When Jesus Brings a Sword

A few months ago, a polarizing topic came on the scene here in America, which created a lot of strife and tension on social media (what else is new?). Since it was a topic that I am very passionate about, I decided to share my own personal thoughts regarding the monumental news. As a Christian, my worldview is filtered through a Biblical lens. This should be the case for all professing Christians, but sadly, that is not always true in our current society. Many are creating a Christianity (and Jesus) to their own liking that allows them to continue to embrace worldly ideologies and philosophies that make them feel better about themselves. But in the gospels, Christ assures us that if we try to hang onto our life, we will lose it. If we want to hold onto the world, we will inevitably lose our soul. 

My strong Biblical convictions were met with much animosity among some of my friends (some unbelievers and some professing Christians). Two close friends from my past in particular, immediately “unfriended” me on Facebook because they became extremely offended by my position on this controversial topic, although I have expressed my views on it before. This is expected as a Christian. We know that we will lose much as a Christ-follower. It’s something we typically prepare ourselves for early on in our walk. But I have been a Christian for fourteen years. 

For whatever reason, these two friends could not tolerate my convictions and wanted me out of sight and out of mind. The situation with one friend hurt worse considering it was friendship with deep history of more than twenty-five years; We had made countless memories together since grade-school and she was the maid of honor in my wedding. I reached out to her and she responded with her disgust with my Christian beliefs (compared to her own) and offenses but was radio silent to my plea to reconcile despite our opposing views, especially our differing views within Christianity and about the Bible. Her silence was loud and clear that she no longer wanted to walk in fellowship with me and was willing to throw twenty-five years of friendship away on a whim. If someone isn’t willing to be Facebook friends with you, do we think they really want you in their life at all? The answer was made pretty evident for me. 

Yet, I wasn’t expecting to have to face this type of division in my friendships this many years later as a believer; I was faced with the hard reality that Jesus’ words in Matthew 10 were unfolding in my life. Although Jesus is speaking of family particularly in verses 34-35, the sentiment remains the same- Jesus has come to bring a sword to our relationships that draws a line in the sand between those who love and follow Him and those who do not. 

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law”

(Matthew 10:34-35, ESV).

Later in this passage, Christ makes it clear that we must love Him more than anyone or anything, even our own life. We must lay it all down to follow Him at all costs, but He promises life abundantly to those who sacrifice all to pursue Him and His ways. 

It’s in times like these when I am broken and disappointed and hurt where I find myself throwing my hands up and say, “Just give me Jesus.” He is the One who brings us hope as an anchor to our souls, keeping us tethered to Him and His truth when our heart feels like it’s falling apart at the seams because of the pain of rejection.

He comes to our rescue and embraces us in our pain, even if the circumstances don’t change, even if the suffering doesn’t seem to end, and even when the relationship cannot be or refuses to be reconciled. He comes to our rescue and is there with us, directing our eyes heaven-ward, reminding us this place is not our home and that His ways are so much better. He may bring a sword to divide relationships in this life, but a relationship with Him is so much sweeter and more rewarding than anything we could ever experience here on earth. As we turn our back on the world, it will undoubtedly turn its back on us. Let us lift our eyes where our Help comes from and seek Jesus in the midst of our loss, knowing there will be great gain found in Him.

Father God, 

I know I am accepted in the Beloved. I know You are near to the broken-hearted. I know following Christ is a call to die. I know I will be hated for His namesake. And I know He has come to bring a sword and asks us to love Him more than anyone or anything else. But the pain of rejection still hurts so much. Can you bring healing to my heart and endow me with Your grace to endure the difficult times that come from following You? Thank You for Your overwhelming love and for coming to my rescue when I cry out to You. I know that even though I experience loneliness, I am never truly alone for You are always with me. No matter how much it cost, I choose to pursue You and Your ways above all. This world has nothing for me. I will follow You. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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A Mouth Full of Mercy

As believers our speech should be as one who has been forgiven. We have received the gift of mercy from on high, which has triumphed over our dooming judgment. When we do not show mercy to others, and condemn them for their sin, we will not receive mercy.

We often give mercy to the measure that we understand we’ve received mercy. If we come up short at showing mercy, the way to increase our merciful responses towards others is to meditate on the mercy we have received from the Lord. We were once enemies of God and by grace through faith, we have been justified, forgiven, and redeemed. This should cause us to walk in humility and kindness with even the most difficult people in our life. 

