Daily Devotional

  • The Tongue - The Transforming Power of “Delightful” Words – God’s Loving Presence and Voice - Thursday, October 1st

    May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:19-20

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We are talking about "Delightful" words that contribute to our health and welfare as believers in Jesus Christ. Today we explore some of the most "Delightful" words of all. Think about all the times the message of Scripture has spoken to your spiritual ears and you have heard the "Delightful" words, "God Loves You!" Has it not been a glorious thing for you to enter into the reality that "God loves you?" As wonderful as it is, perhaps it's possible to go further than just being told, "God loves you." In Jeremiah 31:3, God says to us, "I have loved you with an everlasting love." In essence, this Scripture tells us that God has directly spoken the "Delightful" words, "I love you." Wow!

    Picture a young man and a young woman named Mark and Mary. They are falling head over heals for each other and love is truly blossoming. When the message of Scripture speaks to your spiritual ears and you hear the "Delightful" words, "God Loves You," it is like a good friend of Mark saying to Mary, "Mark loves you." Mary is thrilled to hear these delightful words from Mark's friend. When you read the words above from Jeremiah, that in essence tell you God has spoken the "Delightful" words, "I love you," it is like Mark expressing his love to Mary in a letter. Mary is even more thrilled to hear these delightful words in writing from Mark.

    But perhaps it's possible to go even further. Picture Mark and Mary in a setting of intimate dining. They are alone at a candlelit table for two with beautiful music playing in the background. They look into each other's eyes and they experience the love they have for each other. Then in the midst of an actual experience of love, Mark says directly to Mary those truly "Delightful" words, "I love you" and Mary does the same.

    Our Ephesians passage speaks about actually experiencing the love of Christ. It is in communion with him that you experience his love more fully and completely than at any other time. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and will dine with him, and he with Me." Jesus is not talking about him coming into your life (salvation) but about letting him come into your awareness within the inner sanctuary of your heart. It is Christ and you experiencing each other in the intimacy of prayerful communion (dining) with each other. It is in such intimate moments with Christ that he pours out his love for you to experience fully within the inner sanctuary of your heart. What an amazing way for Christ to say to you, "I love you!" And if you are quite still before him in the intimate moment of experiencing the depths of his love, you make even hear his "still small voice" whisper in your ear, "I love you."

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I know you are able to accomplish infinitely more than I otherwise might have thought to ask or think. I am more than thinking about your love now and I am truly asking you to help me experience you and your love. Here I am, Lord. In the intimacy of prayerful communion with you, I surrender to your wonderful presence and love and say to you, "I love you."

  • The Tongue - The Transforming Power of “Delightful” Words – Dealing with Our True Condition and Behavior - Wednesday, September 30th

    People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. Blessed are those who fear to do wrong, but the stubborn are headed for serious trouble. Proverbs 28:13-14

    Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.” Suddenly the pressure was gone—my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. Psalm 32:5 (MSG)

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Our series is about the "Tongue" and this week we are looking at the roll of "Delightful" words (Mellifluous/honey words) in our lives. Yesterday, we focused on the idea that "Delightful" words are not just those which validate and support good (safe) behavior (Yes) but include those that challenge and confront bad (harmful) behavior (No). Perhaps a good way to describe today's focus is this: being open and honest about anything "bad" in our lives that doesn't fit in with the "good" that God desires for us and then speaking the corresponding "Delightful" words, "I'm sorry, forgive me" (to God, to others, or to both).

    These "Delightful" words come from us and while they are spoken to God and others, we hear them for ourselves as "Delightful" words that impact us to the core of our being. It begins with looking within and really seeing what's there that needs to be dealt with, getting it out in the open, and then letting God apply his love, grace, and forgiveness to it. But then often it extends to other people who have been recipients of the "bad" we are dealing with. Read again our verses above from Proverbs and Psalms, let them sink in, and become convinced that when you genuinely speak the restorative and healing words, "I'm sorry, forgive me," they are "Delightful" to God, others, and yourself. How freeing it is all the way around (God, others, you) when sin is acknowledged, confessed, and forgiven.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, deliver me from the trap of hiding the "bad" in my life. Help me become absolutely convinced of the necessity of sin in my life being acknowledged, confessed, and forgiven. Lord, I am here before you, seeking to be open and honest with you about anything "bad" in my life that doesn't fit in with the "good" you desire for me. Help me to acknowledge and confess it all to you and to believe you will apply your love, grace, and forgiveness to everything. Lord, "I'm sorry, forgive me." Help me, likewise, to go to anyone in my life that needs to hear these "Delightful" words from me as well. Amen!

  • The Tongue - The Transforming Power of “Delightful” Words – Embracing Needs over Wants - Tuesday, September 29th

    Jeremiah, say to the people, "This is what the Lord says: 'When people fall down, don’t they get up again? When they discover they’re on the wrong road, don’t they turn back? .... Even the stork that flies across the sky knows the time of her migration, as do the turtledove, the swallow, and the crane. They all return at the proper time each year. But not my people! They do not know the Lord’s laws.'" Jeremiah 8:4, 7

    My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:11-12

    So don’t bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you. But correct the wise, and they will love you. Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more. Proverbs 9:8-9

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    A small child suddenly hears the loud, sharp command of his parent from across the room. A small child suddenly feels his arm in the uncomfortable grip of his parent at his side. In both instances the small child has been kept from a harmful action and in both instances it is not a "delightful" experience for the child. Yesterday we said that as relational people who routinely experience the words (and actions) of other people, we long for the delightful and shun the unpleasant. What is not known by the small child but is clear to us is this: the intervention of a loving parent to keep him from harm and the pain and suffering that goes with it, is a "delightful" thing. The small child doesn't know what he doesn't know.

    This is what our Jeremiah passage is dealing with. God's people don't know what they don't know. Even our feathered friends keep in step with the order of things God has for them. God's people need to delight in his ways (laws) and in the help (words and actions) he brings to them directly and through others for staying on track (encouragement) and getting back on track (admonishment) when we get off track. The good words (and actions) of God and others are "delightful" if we have the right perspective. This is the message of our two Proverbs passages.

    Our world today does not know what is good for them. Ignorance in the long run is not bliss. We are pulled by the world toward a twisted view of what is "delightful." The world's view of "delightful" is all about finding pleasure, enjoyment, and delight in anything and everything one can find it in. This is why it is socially unacceptable to say or do anything that interferes with another person's pursuit of personal "delight." Be that as it may, we can "delight" in God's ways and the help he brings to us directly and through others for living right. The more this becomes our approach to life the more God can use us to help others live right through our good words (and actions).

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

     Lord, my prayer today is twofold: first, help me hear whatever I need to hear from you and from others that will help my life be more on track and then help me to become one who routinely hears such words as "delightful" words. Second, help me have a nurturing spirit that cares deeply about the welfare of other people so I can do the part you give me in nurturing others toward the good and away from the bad through encouragement and admonishment. Grant that the core desire of my being is wrapped up in you and your ways. May I live for your good pleasure and not my own. Amen!

  • The Tongue – The Transforming Power of “Delightful” Words – Being Honest about what Really Happens - Monday, September 28th

    Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Ephesians 4:29

    Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and good for your health and welfare. Proverbs 16:24

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    What type of words do you want to hear from other people? Do you want foul and abusive language or do you want fragrant and nurturing language? Do you want bad and hurtful speaking or do you want good and helpful speaking? Do you want negative words that discourage you or do you want positive words that encourage you? Do you want mean words that are like vinegar and are bitter to your soul and detrimental to your health and welfare or do you want kind words that are like honey and sweet to the soul and good for your health and welfare.

    It is safe to say that as relational people who routinely experience the words of other people, we long for the delightful and abhor the unpleasant. Shouldn't we want for others what we want for ourselves? Perhaps we do in theory, but how often in the heat of the moment, our words are far less than delightful. How easily we inflict others with words that are hurtful and painful. Somehow, things get twisted within us so that we think our health and welfare depend on getting out our anger and frustration. Far too often, the worst comes out and we let those we think deserve harsh and detrimental treatment have a good dose of our negative and destructive words.

