Friday, April 27, 2007

Communication (Ephesians 4:29-32)


What characteristics or qualities should mark a Christian’s communication? How does God want us to talk to our friends? How does Jesus Christ want us to listen to and speak to our parents and siblings? What should the Facebook posts, Instagram posts, text messages, and e-mails of a Christian look like?

Communication is essential for life. Every day we are interacting with others, listening to their thoughts and sharing our own. Like any other aspect of our lives, we need to consider how God would want us to act and the direction he has given us through his Word.

We need the same desire as the Psalmist describes in Psalm 119:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Ephesians 4:29-32 describes both what our communication should avoid as well as what it should include. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear…Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

How does your communication measure up to God’s Word?

Because of our natural sinful hearts, communication is particularly difficult. Laziness can result in not asking good questions or just giving short answers. Selfishness can lead to talking only with our closest friends and not reaching out to others. Arrogance can prompt us to talk a lot about ourselves and our accomplishments.

This is because “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” which Jesus taught in Matthew 12:34.

When we understand that our hearts drive our communication, we will seek to develop heart attitudes that lead to God-honoring communication. We need to pursue love, patience, humility, gentleness, honesty, serving others, and many more.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Likes & Dislikes


“Never, never let it be forgotten, that our tastes on earth are a sure evidence of the state of our hearts and the state of our hearts here is a sure indication of our position hereafter. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. He that hopes to be gathered with saints in heaven while he only loves the gathering of sinners on earth is deceiving himself.” J.C. Ryle in Practical Religion

Our likes and dislikes reveal something about us. Our longings show what we value. Our passions demonstrate what we consider important. The music we enjoy reveals something about us. The time we give to sports demonstrates how we value it. Our efforts in school show how much we consider the importance of education. Our closest friendships express what we want to be like. Our likes and dislikes reveal the values of our hearts.

The same is true in specific spiritual disciplines. Our likes and dislikes regarding worship, Bible reading, prayer, church, and youth group reveal the state of our hearts. Genuine Christians should love God and enjoy things that help them learn more about him and live more effectively for him.

Our dislikes say a lot about us too. Christians should dislike the sin they see in their lives, take it seriously, repent, and seek to change. They should dislike unwholesome language, which is so common these days. They should dislike worldliness in music, movies, television shows, Internet sites, and friendships. Our dislikes reveal the true state of our hearts.

What do your likes and dislikes say about you? Do you like things that God likes? Do you dislike things that God dislikes?

If you are like me, your answer is probably both, but I want to like and hate the things God does. I want to grow in godliness and lessen in worldliness.

Take a minute to think of one area you would like to grow in your love for. Now think of one thing you need to dislike more. Pray that God will help you change; he is eager to answer this prayer.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Our God is Real


I Kings 18 records one of my favorite Old Testament stories.

Ahab is king over Israel, and he is evil in the eyes of the Lord, worshiping the Canaanite god Baal. God’s prophet is Elijah, who Ahab despises. A famine has come to the land, and Elijah is the mouthpiece of God, communicating God’s anger towards the sin of Ahab and Israel.

Then Elijah issues a challenge to the priests of Baal. He challenges them to a competition in which they and Elijah would make separate altars, place a slaughtered bulls on each altar, and call to their god/God to light it. They would do this in front of many of the people of Israel.

The drama begins as the priest of Baal, all 450 of them, build their altar, gather the wood, chop up their bull, and place them on their altar. They then spend all morning crying out to Baal to light the wood and take their offering. Nothing happens. They continue. Nothing happens. They begin to cut themselves. Nothing happens.

Then Elijah builds his alter to God. He slaughters his bull and placed it on the altar. He then has his assistants pour four buckets of water onto the wood and bull. And then he calls on the name of the living God, asking him to demonstrate his power and reality and bring fire to the altar. God responds with amazing power, sending fire and consuming the offering.

The people respond in faith in the one and only God. They know he is real and Baal is not. They follow Elijah’s command to seize the 450 priests of Baal, and they kill them all.

There is a lesson in this for us today: God is real, powerful, and desires our worship and devotion, and all other gods are false, without life or power.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Seeking Wise Counsel


Who do you go to when you need advice? What do you do when you need direction in your life?

In I Kings 12, Rehoboam had just become king after Solomon’s death. The people came to him and asked that he lighten the heavy workload that Solomon had demanded of them. Rehoboam took three days to consider their request. He sought advice from some of the old men and some of the young men. The older men encouraged him to lighten the load and win the favor of the people, but the younger men urged him to not give in but instead increase the burden and decisively exercise his authority. Rehoboam followed the advice of the younger men, the people quickly rebelled, and the nation of Israel split into two kingdoms.

This is a sad story in the history of Israel, yet we can learn from Rehoboam’s mistake.

We all face challenges in life, dilemmas where we do not know what is best. Our friends invite us to go see a movie, and we have to decide if we should go. We find ourselves attracted to a girl at school, and we consider what the best way to proceed. We hear of a new and popular band, and we need to determine if we should download their first album. We are in our last year of high school, and we must decide what college we should attend.

What do you do when you face a difficult decision? Do you rush into the decision? Do you take time and think about it? Do you pray or go to God’s Word? Do you listen to your friends’ perspectives? Do you seek advice from godly, mature individuals around you? Do you ask your parents for their counsel? Do you talk with your pastor and get his guidance?

Each of us needs some trusted, mature, wise Christians to go to for advice. We need help, and we need the perspective of someone who fears the Lord, cares for us, and has lived more of life than we have.

Consider today your practice in making decisions. Commit to seek wise counsel, and experience the grace of God in your life.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Lure of the World


We make real choices that have real consequences. In them, we choose to honor and obey God or not.

I Kings chapter 10 describes the high point of King Solomon’s life – wisdom, wealth, prosperity – as the Queen of Sheba comes to see Solomon. She leaves vast amounts of gifts behind her and is completely impressed with the wisdom of the king.

Chapter 11 takes the reader totally by surprise and details how Solomon turns away from God. Despite his amazing wisdom, he decides to disobey God and marry women from the nations that surround Israel – the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites and more. He was captured by them and loved them deeply. They swayed his heart, and he began to worship their gods, even building places of worship to these false gods.

Think about it for a minute. Solomon had directly heard from God on two different occasions in his life, other than Jesus he was the wisest man to live on the earth, and he experienced wisdom, riches, and peace from God. For much of his life, he demonstrated complete devotion to the Lord, even building the temple in Jerusalem. If he can be lured by the temptations of the world, cannot you and I be too?

Yes, we can. It is surprisingly easy and common to become caught up in the pleasures of this world and have our hearts drawn to things other than God. We can want an impressive career and be caught up in study, degrees, and work. We can long for a new car and spend hours surfing the Internet, thinking about it, and talking about it. We can desire a beautiful or handsome spouse and discard biblical values in our never ending pursuit of her or him. We can give ourselves to sports to such a degree that we have little time for God, the church, or Bible reading.

Or we can do all of these things to the glory of God. We can live in the world yet not be attached to it. We can live with God on the throne of our hearts and please him in the daily aspects of life. We can live with a conviction that God is the number one priority and all else is secondary.

In what areas are you lured by the world? Is God #1 in your life? Commit to day worship God alone and let him be Lord over all of your life.