One way that we can walk in mercy with one another is to guard our mouths from speaking evil against one another, especially if someone has wronged us or hurt us. We should never resort to gossip or share with someone else about another person. 

How do you know if what you are saying is judgmental?

Ask yourself: Would I say it to the person’s face? Would this hurt their feelings at all if they overheard me?

Titus 3:2-7 instructs us:

“…to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life”

(Titus 3:2-7, NKJV).

If guarding your mouth is difficult for you when you are upset, and you tend to get offended easily, we must remember that we can ask God for grace to be able to not allow our flesh to rule us. The Holy Spirit will convict of us of our sin, but also strengthen us to be able to walk in obedience by showing humility and mercy to all. One of the fruit of the Spirit that we has been given is self-control, and if you are born again, you have been endowed with that ability by the power of the Spirit. We are either yielding to the Spirit or we are yielded to the flesh. We will be given as many opportunities as possible and tests on our faith journey to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. As disciples of Christ, we should see genuine growth with each passing day that we choose to walk in the Spirit and deny the flesh. Let us reflect upon the mercy that we have received and ask the Lord to help us speak words filled with mercy. 

Heavenly Father,

I do not deserve Your mercy, but You have been so extravagant with Your love for me. Help me to reflect upon the gift of Your forgiveness daily, so that I can extend the same love to others. When I am tempted to lose my temper or gossip, set a guard over my mouth, Lord. Help me cultivate and develop the fruit of self-control by the power of Your Spirit so that I can continue to walk peaceably, with all gentleness and humility as Your Word commands. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Casting Your Cares

I struggled with anxiety and panic attacks for many years in high school and college. Stress and worry were just a part of my life, and I allowed them to move into my mind and become my permanent mental roommates. From money problems to relationship issues, if it became too much, you would find me curled up in a ball in the fetal position on the floor, hyperventilating until parts of my body went numb and crying until there were no more tears left.

After I graduated college, the Lord regenerated and redeemed me, and I began to walk close with the Him and study His Word like I never had before in my life. My mind was being renewed and over time, I began to trust the Lord more with issues that would have normally caused me to worry. I slowly learned to cast my cares upon Him like 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to do:

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”

(1 Peter 5:7, NIV).

But every now and then, I still become a victim of worry and anxiety and begin to experience sudden panic about my circumstances that out of my control, even though I know the Bible is clear that we should always trust the Lord at all times. So if we aren’t supposed to be anxious as believers, why do so many Christians still struggle with anxiety? Aside from chemical imbalances that can occur in one’s body, which are very real and very valid, I believe much of what causes anxiety begins in our minds. The more we dwell on a negative or fearful thought of a circumstance beyond our control, the more stress and worry begins to plague us. Somewhere along the lines in our overwhelm, we forget the One who holds our future. The One who is sovereign. The One who cares for His children so deeply, the Lord God Almighty. We learn more about Him in the Bible, where our faith and abiding trust in Him is strengthened.

The other night when I experienced the panic attack, there was a brief moment where I was given the opportunity to resist the negative thoughts and take them captive and begin to talk to God like I had learned to do so many times before, but this time, I chose to let my mind run in circles. I was so familiar with the experience of a panic attack that I could literally feel it try to overtake me right before it happened. If I would have set my mind upon scripture in that moment (such as Philippians 4:6-7 and even 1 Peter 5:7), I would have realized that God offered me a solution for my anxious thoughts. A simple conversation with the Lord would have helped me focus my thoughts and would have brought immediate peace to the whirlwind in my mind. The Word of God is so powerful and the more we study and meditate upon it, our foundation will be strong in Christ and we will continually know how to look to Him any time stress and anxiety tries to overtake us. Let us always be quick to ask the Lord for His sustaining grace and help in our time of need, looking to Him always because He cares for us. 

