The POW!er of Words

“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)

When watching hockey, soccer or most other sports, the person we generally pay the least attention to is actually quite vital to how the game proceeds. The referee is important because he is, in theory, neutral. In any sport, the referee isn’t visibly rooting for either team and he can—or should—be perfectly fair when making decisions about things like penalties, fouls and so on. For the fans watching the match, he’s not one of the good guys, but he’s also not one of the bad guys.

Many other things in life are neutral. For example, money can be used to build hospitals, provide disaster relief or give access to education, or it can be used to traffic drugs (or people), silence a witness or buy power. Fire can be used to cook a steak or to burn down a forest or a house. A knife can be used to slice watermelon or to kill someone. The Internet can be used to share good news or to pollute minds and destroy lives.

Words, by themselves, are neutral too. But, just like money, fire, knives and the Internet, if they’re used the wrong way, they can really hurt someone. God wants you to use your words to comfort and love others, to build them up and to speak truth to them, not to destroy them or tear them down.

speech

Destructive words can take on many forms, such as lies, gossip, slander, criticism, mocking, cursing, sarcasm and nagging. Edifying words can include praise, prayer, words from Scripture and even helpful correction. What makes our words powerful is their finality. Once spoken, they cannot be unspoken.

Author Jodi Picoult once said:

“Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall.”

This week, consider the words that come out of your mouth, no matter who you’re speaking to. May the Lord give us all tongues that bring healing.

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

If you want to remember this verse, feel free to “borrow” this graphic for your Facebook cover photo (also added to the freebie page here):

psalm 19 14

My Heart, Christ’s Home

Over a dozen years ago, I read a little booklet called My Heart, Christ’s Home, written by Robert Boyd Munger in 1951. It is a challenging meditation about Christian discipleship with estimates that more than 10 million have read it. When I read it the first time, it reminded me of basic truths that I need my attention drawn to every now and again.

home-40700_1280Imagine Jesus coming to the home of your heart when you receive Him as your Saviour. As He moves from room to room, what does He see?

In the library, are you embarrassed to let Him see what is on the shelves?

In the dining room, what’s on the menu? What appetites do you try to satisfy there? Do you allow Christ to replace your secular fare with His soul-satisfying food and drink?

In the workroom, does He find that you are using your gifts and talents for His glory or are your tools rusting and collecting dust?

Do you even allow Him into the rec room where you go for fun and leisure activities? Is it a place you would feel comfortable inviting Him to hang out with you?

What about the bedroom? Are your relationships pure and godly? Will you consider His guidelines, keeping in mind He gives them out of His love for you and not to stifle you?

Is there anything rotting in your hall closet that you’ve hidden away? Will you let Him clean it out?

The living room is the ideal place to meet with Him for fellowship. But do you visit with Him regularly, talking and sharing or does He sit there waiting for you to make some time for Him?

I love Munger’s interpretation of what Jesus might say:

“The trouble is that you have been thinking of the quiet time of Bible study and prayer as a means for your own spiritual growth. This is true, but you have forgotten that this time means something to me also. Remember, I love you. At a great cost I have redeemed you. I value your fellowship. Just to have you look up into my face warms my heart. Don’t neglect this hour if only for my sake. Whether or not you want to be with me, remember I want to be with you. I really love you!”

Jesus may be your Saviour—but have you truly made Him Lord of your life, of your heart… His home?

♥ Note: You can read the entire text of My Heart, Christ’s Home here. It’s only six pages long.

The Most Expensive Bowl of Soup in History

Several years ago, I almost skipped a Tuesday-night Bible study at my church—something I just about never do. I wasn’t feeling very well but there was a bit more to it than that. I guess I had the “blahs” and was welcoming an excuse to stay home. I ended up going late because I overslept when I took a much-needed nap, but I did go. God had a plan and He wasn’t going to let me off easy!

When I slipped into my seat after arriving, I opened my Bible to the chapter we had been studying and immediately saw this passage from Hebrews 12:

14- Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15- See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16- See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17- Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

What a powerful message! How many times have you and I given up blessings from the Lord over a “bowl of soup”—a moment’s pleasure, a foolish diversion, tasteless entertainment? How many of us, like I almost did, give up opportunities for spiritual growth just because we feel too lazy to do the right thing? Worse still, how many people are giving up their inheritance for even less than a bowl of soup? For life-threatening poison such as sinful indulgences or bitter resentments?

Esau’s story isn’t just the makings of a neat little Sunday School lesson. Paul, in writing to the Hebrews, used Esau’s example to convict believers of sin and to warn them of the consequences of taking God’s gift of grace for granted.

