Category: Word Focus

What Jesus Says About God the Father

Jesus constantly talked about God the Father. He was sent by the Father to redeem man, but although He chose for a time to be confined to earth, He was never separated from the Father except for one time.  His greatest suffering came from being alone on the cross, feeling forsaken by the Father.

Throughout His life, Jesus was about His Father’s business. He reminded His mother of that when He stayed behind in the temple at twelve years old. His mission and work was to do the will of His Father.

My Father, Your Father, Our Father

Jesus used personal possessive pronouns when referring to God, the Father. In every way, God is His Father. Jesus, as part of the Godhead, has a more intimate relationship with the Father than any other human being could have. He has always had an intimate relationship with “My Father.”

He and the Father are One. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (Genesis 1:26, John 1:1-2). His declaration of His relationship to His Father was what led to His death on the cross.

We have access to God the Father through God the Son. When addressing those who believe in Him, He refers to God as your Father. A Christian’s relationship to God the Father is intimate because of his adoption into God’s family. Jesus came to add to HIs family. When someone comes to Him in faith, He acknowledged that God is now your Father.

In conversation with His disciples, He talked about our Father. Jesus gave His life in order to share His Father with us. God the Father is our Father.

To Jesus, God the Father is My Father. He refers to your Father when talking to His disciples. Together with Jesus, as His brothers and sisters, God the Father is our Father. God our Father loves the Son, and loves those who love Him.

“if anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23)

Reflection and Discussion

How does each verse below address your relationship to God as your Father?

  • “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
  • “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
  • “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matthew 6:3-4).
  • “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6).
  • “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven. . .” (Matthew 6:9).
  • “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14).
  • “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:17-18).
  • “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (Matthew 6:31-32).
  • “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11).
  • “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
  • “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).
  • “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him” (John 14:7).
  •  “You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28).
  • “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1).
  • “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 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” (John 15:8-10).
  • “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what a master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (John 15:15-16).
  • “He who hates Me hates My Father also” (John 15:23).
  •  “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father” (John 16:28).
  • “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. . . But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. . . I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be One in Us, that the world may believe that You sent me” (John 17:11, 13, 20-21).

What does it mean for you to have God as your Father?

© Stephanie B. Blake

Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version

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What God Says About the Heart of Man

A sound heart is life to the body (Proverbs 14:30).

Without a beating heart, there is no life.  People experiencing cardiac arrest can occasionally be revived, but when the heartbeat cannot be reinstated, all is over.

An imperfect heart – a diseased heart of any kind – is a serious issue.  My father had a hole in his heart for fifty years and didn’t know it.   After the hole was discovered, then closed through surgery, an amazing thing happened. He suddenly had energy he never knew he was missing.  It literally changed his life.

No one should take a heart attack lightly. It can be a wake-up call for some life style adjustments: changing diet, increasing exercise, or reducing stress.

A common sympathetic expression in the southern U.S. is “bless your heart.” Recently I heard a journalist ask an international figure, “What does your heart tell you about this situation?” When someone wants to get serious about something, they talk about getting to “heart of the matter.” When one puts his all into a project, he does it “heartily.” Obviously, there is a broader definition of heart that goes beyond the organ that beats in our chests.

I’m intrigued with how the Bible refers to the heart.  Your spiritual state is changed when you give your heart to God.  Knowing about God does not bring you into a right relationship with Him.  The demons know God is real and tremble at His presence.  Giving Him your heart, the core of your being, is what makes the difference. Without a trusting heart, there is no salvation (John 7:38, Romans 10:9,10, 2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 3:17, Hebrews 10:22, 13:9).  The heart is seen as the center of a person: who he is, what he thinks, how he processes life.

Even taking food to renew physical strength is referred to as “refreshing your heart.”  See Judges 19:5, 8. However, most of the references about the heart in Scripture have a spiritual application.

Near to the Heart of God

For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is truly His (2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB).

God knows, searches and tests the heart of man. He delights in those whose hearts truly belong to Him.   To Jesus, the entire law was summed up in the commandments to love God completely and your neighbor as yourself.  He said that love is expressed first in the heart. Love originates from the heart.

