort to control your tongue and neither am I.

The word for ‘stumble’ comes from a Greek word which means ‘to slip, to sin or to fall’.  Sinning with the tongue is a major theme in the letter of James and it is a serious issue.  Lest we rationalize or dismiss our failures with the tongue, we must understand that we grieve the Holy Spirit with coarse, judgmental or sarcastic language, causing damage to our own soul and often to others as well.

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Therefore the scripture gives us a mandate to deal decisively with our power of speech.

In the first of the psalms called the Psalms of Ascent, we read these words:

Save me O Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.  What will he do to you, and what more besides, O deceitful tongue?  Psalm 120:2-3

The psalms of ascent, Psalms 120-134, were sung by the Israelites who made pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year in the days of the Temple. As they approached Jerusalem, they would begin to sing these psalms.  No matter where in Israel they came from, they always ‘went up’ to Jerusalem for this awesome city is nearly three thousand feet above sea level.

The children of Israel were assembling to worship the Lord and observe His festival.  They knew that purity of heart, sincerity of intention and a repentant spirit was vital to the worship they would give to the Holy One of Israel and indeed, necessary to sanctify their act of obedience in traveling to Jerusalem.  To come simply as an annual ritual with no heart intent was indeed a waste of time!  And so, the psalms of Ascent were all about God getting their attention and calling them to a closer relationship with Himself.

The first verse of this psalm says, ‘I call on the Lord in my distress and He answers me.’ Psalm 120:1  Reflecting on their heart attitude and repenting as needed, was the first order of business as they approached Jerusalem.  Sin causes stress – or distress –  whether or not we realize it.  This first of the Psalms of Ascent brought that truth to their consciousness.

What does God have to do to get your attention?

Sometimes He does so through what other people say to us or about us.  Criticism can be painful, even if it is true.  At times we may be lied about or lied to.  That also hurts and our reaction is a measure of our spiritual maturity.

What is a lie anyway? I like this definition from RT Kendall: A lie is the postponement of the truth which will eventually come out.

So if you’re lied about or lied to, relax. Bite your tongue.  Give it to the Lord.  He WILL take care of it in His time and in His way.  See it as a great opportunity to strengthen your character.  Who you are under fire is who you really are.  And there is nothing quite so intense as being under fire for something you didn’t do or say! ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.’  Romans 12:19  Let Him do it – He does it so much better than we ever could.

‘Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.’  Psalm 141:3

Application:

One of the best scriptures to pray each morning is the one above: Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.

Have you ever been around someone who reeks of garlic?  It can be pretty overpowering, even nasty, making it unpleasant to be around the person.

A friend of mine said once, ‘When your tempted to snap back at an insult or criticism, especially if its unwarranted, think GARLIC!’  What comes out of your mouth in an impulsive and/or angry retort is as nasty as the overwhelming ‘garlic breath’ of someone else.

Words have power either for good or for evil. Let us learn to discipline our tongues so that all our words will be words of life.

The Power of Words #6 April 10, 2018

Today we’re going to look at a powerful way to learn tongue control: forgiveness.  Learning to forgive – quickly – those who offend us or hurt us has a profound effect on our ability to control our tongues in other situations as well.

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Developing a forgiving spirit towards others does several things: 1) it makes you more godly for you are imitating our gracious God whose mercies are new every morning; 2) it helps you grow in the virtues of patience and self-control; 3) it protects you from having to eat your words later; 4) it produces humility which is precious in God’s sight.  How so? It takes a measure of humility to forgive for only the proud and arrogant refuse to forgive others. We have a stern warning about that in the scriptures. ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others.’ 

Joseph, son of Jacob, is a superb example.  I suppose there were many times during his years of separation from his father and his brothers when he was tempted to be resentful, angry and frustrated.  I say ‘tempted’ because there is no evidence that he was a sullen and irritable servant in the house of Potiphar, nor in the prison of the Pharaoh.

When the reunion with his brothers finally happened – some seventeen years later – Joseph’s manner of forgiveness challenges all of us.

