Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Gospel Power

We, Christ's followers, are eternally loved and chosen by God. By His sovereign grace, God has chosen all believers for salvation, drawing them to Himself by the work of the Holy Spirit. "For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will." (Ephesians 1:4-5)

"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) The gospel (good news) has power (from the Holy Spirit) to transform lives, to convict people of their sin, and to assure them of the gospel truth. It's our job to share the gospel with others while it's the Holy Spirit's job to open their spiritual eyes (heart and mind) to see/realize their need for a Savior and their need to repent. Without the Holy Spirit, our words (no matter how eloquent) are powerless and won't be able to convert anyone.

The Thessalonians could trust Paul's preaching because they knew that he lived in accordance with what he taught. To ponder: Are your character and conduct congruent with your creed and confession (what you say you believe)? Your credibility depends on it. Whether we like it or not...realize it or not, people read us and notice how we act and how we react. Do you live what you believe? Do you walk the talk? If not, hypocrisy will quickly turn people off. "Our manner of life either helps or hinders the Gospel. It either recommends the truth to others or else makes the truth repulsive." (Ron Mattoon) Our lives should reflect Christ and testify of the gospel's transforming power. 

"I am my neighbor's Bible. He reads me when we meet. He may not even know my name, yet he is reading me." (Unknown)

"Of one hundred men, one will read the Bible; the ninety-nine will read the Christian." (Dwight L. Moody )

"So let our lips and lives express
The holy gospel we profess;
So let our works and virtues shine,
To prove the doctrine all divine." (Watts)

Prayer: Thank You, Abba Father, for loving me, choosing me, and adopting me into Your family! I'm so grateful for the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. Please empower me to boldly share the gospel with those who need to hear. Please help me conduct myself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Faith, Love, Hope

In the Bible, thanksgiving and prayer often go together. "We (Paul, Silas, and Timothy) always thank God for..." (the verb is in the present tense) indicates their practice/habit of giving thanks to God continually. They thanked God for the work He had done in the lives of the believers at Thessalonica. They acknowledged that the virtues and success of these believers were ultimately enabled by God. We see consistent & persistent intercessory prayer in Paul's life. To ponder: Do you devote yourselves to prayer with an attitude of thanksgiving? Do you continually pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ?

Paul points out about their work produced by faith, labor prompted by love, and endurance inspired by hope (in our Lord Jesus Christ). What an encouragement! To ponder: Do you tend to commend rather than condemn or the other way around? Do you tend to encourage rather than criticize or the other way around?

Faith, love, and hope are evidence of authentic conversion and abiding in Christ. Faith results in (good) works. Love results in labor. Hope results in endurance. We can see their faith at work and their love in action in verse 9, "...you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God," and their endurance of hope in verse 10, "and to wait for His Son from Heaven, Whom He raised from the dead--Jesus, Who rescues us from the coming wrath."

Faith that is not accompanied by good works is dead, futile, and worthless. Faith without works is not a genuine, saving faith. We are not saved by good works but we're saved to do good works. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Love without labor/action is mere fleeting feeling; it's not true Biblical love (agape). The word "labor" here comes from the Greek word, "kopos" which means chop, strike, beat one's chest as a sign of sorrow. It implies discomfort and difficulty. Labor prompted by love involves effort, toil, weariness, even sorrow, for Biblical love is selfless, unconditional, and sacrificial. Christ demonstrated this costly love in His death on the cross. Love moves us to gladly do a labor of sweat, blood, and tears. "Where love is the motive, the labor is light." (Unknown) 

Eternal hope in Christ brings about endurance and perseverance. Biblical hope is what keeps us going and never giving up no matter how difficult our trials and sufferings in this life may be. Confident hope in the Lord & His return, in eternal life in Heaven, and in all God's promises propels us to steadfastly, patiently, trustingly, courageously endure hardship, struggles, afflictions, and persecutions. When Jesus Christ is our Hope, we can endure anything.