See 1 Samuel 16:7, 1 Kings 8:39, 1 Chronicles 28:9, 29:17, Psalm 7:9, 17:3, 26:2, Psalm 44:21, 139:23, Proverbs 21:2, 24:12, Jeremiah 17:10, Matthew 22: 36-40, Acts 15:8, Romans 8:27, 1 Thessalonians 2:4, Revelation 2:23.

Self-Talk: in Your Heart

When God told Abraham He would give him a son by Sarah, Abraham didn’t dare say out loud to God (although God knew what he was thinking), but he “said in his heart” that he couldn’t imagine a child being born to him (Abraham) as he was already one hundred years old and to Sarah, who was ninety years old and past her child bearing years.

Spoken or unspoken, God knows what is in our hearts as He knows what is in our minds. What we dwell on in our minds lives in our hearts.  Our hearts serve as a tablet of our desires, our ponderings, and our mediations. What we speak from our mouths originated in our hearts.

See Genesis 17:17, Deuteronomy 8:5, 9:4, 18:21, Psalm 19:14, 77:6, Proverbs 7:3, 23:7, Matthew 15:18, Mark 2:6,8

Evil Thoughts of the Heart

Satan places a temptation in the mind of men, but there is an opportunity to reject that temptation (like Jesus did in His wilderness experience and throughout His life) or let it germinate in the heart, thus giving in to the temptation and committing sin. Hatred, iniquity, pride and deception grow in the heart (Leviticus 19:17, Psalm 66:18, Psalm 101:5, James 1:26).  The father of lies, Satan, is an expert at deception to turn one’s heart away from God (Deuteronomy 11:16, 1 Kings 11:2, 3, 4, 9).

What caused God to send the flood on the earth and instruct Noah to build an ark to save himself and his family was that the “thoughts of man’s heart” were continually evil. Ordinarily, thoughts are associated with the mind, but God’s point was that man’s wickedness had become internalized.  That very thought made God sorry He had made man and His own heart was grieved. After the flood had receded and Noah built an altar to God, the Lord declared that He would not again destroy every living thing even though the “imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”

One must guard his heart (Philippians 4:7) against evil and becoming hardened like flint (Zechariah 7:12, Mark 16:14, Hebrews 3:8).

See Genesis 6:5—6, 8:21, Psalm 28:3, Proverbs 6:14, 18, 11:20, 12:8, 12:23, 24:2, 26:25, Jeremiah 17:9, Matthew 15:19, Acts 5:3,4, Hebrews 3:12

Righteous Thoughts of the Heart

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).

Removing the temptations of the flesh from the heart involves presenting a willing heart (Exodus 35:5, 35:29) to God and letting Him preform whatever surgery is necessary.  The Bible describes this as “circumcising your heart” (Leviticus 26:41, Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6, Romans 2:29).

The heart that seeks after God  (Deuteronomy 4:29, 39, 6:5), serves and walks with Him (Deuteronomy 10:12, 11:13, 26:16, 30:2, Joshua 22:5, 1 Samuel 12:20, 24, 1 Kings 2:4, 8:58, 61) will become steadfast and pure (Psalm 73:1, 112:7, 8, 1 Timothy 1:5, 2 Timothy 2:22).  One whose heart is prepared for God (2 Chronicles 30:19, Ezra 7:10) will be touched by Him (1 Samuel 10:26) and have a tender heart (2 Kings 22:19), following the example of Jesus’ humility (Matthew 11:29).  Those whose heart God stirs receive His wisdom (Exodus 31:6, 35:26, 36:2, 1 Kings 3:9, 12, 10:24, Psalm 90:12, Proverbs 2:2, 10) and are delighted in Him (2 Chronicles 17:6).