    We have learned that we cannot control the tongue. We also know that the tongue must be controlled. While we know that God's presence and power in our lives is the key, we struggle to experience the difference God can make as fully and consistently as we need in regard to tongue management. This is our fourth and final week in our series on the Tongue. We will be looking at our own experience with "delightful" words that come from God and others and how our full and consistent experience with them can transform the words we bring to others from ones that undermine their health and welfare to ones that wonderfully contribute to it. 

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I ask you for a shift in outlook regarding the possibility of change in the use of my tongue from an outlook of apprehension to and outlook of anticipation. Bring to me afresh the good and kind words you want to bring to me directly and those you want to bring to me from others. So fill my inner being with things that are excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8-9) that more and more, I have helpful and encouraging words to bring to others. Help me throughout this week to experience significant and lasting growth and change. Amen!

  • "One Day I Woke Up" - An Inspirational Story for Sunday, September 27th

    One Day I Woke Up

    One day, I woke early in the morning to watch the sunrise.

    Ah the beauty of God's creation is beyond description.

    As I watched, I praised God for His beautiful work.

    As I sat there, I felt the Lord's presence with me.

    He asked me, "Do you love me?"

    I answered, "Of course, God! You are my Lord and Savior!"

    Then He asked, "If you were physically handicapped, would you still love me?"

    I was perplexed. I looked down upon my arms, legs and the rest of my body and wondered how many things I wouldn't be able to do, the things that I took for granted. And I answered, "It would be tough Lord, but I would still love You."

    Then the Lord said, "If you were blind, would you still love my creation?"

    How could I love something without being able to see it? Then I thought of all the blind people in the world and how many of them still loved God and His creation. So I answered, "Its hard to think of it, but I would still love you."

    The Lord then asked me, "If you were deaf, would you still listen to my word?"

    How could I listen to anything being deaf? Then I understood. Listening to God's Word is not merely using our ears, but our hearts. I answered, "It would be tough, but I would still listen to Your word."

    The Lord then asked, "If you were mute, would you still praise My Name?"

    How could I praise without a voice? Then it occurred to me: God wants us to sing from our very heart and soul. It never matters what we sound like. And praising God is not always with a song, but when we are persecuted, we give God praise with our words of thanks. So I answered, "Though I could not physically sing, I would still praise Your Name.

    And the Lord asked, "Do you really love Me?"

    With courage and a strong conviction, I answered boldly, "Yes Lord! I love You because You are the one and true God!"

    I thought I had answered well, but...

    God asked next, "Then why do you sin?"

    I answered, "Because I am only human. I am not perfect."

    "Then why in times of peace do you stray the furthest from me? Why do you only pray fervently in times of trouble?

    No answers. Only tears.

    The Lord continued: "Why only sing at fellowships and retreats? Why seek Me only in times of worship? Why ask things so selfishly? Why ask things so unfaithfully?"

    The tears continued to roll down my cheeks.

    "Why are you ashamed of Me? Why are you not spreading the good news? Why in times of persecution, you cry to others when I offer My shoulder to cry on? Why make excuses when I give you opportunities to serve in My Name?"

    I tried to answer, but there was no answer to give.

    "You are blessed with life. I made you not to throw this gift away. I have blessed you with talents to serve Me, but you continue to turn away. I have revealed My Word to you, but you do not gain in knowledge. I have spoken to you but your ears were closed. I have shown My blessings to you, but your eyes were turned away. I have sent you servants, but you sat idly by as they were pushed away. I have heard your prayers and I have answered them all."

    "Do you truly love me?"

    I could not answer. How could I? I was embarrassed beyond belief. I had no excuse. What could I say to this? When I my heart had cried out and the tears had flowed, I said, " Please forgive me Lord. I am unworthy to be Your child."

    The Lord answered, "That is My Grace, My child."

    I asked, "Then why do you continue to forgive me? Why do You love me so?"

    The Lord answered, "Because you are My creation. You are my child. I will never abandon you."

    "When you cry, I will have compassion and cry with you.

    When you shout with joy, I will laugh with you.

    When you are down, I will encourage you.

    When you fall, I will raise you up.

    When you are tired, I will carry you.

    I will be with you till the end of days, and I will love you forever."

    Never had I cried so hard before. How could I have been so cold? How could I have hurt God as I had done? I asked God, "How much do You love me?"

    The Lord stretched out His arms, and I saw His nail-pierced hands. I bowed down at the feet of Christ, my Savior. And for the first time, I truly prayed.

  • The Tongue – An Instrument Dedicated to Nurture – Deeply Rooted and Abundantly Fruitful - Saturday, September 26th

    This is what the Lord says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land. But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit." Jeremiah 17:5-8

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Our passage today speaks of our need to be ones who "never stop producing fruit." With this thought we circle back to the beginning of the week and our opening passage from Colossians and the Apostle Paul's prayer that our "lives will produce every kind of good fruit." We can also circle back to the first week of the series that focused on the James 3 passage on the "Tongue." James 3 ends with these words in verses 17 & 18, "But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." While our look at James 3 during the first week did not include these verses, they are truly fitting at this juncture.

    The connection between having a well-managed tongue and having a life that is genuinely fruitful is inescapable. Obedience is doing what God tells us to do and he has told us that we must use our tongues properly. Dependence is all about "trusting in the Lord and making him our hope and confidence so that we don't rely on human strength and turn our hearts away from him." We put it all together like this: Moment by moment we choose to engage in the fruitful behavior of using our tongues properly as we depend on the Lord by faith to accomplish this fruitful behavior in us and through us. Those whose lives are devoted to this end will not be like "stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future," but will be "like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water .... their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit."

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I want to be one who is devoted to having a fruitful life with a well-managed tongue. I recognize that fruitfulness comes from you and to that end I must love you with everything I have (The greatest commandment). I also recognize that fruitfulness is all about blessing others with nurturing attitudes, actions, and words and to this end I must love others with everything I have (The second greatest commandment). So, here I am before you, asking that you will do an amazing work in my heart right now. Grant it, Lord, that more fully than ever before, I launch out in the obedient pursuit of a life full of fruitful behavior and that I do so in full dependence upon you.

  • The Tongue – An Instrument Dedicated to Nurture – Our Top Priority is to be a Loving Person - Friday, September 25th

    “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Out of the all the commands given by God to Moses for Israel to obey in the land of promise (Canaan) as God's people, Jesus picks the two commands above as the most important. The first command in importance comes from Deuteronomy 6:5 and the second command in importance comes from Leviticus 19:18. It is interesting that these two commands do not occur together in the Old Testament. While the commands to love God and to love others are listed separately this does not mean they are not vitally linked to each other. There is something included in the original command to "love your neighbor as yourself" from Leviticus that is not included in Matthew. In Leviticus, right after "love your neighbor as yourself," it says, "I am the Lord." Our relationship with the Lord has everything to do with our relationships with others.

    When Jesus put the two commands together in response to the question he was asked above, it established once and for all that loving God and loving others are inseparable truths. He even goes on to say that these two commands are the basis for everything else in the law and the prophets. At points along the way in our series on the "Tongue" we have seen that our relationship with God and our relationships with others go hand in hand. You may recall the example of James 3 where we are told that it should not be that out of the same mouth come blessing the Lord and cursing people.

    But what does it mean to "Love your neighbor as yourself?" Love is strictly relational. You love God and he loves you. You love others and others love you. You do not have a relationship with yourself because a relationship takes two persons. Therefore, the command is not talking about loving yourself. The Bible actually speaks against self-love (2 Timothy 3:1-2). "Love you neighbor as yourself" does not mean love others in the way you love yourself. It means love others in the way you yourself would like to be loved by others (your neighbor).

    It is not unreasonable to conclude that the answer Jesus gives to the Pharisee goes beyond just the Law of Moses. Jesus is saying that you can take everything God has in mind for mankind and it all boils down to these two commandments. Let it sink in that loving God and loving others is the essence of God's expectations for mankind. What ramifications does this have on our tendency to be people who are judgmental? Since nothing is more important than loving God and loving others, being a loving person should be the first and foremost priority in our lives. Accordingly, there is no room for being a person who mistreats other people because you have allowed a critical, judgmental approach to relationships to permeate your heart and life.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I embrace for myself the priority of loving you and others fully. I commit myself to a lifetime of being a truly loving person. I promise to forsake the mistreatment of other people that comes from judgmental attitudes, actions, and words. I will seek to be all I need to be in this through the transforming presence and work of the Holy Spirit both in me and through me. Amen!