Prayer: Thank You, Heavenly Father, for the gifts of faith, love, and hope! I thank You for all my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world and I ask You to watch over them and help them stay steadfast in faith, love, and hope through any circumstances. Please make Your children people of prayer and thanksgiving. Please fill us with Your Holy Spirit and may work of faith, labor of love, and endurance of hope be evident in our lives! In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Death Is But A Door

This past weekend, my brother-in-law was found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his apartment. Such a devastating news for all of us! My heart aches for all who knew and loved him. I wrote this poem last night in hopes that it would be an encouragement to others and I read it at his funeral today. So much sadness...yet we believers in Christ Jesus grieve with hope...

When our loved one suddenly leaves us behind
It's natural for us to weep and question why
"What could we have said?"
"What could we have done?"

I pray for all of us
May we cling to eternal hope in Christ Jesus
May God grant us strength, comfort, and healing
Receive and give grace & forgiveness, with no blaming

I would like to encourage you who are here for a reason
To walk in faith, to live life with purpose and passion
We can't change the past but we can do something about the future
Love more, serve more, be quick to listen, be slow to anger, be kinder, be better

Death is but a temporary separation
There will be a happy reunion when our days on earth are done
Heaven is awaiting for all believers; death is but a door
Someday all who trust in Christ will meet and part no more

"Cast all your care on Him--because He cares for you!" (1 Peter 5:7)
"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book." (Psalm 56:8)
"Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you." (Psalm 55:22)

Friday, February 9, 2018

Save the Straying

If we see a fellow Christian wander from the truth/the doctrines of the Christian faith and/or the moral responsibilities from God's Word, we should try to bring that person back into fellowship with Christ. Point them back to the Truth! If you do that, you'll save them from death/destruction and they will be forgiven. That's true love! Restoring love! "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8) 

If you see a brother or sister in Christ living in sin or believing in false teaching but you don't say anything to him/her or don't try to turn them from the error of their way, that's not love. Pray for them and pray for God's wisdom and guidance to show you how to bring them back. Speak the truth in love and with grace, respect, and gentleness but by all means, speak God's truth! Don't ever sacrifice the truth on the altar of "grace", political correctness, or fear of being labeled "judgmental" or narrow-minded or preachy. Don't ever minimize the seriousness of sin (our need for repentance). If you truly love them, you'll care about their spiritual well-being/the condition of their soul and you'll do all you can to rescue them.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Pray and Praise

James lists some better uses of the tongue: praying, singing songs of praise, calling the elders to pray over sick people, and confessing our sins. Our focus should be on God whether we're in trouble, happy, or sick.

Confess your sins (offenses) to one another for a purpose of reconciliation. When we've done wrong to someone, we must go and ask him/her to forgive us. We believers are to humbly acknowledge our faults and weaknesses so that we may pray for one another (intercessory prayers). Unconfessed sin makes our soul sick and often our body, too.

God answers believing prayer (prayer in faith without doubting) but not always the way we want or expect. All prayer, including prayer for healing, is subject to the will of God. We must trust God, His will, His wisdom, and His timing. He loves us and knows what's best for us! "If Jesus heals you instantly, praise Him. If you are still waiting for healing, trust Him. Your suffering is your sermon." (Max Lucado) We (Christ's followers) will one day be ultimately healed (there's no pain/sickness in Heaven). 

