Taming The Tongue…

Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Our Verse of the Day reminds us it is good to check our attitudes whenever we become provoked or angry. There is nothing lost when we exercise kindness in our relationships, and often we can gain understanding if we will pause and listen to the other person … regardless of the tone of their expression. While I realize it might be difficult to be silent when someone is yelling at you and out of control, your patience and gentleness (even silence) can help subdue emotions of anger, hatred, or bitterness.  Immediate reactions are not always helpful in a stressful situation. We might feel attacked and want to be defensive, but if we choose to engage another with harsh or caustic replies, we typically invite anger to move into the realm of rage. And I’m fairly certain there will be no positive outcome under those conditions….  Remember, the tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Cf. Proverbs 18:21)

The Apostle James gives us some additional insight and wisdom on this issue as well:

James 1:26 (NIV)

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.

James 3:3-12 (NIV)

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

My friends, we are called to control our tongues … to exercise restraint when it comes to our words. For what are words except the expression of the thoughts of our hearts. When emotions run high, it is best to guard our hearts and our words.  Once words come out of our mouths, it is like toothpaste.  You will not be able to put it back into the tube! Consider what Jesus taught when He admonished the Pharisees for their hypocrisy: “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Cf. Matthew 12:34a – 37) These are powerful words for us to contemplate if we want to give serious thought to the consequences of our words….

King Solomon provided considerable wisdom on this issue throughout Proverbs 15.  So, I will end with a few excerpts for your introspection.  I am sure there will be other passages that will come to mind as you study the Word of God on your own, but these are provided to stimulate and motivate us to think before we speak. We live in a temperamental culture, filled with all kinds of division, strife, and interpersonal conflict. In Christ Jesus, we are called to love. We are called to peace. Indeed, I believe the fruit of the Spirit is most often manifested through our words.  So let us live and keep in step with the Spirit in this regard.

Thoughts for the Day:

Gentle words are a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. ~ Proverbs 15:4

The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the hearts of fools are not upright. ~ Proverbs 15:7

The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly. ~ Proverbs 15:14

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel. ~ Proverbs 15:18

Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time! ~ Proverbs 15:23

The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked, but gracious words are pure in His sight. ~ Proverbs 15:26

The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words. ~ Proverbs 15:28

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever. The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just. The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip. ~ Psalm 37:29-31

Be Slow To Anger…

James 1:19-20 (NIV)

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires….

Our Verse of the Day affords us some great wisdom when it comes to interpersonal communications. The Apostle James shares some rock-solid advice when it comes to improving how we interact with others.  Quick to listen … slow to speak … and slower still to ever become angry. As James pointed out – human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires for our lives.  

King Solomon shared similar wisdom for our edification:

Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues. ~ Proverbs 10:19

Whoever belittles and derides their neighbor lacks wisdom, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue. ~ Proverbs 11:12

The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues. ~ Proverbs 17:27-28

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart[a] of fools. ~ Ecclesiastes 7:8-9

I suppose there might be times for “righteous” anger to manifest itself. Consider Jesus in the temple with the money-changers recounted in Matthew 21; Mark 11; and Luke 19. But I think we are best advised to turn the other cheek in most cases – especially if the situation is simply going to be a “war of words.” As Paul advised: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Cf. Colossians 4:5-6) After all, we can always just agree to disagree…. Indeed, let us remember that the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (Cf. Exodus 34:6; Psalm 86:15; Psalm 103:8; Psalm 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2)

My friends, I believe we would be wise to follow the character and example of our Lord Jesus in our interactions with people.  Yes, let us be compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness. As Jesus commanded:  Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34-35)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin.” (Citing Psalm 4:4) Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. ~ Ephesians 4:22-27

Be Devoted to Others…

Romans 12:10 (NIV)

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Our Verse of the Day continues to examine the expectations and qualities of our personal relationships with others. These are always great reminders when we might feel otherwise in our attitudes with other people. The Apostles give us some practical ways to demonstrate love … to be devoted to one another in love and to honor others above ourselves:

Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” (Citing Exodus 20:13-17; Deuteronomy 5:17-21) and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Citing Leviticus 19:18) Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Galatians 6:1-3 (NIV)

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 

1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 (NIV)

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more….