  • The Tongue – An Instrument Dedicated to Nurture – God, not Us, is in Charge - Thursday, September 24th of All People -

    Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. Romans 14:4 NIV

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Yesterday we came face to face with our need for Divine patience so that we are able to wait to get the entire picture of things and don't mistreat someone by prematurely reacting in a way that is harsh, hurtful, and judgmental. When we rely on God for patience it is an act of dependence. If I am truly depending on God then I am not depending on myself. When I depend on myself I am wrapped in myself. When I depend on God I am wrapped up in him. It is from experiencing this kind of relationship with God that I learn the secret of our Romans passage: that ultimately I answer to God alone and so does everyone else.

    Without a dependent relationship with God, where I am wrapped in him instead of myself, my relationships with others are bound to get out of whack. Even if I want to live fully for God but don't learn dependence on God, I will be in trouble. When I approach the Christian life as something I do for God, I will become legalistic about righteousness for myself and for others. It is so easy to slip into becoming the spiritual police for everyone around me and to relate to them judgmentally in my attitudes, actions, and words. When I depend on God and am wrapped up in him, I begin to count on the fact that God is on the job of overseeing my spiritual journey and that of everyone else. I can leave others in his capable hands. God does choose to use his people to accomplish his purposes in the lives of others. Knowing when this is part of what he is doing in someone's life and when it is not is vital. When I am depending on him and I am wrapped up in him, he will be able to make it clear to me what my role is in a relationship I have with someone else.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, Wow! I see more clearly than ever that the Christian life truly needs to be supernatural. I know it is not about me doing something for you. It is not even about my enlisting your aide for living right. I realize it's about my life being "your doing" as I depend on you fully and am wrapped in you totally. I pray today for a supernatural relationship with you and supernatural relationships with others. Amen!

  • The Tongue – An Instrument Dedicated to Nurture – Caring Deeply and Patiently Helping - Wednesday, September 23rd

    Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish .... The first to speak in court sounds right—until the cross-examination begins. Proverbs 18:13,17

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    In our devotionals so far this week we have zeroed in on two contrasting approaches to relationships with other people. On the one hand is the person who is nurturing toward other people and on the other hand is the person who is judgmental toward other people. The person who is nurturing uses sound judgment to see accurately the good and the bad in the lives of other people. Their nurturing spirit helps them care deeply about the welfare of other people so that they do their God given part to nurture others toward the good and away from the bad through encouragement and admonishment. The person who is judgmental does not use sound judgment and therefore they inaccurately see others so that they view them in a totally negative light. Their judgmental spirit causes them not to care at all about the welfare of other people so that they mistreat the people in their lives through critical, harsh, and even vindictive attitudes, actions, and words.

    These are worst and best cases. How often do we find someone whose overall approach to relationships is being nurturing toward other people? How often do we find someone whose overall approach to relationships is being judgmental toward other people? More often than not most of us are a mix between the two. Sometimes we are very judgmental and sometimes we are very nurturing. Sometimes we are partly judgmental and partly nurturing at the same moment. We can all relate to our Proverbs passage above. We don't always spout off, but sometimes we do. We don't always latch on to one side of the story, but sometimes we do. What a great need we have for patience and waiting so that we get the entire picture of things.

    When we are nurturing, we are spiritual. When we are judgmental. we are not spiritual. This brings us back to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to provide help and nurture to those who need it. It is also the Holy Spirit who helps us to care deeply about the spiritual welfare of others and frees us from the trap of being judgmental toward people. So where do we start? Our Proverbs passage shows us our need for patience. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit. So, let's look to the Holy Spirit today for this one part of the help he offers. The Holy Spirit will make all the difference.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, you have granted to me everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and I know that somehow it all comes to me through the Holy Spirit. Help me to be more in touch and in step with the Holy Spirit. Continue to transform me into a person who is nurturing and not judgmental. And for today, empower me with Divine patience in all my dealings with the people in my life.

  • The Tongue – An Instrument Dedicated to Nurture – Holy Spirit Living Over Natural Living - Tuesday, September 22nd

    This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments. 1 Corinthians 2:13-15 NIV

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Our 1 Corinthians passage says that "The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness." It is the Holy Spirit in our lives that makes all the difference in regard to how we live life here on earth. The whole point of God putting his Spirit in us is to help us overcome living life by just doing what comes naturally. If we just do what comes naturally we will be "antagonistic" in attitude, actions, and words and regularly mistreat other people with our critical, judgmental approach to relationships. Our 1 Corinthians passage goes on to say that "The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things." This is referring to the good judgement and discernment the Spirit gives that makes it possible for us to provide help and nurture to those who need it. It is also the Spirit who helps us care deeply about the spiritual welfare of others and frees us from the trap of being antagonistic, critical, and judgmental toward people.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, forgive me for my tendency to live life naturally. Raise the expectation I have for how I will live my life to a level more in keeping with the reality that the Holy Spirit really does live in me. Help me to walk by the Spirit so that I do not carry out the natural desire of the flesh to behave in harmful and hurtful ways toward others. May goodness prevail in my heart, judgments, and words so that I am truly an instrument of help and nurture in the lives of the people around me.

  • The Tongue – An Instrument Dedicated to Nurture – Antagonistic Attitudes, Actions, and Words Must Cease - Monday, September 21st

    So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. Colossians 1:9-12

    Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? Matthew 7:1-3

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Notice the nurturing spirit with which the Apostle Paul speaks to his readers in our Colossians passage. He wants their lives to "produce every kind of good fruit." He wants them to "live in the light." What the Apostle Paul wants in the lives of others is present in his own life. In other words he is living fully for God and he delights in helping other people do the same. The people around you are either fellow travelers on the journey of living fully for God or they are ones who have the potential to begin living fully for God through redemption in Christ. The people around you need all the help they can get.

    God has placed people in your life and they deserve the blessing of you being someone who helps them in their response to God and not you being to them one who hinders their being able to respond well to God. You are never justified in mistreating other people. If you are antagonistic toward another person in your attitude, actions, or words, you are wrong. An "antagonistic" approach to relationships with other people rather than a "nurturing" approach, is what Jesus is nixing in our Matthew passage. Treating people well is what you are here for. You treat people well when your attitudes, actions, and words are nurturing and not antagonistic.

    This is the third week in the series on the "Tongue." Good judgment and discernment are not brought into question through the words of Jesus in the Matthew passage above. However, mistreating other people because you have allowed a critical, judgmental approach to relationships to permeate your heart and life is very much in question. This week is all about becoming a "nurturing" person in attitude, actions, and words who constantly pursues the welfare of other people (encouragement and admonishment). Of course this means that being an "antagonistic" person in attitude, actions, and words must cease. There is no justification for mistreating other people. A critical, judgmental approach to relationships must be forsaken.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I admit that this is tough. Getting relationship wrong comes so easy. Please deliver me from a critical, judgmental spirit. I want to be someone who really cares about the welfare of the people around me. Whatever it takes, Lord, I give myself to you and the journey of becoming a helpful and nurturing person.

  • "The Master's Vessel" - An Inspirational Story for Sunday, September 20th

    The Master's Vessel

    The Master was searching for a vessel to use; On the shelf there were many - which one would He choose?

    Take me, cried the gold one, I'm shiny and bright, I'm of great value and I do things just right. My beauty and luster will outshine the rest And for someone like You, Master, gold would be the best! The Master passed on with no word at all.

    He looked at a silver urn, narrow and tall; I'll serve You, dear Master, I'll pour out Your wine And I'll be at Your table whenever You dine, My lines are so graceful, my carvings so true, And my silver will always compliment You. Unheeding, the Master passed on to the brass.

    It was wide mouthed and shallow, and polished like glass. Here! Here! cried the vessel, I know I will do, Place me on Your table for all men to view. Look at me, called the goblet of crystal so clear, My transparency shows my contents so dear, Though fragile am I, I will serve You with pride, And I'm sure I'll be happy in Your house to abide.

    The Master came next to a vessel of wood, Polished and carved, it solidly stood. You may use me, dear Master, the wooden bowl said, But I'd rather You used me for fruit, not for bread!