See Genesis 20:5,6, 1 Kings 3:6, 9:4, Psalm 64:10, Psalm 94:15, Psalm 97:11, 125:4

The Heart: Seat of the Emotions

What is in your heart can be evidenced in your emotions.  Your heart reveals :

  • when you are afraid (also referred to as faint hearted).  See Deuteronomy 20:3, 8, Joshua 2:11, 5:1, 7:5, 14:8, 1 Samuel 28:5, 2 Samuel 17:10, Isaiah 35:4.  The remedy is a courageous heart. See Psalm 27:3, John 14:27.
  • When you are discouraged (also described as losing heart). See Numbers 32:7,9, Deuteronomy 1:28, Galatians 6:9, Ephesians 3:13, Colossians 3:21. The discouraged heart can be strengthened (Psalm 27:13, 14, 31:24, Psalm 73:26, 2 Corinthians 4:16).
  • when you are sad or are in need of comfort (Psalm 73:21). The grieving or sad heart can be refreshed and renewed (Ezekiel 36:26, Philemon 20) and comforted (Ephesians 6:22, Colossians 2:2, 4:8, 2 Thessalonians 2:17).
  • when you are convicted of sin and cleansed from sin through God’s forgiveness (2 Samuel 24:10, Psalm 51:10, 17, Acts 15:9, 1 John 3:19-21).
  • when you are rejoicing (Psalm 13:5, 16:9, 19:8, 28:7, 105:3, 119:111, Proverbs 15:30, 17:22, Jeremiah 15:16).

The Living Heart: Planted in and Growing in God for Eternity

He put eternity in their hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). You who seek God, your hearts shall live (Psalm 69:32).

Eternity with God begins the moment you are adopted as a child of God into His family.  While still residing here on earth, He supplies all that is needed to mold the heart of His children into one whose heart is truly His.

  • Prayer:  the ability to talk with Him at all times (2 Samuel 7:27).
  • His Word can be planted in the heart of His children (Jeremiah 20:9, Hebrews 4:12, 8:10, 10:16).
  • Ability to do what God calls you to do (Exodus 35:34).

With a heart wholly dedicated to God (Psalm 86:12, 111:1, 119:10, 58, 69, Matthew 22:37), you will be able to build treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:21, 12:35).

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 your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

© Stephanie B. Blake

Scriptures, unless otherwise noted, are from the NKJV.

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Will You Be A Person After God’s Own Heart?

 “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22).

Many Biblical heroes served God, did His will and bore a great testimony of their faith.  There was one person that God said was a man after [His] own heart. What was different about David?

David captures our attention for the first time in Scripture as he kills the giant Goliath with only his faith in God and a slingshot.  From then on, his name continues to be mentioned throughout the word of God – even to the last chapter.

His skill as a harp player soothes the troubled spirit of King Saul. Even after God choses David to replace Saul as king of Israel, and Saul’s jealousy and hatred of David leads him to pursue him with murder on his mind, David refuses to touch God’s anointed even when the opportunity to kill Saul presented itself more than once. His relationship with Saul’s son Jonathan is known as one of the most beautiful accounts of friendship ever known.

David’s simple beginnings as a shepherd boy enabled him to write the most quoted Psalm of all time, Psalm 23.  The Lord, who was David’s Shepherd, is known as the Root and Offspring of David, born in Bethlehem, the City of David. When Gabriel appeared to Mary, he informed her that her Son would be given the throne of His father David.

The kingdom was divided after the reign of Solomon, David’s son.  The majority of the kings in Judah and Israel were evil.  The few that followed God were said to have done what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done. During the turbulent years of the kings, God often stayed His hand of judgment for His sake and the sake of [His] servant David.

Certainly, David was not without sin.  God does not sugarcoat the lives of His people.  David sinned greatly, but when confronted with his sin, his repentance was complete and his relationship to God was restored.  He bore the consequences of his sin.  God, nevertheless, said that David did what was right in His eyes except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite (1 Kings 15:5). Although we know that David was not without sin, God also said he was a man after His own heart.

How many of us can say, or want to say, that we are a man or woman after God’s own heart?  How did David earn that distinction?  What can we learn from his life that will lead to a closer relationship to God?

David was not the oldest or even the strongest of his brothers, yet because God looks on the heart, he knew that David would be one who would be faithful to His calling.  When Saul disobeyed God (1 Samuel 13:8-13 – “kindled his own fire” – Richard’s sermon on Isaiah 50: 10-11 – The Dark Night of the Soul), Samuel told Saul,

“But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord has commanded you” (1 Samuel 13:14).