The Greek word for "power", "fervent", "effective" in verse 16 is energeo (energetic). The prayer of a righteous person (who is justified by the righteousness of Christ) is working because it is energized by the Holy Spirit, thus his/her prayer is according to God's will and such prayer cannot fail. "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of Him." (1 John 5:14-15) 

Prayer is not about words but rather the attitude of the heart and the condition of the soul that enjoy dwelling in God's presence. Prayer is pouring our heart out to our Heavenly Father, in love, in faith, in humble submission, and in gratitude. Pray earnestly without ceasing. Pray first and pray most. Let's take full advantage of this amazing privilege God has given us! Even though we know His will prevails and He knows all our needs, God desires that we come to Him in prayer because it's a relationship thing. "The purpose of prayer is that we get a hold of God, not of the answer." (Oswald Chambers) He wants us to rely on Him, look to Him for fresh supplies of grace & mercy to sustain us, strengthen us, and keep us to the end, and keep our hearts and mind focused on Him...on His purpose.  We find shelter, rest, comfort, strength, joy, peace, encouragement, and assurance in sweet communion with our Father. Our attitude regarding praying should always be "not my will, but Yours be done" (Luke 22:42b). Praying draws us closer to God, and through prayer, God molds our heart's desires and our thoughts to be like His. Let us be thankful that God's answers are always wiser than our prayers!

"We speak. He listens. He speaks. We listen. This is prayer in its purest form. God changes His people through such moments...Just as a happy child cannot mis-hug, the sincere heart cannot mis-pray. Heaven knows, life has enough burdens without the burden of praying correctly. If prayer depends on how I pray, I'm sunk. But if the power of prayer depends on the One who hears the prayer, and if the One who hears the prayer is my Daddy, then I have hope.
(Max Lucado)

Prayer should be...constant, fervent, believing, hopeful, and incessant. God loves it, Satan hates it, and every true Christian values it. True prayer is always necessary, profitable and acceptable to God." (James Smith) 

"Be thou content to leave thy prayer in His hands, Who knows when to give, and how to give, and what to give, and what to withhold." (Charles H. Spurgeon)

"In Jesus' name we voice our prayers--

The Bible tells us to;
But may we never use that name
To tell God what to do." (D. De Haan)

Father, I'm so thankful that I can come to You anytime, anywhere and tell you about anything. I'm so glad that You never get tired of listening to my prayers and that You're always available. Please continue to transform my heart and mind, my desires and will to be like Yours. Thank You for being my Refuge, Strength, and Ever-present Hep in time of need! Thank You for all my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world! Please draw us closer to You, help us to know You more & love You more, and enable us to love one another and others like You do. Please make us people of prayer and bring revival among Your children! 
In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Be Patient and Stand Firm

James tries to give an encouragement and counseling to the oppressed poor...that they should bear patiently their social and economic situation in view of the imminent return of the Lord. Be patient with other people, even the oppressors of the world, because Jesus will return soon and correct all wrongs! One day the Lord will return and all suffering will be over. Let's keep our eyes and our hearts fixed on that glorious day! Christians ought to be patient and stand firm (not give up hope) when facing adversities.

Be patient like a farmer. The farmer patiently waits because he understands the process and realizes it takes time. His expectations (of the final outcome) and his knowledge cultivate patience. We, too, can be patient because we know how it's all going to end and realize that we must wait until the Lord returns. "Be patient" = Enduring/persevering. bearing with others' unpleasantness, putting up with the contempt and refusing to seek revenge. "Stand firm" = a firm resolution, an unbreakable conviction, a purposeful effort to endure until the Lord returns...no matter what the world and Satan throw at us.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the promise of Christ's return! What a glorious day that will be! Please help me be patient and persevere in my faith walk. Please give me grace and strength to endure any trials and storms of this world. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Warning to Hoarders

This is a grave warning to the rich who oppress field workers for personal gain. There are many negative effects that wealth can have on people's lives. The problem is not the wealth or the money itself. It's the love of money, lust for money, and the failure in stewardship. "Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

All riches in this life not invested in Heavenly treasure are doomed to destruction. All the earthly possessions/wealth will rot, decay, be gone. We cannot take any of it with us when we die. How foolish it is for us to spend our whole life hoarding wealth! There are many stories/examples about wealthy people who end up miserable and lost at the end of their lives. 
Wealth is meant to be used for good purposes...for the good of mankind. We're blessed to be a blessing to others/to share with others (especially those in need), not to hoard for ourselves. We are to use our resources for God's glory and God's kingdom, not ours. 

