Toxic Words

The Bible is very clear on the point that what we say has a major impact on those we talk to both directly and indirectly. We can count on the fact that everything we say has the potential to shape someone in a big way. Somethings will get swept under the rug and forgotten. Others will stick in people’s minds like superglue, possibly for a lifetime. The other thing about it is, we don’t get to choose which words of ours stay with someone and which they let go of. All the more reason to be not just careful, but intentional.

I think most readers will be able to relate to this statement: most of the words that lead to regret are those spoken in frustration. Kids, a spouse, coworkers, family, and the like can all push us to a point where the flood gates of our mouths are loosed and the lava of unhelpful and poisonous speech come spewing forth. Sometimes instant guilt washes over us in these moments. Other times it takes until the unsettled emotions level out and our minds become rational once again. Whatever the case, the damage has been inflicted and at that point all we can do is release our pride and petition our victims for mercy and pray that God will clean up our mess.

Examples are always helpful so let me share some personal ones that God has taught me to change in my own life.

#1- Be careful of the labels you give to others. Names can be fun and playful, yet they can help someone develop and identity based on what others call them. For example, telling one of my children they are acting like a brat or a snot could possibly lead to them thinking that is how others view them. Or calling someone a jerk or that they’re being stupid can never be helpful. While their behavior seems to warrant such labels, the labels themselves can in no way benefit the hearer.

God’s response: if you’re going to ascribe a label to someone, make sure it is a good one that helps to reveal the person He made them to be. Labels can call someone up to greater things and should never be used to beat someone down.

#2- making unhelpful statements or asking pointless questions. When someone does something, it doesn’t make matters better to say, “how could you do that?” Or another one I’ve used many times with my children, “what were you thinking?” Embedded in the questions themselves is a subtle yet blasting indictment of shame.

God’s response: why not ask questions that will point them to me.

Because words are so powerful, it should be something we think about, and more importantly, pray about a lot. Call it walking on egg shells, or call it plain wisdom. The person who is careless with their words simply cares more about themselves and the expression of their own emotions than how they impact those around them. Here are some helpful verses and what God has taught me through them:

Proverbs 15:4, 16:24, 17:27, and 18:21 – words can bring life or death to someone. So speak life. (Awesome Toby Mac song). They can actually be a tree of life and bring healing to others.

Ephesians 4:29 – the only words that should come out of my mouth are those that are helpful to others.

Matthew 15:18-19 and Luke 6:45 – my words are a mirror of what is in my heart.

Colossians 4:6 – my words need to be full of grace.

Let’s be game changers with our words. No longer will frustration and inpatients dominate our speech. We can bring life and healing and so we shall!

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The Messiah of Psalm 35

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This is our third Messianic post from the book of Psalms. So far we’ve covered Psalm 2 and 22. As we skip around, I want to be sure to point out some of the other Psalms that we are jumping over in case you’d like to do some more exploration on your own. It’s so fascinating! Today we enter the 35th Psalm. For your interest, there are some prophecies that appear in Psalms 23, 24, 30, and 31 as well. They are super rich with themes like words Jesus spoke while on the cross (to continue our crucifixion theme from last time), the resurrection, and the sinless life of Jesus. They even talk about how Jesus was a reproach among His neighbors and many plotted to put Him to death. But for today, let’s journey to the night, or early morning I should say before Jesus was crucified.

Psalm 35 mentions that false witnesses will one day rise up to testify against the Messiah. They will bring a barrage of lies with ill motives, solely based off of their own fears and pride.

Ruthless witnesses come forward; they question me on things I know nothing about.

(verse 11 NIV)

Indeed those who spoke up in those early twilight hours were of wicked intentions, ruthless bent on the death of Jesus…and innocent man. Of course, the Messiah would know nothing about the events of the testimony because they were all made up. But the Messiah would have known the intents of their hearts. In Matthew chapter 27 it says that the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin looked for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death but they couldn’t find any. It was a crooked, rig trial from the beginning.

They repay me evil for good and leave me like one bereaved.