    Then the Master looked down and saw a vessel of clay. Empty and broken it helplessly lay. No hope had the vessel that the Master might choose, To cleanse and make whole, to fill and to use.

    Ah! This is the vessel I've been hoping to find, I will mend and use it and make it all Mine. I need not the vessel with pride of its self; Nor the one who is narrow to sit on the shelf; Nor the one who is big mouthed and shallow and loud; Nor one who displays his contents so proud; Not the one who thinks he can do all things just right.

    But this plain earthy vessel filled with My power and might. Then gently He lifted the vessel of clay. Mended and cleansed it and filled it that day. Spoke to it kindly. There's work you must do, Just pour out to others as I pour into you.

  • The Tongue – Managing Our Words – Rooted in Surrender and Dependency - Saturday, September 19th

    May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

    I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (NASB)

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    It seems fitting to conclude our week with David's prayer from Psalm 19. Once again we see the heart and tongue connection. Last week we said that out of a good heart comes good fruit and good fruit includes good speaking. But we also said that a good heart can only come through a vital relationship with God given to us through redemption in Christ. David's prayer, that asks God to make both his words and heart what they need to be, reminds us of this fact. David shows us that dependence on God through faith is essential.

    But remember, as we saw in yesterday's devotional faith does not mean waiting for the Spirit to move and not being obedient in the interim to God's commands regarding the proper use of the tongue. Faith means that we do what God says we need to do while believing he will empower us to do it. Remember, that action without faith is just self-effort and faith without action in not true faith. So then, true victory in regard to the proper use of the tongue comes through obedience and faith. However, obedience and faith will not be employed without the necessary surrender and dependency of our abiding relationship with Christ.

    Jesus reminds us in our John passage that fruit comes from our abiding in him and him abiding in us. Faith is trusting him to do for us what we can’t do on our own and obedience is doing what God tells us to do. And of course, he has told us that we must use our tongues properly. We put it all together like this: Moment by moment we choose to engage in the fruitful behavior of using our tongues properly as we surrender to Christ and depend on him through faith to accomplish this fruitful behavior in us and through us.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." Amen!

  • The Tongue – Managing Our Words – Employing Disciplined Obedience through Faith - Friday, September 18th

    The one who is careful about what he says will have good come to him, but the one who wants to hurt others will have trouble. He who watches over his mouth keeps his life. He who opens his lips wide will be destroyed. The soul of the lazy person has strong desires but gets nothing, but the soul of the one who does his best gets more than he needs. Proverbs 13:2-4 (NLV)

    But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.” James 2:18 (GNT)

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    It is significant that today's passage on the tongue from Proverbs concludes with a contrast between the person who is lazy and the person who diligently does their best. We need to consider what part laziness plays in our failure to control the tongue and what part diligence plays in our success at controlling it. Today's passage from Proverbs is not focusing on the good ways the tongue can be used but rather on the bad ways it can be used. What we are really talking about here is having the personal discipline we need for being obedient about not hurting others with our tongues.

    Faith and having the discipline to act are not at odds with each other as we see from today's James passage. Faith means trusting God to empower us to do what he says we need to do. Faith does not mean waiting for the Spirit to move and not being obedient in the interim. Faith means that we do what God says we need to do while believing he will empower us to do it. Action without faith is just self-effort and faith without action in not true faith. Either way success at controlling the tongue will not be achieved. The one who engages in action without is faith is being lazy about seeking God and trusting in his indwelling presence and power. The one who fails to act in obedience as they wait for the Spirit to move is being lazy about obeying what God has told them to do.

    In summary, diligently doing our best in regard to the use of our tongue means that we will be careful what we say. It means will not allow ourselves to want to hurt someone through what we say. It means we will be diligent about keeping watch over our mouths and not opening wide our lips to say whatever we want to say. Success at controlling the tongue is all about obediently doing our best to refrain and hold back from using words that hurt others. It is an obedience that acts on what God commands while fully trusting and depending on his presence and power.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, forgive me for my lack of diligence to obey you in regard to the use of my tongue. Likewise, forgive me for not trusting your presence and power in my life in order to have victory over my tongue. I step out in faith and obedience today with confidence that I can go forward with the discipline I need to manage my tongue properly as I trust you and depend on you. Amen!

  • The Tongue – Managing Our Words – Yielding to Divine Intervention - Thursday, September 17th

    Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. James 3:2-4

    Then Jesus said to his followers, “If anyone wants to follow me, he must say ‘no’ to the things he wants. He must be willing even to die on a cross, and he must follow me. Whoever wants to save his life will give up true life. And whoever gives up his life for me will have true life. It is worth nothing for a man to have the whole world if he loses his soul. He could never pay enough to buy back his soul. The Son of Man will come again with his Father’s glory and with his angels. At that time, he will reward everyone for what he has done. Matthew 16:24-27 (ICB)

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The key word in today's passages is the word, "control." In the Matthew passage, Jesus is saying that by staying in control of our lives, we lose them, but, in giving up control of our lives to him, we save them. Throughout this series, it has been emphasized that apart from Divine intervention we cannot live fully for God and therefore we cannot bring our tongues under proper control. As indicated by our James passage, it works the other way as well. If we cannot bring our tongues under control, we cannot live fully for God.

    Either way the tongue is like a "bit" or a "rudder" in our lives that determines the direction our lives will take. If the tongue is controlled properly, then the whole life is controlled properly. If the tongue is not controlled properly, then our lives are out of control in one sense, but under the control of the tongue in another sense. When the tongue is in control, our lives are dominated by our sinful hearts and the sinful words that flow from them. Truly, we need a Savior who will deliver us from our sinful heart, life, and tongue so that we can live fully for God and be a source of blessing to others as we consistently speak into the lives of others words that are life giving and words that are healing.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, show me more completely what it means to give up control of my life and what being under your control looks like. I want to be surrendered to you, but I need your help and intervention. I believe that only you can bring my tongue under proper control and that only you can make it true that my life is lived fully for God. Amen!

  • The Tongue – Managing Our Words – Becoming Channels of Divine Grace - Wednesday, September 16th

    A gentle answer will calm a person’s anger. But an unkind answer will cause more anger. Wise people use knowledge when they speak. But fools speak only foolishness. The Lord’s eyes see everything that happens. He watches both evil and good people. As a tree gives us fruit, healing words give us life. But evil words crush the spirit. Proverbs 15:1-4 (ICB)

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Here is the all-important question: How are you actually doing with tongue management in your life on a daily basis in your relationships with the people around you? God already knows how you are doing as today's passage reminds us with these words, "The Lord’s eyes see everything that happens." How do words like this make you feel? Really stop and think about this because it can make all the difference with being successful in managing the tongue. Is the thought of God seeing everything that happens more troubling than comforting to you? It really should be a source of comfort to you, but, if it troubles you, then there are some core things about your relationship with God that need to be looked at.

    Our relationship with our Heavenly Father through redemption in Christ is all about trusting in and experiencing the gentleness and kindness he always has for us through the Holy Spirit. If you are afraid of God and think that his scrutiny will result in anger and harshness coming your way, then you will be hard pressed to be gentle and kind with others. It is absolutely essential that your perception and experience become aligned with the actual manner in which God relates to you every moment of every day. Your relationship with God is a relationship of grace. It is all about being filled with his gentleness, kindness, healing, and life. You can only be an agent of God's grace to the degree that you are a recipient of his grace.

    Our gentle and kind responses to others are healing words that give life. Evil words that crush the spirit are rooted in a relationship with God that is out of whack. If you are a recipient of God's grace on a daily basis, you will find comfort in the awareness that "the Lord’s eyes see everything that happens." The Lord seeing things as they actually are leads you to be open and transparent with him because you know he is not waiting to clobber you, but to show the way to victory over your struggle with the tongue.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, my prayer today is a request for the kind of faith in you that truly matches up with who you are. Thank you for your gentle, kind, healing and life giving grace. Help me to trust in you for this grace so that I actually experience you in this way on a daily basis. Make me a true agent of your grace so that the people in my life experience life giving and healing words from me that are filled with gentleness and kindness. Amen!

