July 22, 2024

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) Says, “29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what helps build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” This is a familiar verse we grew up with to stop getting us to yell at our older sisters, or maybe that was just me. Like every verse, this verse is meant to be read circularly, meaning time and time again. I remember when my parents divorced this verse led me to stop cursing, which, as that habit stuck all these years, I now have seen this verse in a new and similarly true way.

Recently I read through James, and in James 3, he writes about taming the tongue and how humans can tame anything from lions to fish to my golden retriever that acts like a piranha, we can tame them. When it comes to our words; however, we can not seem to ever tame them. When I get frustrated at an activity, person, or just bumping into a countertop, it seems the words I can sometimes say but mostly think and believe in my heart are more hurtful than the lack of curse words I have said all these years. James describes the tongue as a small rudder that guides an entire ship where the words I say throughout my day seem innocent, funny, or justified and yet I was just numbing the way I felt after saying hurtful words.

I always wanted to evangelize to my friend but I was always gossiping about others to him, or even evangelizing to my dad but I was always yelling at myself when I was doing poorly in sports. To begin thinking about how my words can build others up instead of bringing a hammer of justice, I began seeing God work through those relationships in ways I did not think was possible. If you are struggling to wonder what it is like to evangelize better in your workplace, to your family, or friends, maybe consider letting God lead that rudder in your life. When someone messes up and you are justified in tearing them down in any way, maybe consider the impact of encouraging them could have in not only loving your neighbor as yourself but in how they see Christ’s love through your words.

July 21, 2024

Trusting God has become progressively easier for me over the years. The amazing thing about faith is watching how God honors His word.
My natural tendency has always been to lean on my own understanding and view everything that happens from my limited knowledge and experience.
When I read one of God’s promises in Scripture and it contradicts what I have always believed to be true, I have a predicament. Do I believe Him or do I hold on to what I always thought was reality.
Shortly after I started following Jesus I formed a presupposition that the Bible was inspired by God and the Holy Spirit is my teacher to guide me in understanding it. Now I realize that is a huge part of the foundation of my faith.
It is much easier to believe Him because He has proven Himself to be faithful so many times. Faith is one of the greatest gifts He has given me and I am eternally grateful for it.

July 20, 2024

For many years I lived without a sense of God’s presence in my life. There were many things that pointed me in His direction but my self-determination to do what I thought would bring me pleasure was a dark cloud that obscured my vision.
I lived without purpose, always taking the path of least resistance. What I considered to be liberty was really an illusion and my isolation from God was producing unpleasant consequences.
When my good friend pointed me to Jesus, it was the Lord working through him to rescue me from the deceptive lies I had come to believe.
Now my prayer is that God will use me to guide others who are living in darkness to find the light of His presence in the same way I was counseled.

July 19, 2024

When I used to do things that I thought would bring me pleasure, the gratification was always short-lived. I had to find something else that would bring me enjoyment.
I never considered that I had very little self-respect and didn’t give much thought about the Lord.
When I started following Jesus I found that my gratefulness for what He did for me at Calvary also brought a tremendous respect and reverence for Him and my Heavenly Father. It also taught me how to honor God and honor those who were following Him because Jesus honored us by laying down His life.
I began to place value on things I had previously regarded as insignificant. The more I engaged in doing new activities that were much more rewarding, the fruition of the effort I made to do them brought lasting satisfaction.

Now, by trying to honor Him in everything I do I am experiencing His peace, contentment, and joy in much greater abundance than ever before. I pray that He will give me more of His wisdom so that I will be able to see life increasingly more from His perspective and honor Him in everything I do.

July 17, 2024

When God created the heavens and the earth, He also created two kingdoms. One kingdom was made up of material things, and the other was spiritual. The physical realm included everything from plants and vegetation to animals and people. If God had made the people robotic and programmed them to do what He wanted, everything would have been different.

But He didn’t do that. He gave people the freedom to choose! Wow!!! Think about that, and then look at how chaotic everything is. Isaiah said that we are all like sheep going in an infinite number of directions, all away from God. Did He make a mistake? No! He is on His throne in heaven, letting everyone do whatever they want.