(verse 12 NIV)

All Jesus had done in His life was for good. He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the hungry, freed those in spiritual bondage, and taught the world to love as it always should have. Instead, He is treated as a criminal.

Do not let those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; do not let those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye.

(verse 19 NIV)

In the prayer of Psalm 35, there’s a plea for victory…a victory that actually came. Those who conspired against the Messiah would have a short-lived win. The persecution and death of the Messiah were only temporary. When Jesus rose from the dead three days later, those who winked their eye in malicious intent would now turn the eyes away in shame or in repentance. God glorified His sinless Messiah.

If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you. When that happens, remember this: Servants don’t get better treatment than their masters. If they beat on me, they will certainly beat on you. If they did what I told them, they will do what you tell them. They are going to do all these things to you because of the way they treated me, because they don’t know the One who sent me. If I hadn’t come and told them all this in plain language, it wouldn’t be so bad. As it is, they have no excuse. Hate me, hate my Father—it’s all the same. If I hadn’t done what I have done among them, works no one has ever done, they wouldn’t be to blame. But they saw the God-signs and hated anyway, both me and my Father. Interesting—they have verified the truth of their own Scriptures where it is written, ‘They hated me for no good reason.’

John 15:18-25 The Message

If you ever find yourself misunderstood or even hated, know that your Messiah knows your pain. He felt it too. A world that does not know God struggles to embrace the love of God. It should never stop us from laying down our lives for those around us, just like it never deterred Jesus. The love of the Messiah is not conditional upon how it is received. His heart was still full of love for those who lied about Him, who spit on Him, and who eventually yelled out for His blood to be spilled. Our sin demanded a sacrifice and His love compelled Him to be that sacrifice on our behalf.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!

The Messiah of Psalm 22

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We are continuing our journey through the book of Psalms, picking out several of which God used to reveal who the Messiah was for future generations…for you and me. In the last post I used Psalm 2 so we are skipping quite a few. We will have to do that as we move through the book. There are some great prophecies in Psalm 8, 9, 16, and 18 if you’d like to grab a cup of coffee, your Bible, and have a read. But for today, let’s dive into Psalm 22.

This psalm is unique in the sense that it highlights, in a lot of depth, one specific event in the life of the Messiah…the crucifixion. There are actually 17 specific verses that point to 13 connections to the crucifixion. For simplicity sake, I created a table below that show the side by side comparison between the verses of Psalm 22 and verses in the New Testament, along with a brief explanation of what connects them.

Connection Psalm 22 New Testament
The Messiah was forsaken for our sins Verse 1 Matthew 27:46

2 Corinthians 5:21

The Messiah cried out in darkness, just as He did when darkness fell upon the earth for 3 hours. Verse 2 Matthew 27:45
Those who looked upon the Messiah ridiculed Him. Verse 7 Matthew 27:39-44
They mocked Him by saying let God save Him. Verse 8 Matthew 27:43
The Messiah is born the Savior, connected with God from birth. Verses 9-10 Luke 2:7-12
They sought His death from birth and throughout His ministry. Verses 12-13 Matthew 2:13, 21:46, 26:3-4, 27:23
The blood from His side was accompanied by water when He was stabbed with the spear. Verse 14 John 19:34
The Messiah suffered on the cross. Verses 14-15 Mark 15:34-37
Jesus thirsted while on the cross. Verse 15 John 19:34
They pierced His hands and feet. Verse 16 John 19:34-37, 20:27
They stripped Him before everyone who looked on Him. Verses 17-18 Luke 23:34-35
They cast lots over Him. Verse 18 John 19:23-24
Jesus declared His Father, once He was resurrected, to His disciples while they were assembled. Verse 22 John 20:17

It’s absolutely astounding how much this Psalm overlaps with the New Testament accounts of Jesus. For many who had the Old Testament memorized, it must have been a very eye-opening experience after Jesus was crucified. What was maybe even more incredible is that so many people struggled to see that the Messiah would have to suffer and die. I guess it’s evidence that we only see what we want to see, no matter how convincing the evidence is. I’m sure that Jesus would have had the words of Psalm 22 running through His mind as He reminded His followers of what was ahead of Him. I can’t imagine choosing to endure something like this, especially when you didn’t have to. But thankfully Jesus did. For all of us.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters! It came at such a great price.