  • The Tongue – Managing Our Words – May Our Churches Lead the Way - Tuesday, September 15th

    Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. James 3:1

    The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl. The warning of a wise person is valuable to someone who will listen. It is worth as much as gold earrings or fine gold jewelry. Proverbs 25:11-12 (ICB)

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The first 12 verses from the third chapter of the book of James are all about the tongue. However, the way today's verse, James 3:1, relates to the tongue isn't immediately obvious. Let's make some connections. Our verse mentions the church, so then, overall we are looking at the proper use of the tongue in the church of Jesus Christ. The inference here is that the improper use of the tongue has been an issue among the believers James is writing to. This is suggested by James 3:16, where it says, "For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind." And then James 4:1 speaks very directly about the misuse of the tongue in the church when it says, "What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?" Finally, James 4:11A says, "Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters."

    So, how does the problem of the misuse of the tongue in the church fit in with the caution of verse 1 about becoming teachers in the church who will have a stricter judgment awaiting them? Let's try this on. Those who have been the teachers in the church have been a significant part of the problem. While we are not told this, it was likely the case and it suggests three things: First, they did not train those they were responsible for in the proper use of the tongue with everyone being accountable for how the tongue was employed. Second, they did not deal with the problem of tongue that had obviously become a widespread practice in the church. Third, the teachers themselves were engaged in the misuse of the tongue just like everyone else.

    We need to be ones who only want the best for other people. This means that we must diligently pursue making sure our words are words that increase the quality of life of other people (encouragement and admonishment). Certainly, this needs to be true in the church and it must begin with church leadership. Perhaps the warning of verse one was not so much directed at those who might become teachers (leaders) but those who already were and were missing the mark. It is unfortunate that in society today far too many churches are characterized by quarrels and fighting and have become known for it in the world. Are we not blessed to be a part of church that is characterized by the proper use of the tongue where unity and peace prevail and that we are known for it in the community around us? What a blessing to have leadership who are right on target with all this and are seeking to let God mold them and develop them further in the use of the tongue as they call us to do the same.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, we pray for churches and their leaders everywhere. We pray that unity and peace will prevail as tongues and hearts are transformed. May your people everywhere be known for expressions of love, acceptance, and grace, instead of hate, rejection, and anger. Lord, protect and preserve our church in regard to the use of the tongue and help us wonderfully continue to flourish as a center of healing and restoration.

  • The Tongue – Managing Our Words – Choose Helping/Healing Over Hurting/Harming - Monday, September 14th

    For everything there is an appointed time, and an appropriate time for every activity on earth: .... a time to keep silent, and a time to speak. Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7B (NET Bible)

    The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. Proverbs 18:21

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Post conversation reflections can take us in a number of directions: we may regret hurtful words spoken by us; we may think of the perfect retort to hurtful words spoken against us; we may bemoan missing an opportunity to say something helpful and uplifting; we may be relieved we didn't say the hurtful words that almost came out; we may be grateful we didn't hear the hurtful words we expected; we make look back with satisfaction on the good words we shared with someone who was hurting and needed our support.

    Solomon was "right on" in our Ecclesiastes passage: "a time to keep silent, and a time to speak." In our Proverbs passage Solomon gives a great tool for evaluating whether it's time to keep silent or it's time to speak. Solomon divides the words we speak to others into two overarching categories: There are words of death and there are words of life. The words we speak to others fall either on the "death" side of things or on the "life" side of things. Words that decrease the quality of life of another person are on the "death" side of things and words that increase the quality of life of another person are on the "life" side of things.

    Jesus said that we should treat others the way we want them to treat us and certainly this is paramount when it comes to choosing the words we will use in our relationships with others. If we want words from others that help and heal, then we must become one who masters the art of speaking words that help and heal the people around us. The more the words we speak to others are hurtful and harmful, the more we can expect the same kind of treatment.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, help me to more focused on you and the needs of other people. Help me to not be so wrapped up in myself. Deliver me from the snare of living life like it's all about me. Change me Lord so that I do not want to hurt anyone in anyway. Make me into someone who only wants the best for others. Make my tongue into an instrument of grace, healing, and blessing. Amen!

  • "The Fern and Bamboo" - An Inspirational Story for Sunday, September 13th

    The Fern and Bamboo

     One day, I decided to quit. I wanted to quit my job, to quit my relationships, to quit my marriage, to quit my spirituality; I even wanted to quit my life. I went to the woods to have one last talk with God. "God," I said, "Can you give me one good reason not to quit?"

    His answer surprised me. "Look around," He said, "do you see the fern and the bamboo?"

    "Yes," I replied.

    "When I planted the fern and the bamboo seeds, I took very good care of them. I gave them light. I gave them water. The fern quickly grew from the earth. Its brilliant green covered the floor. Yet nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo."

    "In the second year the fern grew more vibrant and plentiful. And again, nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo."

    "In the third year there was still nothing from the bamboo seed. But I would not quit."

    "In the fourth year, again, there was nothing from the bamboo seed. Still, I would not quit."

    "Then in the fifth year a tiny sprout emerged from the earth. Compared to the fern it was seemingly small and insignificant. But just 6 months later the bamboo rose to over 100 feet tall. It had spent the five years growing roots.

    Those roots made it strong and gave it what it needed to survive. I would not give any of my creations a challenge they could not handle," He said to me.

    "Did you know, my child, that all this time you have been struggling, you have actually been growing roots? I would not quit on the bamboo. I will never quit on you! Don't compare yourself to others. The bamboo had a different purpose than the fern. Yet they both make the forest beautiful. Your time will come," God said to me. "You will rise high."

    "How high should I rise?" I asked.

    "How high will the bamboo rise?", He asked in return.

    "As high as it can?", I questioned.

    "Yes," He said, "Give Me glory by rising as high as you can. And remember...I will never leave you, nor forsake you. I will never give up on you. I will never, ever quit on you."

  • The Tongue – Our Words Count – Let The Holy Spirit Prevail - Saturday, September 12th

    But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. There is no law that can match the Spirit for producing these qualities. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death their human nature with all its passions and desires. The Spirit has given us life; he must also control our lives. Galatians 5:22-25

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The qualities listed in our passage are often referred to as the fruits of the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6 says that we are "Temples of the Holy Spirit." This is what we are. As believers in Christ we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within our inner being and he produces these fruits in our lives. 2 Peter 1 has a similar list after which Peter says, "If these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

    The fruits of the Spirit are qualities we exhibit through our behavior and express through our words. On Monday we saw from Matthew 12 that God intends that our lives be like good trees that produce good fruit. We also so saw from the same passage that every word counts and that how we use our tongue throughout our lives will be the measure for whether or not our lives have yielded the good fruit God intended our lives to produce. As was said on Monday, our focus in the consideration of the "Tongue" in this series is not on condemnation for how bad we are in the use of our tongues, but rather on a game plan for true victory with this small, but powerful instrument that will make all the difference in our living fully for God. The game plan for true victory is the Holy Spirit. He makes all the difference. He is the key for living fully for God, tongue and all.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for all you have been helping me consider this week. Please seal the truths of Scripture to my heart. Help me to understand fully who I am in Christ and seal this in my heart, mind, and life. Thank you for your patience and grace. Thank you for the Gift of your Spirit, Lord God. Please help me to humbly yield to your amazing provision. Amen!

  • The Tongue – Our Words Count – Pray the “Tongue Control” Prayer Regularly - Friday, September 11th

    Lord, I call to you. Come quickly. Listen to me when I call to you. Let my prayer be like incense placed before you. Let my praise be like the evening sacrifice. Lord, help me control my tongue. Help me be careful about what I say. Don’t let me want to do evil or join others in doing wrong. Psalm 141:1-4A (ICB)

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    In today's passage the Psalmist prays for the Lord's help with controlling his tongue and being careful about what he says. But then the Psalmist adds a third request, "Don’t let me want to do evil or join others in doing wrong." Think about what often leads to the misuse of the tongue: we want to react to someone we feel is misusing their tongue with us. We easily develop a pattern of wanting to give it right back. All too often we are ready to blast others who come up against us with their words. If this is what we want to do then it is absolutely true that we "want to do evil." And if we do the evil of giving it back and blasting those who come up against us with their words, then it will be true that we are ones who "join others in doing wrong."