However, another part of the drama is hidden from most people. The spiritual kingdom comprises other forms of creatures called angels and demons. In different places in the Bible, they are referred to as ministering spirits, servants, the heavenly host, and numerous other labels. And then there is another group of shady characters called rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

So here we are. Finite creatures who are like a vapor in eternity, and we are told not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought but rather think of ourselves with sober judgment. God, who is rich in mercy, raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms. We can live above the chaos by simply humbling ourselves before God and one another and receive the life and love that He freely gives.

Let’s honor one another!

July 16, 2024

Shawn asked a very important question during his sermon: What do you treasure? Our answers reveal what we value and how we are motivated.

Before I started following Jesus, I valued pleasure and instant gratification. This resulted in a very unstable lifestyle that led to many failures and wounded relationships. The biggest failure brought tremendous pain to my family and me. Fortunately, the despair I experienced was greater than my fear of change, and I was blessed to have a man in my life who shared the gospel with me.

I had no idea that I would be required to make continual changes in my life to overcome my conditioned way of following the egocentric desires. Every time the light of God’s love shined a little brighter in my heart, old habits and desires were exposed. I was being transformed, and things I used to value became liabilities.

Today, more than anything else, I value the tremendous peace and joy I experience as I commune with people. Without an agenda and frequently without words, I am blessed to simply be with my friends and family.

July 15, 2024

Everything in the universe was created for God’s pleasure. He has a plan, and He will accomplish it. No one else can take credit for what He did. He alone is worthy of receiving honor and glory.

God has always known there was the potential for good and evil, righteousness and wickedness. Nevertheless, before he created anything, He already had the plan for redemption in place. God knows the end and the beginning, and He can make everything that happens work for His eternal purpose.

Our responsibility is to trust Him and walk in the way of love, just like Jesus did. If we want to honor Him, we must believe He exists and submit to His authority.

Jesus taught us that the only way to overcome evil is to do what is right in His sight. We can forgive, show mercy, do justly, and separate ourselves from the world’s ways. We honor God when we live His way.

July 14, 2024

God’s way is to transform any negative situation into a positive one. All I have to do is surrender myself to Him and trust Him to guide me.
When I do that, any feeling I have of being overwhelmed or confused is replaced with His peace and confidence that everything will work out for the good of everyone.
I have no control to change what has happened in the past, nor do I have the ability and wisdom to know what will take place in the future.
What I do know is that I can commune with Him in the present moment because He never leaves me nor forsakes me. Being with Him is always the most important thing, regardless of the circumstances.
My evaluation of any situation is destined to eventually turn negative when I lean on my own understanding and forget to turn everything over to Him.
My prayer is that the Lord will graciously help me stay focused on Him so that I continually maintain an attitude of surrender and contentment in every situation.

July 13, 2024

No matter how much I hunger and thirst for righteousness, I never get to the point where I arrive at a thorough understanding of the Lord and His kingdom. I always have room to grow in my insight, understanding and perception of Him and His ways.
Each time He gives me a deeper awareness of Himself, my walk with Him becomes more consistent and simpler.
My needs for individuality at this stage of my life are becoming fewer and fewer because I am finding my identification with Him to be more and more sufficient.
My dissatisfaction with things that used to give me pleasure is evidence to me that He is actively participating in my life to draw me closer to Himself.
I pray that the Lord will take me ever more completely into fellowship with Him.

July 12, 2024

As we have studied this week, the context of this verse highlights the importance of accepting differences among believers, especially in matters of personal conviction. Paul is calling us to prioritize unity and peace over disputable or debatable matters. When we focus on fostering peace, we create an environment where acceptance and mutual growth can flourish. This unity reflects Christ’s love and brings glory to God.

So how do we “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification”? Dr. Carl summarized this idea so beautifully this past Sunday. He challenged us to remember six things. The final one was to remember the desired result. This is our desired result: peace and mutual edification. Mutual edification is the process of building up one another in faith, encouraging spiritual growth, and strengthening the body of Christ. It involves being supportive and helping each other mature in our walk with God. Mutual edification is a two-way street where everyone involved benefits and grows together. By engaging in mutual edification, we help create a community rooted in love, acceptance, and unity, reflecting the love of Christ.