When he was about to reveal himself to his brothers, he made everyone leave the room lest any of the Egyptians find out how his brothers had betrayed him.  He protected their reputation!  Godly forgiveness doesn’t broadcast what ‘those people’ have done to you.

Godly forgiveness does not make the offender afraid of you. Joseph said to his brothers: ‘Come, close to me,’  when he saw they were terrified.  (Gen. 37:3-4)

Godly forgiveness lets the offender save face.  Joseph told his brothers: ‘It was not you who sent me here, but God, that many lives might be saved.’  (Gen. 37:9-11)

Godly forgiveness lasts.  Some seventeen years later, Jacob died and the brothers feared that Joseph might then take his revenge.  Apparently they hadn’t really learned who their brother was because their fear betrays their own character, not Joseph’s!  When Joseph learned of their concern, he demonstrated that his forgiveness of them had been a life sentence. (Gen. 50:15-21)  They were still forgiven and would be for the rest of his and their lives.

How did the brothers know Joseph had forgiven them? His words clearly demonstrated that he had no bitterness, no grudge, no lingering anger against them.  It was his words that demonstrated the forgiveness in his heart. 

He certainly had opportunity to say all kinds of other things!  He didn’t. He chose the way of the Lord, the way of forgiveness, and SPOKE it in a genuine and gracious way.

The Word of God teaches us not only to forgive those who, though family or friends, may nevertheless offend us or hurt our feelings.  We are told to forgive our enemies as well.  Knowing that, some of us – in desiring to do right – will say, ‘Lord I just commit them to You.’  That’s good; certainly better than being angry and vengeful. But it’s not quite up to the standard the scripture establishes.

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  Luke 6:35

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5:44

We are in fact commanded to PRAY for our enemies, that God might bless them and help them. We are in fact commanded to ‘DO GOOD and LEND, expecting nothing in return…’ Wow! How many of us really do that?

News flash!  Following the ways of the LORD is not a piece of cake!  It’s not an invitation to an easy, self-centered life and if anyone told you it is, they were not preaching the truth of God’s Word to you!

From the very beginning of Genesis we learned that God made man in His image and His likeness.  Therefore, God’s idea from the very beginning was that you and I would be like Him.  So what is He like?

Gracious, Compassionate, Forgiving, Merciful, Patient, Kind and on and on. If He asks us to forgive our brother anytime we are offended, how much more does HE forgive us when we offend or disappoint Him? He forgives continually and without regret.

One final thought: it doesn’t take too much grace to forgive when people are sorry for what they did or said.  Forgiving them in that instance doesn’t give evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit at work in you.  But when you and I forgive BEFORE there is any evidence that the offender is sorry, THAT, my friends, demonstrates godly character for it is God Himself who created Redemption before the world was ever created!

Application:

It is OUR WORDS that give evidence if we are bitter or merciful.

And don’t excuse yourself by saying, ‘Well I might as well say what I think.’  My friend, if what you want to say does not reflect the character and nature of your Savior God, button your lip! It is our tongues that get us in trouble; that tongue which was given us that we might praise God and bless others. Let’s train it to fulfill its purpose.

 

The Power of Words #5 April 3, 2018

This far we’ve looked at the topic of controlling our tongues from various angles. This week let’s talk about how we use – or misuse – our power of speech when we are in the midst of a trial or difficulty.

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Abraham, the father of our faith, stands out immediately as a profound example. Having waited for decades to see God’s promise of a son granted to him, we read in Genesis 22 that God called upon him to sacrifice that very son.  I cannot imagine a greater trial than that, can you?

Abraham not only obeyed the voice of God, but he handled the trial with amazing dignity and integrity. First of all, we do not see any evidence that he railed against God.  Quite the opposite: he rose ‘early in the morning’, took two servants and his son and did not tell any of them where they were going and why. He quietly went about obeying the Lord in silence.

When Isaac asked his father, ‘Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’, Abraham could have lost it right there! But he didn’t.  He simply said, ‘God himself will provide the lamb…’  We hear no self-pity or resentment like ‘How could God do this to me?’ or This doesn’t make any sense.’  He wasn’t sulking or wallowing in self-pity. He dignified the trial with words of faith.