    The Psalmist's threefold prayer is a great prayer to employ in our pursuit of the proper use of our tongues. In regard to our overall need for tongue management we can pray this way periodically in the regular prayer times we have with God. But we can also pray this way in those acute moments when we are about to let loose with our tongues. Perhaps this is what we are being shown in the Psalm through the Psalmist's opening words, "Lord, I call to you. Come quickly. Listen to me when I call to you." The Lord is only a prayer away and our prayer in the heat of the moment only has to go from our mouth to our heart where the Lord lives in us through the Holy Spirit. Call on him as often as you need and pray like the Psalmist. The Lord will listen to you, he will come quickly, and he will do all three things: (1) He will help you control your tongue; (2) He will help you be careful about what you say; and (3) He will take away your desire to do evil so that you are delivered from joining another person in doing wrong.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I make the Psalmist's prayer my prayer today. I ask for a special grace to be able to offer this same prayer to you when I am in the thick of things and desperately need your help with managing my tongue. Make me a blessing to others and help me not to be so prone to return evil for evil. Lord, grant that my life increasing glorifies you through the attitudes of my heart and the words I speak. Amen!

  • The Tongue – Our Words Count – Become a Source of Refreshment to Others - Thursday, September 10th

    Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. James 3:11-12

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    In yesterday's passage we were told that both blessing and cursing coming out of our mouth is not right. Today's passage helps us see something additional in regard to this dilemma. Not only is not right that the tongue is used both to bless and curse, but it makes no sense. Let's begin with the reference to a "fig tree." A fig tree is a fig tree. A fig tree does not produce olives. Next is the "grapevine." A grapevine is a grapevine. A grapevine does not produce figs. This makes sense, doesn't it? Both blessing and cursing coming out of our mouth makes no sense just like thinking a fig tree would produce olives or a grapevine would produce figs makes no sense.

    Now let's consider the reference to a "spring of water." A spring of water is a spring of water. It provides fresh water. It does not provide "bitter water." If a water source provides "bitter water" it is not a "spring of water." If a tree we think is a fig tree produces olives, it is not a fig tree but an olive tree. If a tree we think is a grapevine produces figs, it is not a grapevine but a fig tree. All of this begs the question, "what am I?" A "spring of water" is an image that helps me understand "what I am." God wants you to be like a "spring of water" towards other people and not a "bitter water" source. Ephesians 4:29 says it this way, "When you talk, don’t say anything bad. But say the good things that people need—whatever will help them grow stronger. Then what you say will be a blessing to those who hear you." (ERV)

    If I am a source of "bitter water" to others, then I am not living according to who I am meant to be in Christ. As one who is in Christ I am meant to be a "spring of water" to other people where they can draw "fresh water." You are not a "salty spring" but you are a "spring of water." You are not a source of "bitter water" but you are a source of "fresh water" from which others can draw, drink, and be refreshed (blessed).

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, help me to believe the truth of today's passage. Produce in me the confidence that I am what you made me to be, a source of refreshment to others through words that bless and do not curse. Teach me the discipline of daily practice and training in the art of blessing others through my tongue. Deliver me from anything that is not in keeping with who I am in Christ. Amen!

  • The Tongue – Our Words Count – Blessing and Cursing Don’t Mix - Wednesday, September 9th

    Sometimes it (the tongue) praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! James 3:9-10

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    There isn't anyone who can't relate to today's verse. Both blessing and cursing coming out of our mouth happens all too often for us, doesn't it? We can be singing God's praises at 9:15 on Sunday morning and then cursing the driver ahead of us on the way home. As Christians we are worshipers of God. These words from our verse, "made in the image of God," will help us understand what it means to be a worshiper of God. We were made in God's image so that we might bear his image. Think of God as the sun and yourself as the moon. The moon has no ability to shine apart from the sun. The moon shines only because it reflects the light of the sun. God is the creator and we are his creatures. He made us for the purpose of reflecting his image. When we bear his image we glorify him and when we glorify him we fulfill the purpose of our existence. So, being a worshiper of God is all about being ones who bear God's image.

    Picture the earth coming between the sun and the moon. We call this a lunar eclipse. This is what has happened to all mankind. We are all sinful, wayward, and rebellious creatures who have fallen away from God and like the eclipsed moon, we cannot reflect God's image. But still, all people were created in God's image and have the potential to be restored to the purpose for which they were created by receiving the forgiveness of sins provided through Jesus Christ. When we are redeemed by Christ our sin is removed and God takes up residence within in us through his Spirit. We bear God's image as he shines out from our lives to the world around us. We are like the moon with the earth out of the way shining brightly as it reflects the light of the sun.

    Back to the dilemma of both blessing and cursing coming out of our mouth. Our passage from Monday included these words, "Whatever is in your heart determines what you say." When we combine this with what we have been saying so far today, we are left with two very important thoughts. The first thought concerns God: since God resides in our hearts, he is wonderfully available to us and can become the center of our focus. The more we focus on him, the more our hearts are filled with him. The less we focus on him, the more our hearts are filled with other things. So, if our hearts are filled with God alone, the words we say in praise of God will be genuine and the words we say to others will bless them. If our hearts are a mix of God and other things, the words we say in praise to God will be less than genuine and the words we say to others will all too often be ones that curse instead of bless.

    The second thought concerns others: since everyone is made in the image of God, we are never justified in mistreating them with our words. Remember, the people in your life deserve the blessing of you being an image bearer that helps them in their response to God and not you being to them one who hinders their being able to respond well to God. The people around you are either fellow travelers on the journey of becoming ones who fully bear God's image or they are ones who have the potential to be restored to being a bearer of God's image through redemption in Christ. The people around us need all the encouragement they can get. The final words of our verse in regard to both blessing and cursing coming out of our mouth are, "this is not right!" How wonderful it is to know that we are not stuck in this dilemma and that God, who can make it right, is as close as our hearts.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, show me how to focus on you more than ever before. Draw me into sweet communion with you. Help me experience the fullness of your presence. Grant that my heart is so filled with you that there is nothing there to come out of me but that which truly praises you and truly blesses others. Amen!

  • The Tongue – Our Words Count – Humility is the Key to Change - Tuesday, September 8th

    People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:7-8

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The problem of the tongue is universal. Notice the words from the James passage above, "no one can tame the tongue." We need to let it sink in, "no one can." The tongue reveals so readily and so thoroughly how unable we are to live the right way. Living fully for God is all about living the right way. "No one can" control their tongue and "no one can" live fully for God apart from Divine intervention. Living fully for God always begins with humility. We need a "humility" that is so deep and so full that once and for all we become absolutely convinced that we have no personal ability to live fully for God and that we abandon anything and everything in the way of personal reliance and self-effort. Then and only then will we be able to have a "faith" that is deep and full enough for going forward in complete surrender and reliance on Christ for bringing about our actually living fully for God.

    "Humility" is the key to living fully for God and it is the key for controlling the tongue because it unlocks the door to true ongoing "faith" in Christ. You came to Christ for salvation. You were forgiven and cleansed. You were given eternal life. Christ came to live in you through the Holy Spirit. You have the opportunity to begin again. You have the opportunity to live fully for God. Again, "humility" will make all the difference in whether or not you live fully for God, and again, it will make all the difference in taming the tongue.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, there is no doubt that at times the dilemma of my tongue and the trouble that comes from it, make me feel helpless. But, Lord, I confess that I so easily swing back into personal reliance and self-effort. I am before you, Lord, asking that you bring to me now such a sense of your presence and power that true "humility" fills my heart and life completely. And now, Lord, I rest in your love and grace and anticipate with excitement my going forward with you in a walk of faith. I confess that "you alone can" tame my tongue and bring about my living fully for you. Amen!

  • The Tongue – Our Words Count – God has a Victorious Game Plan - Monday, September 7th

    A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you. Matthew 12:33-37

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We begin a Devotional series today on the “Tongue”. The Matthew passage above connects goodness with the proper use of the tongue and badness with its improper use. The message of the Bible is that only God is good and that apart from a vital relationship with him, true goodness for us as human beings is impossible. God intends that our lives be like good trees that produce good fruit. From a vital relationship with God comes a good heart and out of a good heart comes good fruit and good fruit includes good speaking. This is the answer to the question above, "How could evil men like you speak what is good and right?"