James 2:8-9 (NIV)

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show favoritism, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

1 Peter 1:22-23 (NIV)

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from a pure heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God.

1 John 3:11-18 (NIV)

For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s actions were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Well, if you are struggling with loving other people as God sees them, especially those you consider the most unlovable, then I hope these Scriptures will give you some renewed encouragement to love as God in Christ has demonstrated His love for you. When it hurts to love because someone has hurt us … when it is not convenient to love because it takes of our time … when it is difficult to love because we have disagreements … when love requires financial sacrifice to provide for the needs of others … how do we put the unmerited, compassionate, agape love of God into action – in real terms?  I am reminded that Jesus addressed this issue for us:

Luke 6:27-36 (NIV)

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most-High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

As I mediated on all these scriptures, the word “kindness” came to mind. Jesus said that God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked – like many of us before we received the grace of repentance and came to a knowledge of the truth in Christ Jesus! Kindness is the greatest demonstration of the other fruit of the Spirit. Love, peace, goodness, gentleness, and self-control can all be expressed through our kindness. And kindness is inherent in longsuffering and faithfulness. Paul observed it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance (Cf. Romans 2:4). So, I think the kindness we extend to others should have this same intention. Indeed, “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (Cf. James 2:13)

My friends, I think it is important for us to remember that God expressed His “unmerited” love through the riches of His kindness. As Paul wrote: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8) There is nothing we did to earn it or deserve it. We are sinners saved by grace alone! (Cf. Ephesians 2:5) And so, I believe it follows that we are to love others without consideration of “merit”.  We are not to love others because they deserve our love, forgiveness, or compassion; rather, we are to love others and to be merciful to them fully for the sake of love itself … while they too are yet sinners. That is HOW God has loved us … without condition! Amen!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had toward you. ~ Philippians 2:3-5

Freedom to Serve…

Galatians 5:13 (NIV)

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

Our Verse of the Day continues to focus on our relationships with one another; and I want us to spend time on the command to love one another. Jesus said to love our neighbor is second only to the command to love God. (Cf. Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31) As we have seen in New Testament scriptures, to love one another fulfills the command to love God. I think the Apostle John captured this thought best when he affirmed: “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (Cf. 1 John 4:20-21)

Galatians 5:13-25 (NIV)

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature of our flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Citing Leviticus 19:18) If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So, I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

What Paul teaches here is that we cannot just do whatever we want based on the freedom we have received in Christ Jesus. We are called to be led by the Spirit and to live in accordance with His indwelling presence. Jesus, through the sacrificial atonement of His blood, saved us from the penalty of our sin; but we cannot continue to indulge the passions or desires of our flesh, or expect that such behavior or conduct will lead others to salvation. We must die to the power of sin in order to experience the freedom gain through Christ. Indeed, Paul had very pointed instruction in this regard:

Romans 6:1-14 (NIV)

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him. The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

My friends, we have been called to serve one another humbly in love. What does this entail? Perhaps, we should go back and look at the biblical definition of love the Apostle Paul provided in1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  It is my prayer that we will strive to keep these attributes of love at the forefront of our thoughts so that our actions will follow the excellence of love. We fail to love God in truth if we cannot serve one another humbly in love. So, let the freedom we have been given become the source we draw upon to love one another as Jesus loved us. Indeed, I pray we will keep these things in mind as we encounter and engage with those who are lost….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. ~ 1 Corinthians: 9:19-23

Wisdom From Above…

James 3:17-18 (NIV)

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Our Verse of the Day focuses on the wisdom we all need for daily living. We are urged by the Apostle James to ask for it.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (Cf. James 1:5) But James also indicates that we need to distinguish the wisdom that comes from God versus the wisdom that comes from the world and human intellect.  In seeking the wisdom for living that comes from God, let us look at the surrounding context:

James 3:13-18 (NIV)

