Words Matter

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The last couple of weeks we have been studying the use of words especially focusing on James 3.  Just in case you may have missed that particular week, I showed how James 3 teaches us that:

1. Words Matter

2. Words matter for they reveal our heart

3. Words matter for they can form our/other’s hearts

4. Words said to/from God can heal our words to others

To prove a point, Sonship international ministry provides these instructions of speech to show how much of our thoughts and words reveal a continual struggle for approval.  We continual believe that we are in a courtroom to demonstrate our worth to ourselves, others, and God.

  1. Do not complain or grumble.
  2. Do not boast about anything at all.
  3. Do not gossip or repeat bad information about somebody else.
  4. Do not run somebody down, even a little bit.
  5. Do not defend or excuse yourself, no matter what.
  6. Do always affirm other people.

Yet. according to the gospel we are already approved by the work of Jesus on the cross on our behalf.  As approved by God, the only lasting authority, I no longer need to push myself before lesser authorities.  Yet our words may reveal that our heart doesn’t believe this declaration.

Consider these instructions in light of social media.  If you applied the instructions listed above to your social media postings and remarks, how many of your postings would be eliminated?  Social media’s effect is to amplify our heart revelations as well as intensify the effect on other people’s hearts.  The media can be a powerful tool for good if we learn to talk and hear from God before posting and remarking. Note in the verse below that the object of judgment is not just our speech, but our words whether written or spoken.

Matthew 12:36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Jarrod Scott

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The Greatest Commandment

In our F260 readings this week we are blessed with some memory verses from Deuteronomy 6 that many of us may already know pretty well. Verses 4-9 offer us some great truth and instruction, so I’m thankful we have the opportunity to study and learn what God has to share. Right out of the gate starting with verses 4-5, we get a great truth and the part we may know best of all “Hear O Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Jesus referenced this in Matthew 22:38 as “The first and greatest commandment”, so that reference alone makes it stand out and be worth engraving in our hearts as is stated in Deuteronomy 22:6 “And these words I command to you today shall be on our heart” which means always with us and a part of everything we think and do. In verse Deuteronomy 22:7, the word says “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise”. This is suggesting to us that these teachings should go on at all times and in all situations. Deuteronomy 22:8-9 says “You shall bind them as a sign on your hands and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the door post of your house and on your gates”. Which is telling us it should be ever present in our lives, in the work of our hands, in our homes and on our doorpost for all to see.  We are to live out the love we have for God in all we do and we are to share that through living it and teaching it everyday!
These verses offer great truths from God’s word, and while it may be more difficult to live it and teach it in our daily lives than it is to believe the fact that God is the One and Only True God, we know we can focus and believe in what Deuteronomy 22:4 & 5 say that “The Lord our God, the Lord is one” and if we love him with all of our heart and all of our soul and with all of our might, He will give us the strength to better live it out everyday. Let’s pray God will give us His strength daily to live for him in everything we do.
And as we approach Easter, let’s also pray that God will lay a burden on our hearts for someone that we can invite to church to hear the greatest news of all… that Jesus is Alive and sitting at the right hand of our God on our behalf every day.
Happy Easter!

Chris Best

St. Patrick’s Day

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In America, arguably more than even Ireland, March 17 is a big deal in celebrating what is called St. Patrick’s day.  In fact, the idea of parades began in New York with British soldiers from Ireland “marching” to a tavern on this day in the 1760’s.  The men we called St. Patrick died on March 17, 461 AD and was really British, not Irish.  He was born under the Roman empire authority and his father was a deacon and grandfather a priest.  As a 16-year-old, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish invaders and was made a slave.  While a slave for 6 years, Patrick stated: “The Lord opened to me a sense of my unbelief, that I might be converted with all my heart unto the Lord.”

Patrick escaped his owners a and made it back home at the age of 22.  While extremely grateful to be back home and no longer a slave his heart became burdened for his former captors.  One night he dreamed that an Irishman was begging him to return and preach.  Patrick started to prepare and study for the task that was before him and after several years went back to Ireland. In his mission work, he was able to plant 200 churches and baptized approximately 100,000 converts though he faced multiple attempts at murder and violent opposition. In his Confessions, he wrote, “I am greatly a debtor of God, who has bestowed his grace so largely upon me, that multitudes were born again to God through me.  The Irish, who had never had the knowledge of God and worshipped only idols and unclean things, have lately become the people of the Lord, and are called sons of God”.  (On this Day by Robert J. Morgan, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

The ritual of wearing green extended from wearing the green shamrock on this day to identify with the Christian tradition of Ireland and Patrick’s use of a shamrock to explain the Trinity.  If you want to watch a video that utilizes stupid humor as a tool to correct this and other bad analogies for the Trinity then click here.