You and I know that God intervened at the last minute and then Abraham had one of the most profound experiences a human being can have: God swore an oath to him.  I swear by Myself, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.’

Every person of faith, Jew or Gentile, is a child of Abraham for it was by his faith that he was justified before God, generations before the Torah was given to Israel through Moses.

Speaking words of faith in the midst of a trial or difficult situation is a promised route to greater intimacy with the Lord and a greater anointing on one’s life.

I also think of Eli, the high priest at the time that the prophet Samuel was born.  When Samuel was just a child, God called to him and he ran to Eli, thinking the priest had called his name.  When it happened the third time, Eli realized that God was speaking to the boy and instructed him to say, ‘Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.’ (I Sam. 3:9)

When the Lord called to Samuel yet again, He delivered a word of judgment against the very priest who was raising Samuel!  ‘And the Lord said to Samuel: See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle…I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family…for I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible and he failed to restrain them.’

It had to have been terrifying to a young boy to hear such stern words.  How was this child to pass on the word of the Lord to his respected teacher? But when Eli asked him to repeat what the Lord had told him, Samuel did, exactly as he had heard it.

That became a pivotal moment for Eli.  How would he react? Would he become angry and vent his anger at the boy prophet?

His verbal response demonstrates that though he was at fault as a father, there was nevertheless, a profound respect for the Lord within the old priest.  He said: ‘He is the Lord; let Him do what is good in His eyes.” (vs. 18)  His sons died shortly thereafter in battle.

To accept a rebuke from God without complaining or rebelling against it is remarkable. Eli accepted the word of the Lord and made no attempt to excuse himself or rationalize his failure.  Secondly, Eli submitted to God’s judgment with humility.  He owned his own failures and yielded to God’s discipline without complaint.

Speaking words of faith in the midst of God’s rebuke is a promised route to greater intimacy with the Lord and a greater anointing on one’s life.

One last example: Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, was told that a large army from Edom was coming against him.  Alarmed, as any national leader would be, he turned to the Lord for wisdom and guidance, calling all of Judah to fast with him.  The word of the Lord came to the king in response to the prayer and fasting: ‘You will not have to fight this battle…do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow and the Lord will be with you.’ 2 Chron. 20:17

The king took the prophetic word seriously and addressed his people. ‘Listen to me, Judah, and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.’

So far, so good, but what he did next was remarkable. He appointed a company of men to go out at the front of the army, singing praises to the Lord, giving thanks to Him for the victory before a single arrow flew through the air.

And what did God do? He ambushed the enemy and Judah overcame them.

Speaking words of praise in faith in the midst of a trial expresses a level of faith that delights the heart of God and brings victory every single time.

Application:

Whatever the trial, temptation or difficulty may be, the outcome has a great deal to do with our words in the midst of it.  These are but three of many examples in the Scriptures which serve to inspire us to trust and confidence in the very heat of a battle.

Like Shadrach, Mesach and Abednego in the furnace, we, too, can be absolutely certain that a ‘fourth Man’ is in the fire with us – always!

The Power of Words #4 March 27, 2018

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  Psalm 23:5

This week let’s talk about the power of words in relationships.  We know that the greatest commandment is to love the LORD our God with all our heart, soul and resources.  And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.

But what if your ‘neighbor’ is your ‘enemy’?  When we read in Matthew 5: ‘Love your enemies,’ the Lord assumes we will have some!

I’m using the word ‘enemy’ loosely; for example, a neighbor who is consistently annoying, a co-worker who appears to be jealous of you, someone who’s just a plain nuisance in your life.  It could even be a family member who is difficult to get along with.  Take the case of an argument between a husband and wife.  Temporarily you may consider your spouse the ‘enemy’. How we respond verbally in such situations is critical to the long term health of the marriage. In other words, anyone who rubs you the wrong way and tries your patience can be temporarily viewed as your ‘enemy’.

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Controlling our tongues with people like these is quite a test.  It is also great practice for tongue control in other areas of our lives.

