Psalm 141:3 NIV
The way we speak shows what’s going on in our hearts. ‘A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart’ (Luke 6:45 NLT). When we criticise others, use bad language, and accuse people, our hearts may be full of things like bitterness, resentment, jealousy, and anger. The Bible says: ‘Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them’ (Ephesians 4:29 NLT). To be able to speak encouraging and life-giving words to others, we need to make sure our hearts are full of positive and godly things. We need to think before we speak. We can run our thoughts through a mental filter – will it encourage someone? Will it build them up? Is it necessary? Is it coming from a good place? Just because we think something, doesn’t mean we have to speak it. Proverbs 29:11 says: ‘Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back’ (NLT). It can be hard to avoid speaking negatively towards others, and towards ourselves, but it’s so vital that we learn to control our speech. Words have power. And when we are speaking negatively, we are encouraging ourselves to stay in a negative place, we are creating negative atmospheres. We are knocking people down rather than building them up. The psalmist prayed: ‘May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord’ (Psalm 19:14 NIV). And this needs to be our pray each day too.
2 Chr 16-18; John 11:38-57; Ps 81; Prov 27:1-3
Ephesians 4:26 NCV
Some people think that it’s a sin to be angry. But it’s simply a natural human response. Even God becomes angry; we see it numerous times through the Old Testament. Jesus overthrew the tables in the Temple when He found people misusing God’s house (you can read about this in Matthew 21:12). We can often find ourselves becoming angry at the suffering and injustice in the world. This is known as righteous anger. In Micah, God tells us that He expects us to ‘do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8 ESV). When others make unjust decisions, and act unkindly towards people, it can cause us to react in anger. But Paul warns us not to let that angry response turn into sin. He writes: ‘When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day.’ When we are angry, it can be easy to say things we regret, act out of character, and hold grudges against people. But we are called to deal with our anger in a godly way. We need to acknowledge how we feel, and see if there’s anything good we can do to help the situation. Perhaps we can take a stand against the injustice we see, make a change to how we are living in order to counteract climate change, or give money or time to charities in order to help those less fortunate than ourselves. We can allow our anger to spur us on to make a positive change to the world. The Bible says that God’s ‘anger lasts only a moment, but his kindness lasts for a lifetime’ (Psalm 30:5 NCV). Let’s pray that we’d be the same.
1 Chr 23:21-26:19; John 10:1-10; Ps 99; Prov 26:1-6
Matthew 19:5 NIV
Parents, read this letter. “Dear Dad: Thanks for all the times you held me on your lap so I could see the ball game, and times you took me to the carnival and bought me hot dogs. I’ll always remember the day you carried me through the snow because I was so cold. You’ve been a great dad and I’ll never forget you. Suzie and I were talking the other day and wondering how you’re doing. Since we moved away we don’t get to see much of you. But one of these days we’re going to come and surprise you. Take care. I love you, your son.” Nice letter, eh? Nice, if you’ve prepared yourself for the time when you’re no longer needed to do what you’re doing today. If not, you can grow resentful toward those you sacrificed so much for and feel like you’re no longer important to them. God gave you your children on a lease, with an expiration date. Poet Kahlil Gibran said, “They come through you but not from you…You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth” (See Psalm 127:4). Parenthood isn’t about ownership, it’s about stewardship. Your first assignment is to provide love to make them secure, laws to make them wise, light to walk in, and a lifestyle to follow. Your next assignment is to prepare them to go out into the world and put into practice the things you’ve taught them. So release them, celebrate the investment you’ve made, pray for them, and ask God, “What’s next?” It’s the way God planned it.
Soul food: 1 Chr 3-5; John 8:1-20; Ps 6; Prov 25:1-7
Nehemiah 4:9 NIV
God’s sovereignty doesn’t negate our responsibility. Just the opposite. It empowers it. When we trust God, we think more clearly and react more decisively. Like Nehemiah, who said, “We prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.” Note the words: “We prayed…and posted a guard.” Nehemiah did two things. He trusted God for success, and acted on what God had told him to do. Prayer invites God to do what you cannot do. Paul wrote, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Why? Because God comes by invitation. Until you’ve sought God’s guidance you’re at the mercy of your own thoughts, and everybody else’s. When you don’t know what you don’t know, you’re in a dangerous place. Why settle for human knowledge when you can have divine input? God says, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3 NKJV). And when God reveals His will to you, don’t delay and don’t debate – do it! Before God gives you His next set of instructions, He wants to know that you have obeyed His last set of instructions. Why? Because He cannot bless you beyond your last act of disobedience. So stop and take an inventory. If you’ve done the wrong thing, repent, make a course correction, and get back on the right path as quickly as possible. “But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you'” (Jeremiah 7:23 NKJV).
Soul food: 2 Sam 12:1-14:20; John 2:12-25; Ps 89:1-14; Prov 23:10-14
James 1:26 NIV
James dedicates an entire chapter of his book to the tongue. He speaks about how the words we use can ignite a whole fire (take a look at James 3:5). It’s important for us to be careful of the words we use, the tone we are speaking in, and the types of conversations we participate in. We know our words should be encouraging and life-giving, so when we gossip about others we are not using our words in the way God wants us to be using them. We can’t say we are following God, and then allow ourselves to be drawn into gossiping. Spreading gossip is not positive, encouraging, or life-giving. It tears people down, regardless of whether it’s true or not. The Bible says: ‘A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends’ (Proverbs 16:28 NLT). Gossip doesn’t just tear the person we are talking about down, it tears down friendships and relationships. But we are called to live in unity and peace with each other. Paul encouraged the believers in Corinth to ‘be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you’ (2 Corinthians 13:11 NLT). And the same is true for us. We might not think that gossip is a big problem, but James writes: ‘Those who…do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless’. When we gossip, we are undermining the faith we have. So how can we avoid gossip? Perhaps we need to distance ourselves from those who want to gossip, walk away or change the subject when someone starts spreading gossip, and pray that God will help us see the importance of speaking encouraging words to others.
2 Sam 3:22-7:17; John 1:43-51; Ps 23; Prov 23:4-5