 

This one Thing

Can you see me here before you?How long have I served you? What more must I do?

Are you pleased? I don’t feel that way. How could you be? I am imperfect.

I have tried and tried until I can no longer. What more must I bring? I have but a weary body, fatigued and stretched thin.

In my dreary and failed state I hear a gentle whisper say, “it’s you my child. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. Give me your heart and I will move your hands and feet.”

The Fire of Mercy

“Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.” Leviticus‬ ‭6:13‬ ‭ESV

The more I read the book of Leviticus the more I gain an appreciation for it. It’s easy to get lost in the myriad of sacrifices and laws but what helps is taking a step back and looking at what’s behind all of it.

The sacrifices described in this book are a result of two things. Number one, humanity’s brokenness and rebellion. And number two, God’s desire to show mercy.

The verse from chapter six is one good indication that God loves to show mercy. He gave Israel a way to be forgiven of all of their sin over and over again. Verse thirteen shows that God was fully aware that the people of Israel would need to be forgiven over and over. The fire of the altar of burnt offerings would always be lit so that the people could always come for mercy.

God knows we’re guilty. Every single one of us. Every day we think, say, or do something that makes that true. We no longer have an altar, be we have something far greater. We no longer need to bring an animal sacrifice because God already provided a greater sacrifice for us. The fires of God’s mercy is always lit in the sacrifice of Jesus our Messiah. In Him, we all have a continual source of grace, because God loves to show mercy.

Rejoice brothers and sisters in our God’s amazing grace!

Don’t trade in the power

Good day everyone. Today I wanted to write a follow up to my last post. If you haven’t read it yet give it a click here and check it out. It’ll definitely help this content make more sense.

If you take note of all of the incredible things people did in the Bible, the inescapable connection you’d notice is that none of them did it on their own power. God brought the animals to Noah’s ark. God directed Moses in the exodus of Israel from Egypt. God led Joshua into the promised land to take possession of it. God empowered each of the Judges who rescued Israel. God’s Spirit filled the prophets enabling them to work wonders. God’s Spirit gave birth to the church and used them to spread a world wide revival. Wonders, miracles, changed lives, raised lives, parted waters, walls crumbling, nations preserved, and hearts set free. All of these things were only possible through God’s Spirit and the power that comes along with it.

Every power possessed by humanity is extremely limited, and often ill directed, unless envisioned and driven by the Spirit of God. But even well meaning followers of God have gotten sidetracked down through the ages. Really, it’s easy to do. Even the most ardent Christian can find themselves living self reliant and disconnected.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John‬ ‭15:5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Few chapters in all of the Bible depict God’s design for our lives quite like John chapter fifteen. Jesus illustrates our relationship with Him like that of a grape vine. All branches receive their nutrients from the vine itself. Whenever the connection between a branch and its roots are severed it begins to die. As long as the connection stays strong however, that branch can flourish year after year. The same is true for any tree or plant. And Jesus used that imagery to show us how to live a full life.

If you want to know the key to living a powerful life, it’s right there in that chapter. It’s captured in one word…abide. To abide is the state of being in something. In this case, Jesus is referring to Himself. The powerful life is one lived in Jesus. In other words, it’s a life lived like Him, through Him, and for Him. Paul said it in a different way.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians‬ ‭2:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Jesus is our example, our source, and our life. Far too many of us trade in that life for empty customs and traditions. It doesn’t take a non-believer to live an impotent life absent of Spiritual zeal and power. So many try to find God through their own means and their own interpretations. Some put so much emphasis on laws and rituals yet pay no regard to the law of love behind them. Look at all the people who Jesus confronted during His time on Earth. They were often rigid, greedy, self righteous, nitpicking control freaks who were absent of love. They filled the coffers at the synagogue yet disregarded the needy on their way in. In Mathew 23 Jesus calls these types of people out for being hypocrites by tithing all sorts of things yet neglecting the ‘weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.‘ We should never seek the life of those living opposed to Jesus and that’s exactly what will happen when the letter of the law outweighs the love of the Law-giver in our hearts.