Consider David. In I Samuel 18:14 we read that David succeeded in all he did for the Lord was with him. This verse follows soon after the young David had killed Goliath, an event in his life which created a relationship with him and King Saul.  We could say that killing Goliath was great for Israel but it also caused untold problems for David in the days afterward.  The anointing on David threatened Saul and when the maidens of Israel sang “Saul has slain his thousands and David his tens of thousands,” Saul’s jealousy took over.  In the ensuing years, King Saul spent more energy, time and resources hunting David down to kill him, than he did fighting the enemies of Israel.

Over the next twenty years, David had to learn the wisdom of self-discipline in his words. It was one of the most important lessons in his preparation to become king.

David knew Saul hated him; it was apparent. And in those years while he waited to ascend the throne of Israel, he learned the godly skills needed when someone is out to get you.  It would serve him well as king later.

David had two opportunities to kill the king who was pursuing him relentlessly.  Both times he turned down the opportunity because David understood that his future was in the Lord’s hands and so was Saul’s.  Therefore, in his integrity he said: “The Lord Himself will strike him; or either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish.  But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed.”  I Sam 26:10-11

Having an ‘enemy’ is not the worst thing in the world to happen to us.  Actually it’s good for us.  Our ‘enemy’ is in fact a gift, an opportunity for you and I to learn the kind of wisdom and forgiveness that only God can teach us; and an opportunity to do as the Lord taught us: “Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” Matthew 11:29

How we behave towards our ‘enemy’, especially with our words, is important to the development of godly character within us, AND it is equally important with relation to the example we set before others.

When we are put in a position to need to respond to an uncomfortable or confrontational situation, the Spirit of the Lord is well able – and willing – to give us the exact words we need IF we will let Him be in control of our tongues.  In fact Proverbs 16:1 says in part, ‘…from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue.’

A few years ago I was reading through a few of the psalms one morning and I was startled when I got to Psalm 65. Directly translated from the Hebrew, verse 1 says this:  “To You, silence is praise; and I will praise You in Zion.”  Metsudah Translation Immediately, I felt the Holy Spirit quicken the first part of that verse to me in the very context we are discussing this week.

Interestingly, the very same day, I read Proverbs 15 which begins with this verse: “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Application:

There are two ways to respond when dealing with an ‘enemy’.

There are times, to be sure, when silence is the best response to a criticism or rebuke that is given harshly and unkindly to us. Every impulse of our natural man is to ‘let them have it’ in no uncertain terms but we’ve just seen that the Scriptures give us two options: 1) to either keep silent as in Psalm 65:1 and by choosing to remain silent rather than lash out in anger, that silence becomes praise to the Lord who was ‘silent before His accusers’ or 2) if answering, to do so with a ‘gentle answer’ to avoid escalating the situation.

Doing either one of these as led by the Holy Spirit in each specific occasion gives evidence of integrity and maturity in the things of God.

Proverbs 29:11 A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.

Proverbs 12:18  There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

May the Lord help us to listen to His voice when we find ourselves dealing with an ‘enemy’ and may we take to heart the wisdom of King Solomon: ‘the tongue of the wise brings healing.’

The Power of Words #3 March 20, 2018

In the book of James, chapter 3, verse 2, we read these words: We all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. NASB

The Passion Translation renders this verse like this: We all fail in many areas, but especially with our words. Yet if we’re able to bridle the words we say we are powerful enough to control ourselves in every way, and that means our character is mature and fully developed. James 3:2 TPT

This verse from the book of James reminds me of Proverb 18:21: Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit.

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As I ponder these verses, I find myself deeply grateful for the promise in Lamentations: The Lord’s kindnesses indeed never cease for His compassions are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness! Lam. 3:22-23

I need His grace every day for life, for health, for patience, for perseverance, for every thing I will encounter during each day and most certainly, I need His grace every day to to keep my words pure and right in His eyes.  The tongue is something we must use every day.  How we use it has a great deal to do with the course of our life. One day at a time, as disciples of the Lord Jesus, we are called to have dominion over the words of our mouths.  Therefore, success in controlling our tongues is something we need to pray for daily.