God condemns cheating, taking advantage of people, dishonorable ways of obtaining and using wealth, hoarding, flaunting of wealth with luxurious living and self-indulgence. By doing these things, they were dishonoring God Who was the One Who blessed them in the first place. We must examine ourselves. I'm pretty sure most if not all of us here are "rich" :) (according to the Bible, being "rich" is having more than what we need to survive today). Are we generous? Hoarding wealth may not involve cheating people out of pay but simply an attitude of being as stingy as possible to keep more money for ourselves. It's a mindset that is self-focused and is not being considerate about others. Remember that God loves a cheerful giver and it is more blessed to give than to receive! Remember that "The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." (Psalm 24:1)  Everything (not just 10% of our paycheck) belongs to the Lord! Many give 10% and consider that the rest of their resources can be spent at their discretion. Let’s realize that God owns all of us, including our resources. On earth, we are simply His stewards. He entrusts us to manage all He owns in the ways that will glorify and honor Him. We need to use our resources wisely and according to His will. Invest in eternity!

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

Prayer: Father, please forgive me when I value the wrong things in life or get too attached to temporary things of the world or become discontent and tempted to want more. Please remind me what's eternally important and priceless in Your eyes and help me to focus on storing up my treasures in Heaven. Please help me be generous in my giving and direct me where I should give my (actually Your) financial resources. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Life is Short; Do Good!

It's about the attitude here. There's nothing wrong with planning in itself. However, according to these verses, the planners or merchants here ignored 3 considerations: 1. the finite/limited knowledge of human beings, 2. the uncertainty of life (our life is just a mist/vapor/puff of smoke), and 3. God's sovereignty and will. Planning is not wrong but leaving God out of planning is wrong. James denounces the bragging/boasting (arrogance) as evil/sinful. God wants us to trust Him about the future. "We don't know what the future holds but we know Who holds the future." (Unknown) Our future is in God's hands. Both making your plans without God and boasting stem from pride. 

Two opposing attitudes: 1. Pride says..."I'm the lord of my life; I'm in charge/in control. I'm going to make this happen and that happen. With no regard for God's plan for my life, I'll determine what I'm going to do when, where, and how." 2. Humility says..."God is the Lord of my life and He is in control. I submit everything I plan and hope for to His will. I surrender all. I only want His will...nothing more...nothing less...nothing else!"

We are not promised tomorrow. We must keep in mind our temporal nature and God's will when we make plans. This is another warning against pride and arrogance and worldliness. Our confidence, hope, and dependence should be in and upon God, not self and not the world.

Deo volente! God willing!
Dei gratia! By the grace of God...
#theuncertaintyoflife #lifeisshort #livinginthelightofeternity

What a great concluding statement verse 17 is for chapter 4! James is warning his readers who are Christians. They know that humility and dependence upon God are essential in Christian living but if they refuse to do it, they choose to sin. No excuses! It comes back to putting your faith in action again. Do what is right (in God's eyes/according to God's Word)! If we know the right thing/the good deeds we ought to do but we don't do it, we sin (commit sin of omission). Sometimes sin of omission can be trickier to pinpoint than sin of commission (doing what we shouldn't do). We're more aware of the things we shouldn't do because we would be ashamed of them (ex: lying, murdering, committing adultery, etc). But how about the things we should be doing but we don't do (ex: helping widows and orphans, spreading the gospel, practicing hospitality, etc.)? Satan loves it when Christians become complacent, inactive, divisive, self-reliant, worldly, lazy,...pretty much ineffective and useless for the Kingdom of God.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8) 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I love You and desire to obey, please, and honor You in all I do and say. I need You every moment of my life. Be my vision, Lord. Please give me eyes to see where and how I may be a blessing to others. Please give me Your love for those around me. Please forgive me for times when I should have done something but I didn't. Please empower me to do all that You call me to do. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Antidotes to Pride and Worldliness

These commands are antidotes to pride and worldliness.