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Here we can see the challenge that our lives should emulate the character of our Lord Jesus. And James has some fairly salient points for us to consider.  He starts with the premise that those who are wise and have spiritual understanding demonstrate their “depth of faith” by living a “good life”.  Then he defines a “good life” as “deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” To further explain his instruction, James then contrasts the differences between the “earthly” or “carnal” wisdom of the world with the “heavenly” or “spiritual” wisdom that comes from God.  I think it might be useful to breakdown these “distinctions” James brings to our attention:

Wisdom that does NOT come down from heaven is described as earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. It is manifested in human conduct such as “harboring bitter envy” or “selfish ambition” in your heart.  James goes on to observe that wherever you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.  In other words, envy, jealousy, pride, covetousness, idolatry, and greed proceed from a pattern of life that is sensual, brutish, and of this world.  Such behavior is inconsistent with a life rooted in the love of God. By contrast, we see that those who live a “good life” through the wisdom that God gives are:

            Pure                            (i.e., seek holiness and self-control)

            Peace-Loving             (i.e., seek resolution to conflict and reconciliation)

            Considerate               (i.e., seek the good of others above themselves)

            Submissive                 (i.e., not only to God but to each other)

            Full of Mercy             (i.e., readily forgiving)

            Full of Good Fruit    (i.e., acts of service and compassion)

            Impartial                   (i.e., righteous judgement; unbiased)

            Sincere                       (i.e., genuine; unpretentious, faithful)

I think we can infer from these “distinctions” in the source of wisdom what is best, good, and wholesome in our relationships with others versus what is immoral, destructive, and unrestrained to the extent that physical, emotional, and spiritual harm is inflicted others.  Only the wisdom that comes from above equips a person to live the righteous life God intends for each of us to live; and I believe that is the very reason God has drawn us to believe in His Son – so that we might be filled with His Spirit … the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. (Cf. Isaiah 11:2).

No doubt, to be filled with the Spirit of God is essential to living a “good life” as James envisions it.  And I can almost hear Paul chime in with his Letter to the Galatians on this matter – parsing out the same contrasts as James:

Galatians 5:13-26 (NIV)

You, my brothers and sisters, have been called to liberty. But do not use your liberty to indulge the flesh (and its nature); rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Citing Leviticus 19:18) If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So, I say walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (the wisdom that comes from heaven). Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

My friends, my prayer is that we will seek wisdom … ask for wisdom … and apply wisdom to our hearts so that our lives will be good and beneficial to others. This is HOW we are to love one another as we ourselves have been loved by God through our Lord Jesus.  So, I will conclude with an excerpt of the prayer Paul offered up for the believers in Colossae: “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding; so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Cf. Colossians 1:9-10)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” (Citing Isaiah 29:14) Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block (an offense) and to the Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. ~ 1 Corinthians: 1:18-25

Got Milk?

1 Peter 2:2-3 (NIV)

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

In our Verse of the Day, Peter is encouraging us to “grow up in our salvation.”  What does that mean?  How do we “grow” in our salvation?  Well, our growth begins with our new birth in Christ (once we have experienced His goodness) and our need for spiritual nourishment (crave pure spiritual milk) to sustain us. Let’s read the larger context to better understand the metaphor he uses to illustrate.  The foundation is laid in the preceding chapter, 1 Peter 1, and continues in 1 Peter 2.  I reprinted the most relevant passages for us:

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:13-16 (NIV)

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (Citing Leviticus 11:44-45)

1 Peter 1:22-25 (NIV)

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from a pure heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (Citing Isaiah 40:6-8) And this is the word that was preached to you.

1 Peter 2:1-3 (NIV)

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

I believe in this brief overview we see some key principles that Peter wants us to understand. When we first come to faith in Jesus, we do so as new creatures – born of the living and enduring Word of God … born again of the Spirit who wrote the Scriptures through holy men of God as He moved them. (Cf. 2 Peter 1:19-21) As Paul articulated it: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Cf. Romans 10:17) The Apostle John affirms that “whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Cf. John 3:16; 3:36) So it follows that as “newborn babies in the Spirit” we are in need of “spiritual food” to sustain us.  Spiritual milk is a great metaphor to use! Just like babies, we should be “craving” this milk to satisfy our hunger and thirst for righteousness…. But we are exhorted to move on and to grow in our faith. Let’s me how this metaphor is used elsewhere is the NT scriptures:

