Watch your words

Colossians 4:6 NKJV

In Watchman Nee’s book The Normal Christian Worker, he devotes a whole chapter to our words, and how we communicate with others. He says ‘Because of unrestrained speech, the usefulness of many Christian workers is seriously curtailed. Instead of being powerful instruments in the Lord’s service, their ministry makes little impact on account of the constant leakage of power through their careless talk.’

This reminder that we can hurt the impact of our efforts for God by talking carelessly is a stark one, and it really is that serious. As Proverbs 18:21 tells us, ‘the tongue has the power of life and death’ (NIV). It can be so easy to be careless with our words, to speak without thinking. We can also betray ourselves with our tone, our gestures, and our facial expressions. We have to remember, though, that all of those things can dramatically change that way that people see us and, by extension, the way they see God.

It’s time for us to echo David’s prayer in Psalm 141:3-4 ‘Take control of what I say, O LORD, and guard my lips. Don’t let me drift towards evil’ (NLT). Those verses are worth memorising and repeating when we feel our words veering towards negativity.

It’s also very worthwhile to check our attitude. Our words are fuelled by our thoughts, and our speech can’t run out of control unless our mind goes there first. That’s really where we need God to step in. We need His help to challenge our thoughts. Each time we find our mind or speech drifting towards negativity, we should stop ourselves and pray and pray to God for ‘the renewing of [our] mind’ that we read about in Romans 12:2 (NIV).

Dan 8-10; Mark 3:1-6; Ps 103:13-22; Prov 10:14

You’re accepted, loved, and secure

Romans 8:15 NLT

If you’re adopted, that means your parents chose you. They could have picked a different gender, color, or ancestry. But they selected you. You say, “But if they could have foreseen the rest of my life, they might have changed their minds.” That’s the point exactly!

God saw our entire lives from beginning to end, and He was still convinced “to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:5 NLT). We can now live “like God’s very own children, adopted into…his family, and calling to him, ‘Father, Father’…And since we are his children, we will share his treasures – for all God gives to his Son Jesus is now ours too” (Romans 8:15, 17 TLB).

God doesn’t accept you because of your pedigree. And He doesn’t reject you because of your divorce, deficiencies, debt, or dumb choices. You’re His redeemed child. You can call him “Abba,” which means “daddy” or “papa.” You “may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:12 NIV). And that’s so, on your bad days as well as your good ones. And it gets better. Your adoption is horizontal as well as vertical. You’re now a member of His redeemed family. Dividing walls of hostility are broken down, and community is created on the basis of a common father. Instant family worldwide!

If God loves you, you must be worth loving. If He wants to have you in His kingdom, then you must be worth having. God’s grace invites you – no, requires you – to change your attitude about yourself and take sides with God against your feelings of rejection and unworthiness. You’re accepted, loved, and secure!

Soul food: Rom 7:1-9:16; Matt 13:24-35; Ps 134; Prov 4:5-13

How to overcome discouragement (3)

Nehemiah 4:14 NIV

Fight a gloomy outlook. Attitude is a little thing, but it makes a big difference. Depression, gloom, pessimism, despair, and discouragement stop more people than all the world’s combined illnesses. The truth is, enthusiasm will take you where talent alone can’t. Think about it: Every day talented people give in to discouragement and quit, while people with less talent and ability keep going and succeed. Winston Churchill once quipped, “I’m an optimist. It doesn’t seem too much use being anything else.” If you really, really, really believe that God is on your side, you’ll be optimistic even in the face of overwhelming obstacles and discouragement.

In the Old Testament, a group of former slaves rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in just fifty-two days, and went on to prosper. How did they do it? Because their leader said, “Don’t surrender to discouragement. Don’t give it an inch. Fight every step of the way!” And that prescription still works today!

One of Satan’s favourite weapons is discouragement. He knows you can never be defeated unless you’re defeated in your thinking. But you have the power to overcome him. The Bible says, “Submit…to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). When Satan brings discouragement to your door, what should you do? Don’t open the door! Don’t invite him in! Don’t accept the package! Don’t sign the receipt! Instead, submit to God – and resist him! From time to time we all experience fatigue, frustration, failure, and fear. But by standing on God’s promises and drawing on His strength, you can choose not to get discouraged. The choice is yours!

Soul food: 1 Chr 16-18; John 10:22-42; Ps 83:9-18; Prov 26:13-16

Doling out God’s grace (2)

Galatians 2:21 NASB

Chuck Swindoll says as believers we’re often intolerant “of those who don’t fit our mold – an attitude that reveals itself in the stoic stare or caustic comment. Such reactions will thin the church ranks faster than fire in the basement or flu in the pew.

Paul rebuked the Galatians for ‘deserting Christ’ (See 1:6), ‘nullifying the grace of God’ (See 2:21), and becoming ‘bewitched by legalism’ (See 3:1)…Sure, there are limits to freedom. Grace does not condone license…The opposite of legalism isn’t ‘do as you please.’ But the limitations are broader than most of us realize.

I can’t believe, for example, the only music God smiles on is highbrow or hymns…Nor do I believe the necessary garment for entering the Veil is a suit and tie…Let’s remember who gets wrought up over outward appearances. It’s not God! He ‘looks at the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7 NAS)…

Jesus reserved His strongest and longest sermon…for…legalists – present-day Pharisees. When it came to self-righteous showing off, Jesus pulled no punches. He found it was the only way to deal with those who hung around places of worship distaining and despising others. No less than seven times He pronounced ‘Woe to you,’ because that’s the only language a Pharisee understands…

Two final comments: (1) If you tend toward Phariseeism in any form, stop it! If you’re the type who bullies and looks down on others…you’re a twentieth century Pharisee. (2) When modern-day Pharisees try to control your life, stop them. Remind those religious phonies that the splinter in your eye is between you and God, and they should pay attention to the tree trunk in their own eye.”

Soul food: 2 Sam 1:1-3:21; John 3:1-21; Ps 89:15-37; Prov 23:15-18

Giving thanks (2)

1 Thessalonians 5:16 ESV

When you’re going through a difficult time, do you ever find yourself asking, ‘Why me, God? Why don’t you answer my prayers? Why doesn’t Your Word encourage me like it seems to encourage others?’ Maybe your friends have tried to help by saying things like ‘stay positive’, ‘it’s all for the best’, or quoting Bible verses like ‘For I know the plans I have for you’ (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) or ‘Rejoice always’ (1 Thessalonians 5:16 ESV).

While all these things might be true, they often just make us feel worse. We might feel like failures as Christians because we’re not full of joy and we’re not feeling positive. When life overwhelms us, the last thing we feel like doing is giving thanks. So how can we cultivate an attitude like Paul’s, who sang hymns and worshipped God while in prison? Here are a few ideas:

1) Acknowledge how we’re feeling. We can think that we have to hide our feelings, because Christians are supposed to ‘rejoice always’. But we should admit how we’re feeling to God, then He can help us begin to heal and regain our joy.

2) Refuse to retaliate. When something bad happens to us, often our first reaction is to retaliate, get angry, or even to blame God. But as we saw in yesterday’s reading, there are still reasons to be thankful even in the bad times. Which leads us to:

3) Choose to give thanks. This might not come naturally at first, so we may have to make a conscious effort to be thankful.

We need to remember that God hasn’t let us down before, and hold on to the fact that He wants the best for us. When we do that, we’ll feel more able to rejoice and give thanks.

1 Sam 24-26; John 1:29-42; Ps 131; Prov 23:1-3