1. "Submit yourselves, then, to God." We must give ourselves completely to God, surrendering our desires, will, and all to Him. Obey God's Word and submit to God's will. Submission involves humility and obedience. "
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up." (James 4:10) God hates pride but loves humility! When we humbly acknowledge that we desperately need God's help, He lifts us up. To be lifted up by God is to be rescued, comforted, strengthened, refreshed, blessed, empowered, and embraced by our Heavenly Father Who cares deeply for us and gives us eternal worth and glorious riches in Christ. "He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." (Psalm 40:2)

2. "Resist the devil." Satan loves pride and hates humility. He will do all he can to inflame our pride (arrogance & selfish ambition), spark envy/covetousness in our hearts, and/or lure us to fall in love with worldly things. How do we resist the devil? Follow Jesus's example by answering Satan's temptations and accusations with the Scriptures. That means we have to know what the Bible says. We need to read it, study it, memorize it, and apply/live it. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Satan will flee from us because he cannot compete with or defeat the power of God's Word.

3. "Come near to God." Close communion with God assures His presence and intimacy ("And He will come near to you") and turns us away from loving the world. The more we know God and the longer we taste His goodness, the less worldly things can entice us. We must spend plenty of time with God in prayer and in His Word.

4. "Wash your hands, you sinners." This symbolizes spiritual cleansing. We must clean up our conduct/our lives ("go and sin no more"). "Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false." (Psalm 24:3-4)

5. "And purify your hearts, you double-minded." You double-minded (you who are trying to follow God and the world at the same time), quit being so. Instead, make sure your inner motives and attitudes are pure and right. Love God; hate sin. Follow God; forsake the world (worldliness). God wants our undivided allegiance. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." (Matthew 5:8)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your presence and Your Word which guide me and comfort me! I surrender all to You. Please have Your way in me. Please enable me to resist the devil, flesh, & worldliness. Please purify my heart & mind and empower me to honor and glorify You in everything I say and do. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Choose Your Friendship: With God or With the World?

"You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that He jealously longs for the spirit He has caused to dwell in us? But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.'" (James 4:4-6)
"You adulterous people" is an allusion to covenant unfaithfulness, referring to Israel as unfaithful bride of Jehovah (Hosea 3:1). Friendship with the world = enmity (hatred/hostility) against God. To maintain friendship with the world is to be on good terms with (to support, to favor, to approve) persons and things and ideas that are at least indifferent toward God if not openly hostile to Him. When we seek after our own desires/pleasures (as mentioned in James 4:1-3), we're doing what the world does (acting just like the world), not doing what God wants/tells us to do. Essentially, we would be committing spiritual adultery. Our God is a jealous God; He wants our undivided loyalty and will not tolerate divided allegiance. We cannot serve two masters. Are you in or out? You cannot have one foot following the world and the other foot following Jesus. It won't work! "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:15-17) Love and obey God alone! Live for God with no compromise!
Farewell, vain world; my soul bids you adieu.
My Savior taught me to abandon you.
Your charms may gratify a sensual mind,
but cannot please a soul for God designed.
          (David Brainerd)

Verse 6 is encouraging! "But He gives us more grace"! Even when we are wandering off (choosing our own selfish ways/getting enamored with the world), the Holy Spirit within us jealously tries to pull us back from the world to Himself/relentlessly works to open our eyes and turn us back to Him. More grace! We don't deserve it but we desperately need it! God knows that it must be difficult for us to live wholeheartedly for Him in a wicked world. Our affection is being pulled constantly by worldly things. We definitely need to humbly ask for God's help. Humility is the key here. Pride is the basis of selfishness and entitlement. God gives grace (shows favor) to the humble, but He opposes (resists) the proud. The proud are those who lust, kill, covet, quarrel, fight and pray with wrong motives but think they don't have a problem. The humble are those who acknowledge that they struggle with selfishness, envy, etc. and know that they cannot win this battle within by themselves. For the humble, God gives abundant grace (more and more grace) and will help them overcome their struggles.