Father God, thank You that You want us to cast our cares upon You. Thank You that there is nowhere I can go that you are not there with me. Thank You for having a hold of my life, even as I feel like everything is crumbling around me. Lord, I confess that I have let stress take a hold of my life, rather than You. I have let stress control my mood, my attitude, my emotions, and my actions. Lord, I repent of this! Please Father, help me see what is stressful in my life and hand it over to You. Help me not let the stress win out. Help me actively think on Your goodness to me. Help me to renew my mind with Your unchanging Word. I am so hopeful for my eternity with you, Lord, where there will be no more stress and I will be overwhelmed by Your love, beauty, and never-ending peace! Help me look back on all the ways You have rescued me from my stressful moments and look in hope to the future where You will one day rid all stress, forever. In the meantime, I know and trust that You hold my future. Help me live boldly in the truth of Your goodness and power today. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

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Forsake Following Your Heart

Shortly after college graduation, I became a born-again believer in Jesus Christ; I repented of my sin and surrendered my life to Christ, committing to take up my cross and follow Him no matter the cost. Yet, I still wanted to pursue my original plan of becoming an actress in Los Angeles. As a Christian, I believed I was called to be a light in a dark place so that meant that I was supposed to use my talents for Christ in Hollywood. I was receiving mixed messages from trusted believers because they kept telling me to trust God with the plans to pursue my dreams. This just led to more confusion.

Trust God with my plan and my heart’s desires?

Again and again, the phrase “follow your heart” was echoing through my mind. This phrase seems to be very popular in American culture, even among Christian circles. You can find these three words boldly displayed on T-shirts, on Instagram graphics, and even heralded by some influential professing Christian leaders.

“Follow your heart…”- just a harmless motto, right?

It sounds really encouraging, doesn’t it?

Yes, very encouraging, almost Disney-like, but definitely not Biblical!

The Lord spoke these words about the heart through the prophet Jeremiah:

“The heart is deceitful above all things,

And desperately wicked;

Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV)

As Christians, sometimes we fall into the trap of giving man’s words more weight than the Word of God. I wanted to encourage us to look to the direction found in scripture for those who are God’s children. A very familiar, but powerful passage found in Proverbs gives the believer wisdom:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

And lean not on your own understanding;

In all your ways acknowledge Him,

And He shall direct[a] your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV).

If we are putting our trust in everything or anyone but the Lord, we will constantly be disappointed and led astray from God’s perfect will for our lives. We must trust in the Lord with all of our heart, which should never be filled with more of this world than God’s Word. I’m so thankful that during that time in my life while I was faced with a major decision, I kept my heart full of God’s Word, which helped me renew my mind so that I was filled with faith to trust God when He began changing my desires to follow and obey Him most of all. One month after I made the decision not move to Los Angeles, realizing that it was pride that was actually driving the desire to pursue an acting career, I was introduced to my now-husband and the rest is His Story.

My advice to you, beloved one, is do not follow your heart- follow God instead. He knows what you need more than you do. Trust Him with your entire heart and let him mold it to look more like His. He will never lead You down the wrong path!

Father,

The culture around me is often very loudly proclaiming how important it is for me to pursue my dreams and destiny by listening to my heart and following it. But Your Word is very clear that my heart can often bring confusion and that the only One who can be trusted to follow is You. You have given me a new heart is Christ, yes, but my flesh is always at war with Your desires and longs to lead me away from Your will. I find Your will in Your Word, so I ask You to please help me have a hunger to hide it in my heart so that I will not sin against You. Your Word is what renews my mind so that I am able to walk in obedience and look more like Christ to the world so that they may know that Your ways and thoughts are higher and better than man’s. Help me to not lean upon my own understanding and trust You, not my heart’s desires. I long for my heart to be molded to look more like Jesus, but I cannot do that without Your help. Thank You, Lord, for leading me by Your Spirit and Your Word that is a light unto my path. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Forgiving Others in the Face of Evil

The weekend of Father’s Day is always difficult for me. My dad’s birthday is so close to Father’s Day (sometimes actually falling on Father’s Day) so it’s kind of a double whammy when your dad is no longer here. It’s even more difficult when the reason your dad is gone is because someone brutally took his life, so, for me, there are always a lot of heavy emotions attached to the third weekend in June. Regarding the man who took my dad’s life, many might shout “That man should burn in hell for what he did!” Yet, I have never stopped preaching, “We must forgive!” because I know the severity of holding onto the wrongs that others have done to us. It simply is not worth it, my friends, no matter how justified we may feel regarding the sins that have been done to us. Jesus shares this sobering truth in the book of Matthew about forgiving others no matter what:

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14, NIV).