The “Breast Plate of St. Patrick” is attributed to him (viewed in the picture above), but in reality, we do not know the author of the poem, though it is old enough to have been written or utilized by Patrick.

Jarrod Scott

What Should We Be Asking of God in Our Prayers?

A few Sundays ago, Jarrod spoke about the need to pray, not so much for what we want, but for what God has promised to provide us, in His Word. Sadly, there is often a significant difference in what we want vs. what God wants for us. Below are a few interrelated points to consider.

1. In 2010, David Jones, Professor of Christian Ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a book entitled, “Health, Wealth & Happiness: Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ?” In that book, Dr. Jones raises concerns over the continuing trend in our Christian culture, from a Christ-based focus to a me-based focus. God’s primary desire is to see all come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). Said another way, to be saved (Romans 10:9). From that point forward, God’s longing is for us to love Him and to love our neighbor. This desire, referred to as the Greatest Commandment, is repeated, word for word (for emphasis) in Luke 10:27, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30-31 and Deuteronomy 6:5 among other verses spread throughout the Bible. Love comes from having a relationship with someone, exemplified from our F260 reading this past week where the Lord spoke to Moses as a man speaks to his friend (Ex 33:11). Once saved, our path to love God is through learning about who He is and what He has done for us (Jeremiah 9:23-24). The greatest expression of our eternal love for others is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them (Matt 28:19-20).

Reflection – Are these the foundational elements of your prayer life, to love God more and more every day and to share that love with others? If not, then you (we) are out of sync with God.

2. One of the “formulas” for prayer is A.C.T.S. These letters stand for Adoration (Praise – Psalms 68:35), Confession (of sins – 1 John 1:9), Thanksgiving (thanking God for who he is – Psalms 69:30), and Supplication (requests – Phil 4:6). Note the emphasis on this method of prayer, that adoration and thanksgiving are to be focused on who God is and confession is all about how we have fallen short. Only supplication has a component of prayer requests for ourselves balanced with prayers for others (intercessory).

Reflection – The obvious question is, what balance in these elements do you (I) see in your personal (not corporate) time of daily prayer?

3. God promises that all things will work out for good for His children (Romans 8:28). We cannot see eternity past (I have trouble remembering what I did yesterday). We cannot see today in all its detail (I can only see my side of an issue or event), and we cannot see into a perfect future (I pulled out of stocks two weeks ago, perfectly timing the lowest point in the market, which has risen consistently ever since). When God says He will work everything out for the good of his children, it is another way of saying Phil 4:6-7, that we should not be anxious about anything but pray with a focus on thanksgiving that God will take care of us regardless of the way circumstances seem to look at the time.

Reflection – It is always true that our prayer life becomes more vibrant when we, or our loved ones, get into trouble. The question is, do our prayers remain in balance (A.C.T.S.) or do they become only petitions to God, based on our imperfect view of the situation?

4. Finally, and perhaps the scariest reality as selfish individuals, God’s focus is not toward you and me, as individuals so much as it is to work everything out in a way that will bring Him Glory. God is not our servant, expected to come to our rescue and personally fix our problems based on the way we see them. John 16:33 reminds us that God desires that we have peace, not because we will get everything we want, but because He is in control. As I have mentioned in public before, God drove Judy and I into personal bankruptcy, the exact opposite of what I wanted for our lives. However, He used that process to drive us closer to Him, to be dependent not on ourselves, but on Him. I can look back and see the greater picture of God getting the glory, as well as my family entering His kingdom one day. However, this win-win is not always the case and it is not always so clear. Currently, I know a family where the father is in jail and will be for many years. The mom, with two kids, is facing major surgery in the next few weeks and a long and unsure period of recovery. God may somehow be glorified through all this but, at least so far, it does not appear to be a win-win for the family. Romans 8:28, working together for good, may eventually become visible, but it may not be all that clear on this side of the grave.

Reflection – Are you ok with the reality that comes from Proverbs 19:21 where it says, “Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”

I could go on and on but the point is that our sin nature (selfishness, pride, arrogance, etc.) clouds us from the reality that God sees things differently than we do. He has an eternal perspective where ours is often so blind and limited to earthly matters. The more our prayer life moves toward His desire, the more we will truly be citizens of Heaven rather than focused on struggling through the day to day existence in these temporary bodies.

Jeff Hilles