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (NIV)

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 

Hebrews 5:12-14 (NIV)

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

There is a pattern with these NT writers – urging us to grow up and to move on in spiritual maturity.  And I have noticed that milk appears to be associated with the initial phases of sanctification – bringing our sinful nature into submission, growing in holiness, and bearing the fruit of the Spirit in our relationships. Perhaps this is why both Peter and Paul prayed for believers to “grow in their knowledge of God and of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And growth will come as we spend time reading, studying, and meditating on the Word of God.  As we spend time in prayer and discipline ourselves with fasting, we will mature in our understanding and wisdom.  This is what growing in our salvation means. This is what adding to our faith means.  We move on from milk and begin eating solid food.  We move forward from our initial profession of faith into Kingdom service and ministry. Yes, as the Apostle James wrote: “We know the testing of our faith produces perseverance; and let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (Cf. James 1:3-4) Amen!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ 2 Peter 1:5-8

Bearing The Gospel…

Acts 4:10 (NIV)

Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.

As enter the season of preparation to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Gospel message we bear within ourselves should be a light for all to see. So, I would like to look at our Verse of the Day in its surrounding context in order to understand how we “image” the transformation of the Gospel in our lives:

Acts 4:1-14 (NIV)

The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the Apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; and the number of people who believed grew to about five thousand. The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ (Citing Psalm 118:22) Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” When they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.

To me, this passage affirms that the role of the Holy Spirit in the declaration and demonstration of the Gospel is essential. The Holy Spirit healed the man who was lame. The Holy Spirit gave Peter both the words to say and the courage to say them without reservation before the religious authorities. There was no hesitation or concern about the possible outcome (punishment) that might ensue. The religious authorities had been provoked; their religious paradigms had been challenged. And yet, “there was nothing they could say.” Sometimes I wonder why the Church today no longer seems as effective in the declaration and demonstration of the Gospel. Are we afraid to operate in the divine power we have been given? Does the Church, at large, simply ignore the Holy Spirit and His reality?

Maybe we should go back to the Day of Pentecost and review the powerful, prophetic word delivered by Peter. The events that took place are captured for us in Acts 2:1-21, and I encourage you to click on the link and read it have context for the following commentary. I believe you will see there is a definite connection between salvation and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. His indwelling presence produces in us the power of testifying and proclaiming the “wonders of God” and the “works of faith.”

Romans 15:18-19 (NIV)

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So, from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.

Hebrews 2:1-4 (NIV)

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.

Proclaiming the Word of God and the Good News of Jesus was confirmed by signs and wonders through the power of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, as the writer of Hebrews explained, it is God who testifies and affirms the truth of His plan of salvation through Jesus Christ with signs, wonders, various miracles, AND by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will. HIS testimony is not conjured up by the will or power of people. Further, the Holy Spirit was sent to indwell every believer in these latter days as Joel prophesized and as Jesus promised and as Peter affirmed has been fulfilled. The gifts of the Spirit were not solely for the Apostles as some bible scholars purport. It is evident that the Holy Spirit indwelt disciples who served under the Apostles; and there are many other instances of people being filled with the Spirit recorded in the Book of Acts.

Acts 6:3-8 (NIV)

Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also, Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.  So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.

Acts 11:15-18 (NIV)

“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as He had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.’ So, if God gave them the same gift He gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Through the transformation of faith and spiritual rebirth, God created us in Christ Jesus to do good works – which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) And Jesus declared, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (Cf. John 15:5) So it follows that believers are filled with the Holy Spirit in order to abide in Jesus and to bear the fruit of the Spirit through good works. This is the heart of the Gospel. Yes, this is the message we should declare with the boldness and power of the Spirit God gave us. (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7) We should be obedient to operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit we have received … as distributed according to His will … as a testimony of the salvation we have received by grace through faith.