Just like all of humanity, I have fallen short of the glory of God, and I need my sins to be forgiven and washed clean by the finished work of the cross of Jesus Christ. Oh, what love has been extended to me that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me (Romans 5:8)! If Christ died for me and has forgiven me, someone who has sinned against a Holy and righteous God, how could I possibly withhold forgiveness to another image bearer of God? 

Knowing what the Bible says about forgiveness, I immediately chose to forgive and move on with both my life with Christ and the man who is now my husband. I didn’t want to harbor unforgiveness or bitterness in my heart that would undoubtedly grow like a cancer. It is not that I don’t love or miss my dad terribly; It is because dwelling on this wicked tragedy will never bring my dad back, but more than that, I know that I must obey God to forgive those who sin against me. I know that justice belongs only in the hands of the Lord. It took six years, but the man who murdered my father was eventually charged with a guilty sentence. He will serve up to 45 years in prison as a punishment for his actions. The Lord brings vindication, most assuredly, but, most of all, I long for that man to repent of what he did and find a life-changing relationship with Jesus like I have found. I can’t say that I have found the strength to pray a prayer like this or the strength to forgive from solely within myself. No, my strength to pray for and forgive the man who murdered my dad comes only from God’s grace and the power and might of the Holy Spirit. 

Oh, believer, we need the love and presence of our heavenly Father from now until eternity! Oh, unbeliever, repent and turn from your sins, and rebellion and come to Christ to be lavished in His mercy and forgiveness! If you are harboring unforgiveness towards another, release it now, don’t wait! I urge you to repent and receive the forgiveness of the Father today and find strength in Jesus to learn to walk in total forgiveness, even in the midst of the darkest of evil and sin against you. Oh, what freedom and peace you will find!

Heavenly Father,

I come to you today first and foremost with a grateful heart that You would lavish Your mercy and love upon me, someone who has sinned against You, oh, Holy and righteous Creator God! Thank you for sending Your Son, Jesus, who stood in my place to die a death that I deserved so that I could be forgiven, justified, and restored back to You to now be called Your child. If I am holding onto unforgiveness against someone who has hurt me or gravely sinned against me, I repent and forgive that person immediately. I have no right to harbor unforgiveness against anyone, and as Your child, You call me to forgive others because I have been forgiven by You. I choose to obey You, no matter how difficult it may be for me. I trust Your Spirit will empower me to forgive and love others how You have forgiven and love me. Help me heal from the wounds that may have been caused by the hands of others. I pray for their heart that they would walk in repentance and walk in forgiveness and know and trust You like I do. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Diligently Asking for God’s Sustaining Grace

When we are taking strides to walk in obedience to God, the resistance to push forward gets stronger, and it feels like we are treading through mud just to take a step. My husband, Paul, and I have been experiencing this since starting to lead a new ministry at our church, in addition to juggling all the rest of our responsibilities caring for our boys and our own individual lives.  

Even though it’s exhausting and sometimes discouraging when things feel so chaotic and stressful, I must remind my heart that our God is stronger and will use whatever seems to be standing against us (especially our own sinful flesh!) to grow and deepen our faith and sanctify us. But this doesn’t mean it isn’t painful or that I am quick to learn how to depend on Him!

For me, personally, I am working on resting in the new mercies of today and being quick to repent and ask for forgiveness. I feel like I have failed a lot in my behavior towards Paul and my boys these last few weeks. I don’t want to blame it on hormones and lack of sleep (although I know this adds fuel to the fire so to speak). Because God’s grace is available to me. But am I asking for it diligently? Probably not as much as I should.

If His grace is truly sufficient (and it is), do I live like I’m dependent upon it daily and praying without ceasing throughout my day? The book of James is a wonderful book of instructions for believers. In chapter 4, we discover that we must protect our hearts from worldly thinking. Often when we are trying to take control of our life and not rest in God’s grace and provision daily, we resort to either neglecting God’s ever-presenting help or asking God with wrong motives:

“…You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:2b-3, ESV). 


James 4 merely tells us that, if there is something we want, we need to ask God for it, instead of resorting to sinful means. It stands to reason that there are some things that we will not get unless we ask for them, but, if we ask, we will receive them. So, if there is something that we want, we need to ask. Christians should be praying and asking God, especially for His supernatural grace.