It is the Holy Spirit, who dwells within each born again disciple of the Lord, who can teach us and train us what to say and what not to say, when to speak and when to keep silent. Jesus said in Matthew 12:36 that we would give an account of ‘every careless word’.  We need the daily cleansing of the blood of Jesus every day, don’t we?  I John 1:7

It is in our everyday conversations that we succeed or we fail to live up to the standard Jesus set before us.  Not only should we show some self-control in how much we say – lest we wear people out with our non-stop talking – but also in the words we choose to use with family, friends, co-workers and people we run into from time to time.

Can you bridle your tongue when your heart is under pressure? That’s how you show you are wise. An understanding heart keeps you cool, calm and collected, no matter what you’re facing.  Proverbs 17:27-28 TPT

For example, think about the prophet Samuel. He went to the house of Jesse at God’s bidding in order to anoint the next king of Israel.  In ancient Israel, the firstborn always received double the inheritance so it should come as no surprise that when Samuel saw Eliab, Jesse’s oldest son, he assumed that Eliab was the likely candidate.

He looked on Eliab and said, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before me.’  I Sam. 16:6  Imagine how Eliab and Jesse must have felt to hear the prophet of the Lord make that statement.

But Samuel was wrong in what he said. God quickly stepped in to correct him. ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. I Sam. 16:7

The respected prophet of Israel had just made a big mistake.  His tongue had gotten him in big trouble!  Samuel had to walk back his comments, admit he had been wrong and go through all of Jesse’s sons until he saw David, the youngest and heard the Lord say, ‘This is the one. Anoint him.’

It is not easy to admit that you’ve been wrong. Nothing challenges our big egos like being smacked in the face with evidence that says very plainly you blew it. You misread a situation or misjudged a person and SPOKE IT aloud.  We die a thousand deaths when that happens, don’t we?

Yet, my dear friends, though it hurts our pride and may even cause others to question our judgment in the future, the inner peace that comes from the Holy Spirit when we are honest about our failures more than compensates for the humiliation of ‘walking back’ what we have wrongly said.  When a prophet of God of the stature of Samuel is willing to humble himself and repent of his failure, he sets an example for all of us.

Perhaps David remembered this scene later in life after he had sinned with Bathsheba and was confronted by the prophet Nathan.  If you will read the account in 2 Samuel 12 David sets the same example that Samuel did.  When made to stare squarely at what he had done, David makes no excuses, he offers no rationalization.  When Nathan declares, ‘You are the man.’ David repents immediately, does not deny his guilt and accepts the humiliation.

We generally find it very difficult to recognize our own self-righteousness.  We are quick to judge others but very slow to see the same sin in ourselves.  As in David’s case, our own sins have a way of blinding us to our own truth, and we fail to see obvious shortcomings within ourselves.  That was David. And it’s all of us.

The only man in all of the Bible who is called ‘a man after God’s own heart’ (I Sam. 13:14) committed one of the most shameful sins a man can commit. Yet, as soon as he saw what he had done from God’s perspective, he said – out loud – ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ 2 Samuel 12:13  We cannot lightly dismiss this confession for we’re talking about the king of a nation.  His admission had huge repercussions for his reputation.  A cloud of shame hung over him for a long time in the eyes of the people.

But God wasn’t finished with David and it was this David who wrote Psalm 51, the most amazing declaration of sin, guilt, forgiveness and restoration.

Application:

Perhaps we have repented for words we should never have said. Perhaps we’ve forgotten some for which we have never repented.  The cleansing power of the Blood of Jesus is available to us right now.  He is willing to cleanse us from every sin, including every word we’ve spoken that was displeasing in His sight.  Let us repent from our hearts for every word that was out of character and/or opposed to the standard of integrity Jesus set before us.

He’s a forgiving God to those who repent but He also adds, ‘Go and sin no more.’

Yet if we’re able to bridle the words we say we are powerful enough to control ourselves in every way, and that means our character is mature and fully developed. James 3:2 TPT