My friends, I believe that in order to BE the Gospel, in order to have credibility before an unbeliever, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit must be manifested in us – demonstrated through a sanctified life and through signs, wonders, various miracles, and the gifts we have received. And since these are “distributed” to us by the Holy Spirit, we have His credibility. I ask us to consider: “Do we display our credentials?” “Do we exercise our giftings? Do we operate in the power of the Spirit? Or do we quench Him? In order for the Body of Christ to be effective in proclaiming the message of salvation through Jesus, we must collectively exercise our individual Spirit-filled gifts. Indeed, it should be “natural” for us to operate in the supernatural….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin. ~ Micah 3:8

The Spirit God Gave Us…

2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

Our Verse of the Day should be a familiar one as I have quoted it numerous times in the past.  I have always liked this verse because of its powerful reminder that we have been equipped by the Holy Spirit (the Spirit God gave us) to be courageous … to be bold … to minister in the authority given to us … to love as we have been loved … to exercise self-discipline, self-control.  I thought that I would reprint the verse in various translations to afford us a broader sense of what Paul is communicating in his epistle to Timothy:


For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (New King James Version)


For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (English Standard Version)


For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. (New Revised Standard Version)

For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, His Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control. (Good News Translation)


For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control]. (Amplified Bible)

Each of these translations captures a nuance of the Spirit-filled impact that can resonate within our beings. The Spirit God gave us equips us with will-power; capacity; ability; authority; courage; perseverance. He enables us to overcome timidity; cowardice; and fear when it comes to living out the new life … the new creation … conceived within us when we came to faith in Jesus and received Him as Lord and Savior. Indeed, I believe repentance from sin and submission to God were the first manifestations of this power He gave us. When our spiritual conception occurred and brought forth a new birth in Christ, we received His power to exercise personal discipline and to walk in self-control.  As we abide in Christ and grow in Him, He enables us to bear the fruit of His Spirit … love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-25)

This is a powerful, straightforward message for us to embrace. God has given us the spiritual power and resources to live a godly life … a worthy life. We just need to awaken to it … step into it … and walk in it each day! I pray we will be stirred and inspired … filled with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding … so that that each of us may live a life worthy of the Lord Jesus … that we might please Him in every way … bearing fruit in every good work and growing in our knowledge of God … being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that we may have great endurance and patience. Amen. (Cf. Colossians 1:9-11)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ 2 Peter 1:3-8

Do Not Be Deceived…

Galatians 6:7-8 (NIV)

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Our Verse of the Day is connected with the last few we have studied.  To me, the Spirit is trying to focus us on the sincerity of our hearts … the genuineness of our faith. We will all stand before Father God … at the judgment seat of Christ; and we will account for the truth of our lives – which has always been known by God. His Light will expose every hidden thought and act of darkness within us on that Day! (Cf. Luke 8:17; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Hebrews 4:13) What we often fail to remember is that “Day” will be the day of our passing or the day of our resurrection. And we do not know the day nor the hour when that will occur. (Cf. Matthew 24:36; 25:13; Mark 13:32)

Therefore, Paul admonishes us to consider our manner of life – what we do and how we interact with others; and he advises us to not deceive ourselves by comparing our hearts and lives with others.  As Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?” (Cf. Jeremiah 17:9) Paul is telling us not to deceive ourselves. God sees and knows everything about us … what we say and what we do every moment we are breathing. We are foolish if we think He does not see:

Genesis 16:13 (NIV)

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

Job 11:11 (NIV)

Surely, He recognizes deceivers; and when He sees evil, does He not take note?

Job 31:4 (NIV)

Does He not see my ways and count my every step?

Psalm 33:13-15 (NIV)

The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling, He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.

Psalm 94:7-11 (NIV)

They say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob takes no notice.” Take notice, you senseless ones among the people; you foolish people, when will you become wise? Does He who fashioned the ear not hear? Does He who formed the eye not see? Does He who disciplines nations not punish? Does He who teaches mankind lack knowledge. The Lord knows all human plans; He knows that they are futile.

1 John 1:5-10 (NIV)

This is the message we have heard from Him (Jesus) and declare to you: God is Light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.