Instead of trying to control what feels so uncontrollable in our lives and allowing our circumstances to dictate our mood or behavior, let us boldly come to the throne of grace and ask our Father for His unwavering and sustaining grace. He is faithful to provide.

Father God,

I know that Your grace is sufficient and that You are my ever-present help in time of need, but sometimes my actions do not reflect these truths. It’s much easier for me to either complain about my stressful and difficult circumstances or try to take matters into my own hands to try to fix or change what seems to be causing me to feel so overwhelmed. But I know that I need to come to You and ask for grace when I have reached my limit. You are faithful to provide all things that I need because You are a gracious Father who cares deeply for Your children. I come to You as Your child today, boldly and humbling asking for Your sustaining and powerful grace carry me through each challenging moment. You are faithful in every season, and I thank You for reminding me to come to You first and foremost and pray without ceasing. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Encouragement When You are Battling Rejection

I woke up one morning recently crying after having a very vivid, heart-piercing dream. It was almost as if my current heart-struggle was being played out right before me; I could honestly see this dream happening in reality.

The words that were spoken (in the dream) to me and my husband cut to the core, and they hurt so badly that my first reaction was tears so strong that they stained my cheeks when I awoke.

Being a story-teller allows for intense dream-tales in my mind while I’m supposed to be resting, sleeping. It’s something I have always dealt with since I was a child- I wake up trying to shake the mental visions, telling myself over and over again that it’s not real. Eventually, the emotions fade, and I can go on with the rest of my day.

In this recent instance, I had trouble getting passed the pain and just began talking to God about it. It was very obvious and simple- I was still dealing with rejection and it still hurt, but I was reminded that there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

Although Proverbs 18:24 doesn’t necessarily say that friend is Jesus, I know that He will always be there for me even when everyone else fails me. Scripture tells us that God never leaves us or forsakes us in Deuteronomy 31:6. This truth from the Old Testament about our never-changing God is also stated again as a reminder in Hebrews 13, along with this powerful truth that people will fail us, and people may reject us, but we should not fear, for God is on our side. He is our helper.

“…for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.
What will man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5b-6, NASB). 

When we face rejection from others, we must remember that Jesus understands more than anyone what rejection feels like, as He is very familiar with it Himself. Many people rejected Jesus (and continue to do so) while He was here on earth, even one of His very own disciples (Judas) rejected Him and betrayed Him. And just a couple hours later, another one of His closest disciples (Peter) rejected knowing Him. Three times to be exact. Aren’t you so thankful for Jesus’ forgiveness when we turn our backs on Him! He gives us so many opportunities to repent and make things right in our relationship with Him! His mercies towards us are new every single morning…oh, what love! The Lord understands our pain regarding rejection and His arms are open wide, so let us be quick to draw near to Him. Lo, He is always with you…even to the end of the age!

Abba Father,

I’m hurting. I don’t want to hold onto this pain of rejection. I want to heal from the wounds of those who have hurt me. I choose to forgive. I want You to bless those who hurt me, even if they don’t want me in their life anymore. Your Son was rejected, even by You, for a moment when He took the punishment of sin, out of love for me. Thank You, Jesus, for being the friend I need who sticks by me no matter what. I love You, Lord. Thank You for always loving me and never leaving me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Boldness for Christ Beyond Our Screens

Dear Christian social media users, do we delight in making Christian content more than we delight in making disciples? As a blogger myself, this is a question that has been on my heart lately, followed up with am I too intimated to evangelize for Christ outside of social media and face to face with those around me? Perhaps I am hiding behind my screen when God is calling me to step out of my comfort zone and reach those He has physically (not just virtually) put in my path.  

I know that the Lord can use our online content to evangelize and disciple others, especially if we are sharing His truth with others, but if we are not careful, our eyes (and time) can become so fixated on “pumping out good content” that we lose the focus of investing in others’ lives to truly take spiritual responsibility for each other as followers of Christ. This happens primarily in our day-to-day relationships with the people physically around us but can also be fruitful online if we make the time to build relationships that way. 

We must remember that we don’t want to be a part of creating information consumers, but truth pursuers who long to follow Jesus. God can use your content that you post on social media to help others learn about the Lord and His Word, absolutely. We just need to be careful that we are not giving our heart and time to the disciplines of social media content curation more than the dedication of true evangelism and disciple making. Let us not become distracted by a good thing that might lead us to forsake the main thing that Jesus has called us to do.

