Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Playing with Fire

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
James 3:6

On November 23, 2016, two teens, one fifteen and one seventeen, walked down the Chimney Tops hiking trail in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park lighting matches and tossing them off the side of the trail as they went. One or more of these matches started a wildfire that burned for roughly three weeks in and around the national park and Gatlinburg areas. It burned 17,904 acres, destroyed 2,500 structures, and caused about $500 million in damage. Worst of all, it sent 191 people to the hospital and killed 14 more. It all started with a tiny little fire on the end of a matchstick. (Both teenagers have now been charged with aggravated arson.)

It is hard to imagine what these teens were thinking tossing lit matches into a wooded area. How could they not realize that even such a small fire could be so dangerous!? But many of us display the same cavalier attitude in the things we say. We think, "I probably shouldn't say this..." but we just can't help ourselves; so we light the match and toss the comment over our shoulder as we walk away. We never stop to think about how much damage it could do. We slander, gossip, and accuse people, and we think it's no big deal. But James tells us that the tongue is like a fire. Your words can burn with all the destructive force of a wildfire, injuring and destroying anyone in their path. This is especially true of slander. 

Did you know that the word for "Devil" in the New Testament actually means slanderer or accuser? Revelation 12:10 says he is, "the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night..." This fits perfectly with the story of Job from the Old Testament in which Satan appears before God to slander and accuse a righteous man. This is what the Devil spends his time doing, accusing and slandering God's people. So when you slander one of your brothers or sisters in Christ, you actually become the weapon in the enemy's hand that he uses you to attack God's people. You are doing the Devil's job for him! That is why Scripture takes such a firm stance against slander. James 4:11 says "do not slander one another." Titus 3:2 says we should "slander no one." Ephesians 4:31 counsels us to "get rid of all slander." And I Corinthians 6:10 even goes so far as to say that slanderers will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

Brothers and sisters, please be careful what you say. Don't be double-tongued. Don't praise God with the same mouth that you use to curse and slander His people. Instead be known for speaking encouragement, Scripture, and blessings (even when you are being cursed). Keep a tight rein on your tongue, and may we all be more like the righteous man in Proverbs 10:11 than we are like the worthless man in Proverbs 16:27.
Proverbs 16:27- "A worthless man's speech is like a scorching fire."  Proverbs 10:11- "The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

How to Read the Bible

Many believers don't enjoy reading their Bible because they read it the wrong way. I don't mean that they read it upside down, but that they don't really know how to feed on God's Word (Matt. 4:4). If you read just to get through a set amount, then you will race to be finished instead of savoring every bite. It's hard to enjoy a meal you are rushing to get it over with. If you read only for content, then you will learn a lot of truth, but it may not stir your heart or change your life in any way. You can be wise and still have a cold, dead faith. If you read solely for application, then you will be convicted of your sin and feel a burden to make corrections in your life, but you may begin to think of Christianity as merely a self-improvement plan. All of these ways of reading God's Word are good in their own right, but they are all insufficient in and of themselves and should be subordinate to the main way that we read the Bible.

Read the Bible to find out who God is! We can't forget that Scripture is the second greatest revelation of our God (Jesus Christ being the first and most perfect revelation) (Heb. 1:1-3 & 2 Cor. 3:14-18). So when we read Scripture it is fitting that we should ask of the text what it reveals to us about God. What is He like? Then once we have gotten a clear view of the greatness of God, all of the sudden praise becomes a part of our Bible reading regimen. Awe returns to our faith and we begin to worship at the throne of God every time we open His Word. All the other appropriate ways to read Scripture flow naturally from this starting point. Once Scripture has reminded us of God's greatness, then we will want to understand His plans for our lives. We will want to follow His commands meticulously and we will know that our only hope of doing that is through the indwelling power of His Spirit in us. We will want to meditate on His Word and think deeply about all its treasures so we can harvest them and call them our own.