And so, the point here is about self-deception.  We need to be honest with ourselves.  We need to be transparent before both God and man.  God sees us even if we are able to hide the truth from others!  God knows us even if we are able to hide our actions from others! And Paul warns us that whatever we sow … we will reap – both physically and spiritually. That is the bottom line! Everything we say or do has an effect on ourselves and most likely on those around us. And God sees it all! Now, let’s put our Verse of the Day into its surrounding context so we can see some additional application:

Galatians 6:1-10 (NIV)

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

When I looked at our verse in the surrounding context, I began to see something different – something that I had not really considered before regarding sowing and reaping.  Most of the time I’ve only considered the outcome of what sowing to my own flesh would produce … how it would please me. I did not think about the impact of what I sowed to my own flesh (sinful nature) on others.  For example, if I were to broadcast the sin of another person, not only do I harm them emotionally and spiritually, I am reaping destruction within my own heart. Why? Because I am not loving that other person as Christ Jesus has loved me.  We are to comfort each other and encourage one another. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:11) We are to carry each other’s burdens. To do otherwise is to disregard the command of Christ to love one another and to be filled with sanctimonious pride. And we know that God will oppose the proud. (Cf. James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5) I started to think about what Paul said about us judging others of their sin:

Romans 2:1-3 (NIV)

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things (See Romans 1:18-32) is based on truth. So, when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?

When we sow to the flesh, the consequences impact not only ourselves but those around us … often in ways we might not see … or deliberately ignore.  It is a road that leads to destruction and we are urged to forego the temptation. But then Paul asserts there is an alternative – to “sow to please the Spirit”.  He instructs that our conduct … our thoughts and deeds … should be cultivated in a mindset to please the Holy Spirit. When we sow to please the Spirit, our objective is to bare the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23) But do you realize that this fruit is the outcome of what we sow into the lives of other people?  Look at each of the nine fruits listed. Every one of them is relational; otherwise, they have no meaningful context or purpose for being produced! I truly think Paul was writing with this in mind when discussing the concept of reaping and sowing. I believe doing good … sowing the seeds of spiritual fruit into the lives of others is the harvest that the Lord is seeking to reap through us. In this way we fulfill the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Cf. James 2:8)

So, I pray each of us will thoughtfully consider what sowing to our own flesh really produces and who it ultimately impacts. Sin not only hinders our walk with Jesus; it discredits our testimony with others – which ultimately dishonors the Savior who redeemed us with His own blood.  Again, we have been called to holiness; to be conformed to His image. (Cf. Romans 8:29) And, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Cf. Romans 12:2) Indeed, Paul has warned us not to be deceived or to deceive ourselves … or somehow be led astray from sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3) Indeed, let us get serious and sow to please the Spirit so that our lives in Jesus will bear the fruit of the Spirit.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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 12:35-37

Love Your Neighbor…

Matthew 7:12 (NIV)

So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Our Verse of the Day reminds us of what we have heard since childhood – known as the “Golden Rule.” Instilled within us was the adage: “Treat other people the same way you want them to treat you.”  You will find this same message recorded in Luke 6:31 as well. This relational concept stems from the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” found in Leviticus 19:18. Jesus quotes this OT passage in His teachings found at Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, and Luke 10:27. But Jesus goes on to explain that love is the essence of what all the Law and the Prophets were revealing from God.

The Apostle Paul affirmed this teaching in his epistles:

Romans 12:9-11 (NIV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV)

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Galatians 5:13-15 (NIV)

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

The Apostle Peter confirmed the same instruction:

1 Peter 1:21-23 (NIV)

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

1 Peter 3:8-9 (NIV)

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

And the Apostle John preserved for us the spiritual depth of this command: To love one another as Jesus has loved us:

John 13:34-35 (NIV)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

1 John 3:10-11 (NIV)

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

1 John 4:11-13 (NIV)

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.

So, I pray we will take this message to heart as we prepare for His Coming.  I pray we will make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. I pray we will be proactive in our communities to show the love of God to others … bringing the Good News of Jesus to fill their hearts with the knowledge of the truth: “For God so loved the world.” Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

 If you fulfil the royal law according to the scripture that says, you shall love your neighbor as yourself – you do well. ~ James 2:8