 Jesus gives us an important command to His disciples in “Great Commission” in Matthew 28:

“…“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20, ESV). 

God cares more about souls, not about “the squares” or even what strategy may increase the numbers of “followers,” “likes,” “shares,” or video views on your platform…and we should too. So much good can come from what we share online, but we must make sure it has its proper place in our life. This means that we must guard our time on social media so that we can prioritize time for in-depth Bible study and prayer too. We can be a light for Christ on social media, but if we are neglecting spiritual disciplines such as prayer and Bible study, we will quickly become dry spiritually, and soon evangelism and discipleship will not be a priority in our life either. Let us ask the Father for boldness to share truth with others and be able to balance our virtual connections and face-to-face relationships so that we can grow closer to God and so that others may know Jesus in a more life-changing way. 

Heavenly Father,Thank You for the gift of technology that allows us to reach others with Your gospel both far and wide, all over the globe. The connections we make online can be so fruitful and impactful, but often, it becomes so much easier to get swept away by the virtual world and neglect the people truly in front of our nose. I ask that You would help me prioritize my time spent on social media. I want to share Your truth with everyone both online and in person, but I don’t want to allow my screen to keep me from reaching out to those who are physically around me. I ask for Your boldness when I feel intimated or embarrassed. I trust Your Spirit will empower me to share the gospel with those who need it. Thank You for the believers You have placed in my life. May I take discipleship more seriously so that I can grow closer to You with others as we continue to learn more about You and Your Word, which will fuel our passion to evangelize to those who need the hope that only exists 

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Guarding Against Grumbling

When it comes to sin in our life, sometimes we attempt to overlook or give excuses for our behavior if we feel like our actions are justified because of our circumstances. For example, when I am sleep deprived, my flesh thinks it perfectly acceptable for me to deal out a hefty dose of sarcasm to my seven-year-old who has asked me the same question twelve times before my morning coffee or to murmur under my breath that I can’t believe my husband left his glass of milk from the night before on the floor again and, of course, the toddler just dumped it all over the living room right on cue.

But those actions do not glorify God, and they are rooted in sin. If I am a child of God, His Spirit will bring conviction to my heart with His word because it is my heart that needs attention and change. When I’m tempted to complain, which we are all naturally prone to every single day, this passage from Philippians 2 comes to mind to bring truth to my heart:

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2:14-15, ESV).

As God’s children, we are not to grumble. We must remember that, ultimately, grumbling is complaining against the sovereign God of the universe and saying He isn’t good, which is sinful. When we complain, we should repent, reset our mind by thinking on things above, and rejoice and give thanks to God for His graciousness towards us. There are new mercies available to us every single morning. Perhaps it would be a beneficial habit to create a daily list of things that you are grateful for to help cultivate a heart of contentment and gratitude. Despite hardships and inconveniences in our life and relationships, we are called to rejoice and find our joy in Christ. It all comes down to the attitude and posture of our heart. 

How about your attitude when you disagree with someone, or they have offended you? When you are in a disagreement with someone, do you want to be right more than you want to pursue unity with that person? Do you allow a bad attitude to drag you into unnecessary arguments or even gossip to complain to someone else instead of going directly to the person who you are annoyed or upset with? Disagreements are inevitable, but most of all, God cares about our attitude during disagreements and doesn’t want us to be swept up in foolish arguments constantly. We can disagree with others without being disagreeable or prideful.

If we are entangled in senseless disputing and complaining, the world has trouble seeing the light of Christ in our life. We see in verse 15 of Philippians 2 that the Lord wants Christ followers to shine bright in a culture full of darkness. Our lives are to be a brilliant beacon of light in the darkness as we stand as God’s children against the wickedness of the world. 

“…that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2:15, ESV).

One way we can protect ourselves against complaining and empower our hearts to shine bright for Christ is to be diligent to cling daily to the Word of life so that we can thrust it into a dark world. The Word of God helps us to renew our mind so we can cultivate the fruit of the Spirit and stand out in the world, pointing others to the hope that we know in Jesus. In addition to our daily time in the Word, we must abide in the Vine by communing with Him daily. We can call upon the name of the Lord to cry out for help when we are tempted to complain and grumble. He is our ever-present help in time of need and is faithful to strengthen us.