    But this leads to another question, "How can we have this relationship with God? Of course the answer to this question is, "Jesus." He came to show us what living life out of a vital relationship with God looks like and then he gave up his life on the cross to provide, for all who are willing, the vital relationship with God we so desperately need. Again, from a vital relationship with God comes a good heart and out of a good heart comes good fruit and good fruit includes good speaking.

    While good speaking (the tongue) is just one part of good fruit, it is a major part. Jesus says above that every word counts and that how we use our tongue throughout our lives will be the measure for whether or not our lives have yielded the good fruit God intended our lives to produce. Our focus in the consideration of the "Tongue" in this series is not on condemnation for how bad we are in the use of our tongues, but rather on a “game plan” for true victory with this small, but powerful instrument that will make all the difference in our living fully for God. God’s “game plan” for us is what we have been saying: from a vital relationship with God comes a good heart and out of a good heart comes good fruit and good fruit includes good speaking.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, help me see as clearly as possible in my own mind and heart the truth before me right now. Grant me, Lord, a confidence that you are wonderfully working with me from the inside out and are bringing me to a place of victory in regard to my tongue. Forgive me for all that has not been "good" in regard to my heart and tongue. Deliver me from those patterns and practices that are so troublesome to me. Here I am, Lord! Do with me (heart and tongue) what you will in regard to teaching me and changing me over the coming days and weeks through this series on the "Tongue." Amen!

  • "The Simple Penny" - An Inspirational Story for Sunday, September 6th

    The Simple Penny

    Several years ago, a friend of mine and her husband were invited to spend the weekend at the husband's employer's home. My friend, Arlene, was nervous about the weekend. The boss was very wealthy, with a fine home on the water-way, and cars costing more than her house.

    The first day and evening went well, and Arlene was delighted to have this rare glimpse into how the very wealthy live. The husband's employer was quite generous as a host, and took them to the finest restaurants. Arlene knew she would never have the opportunity to indulge in this kind of extravagance again, so was enjoying herself immensely.

    As the three of them were about to enter an exclusive restaurant that evening, the boss was walking slightly ahead of Arlene and her husband. He stopped suddenly, looking down on the pavement for a long, silent moment. Arlene wondered if she was supposed to pass him.

    There was nothing on the ground except a single darkened penny that someone had dropped, and a few cigarette butts. Still silent, the man reached down and picked up the penny. He held it up and smiled, then put it in his pocket as if he had found a great treasure.

    How absurd! What need did this man have for a single penny? Why would he even take the time to stop and pick it up?

    Throughout dinner, the entire scene nagged at her. Finally, she could stand it no longer. She causally mentioned that her daughter once had a coin collection, and asked if the penny he had found had been of some value.

    A smile crept across the man's face as he reached into his pocket for the penny and held it out for her to see. She had seen many pennies before! What was the point of this?

    "Look at it." He said. "Read what it says."

    She read the words "United States of America."

    "No, not that; read further."

    "One cent?"

    "No, keep reading some more."

    "In God we Trust?"

    "Yes!"

    "And?"

    "And if I trust in God, the name of God is holy, even on a coin. Whenever I find a coin I see that inscription. It is written on every single United States coin, but we never seem to notice it! God drops a message right in front of me telling me to trust Him? Who am I to pass it by?

    When I see a coin, I pray, I stop to see if my trust IS in God at that moment. I pick the coin up as a response to God; that I do trust in Him. For a short time, at least, I cherish it as if it were gold. I think it is God's way of starting a conversation with me. Lucky for me, God is patient and pennies are plentiful!

    When I was out shopping today, I found a penny on the sidewalk. I stopped and picked it up, and realized that I had been worrying and fretting in my mind about things I cannot change. I read the words, "In God We Trust," and had to smile. Yes, God, I get the message.

  • Tension Points – The Severe Side of Life – The Lord is My Everything - Saturday, September 5th

    God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear …. Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:1-2A, 10A

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Today we wrap up our week and series. Our series was about managing the pressure points of life that create ongoing tension and difficulty for us. The series began with a look at Discipleship. The focus was on the tension between living for ourselves and living for God. This provided the foundation for the weeks that followed which included the pressure points of time, relationships, and money. This week we moved from the impact of “tension” from areas of life that we are always needing to manage, to the toll of “trauma” from troubles in our lives that we are trying to survive.

    These troubles often show up in the areas of life we are trying to manage and they escalate us from merely dealing with “tension” to dealing with “trauma.” As we have seen this week these are the kind of troubles we are powerless to change and cause us to experience significant pain and sorrow. They come with living in a fallen and broken world and certainly we would rather not have them in our lives. They are things that God has evidently allowed to show up and stay in our lives for the sake of the bigger scheme of things that he, and he alone has in mind.

    We have looked at different Psalms throughout the week which have helped us see how God makes himself available to us in times of trouble. We have seen how he ministers to our deepest needs as we face the challenges of painful experiences produced by troubles that come into our lives. In the middle of constant and long-term troubles, like severe illness, loss of loved ones, divorce, disabilities, past disasters, mental illness, etc., God’s grace, presence, power, and comfort make all the difference and help us live triumphantly day by day.

    Go back and read through the Psalms included in this week’s Devotional set and write down the phrases or sentences that are most meaningful to you. Include all of today’s Scripture in your list. Keep this in your Bible and read it over and over. Let the meaning and reality of these truths take deep root in your heart and soul. The more they take root, the stronger your connection with God will become. The stronger your connection with God becomes, the more he will be able to be everything he wants to be to you so that you navigate victoriously through the “tension” and “trauma” of life.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Use your list of portions from this week’s Psalms to help you write out your own prayer response to God. May God bless you richly today! Amen!

  • Tension Points – The Severe Side of Life – The Lord is the Lifter of My Soul - Friday, September 4th

    O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears …. O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him …. The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:3-4, 8, 17-18

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Those very difficult kind of troubles that don’t go away, make one feel powerless against them, and have the ability to produce a lot of pain and suffering, can really take a toll on a person’s life. We saw this in evidence in David’s life in a Psalm from the other day where he said, “My soul is bowed down.” Very few of us are strangers to the impact of troubles that break us down, wear us out, and from time to time get us to the spot where we say, “My soul is bowed down.” However, there are some people who have experienced pain and suffering to a degree that is beyond that of the average person, so that they are almost always in a state of being “bowed down” in their souls.

    Today’s Psalm speaks of those who are “brokenhearted” and “crushed in spirit.” Whether you are one who is “brokenhearted” and “crushed in spirit” from time to time or routinely, our Psalm offers some helpful things we can do that will really make a difference in our lives. Notice the words, "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” We do this on Sunday mornings when we join with others in worshiping God. But, let’s take it a step further. Find a worship buddy! On a weekly basis or more often if needed, join with another person (not connected with your own troubles) for a time of just “magnifying” and “exalting” the name of the Lord (no complaining).

    A significant factor in why our soul becomes “bowed down” is “fear.” So, every day, seek the Lord in prayer and make your requests known (in regard to your troubles). Go forward from your prayer time believing God will answer and that he will deliver you from all your fears. Until your next prayer session, dismiss all negative thoughts that would counter your faith that God is working to answer you and deliver you from all your fears. This is what taking refuge in God is all about. The more you practice these disciplines, the more you will experience (taste) God and the more you will find him to be good, and the more you know his goodness the more you will be blessed.

    It is important to remember that prayer is talking to God. It is easy to let a prayer session shift into your talking to yourself in a rehearsal of your troubles that just locks you further into the condition of your soul being bowed down. Our Psalm says, “The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” You must openly and honestly cry out to God in full awareness that he hears. It is a full exchange between you and God and not yourself and yourself. Expect him to do something for your soul. He delights to bring you to the spot where your soul is lifted up. Perhaps, being delivered out of all your troubles is more about this than it is having the troubles removed from your life.

    “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” We began our considerations today by talking about those who are brokenhearted and crushed in Spirit. If this is you and you let God help you practice the disciplines that have been covered today, then the Lord will be “near” to you in ways you have never experienced before and will “save” you from the impact of troubles in ways that will absolutely amaze you. “Taste and see that the Lord is (indeed) good.”