Take a moment to read these three verses from Psalm 40 and as you do seek to answer the question "What is God like?" But don't just make a list of attributes, pause and praise God for each attribute you find. Take time to turn your Bible reading into bible-fueled worship! For your edification I am including the list of attributes that God revealed to me from these verses in my personal quiet time this morning.
I waited patiently for the Lord;he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,out of the mud and mire;he set my feet on a rockand gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,a hymn of praise to our God.Many will see and fear the Lordand put their trust in him.                               Psalm 40:1-3

  • God is worth waiting for
  • God hears our cries. He listens to me!
  • He turns toward us. He is eager to draw near.
  • He is our Savior in every sense of the word!
  • He is not afraid to get dirty in order to save His children. (Consider this in light of Jesus' willingness to take our sins on Himself in order to save us from God's wrath.)
  • He lifts up.
  • He turns lives around dramatically.
  • He gives us a firm foundation for life. He is our firm foundation for life. 
  • He is the reason we sing. He inspires us to praise and He is worthy of all praise.
  • He is trustworthy!
Praise the LORD!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

God is Great!

Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; let those who love Your salvation continually say, “God is great!”
Psalm 70:4

The believer has but one refrain. Like a broken record, we replay the same song day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Just as a broken record will play the same song regardless of its surroundings, so too our circumstances in life ought not change our tune one iota. "God is great, God is great, God is great!" That is our song.

But far too many of us are wooed away by the deceitfulness of this world. We stop seeking after God. We stop loving His salvation and finding our joy in Him. To us Jesus says, "I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first" (Revelation 2:4). Be wary of beginning to exult in someone or something other than God. We may be grateful for the people we love, or the group we belong to, or even material things. All of these are worth rejoicing over but only as good and perfect gifts which have come down to us from the Father of heavenly lights (James 1:17). So even then, when we rejoice in His gifts, we continue to say "God is great!" The gift is simply the most recent proof of our refrain. Our joy remains not in the gift but in God Himself.

So lift Him up! Praise Him for all His blessings! Rejoice in His goodness. Tell others what He has done for you. 

Father, give me the words to tell others how wonderful you are. Show Yourself to be great through me. May my testimony adorn You with beauty. Help me to faithfully proclaim your goodness all the days of my life. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Delivering the Deliverer

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
Luke 2:6-7a

When Jesus took on flesh and entered history to offer salvation to mankind, He didn't descend from heaven on a cloud or come down in a whirlwind riding a fiery chariot. He entered our world through the womb of Mary. Have you ever paused to consider the fact that it took human labor and significant pain for Christ to come? Most children's stories, Christmas pageants, and nativity movies skip over the labor and delivery part of the Christmas story; so it can be easy for us to overlook as well. But consider that Mary didn't have the conveniences of modern hospitals to help her out. No ice chips or hot tubs. She didn't have pain meds or an epidural. With God's hand upon her she screamed and struggled and delivered the Deliverer. 

But Mary's sacrifice wouldn't end there. Forty days later at the temple, a godly man named Simeon prophesied to Mary that "a sword will pierce your own soul too" (Luke 2:34-35). How true this would prove. Later once He had begun His ministry, Jesus came and preached in His hometown among those who knew His mother and His family. What He said so enraged the crowd that they tried to throw Him off a cliff (Luke 4:14-30). Imagine the social stigma Mary bore. It must have only grown as the religious leaders of the day increasingly disapproved of and attacked Jesus and His followers. But the sword of which Simeon spoke came at Jesus' death. Mary stood at the foot of the cross and watched her beloved Son die for her own sins. She watched as evil men murdered her Son. She watched Him suffer and struggle for breath. 

Although Mary's story is exceptional, as we examine Scripture and history we find that it is not unusual. God often invites people to join in His work. But His work almost always requires struggle, suffering and sacrifice be made. So this begs the question, what great deeds might God be calling you to accomplish for His kingdom in the new year and what cross might He ask you to bear? Are you willing to suffer, struggle, and labor to accomplish great things for God?