Father God,

Although it is easy to find excuses for the reasons of my behavior, I know Your Word is very clear about the posture of our heart and attitude, especially when it comes to circumstances that are difficult, stressful, or even painful. You care about the condition of our heart and the attitude that we exude because as Christ followers we are to look and behave differently. People are watching all the time how we react when we are offended or struggling under the weight of the cares of life. I ask that You would first and foremost, give me a hunger for more of Your Word. I know that is where my mind is renewed; The Word helps me cultivate the fruit of the Spirit and walk in obedience. Help me to guard my heart and avoid grumbling and complaining and arguing with others. I ask for a spirit of gentleness and peace with others so that I can pursue unity and be grateful for all the good gifts from You. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Taming the Tongue

In college, although I was a professing Christian, out of curiosity to learn more about my own spirituality, I began to study things that I now know were a part of New Age teaching. Some of the books that I was reading did mention God and even quoted the Bible, so I believed this new information on how to live out my faith to see progress and success in my life would strengthen my Christianity. One of the major teachings, called The Law of Attraction, centered around my thought-life; making sure to focus on positive things versus negative things. These positive thoughts would act like a magnet to draw to myself positive outcomes and results regarding my dreams, aspirations, and even material possessions that I desired. 

A step further would be to speak out loud positive declarations and affirmations about myself and what I would like to see happen to shape my future for the better. After I graduated college, when I met my husband at the church he grew up at, there was a lot of emphasis on this very same teaching (although they never called it The Law of Attraction) as well as being very cautious on what words you spoke. We were told that we needed to pay attention to our tongue- our words needed to be “in faith” and “in line with God’s Word.” 

We now know that these teachings are rooted in what is called the ‘Word of Faith’ movement, which was influenced by a metaphysical movement called ‘New Thought.’ Thus, Word of Faith doctrine essentially embraces New Age’s Law of Attraction and is contrary to sound, Christian doctrine. Sadly, scriptures on the tongue were taken out of context to promote the idea that you can attract what you say and declare. God alone, not man, is the One who calls things that are not as though they were (Romans 4:17). The Bible does have much to say about the power of our words, but it has a lot more to do with reflecting Christ in our speech, words filled with the fruit of the Spirit, than attracting things or situations to you or “manifesting” the things you are declaring “in Jesus’ name.” Let us be wise to know the difference and understand these verses in their proper context.

James 1:26 offers us a sobering statement about our speech:

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”

(James 1:26, ESV)

A religion is simply a particular system of faith and worship. If you are a believer in Christ, your religion is Christianity. James equates your profession of faith in Christ to how you choose to use your tongue. Our words point to what we truly believe and live by.  

Are your words pointing others to God and His truth, always giving Him glory, or do your words always seem to point to yourself and the things and systems of this world? Do you control your tongue, or do you let your mouth rule you or cause you to puff yourself up in pride or get you into trouble with others? Our speech should reflect Christ and be seasoned with grace, humility, and love. If we confess our faith in Christ, there should be evidence of our changed speech as well as our changed life and behavior. When people meet us, they should hear and see something different than the rest of the world who does not follow the Lord.

Even in disagreements, we should continue to speak with a heart of love for others and not use profanity or offensive remarks that would hurt or cause pain. We should also be careful to not grumble or complain, but to use our tongue to proclaim our thankfulness unto the Lord. Taming the tongue is something we must grow in each day as the Lord sanctifies us. The good news is that we are never left on our own to walk in that type of self-control regarding our words. It is not something we can do apart from the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. The temptation to use our tongue for our own benefit and reputation is strong but let us be quick to ask the Lord for His help daily as we continue to grow in the likeness of Him, especially in our speech.

Father, without realizing it, I may have embraced a very self-centered and self-gratifying teaching on the importance of how we speak. I repent for using my tongue to puff myself up above others or hurting others with painful words that cut deep to the heart. I need Your help to control my tongue in times of strife or disagreement with others. I want my words to glorify You and share Your truth and gospel. I pray that my actions would also reflect my speech. I long for my walk with You to match my profession of faith. I do not want be self-deceived; I do not want my Christianity to be called “worthless” in Your eyes. Thank You for continually working in me and through me, so that I may look more and more like Jesus in word and deed. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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