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John‬ ‭15:10-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

There it is. Love others by laying down our lives. That level of love in our lives is a good indicator of just how well we’re connected to the Vine…to Jesus. Feeling disconnected lately? Me too. The good news is, unlike the branch of a grapevine, our connection to Jesus can be mended. His love can be reborn in our hearts. We just need to stop abiding in the wrong things.

I’ve got the Power

Anyone who was alive in the early 1990’s probably has the lyrics of the extremely catchy song by SNAP running through their minds after reading the title of this article. In fact, it was in my mind the entire time I wrote this post. It probably will be the rest of the day.

There are many ways to be powerful. A person could be physically strong, mentally fit, financially equipped, or politically connected. All of these things have their inherent benefits. But none of them represent the greatest power available to mankind. They can all be an incredible blessing, but who they are a blessing for is determined by how they are used.

When we think of strongmen, no doubt Samson has to come to mind. He was by far the strongest man mentioned throughout the story of the Bible. He defeated lions with his bare hands, took down hundreds of men by himself, and pulled down buildings. But all in all, his life was a major waste, and his strength for nothing but show, except for the times he was connected with God. In the book of Judges it talks about how the Spirit of the Lord came over Samson and gave him strength. The Spirit was the key and the purpose was endgame. Who cares if someone can bench 350 pounds. How are they using that to benefit others and serve the purposes of God? How is the Spirit guiding that ability? I think of professional athletes who have been endowed with great physical abilities. None of it matters unless they use it for something far great than getting a paycheck and putting on a show for people.

Another great example would be Daniel. He was taken captive at a young age but he rose to prominence and political prestige quickly. His ascent was only meaningful in the sense that he would use his influence as part of a greater story. Daniel prayed, a lot, in order to keep his focus on what really mattered. That was the only thing that saved his life and set his future and legacy. The same can be said about Joseph, who’s brothers sold him into captivity, but later became the second most powerful person in the world. What kept him on track was his connection with God and determination to stay within His designed course. It wasn’t political influence that made them powerful, it was their relationship with the LORD. It wasn’t a policy agenda that drove them, it was the heart of God that supplied their vision.

Most people will never be world class athletes, political influencers, or wealthy elites. But none of those things determine someone’s real power. Physical fitness fades, money can’t enter the grave, and no one remains in political office forever. Just as it was for Samson, Daniel, Joseph, and countless others, it’s the power of connection that makes someone truly powerful. We have to be in tuned with God’s plan for our lives and how that fits in to a much bigger story for humanity. We have to stay connected through prayer and meditation. Then, and only then, will we have access to the greatest power in the world, the power of the Holy Spirit. There is no other power on earth that can transform a life, a culture, and a people quite like this one.

Prior to entering the promised land, Joshua was coronated as the leader of Israel and given charge to conquer and take back a land that was filled and defiled by the worst of humanity. These people would have made Hitler look like a saint. But that’s besides the point. God’s greatest advice was this: be strong and courageous and know that I am with you. God went on to tell him that his success was directly linked to his connection with God Himself. Joshua was instructed to meditate on God’s words day and night. Joshua went on to become one of the greatest commanders in world history. Not because of his military acumen, but because of his faithfulness to his God.

We will only become truly powerful in life when power isn’t what we seek. What makes someone useful isn’t their skill set, it’s a humble disposition and a servant’s heart. The people who will make the real difference in life are those living in a bigger story, one that is not about them, but about the One who made them. God made us not as instruments for selfish gain, but as messengers of His love. A love so powerful that it cannot be stopped. But a love that is only possible through a deep connection with God Himself. That is the point of your life and mine.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. John‬ ‭15:4‬ ‭ESV