Prayer: Abba Father, thank You for Your relentless & protective love for me! Thank You for Your inexhaustible grace and patience! Please forgive me for my selfish desires and motives. Please keep me from being enticed by worldly things. Please take away pridefulness and selfishness from me. Please grant me humility and contentment. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wisdom from Heaven

What Godly wisdom looks like: pure (sinless, blameless), peace-loving (peaceable, not contentious or quarrelsome/marked by freedom from strife or disorder), considerate (thoughtful, gentle), submissive (willing to yield, quick to show deference to others), full of mercy (compassion, forbearance shown especially to an offender; charity, clemency, grace), full of good fruit (the good/positive effect or consequence of an action, the fruit of the Spirit--Galatians 5:22 and the fruit of the light--Ephesians 5:9), impartial (fair, showing no favoritism), and sincere (honest, without hypocrisy).

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:18) We are called to be peacemakers...to sow seeds of peace.
 If we do so, we’ll reap the fruit of righteousness. Godly wisdom is the gift of God; it’s practical wisdom that preserves unity and peace. James 3:18 is in contrast to James 1:20. Peace producing righteousness vs. anger not producing righteousness.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I need Your wisdom! Please help me be pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, fruit-bearing, impartial, and sincere. Please forgive me when I contribute to conflict instead of resolving it and when I add fuel to the flames of discord instead of seeking and sowing peace. Please enable me to be a peacemaker and a messenger of hope, joy, peace, grace, mercy, and love. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

What Comes Out of Your Mouth?

People can tame all kinds of wild animals yet cannot tame their tongue. The tongue is an out-of-control, unruly, wild, evil, full of deadly poison! All sorts of evil such as envy, pride, greed, deceit, hatred, idolatry, blasphemy, etc. find their expression through the tongue. The tongue is a primary cause of difficulties and failures as we walk through our daily life. It's definitely a struggle for all of us (more so in some people like me :)). We can't tame our tongue but God can! We need to pray for God's help and we must think before we speak ("slow to speak"). 

When you curse human beings who have been made in God's likeness, it's like you're also cursing God, their Creator. Christians ought not to allow cursing (swearing, profanity, words that express great hatred or anger) come out of the same mouth that gives praises to God. We cannot pretend that our life is on the right track if we continue to praise and curse with the same tongue. The inconsistency of our tongue will discredit/hinder our testimony. Our words can be used either constructively or destructively. We must bring our tongue under the control of the Holy Spirit and ask Him to make it an instrument of praise and blessing.

How many times have you wished you didn't say what you just said? We can't take our words back! Words can heal, help, or hurt. Words matter; they reveal what's in our hearts. "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matthew 12:34b-37) It is so important to constantly guard our tongue.

"When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who hold his tongue is wise." (Proverbs 10:19)
"He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin." (Proverbs 13:3)
"He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity." (Proverbs 21:23)

"One of the first things which a physician says to his patient is, 'Let me see your tongue.' A spiritual advisor might do the same." (N. Adams)

"When anger spreads through the breast, guard your tongue from barking idly." (Sappho)

"Sometimes you can make a more effective statement by holding your tongue." (Unknown)

"Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment." (Benjamin Franklin)

Jesus said that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love others (Mark 12:29-31). Expressing our love to God includes using our mouth to sing, worship, praise, and pray. Expressing our love to people involves using our words to edify, encourage, and comfort others. Let's evaluate what comes out of our mouth. May we implore the Holy Spirit to be our "Tongue Tamer" and may we be obedient and cooperate!