When Esau begged Jacob for a meal, that was the most important thing on his mind. It was an instinctive cry to have his immediate needs met. But he acted foolishly. He devalued the importance of his inheritance in order to find physical satisfaction.

stew

We scoff at Esau’s obvious lack of wisdom, don’t we? Yet aren’t we guilty of the same lapses in judgment? Aren’t we guilty of placing greater importance on temporal, physical gains than on eternal, spiritual aspirations?

Learn a lesson from Esau. Don’t give up your inheritance for a bowl of soup!

“Meanwhile we groan…”

I’ve been deep in thought all day and I suddenly remembered this quote from C.S. Lewis: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” In looking for it among my Facebook photos, I came across the graphic below, which fits perfectly, too.

content

It’s probably safe to say the majority of us, at some level, at some point in our lives, long for an existence or circumstances other than our current reality. The mistake we make is in thinking that if we successfully manipulate our circumstances to better suit us, we will finally feel whole and happy.

That’s been a lie from the enemy since day one, which is probably why so many people are walking around feeling miserable, hopeless or dissatisfied. Even drastic measures are usually only a temporary or superficial solution.

Nothing and no one but our Creator can fill the emptiness in our hearts and even then we will not be wholly whole until we are safely “home.” As far as I’m concerned, we’re still sitting on the tarmac.

The Apostle Paul put it beautifully:

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.
For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.
We live by faith, not by sight.
We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-10)

Note: If you found this post helpful or inspiring, you may also like this one: The Desires of Your Heart.

The Time Is Now

I’ve shared this quote before but it came back to me tonight:

now clock

While this is great advice for students and workers, it’s also excellent advice for Christians. Have you ever said or thought statements such as:

  • I’ll get more involved in the church once my children are older / my schedule is lighter / my faith is stronger / my car is fixed.
  • I’ll read my Bible more after I finish this stressful project.
  • I’ll share my faith with my friend / coworker / neighbour when I’ve had more time to get to know them better.
  • I’ll drop that habit / sin / wrong attitude when my health gets better / my spouse treats me better / I have more money.
  • I’ll give more of my money to God’s work once my debts are paid off / I get a raise / I win the lottery.

Those “whens” and “onces” never seem to come. If they do, the promises are often forgotten. So, what are you waiting for? The time is now! Romans 13:11 says:

“And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

What is God asking you to do today? Are you reluctant? Are you tempted to start later? I encourage you not to hesitate.

Listen Carefully

Have you ever tried to watch two TV shows at the same time? What about listening to two songs at the same time? Can you read two books at the same time, listen to two phone calls at the same time or write two letters at the same time? Even if you could do these things, you likely wouldn’t do them very well.

As Christians, we know that we’re supposed to listen to God to know what He wants for us (and from us) and Isaiah 55:3a reminds us of that: “Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.” God invites us to listen to Him because He knows that it’s only through Him that we can have life. But how well do we listen to Him?

When you read your Bible in the morning, do you start thinking about the meeting or class or appointment you have later in the day? Your eyes see the words but your brain isn’t getting the message. In church, do you really listen to the words being sung or to what pastor is saying? Often, we’re too distracted by other things going on around us or our own thoughts to really listen to God. Sadly, we’re the ones who miss out.

In 1 Samuel 3, the examples of Samuel and Eli highlight the importance of being attentive to God’s voice. I encourage you to take some time to read that passage this week and jot down what you think God is trying to tell you. Spend some quiet time just listening for God’s voice, inviting Him to speak to your heart and reveal His will for you. You may be amazed by what you learn.

listen

Restoration

Having grown up going to church and Sunday School, I occasionally take for granted Bible passages or stories I learned over and over as a child, such as the Lord’s Prayer, John 3:16 or the Fruit of the Spirit. Psalm 23 is probably the best-known chapter in the Bible so it too can be easy to gloss over it after the first verse.

One day, my attention was drawn to four words from Psalm 23 I hadn’t given a whole lot of thought to as a child—probably because it didn’t speak to a specific need at that point in my life. Verse 3 begins: “He restores my soul…” Have you ever reflected on what that means?

restorationI’ve seen a lot of construction and renovation work over the years. Though they are not living things, buildings undergo stress and sometimes the wear and tear on them has serious consequences. Pipes may leak, ceilings may crack, floors may warp. . .I’m sure you could add your own house woes to the list. The problems may be due to natural causes or the result of neglect and abuse.

Similarly, our bodies go through physical deterioration—sometimes as the natural result of aging, sometimes because of illnesses or accidents, but often simply from not taking good care of ourselves.