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    I think this would be a great occasion to write out your own prayer response to God. May God bless you richly today! Amen!

  • Tension Points – The Severe Side of Life – The Lord is My Constant Companion - Thursday, September 3rd

    He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust …. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark …. Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation. Psalm 91:1-2, 4, 14-16

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We have another Psalm today to help us with those particularly difficult troubles in our lives that we can’t make go away, that we are powerless against, and from which we experience a lot of pain and suffering. We want to look at today’s Scripture in the light of an analogy. Picture the mom who sends her young children off to school each day. At home they are safe and secure, but out there in the world of school, they are vulnerable and susceptible to the troublesome things they come up against day after day.

    The mom can only hope the experience of the home will offset the experience of the world. She pictures the good atmosphere of the home (including her presence, care, and influence) carrying over into the world of school. In our relationship with God, home is the sanctuary of quiet, alone times spent in his presence. The first words of our Psalm capture it this way: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High.” We need concentrated times of being in God’s presence (dwells in the shelter).

    The atmosphere of the shelter of God’s presence (concentrated time with him) carrying over to life on the go (children at school) is captured with the next words of our Psalm: “will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” Now granted when we are on the go in life, God is with us in a way that a mom cannot be with her children when they are at school. However, we need to keep in mind that our ability to be aware of God’s continued presence is limited when we are rightly concentrating on other things.

    It should be noted that we can develop an ability to be aware of him when we are on the go and we can stop and look to him (go home) in concentrated moments with him. But even so, the images of “dwelling in the shelter of the Most High” and “abiding in the shadow of the Almighty,” will help us remember how important it is to have a daily quiet time with God (shelter) that carries over (shadow) into our world of life on the go.

    Developing this kind of relationship with God will make all the difference in how we are impacted by the particularly troublesome things we have been talking about this week. Notice the image of the mother bird in our Psalm. Use this image in your quiet times to help you picture yourself as being sheltered under His wings. In addition, use this image when you are on the go to help you picture yourself as being under the shadow of his wings.

    Regularly being in the shelter and shadow of God’s presence causes us to grow in our ability to love and know God. Notice from the rest of the Psalm how growing in our ability to love and know God opens the door for him to be at work in our lives in some pretty amazing and powerful ways.

     

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

     

    Lord, thank you for these very special words you have spoken to me through the Psalmist today. Help me on a daily basis to succeed at being in the shelter of your presence and under the shadow of your presence. Change me so that I want you more than I want solutions to my problems. Right now, I choose to make loving you and knowing you the centerpiece of my life. Amen!

  • Tension Points – The Severe Side of Life – The Lord is My Refuge - Wednesday, September 2nd

    Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by. I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me.  He will send from heaven and save me; He reproaches him who tramples upon me. God will send forth his lovingkindness and His truth …. My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises! Psalm 57:1-3, 7

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We are looking at various Psalms this week for guidance in how to navigate those areas of life that we are powerless to change and cause us to experience significant pain and suffering. Today’s Scripture is a portion of a Psalm written by David, King of Israel in ancient times. Even though he was a king, David was not a stranger to hurtful, harmful things that he had no power over. Many of David’s Psalms are like condensed episodes from his life in regard to the impact of troubles, turning to God for help, and the outcome of faith and dependence.

    Make no mistake, troubles of the kind we are talking about this week (things like severe illness, loss of loved ones, divorce, disabilities, past disasters, mental illness, etc.) have a traumatic impact on us. David is very candid about his own experience with the impact of troubles on his life. Elsewhere in today’s Psalm, David says, “My soul is bowed down.”

    This is where he is when the Psalm starts. The impact of the trouble he is experiencing seems to be at its pinnacle when he cries out to God, “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me.”

    Not only is David helpless to do anything about the trouble but for the moment he is struggling to escape its impact on his soul. When David cries out to God, “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,” he is asking for intervention in regard to both the trouble and the impact of the trouble. When David goes on to say, “my soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by,” he is not there yet in this instance of “trouble” management.

    David’s soul is bowed down and he wants to be in the refuge of God’s presence and care like he has been in the past so his soul can be lifted up, but it’s hard to get there. It is like he is reviewing what he knows is needed and is available from God. When David says, “I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me,” he is asking God to be gracious by moving him from the impact of the trouble to the impact of his presence.

    Experiencing God as a refuge and shelter is what David needs and wants. This is where he wants to be and where he wants to stay for the duration of the problem (until destruction passes by). David knows that his focus needs to be on God and not the problem. When this shift takes place through God’s gracious intervention, then he will leave the problem in God’s hands. Notice what David says next: “He will send from heaven and save me; He reproaches him who tramples upon me. God will send forth his lovingkindness and His truth.”

    David’s prayer for God to be gracious to him is answered and he is able to say confidently and boldly, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
    I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!” God has become more real to him than the trouble. No longer is his soul bowed down but lifted up. David’s experience here can be our experience. We may have to repeat the process over and over again. God does not mind. He loves to have us call on him and count on him to be a refuge and shelter to us from destructive troubles. Whatever we are facing, we really can begin with “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me” and end up with “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.”

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, my prayer today is the prayer of David, “be gracious to me, be gracious to me.” Lord, help me to experience you as a refuge and shelter to such a degree that I am able to say, “my heart is steadfast, my heart is steadfast. Become more real to me than my troubles so that I can fully sing your praises day by day. Amen!

  • Tension Points – The Severe Side of Life – The Lord is with Me in Trouble - Tuesday, September 1st

    On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul …. For though the Lord is exalted, yet He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me. The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting; You do not forsake the works of Your hands. Psalm 138:3, 6-8

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We continue with our consideration of those areas we are powerless to change and cause us to experience significant pain and sorrow. We turn today to another Psalm from which we will see how God makes himself available to us in times of trouble and how he ministers to our deepest needs as we face the challenges of painful experiences produced by these troubles that come into our lives. God’s grace, presence, power, and comfort make all the difference and help us live triumphantly day by day.

    God has made us in such a way that we find deep inside ourselves a desire to have it be that our lives count for something. This is true in regard to what we are able accomplish but also in regard to all we go through in the process. On the one hand we want to know if this experience is “worthwhile” and on the other hand we want to know if this experience is “worth it.” We really do want “what we do” and “what we go through” to count for something.

    Today’s Scripture gives us some insight into this. This is a Psalm of David and one of the most reoccurring words in his Psalms is the word “trouble.” Notice the words, “I walk in the midst of trouble.” This is what lies behind these helpful words of David we are looking at today. You can be sure the David wrestled with whether his experiences were “worthwhile” and “worth it.” David knew all too well about being powerless in the face of troubles that brought pain and suffering. It was David’s connection to God that made all the difference.

    David was a man of faith and he knew that turning to God in full trust and dependence was the key to having it be that everything would truly “count” in the end. David had developed the discipline and habit of turning to God when walking in the midst of trouble. Consider carefully what he says about this: “On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.” Ongoing troubles that produce pain and suffering in our souls, can only truly be countered by God, who makes us bold with strength in our souls instead.

    What is it that really lies at the center of why we do or we don’t face the troubles in our lives the way David did? Notice what David says next: “For though the Lord is exalted, yet He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar.” The humble (lowly) are convinced they are powerless and all is futile unless they count on God fully. The proud (haughty) are not absolutely convinced they are powerless and helpless apart from God’s intervention. If you know you need God, he is able to come close to you with the help you need. If you don’t know for sure you need God, he can’t get very close to you with the help that is needed.

    Notice all the things the Psalm goes on to say God will do if he is able to draw near to you with his help: He will revive you; He will stretch forth his hand against the wrath of your enemies, and his right hand will save you. The Lord will accomplish what concerns you (worthwhile); His lovingkindness will last forever and He will not forsake you, the work of his hands (worth it).

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, forgive me for how easily I leave you out of the equation of my life in so many ways. Even with my troubles and the pain and suffering they have produced, I go it alone far too often. Like David, I call on you right now and I believe you will answer me. Revive me, Lord, and build into me the discipline and habit of humbly turning to you in the midst of my troubles. I ask you to do a work in my heart regarding the effects pain and suffering have had on it. Bring me to the spot where I know my life is “worthwhile” and that all I have been through is “worth it.” Amen!

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