I made up an acrostic to help myself remember how my speech should be...
Gentle and gracious  (Philippians 4:5, Proverbs 22:11)
Respectful                (1 Peter 2:17)
Encouraging             (Hebrews 3:13)
Appropriate              (Ephesians 4:29)
Truthful                    (Ephesians 4:15, 4:25)

Have a "G.R.E.A.T." talk today and everyday :)!

Prayer: "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer!" (Psalm 19:14)

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Power of the Tongue

The analogies here indicate that we must not underestimate the power of our tongue. Just as small bits can make horses obey, a small rudder can steer large ships, and a small spark can set a great forest on fire, our tiny tongue can corrupt/defile the whole body and destroy lives (ours and others').

The tongue is truly powerful. It can be used for good or for evil. Relationships are built up or destroyed by what we say. Mean words, careless words, and/or untrue words have wrecked many families, divided the Body of Christ, and led many people to shame and despair. We should look for opportunities to encourage, edify, and bless one another with our words. Speak the truth in love with grace, respect, kindness, and gentleness. Quit complaining, criticizing, cursing, boasting, lying, exaggerating, insulting, yelling (in anger), nagging, manipulating, gossiping, slandering, and 
hurting others with words. In our families, let's speak loving words of encouragement, appreciation, and affection to our husbands and children. Words are powerful tools that can be used to build people up or tear people down. Let's use them wisely and for God's glory! 

The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly." (Proverbs 15:2)

"The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit." (Proverbs 15:4)
"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." (Proverbs 16:24)

When I want to speak...let me think first:
-Is it true?
-Is it kind?
-Is it necessary?
If not, let it be left unsaid." (Babcock)

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, You know how much I struggle with my tongue/words. Please fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I can speak kind and loving words to all. Please give me patience, grace, humility, gentleness, and thoughtfulness to bless others and show Your love with my words even when the kindness is not appreciated and/or not returned. Please grant me wisdom to know when to speak and when to keep silent. Please help me speak only words that edify and encourage others, bring hope and healing, and glorify Your Name. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Faith Without Deeds Is Dead

Fake faith/false faith that does not demonstrate in works is not a saving faith. A faith that does not care about the needs of others isn't faith at all. Anyone can claim to have "faith"/claim to be a "Christian" but that doesn't mean he/she is saved, born again, and follow Christ. 

Good works (deeds, action) do not and cannot save us, but good works demonstrate that we are saved (good works should be manifested in our lives because we are saved). James is not contradicting Paul's teaching of salvation by grace through faith alone. Paul confronted those who wanted salvation by something they did while James confronted those who wanted salvation without doing anything. We are not saved by works but we are saved (and created) for works. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Faith without fruit is dead, useless, and unacceptable. Authentic, saving, living faith bears good fruit. Belief that doesn't transform our life is "dead" faith; a transformed life results in good works. Our faith and our words are worth nothing (meaningless) if we do nothing to help those in need. Saying is not doing. Walk the talk! Live what you believe! We are to actively demonstrate Christ's love to all people. We must put our love and faith into action.

James gives us a test here to evaluate ourselves: Are we genuinely saved? Is our faith accompanied by action? You may have heard this before but I think it's a great reminder: "If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"

Prayer: Father, thank You for saving me by Your grace and by Christ's finished work of redemption on the cross! May my faith in You be living and active, bearing good fruit for Your glory and Your kingdom! Please give me Your eyes to see others' needs and show me how I can meet those needs. In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Royal Law of Love

The royal law is linked to James 2:5 ("Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?") The royal law is for the heirs of God's Kingdom; it is the law of love. James points out that by showing partiality to the rich, they're breaking the royal law of loving their neighbor as themselves. If we truly love others as ourselves...love them like Jesus...love them with God's unconditional love, we won't show favoritism which is sin. "Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly...Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord" (Leviticus 19:15, 18) 

"We cannot choose whom we will love if we claim to be Christians." (Unknown)

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