More serious is what happens to our souls. We suffer when Satan attacks us with temptations, trials, lies or persecution. We suffer when people hurt or mistreat us. We suffer when we shift our focus off of God and stray from Him. These things will happen. It would be naïve to expect to walk the Christian journey trouble-free. The question is, what do we do in difficult situations?

Ideally, with regular maintenance and check-ups—whether it’s for our homes or our health—drastic measures can be avoided. Prevention is always more desirable than major renovations or surgery, isn’t it? We can’t avoid or prevent all the problems that come our way, but we can keep them to a minimum if we’re alert and disciplined.

Ideally, with regular examination of our hearts in light of Scripture and, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will avoid the spiritual pitfalls and traps the devil sets out for us. And yet problems will still come our way, catching us off guard and threatening to destroy us.

Thankfully, we have a Shepherd who not only loves us, provides for us and leads us, but who also restores us. Better than any renovation job, better than any antibiotic, Jesus Christ can restore our souls and bring us back to a place of joy and peace.

New on My Playlist

Between Rdio and Songza, I’ve discovered several new-to-me songs and artists, which is always fun. Here are four of my latest can’t-stop-hitting-repeat faves. I hope you enjoy them, too! Check them out and then show them some love (the artists’ names link to their websites).

1. “From the Day” by I Am They

2. “My Lighthouse” by Rend Collective

3. “With Every Act of Love” by Jason Gray

4. “Made New” by Lincoln Brewster

Note: I wasn’t paid or bribed to post these videos or links. I’m just sharing my appreciation for these uplifting tunes. :)

Treasures in Jars of Clay

I wrote this about 15 years ago. I pray it will encourage you today. 

How do we Christian see ourselves as compared to how God sees us? As I pondered this one day, I was encouraged by several promises I came across in the Bible. In particular, I am blessed by 2 Corinthians 4. Verse 7 says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” What does this mean?

clay potIt was customary to conceal treasures in these earthen containers because they did not attract attention to themselves and their precious contents. I believe few of us don’t at least occasionally think of ourselves as “clay jars”—objects of little value or beauty. But what a precious treasure we possess within us: the gospel! Our awesome God, who could shout the gospel from the mountains or write it on the sky has chosen, instead, to pour His light into us! We can either grumble about the containers God gave us…or we can rejoice in what He filled them with. The choice is really ours—but choose wisely.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (vv. 16-17)

I’m learning that in admitting my own powerlessness, I find God’s strength in my life. It is when we surrender our broken spirits and bodies into God’s hands that a wonderful transformation takes place. He may not change the circumstances that bother us or make us anxious—but He will change our hearts and our attitudes so that we can see the incredible work He is doing in us and through us.

Trying to be in control of our lives usually doesn’t produce great results. Trying to patch up and polish our clay jars may make us feel better for a few days…but we will soon be dissatisfied with ourselves again. Instead, we should “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (v. 18)

You are not worthless to God! Rejoice in the treasure He has given you.

This and That

Wow, life has been so busy (in a good way) that I haven’t been able to write any fresh blog posts lately. I’m getting my projects (which will include a few new book proposals!) organized, however, so hopefully that will change soon. In the meantime, here are some quick updates you might enjoy.

  1. I’ve added a few new made-by-me Facebook covers to the Freebie page, which are yours to grab and use. Click here. A sample is at the bottom of this post.
  2. One of my articles published in InTouch last year won a second-place prize in the recent Evangelical Press Association Higher Goals in Christian Journalism award. Yay! Here’s the link if you’re interested: Messenger to the Military. I think you’ll find this woman’s story very inspiring!
  3. I recently had these articles published:
    1. Revival 100 Years After the Armenian Genocide (Christianity Today) – The positive response to this piece has been astounding!
    2. Columbia: Planting Seeds (Horizons) – A neat story about how urban gardening is helping spread the gospel in Bogota.
    3. Spring Cleaning: From the Inside Out (Choose Now Ministries) – Tips for parents and teens (with a free printable!)
    4. The Name of the Lord (A Look at the Book) – Third in my series of Bible studies on the Ten Commandments.
  4. I’ll be appearing as a guest on the Don Kroah show this Friday, April 17, at 4:15 p.m. (Eastern) to discuss my recent Christianity Today article about Armenia with guest host David Stokes. If you’ve got some spare time that afternoon, I hope you’ll tune in! Here’s the link. (Click on the Listen Live tab at the top.)

Inspiration

In closing, remember: You can never lose a homing pigeon. If your homing pigeon doesn’t come back, what you’ve lost is a pigeon. ;)