It is not until chapter 16 that David is first mentioned as having been the one chosen by God. When Samuel started to examine the other sons of Jesus for the one God was calling to be king, the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Addressing the synagogue in Antioch, Paul reminded them that God said, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22).  Paul continued, “From this man’s seed, according to the promise God raised up for Israel a Savior- Jesus (Acts 13:23).

After David died, the eyes of the Lord move[d] to and fro throughout the earth that he may strongly support those whose heart is completely his (2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB).  God is still looking for those whose heart leads them to be a person after His own heart.

David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 17:16-27 reveals his seeking after God’s heart and confessing that he is praying because it is in his own heart to do so.

Those who recognized Jesus as the Messiah would often say, Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me (Luke 18:38).

We find some clues to David’s heart by reading his psalms.  From these psalms, written at different times throughout his lifetime, we discover that he made predetermined choices about his relationship to God. In other words, he decided ahead of time that he would be loyal to God.

Study Guide

If you are in a study group, take turns reading these psalms.  If you are doing the study alone, read them aloud to yourself.  Emphasize “I will” as you read.

I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around (3:6).

I will both lie down in peace and sleep for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety (4:8).

For to You I will pray. My voice You shall hear in the morning O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up . . . I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy; in fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple. (5:2,3, 7).

I will praise the Lord according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High (7:17).

I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You. I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High (9:1, 2).

I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me (13:6).

I will bless the Lord who ahs given me counsel (16:7).

As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness, I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness (17:15).

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies. I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the Gentiles, and sing praises to Your name (18:2, 3, 49).

I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. . . Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (23: 4, 6).

I will wash my hands in innocence; so I will go about Your altar, O Lord . . . But as for me, I will walk in my integrity . . . In the congregations I will bless the Lord (26: 6, 11, 12).

Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord (27:6).

To You I will cry, O Lord my Rock, do not be silent to me (28:1).

I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my foes rejoice over me . . . O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever (30:1, 12).

I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth . . . Come, you children, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord (34:1,11).

I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people (35:18).

I said, “I will guard my ways lest I sin with my tongue. I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me”(39:1).

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You (51:12-13).

I will praise You forever, because You have done it; and in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good (52:9).

I will freely sacrifice to You, I will praise Your name, O Lord, for it is good (54:6).

As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice  . . . But You, O God shall bring them down to the pit of destruction; bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in You (55:16-17, 23). 

Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear, what can flesh do to me?. . . In God (I will praise His word), In the Lord (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid, what can man do to me? Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God; I will render praises to You (56: 3-4,10,11, 12).

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by. I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me . . . My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise. Awake, my glory! Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples. I will sing to You among the nations (57:1-2, 7-9).

I will wait for You, O You his Strength, for God is my defense . . . But I will sing of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; for You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble. To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises, for God is my defense, My God of mercy (59:9, 16-17).

Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. . . I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings . . . So I will sing praise to Your name forever, that I may daily perform my vows (61:1, 2, 4, 8).

O God, You are my God; early will I seek You. . . because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name . . . Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice (63:1, 3-4, 7).

I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving (69: 30).

But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more . . . I will go in the strength of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only . . . also with the lute I will praise You – and Your faithfulness, O my God! To You I will sing with the harp, O Holy One of Israel (72:14, 16, 22).

I will sing of mercy and justice; to You, O Lord, I will sing praises. I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will You come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set nothing wicked before my eyes . . . I will not know wickedness (101:1-4).

I will sing and give praise, even with my glory. Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You O Lord, among the peoples, and I will sing praises to You among the nations (108:1-3).

I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth; Yes, I will praise Him among the multitude (109:30).

For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, “Peace be with you.” Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good (122:8-9).

I will praise You with my whole heart; before the gods I will sing praises to You. I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; for You have magnified Your word above all Your name (138:1-2).

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well (139:14).

I will extol You, my God, O King; and I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever (145:1-2).

I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works. Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, and I will declare Your greatness ( 145:5-6).

Study Guide

Pay attention to the frequency with which David made some predetermined choices. Use these as a springboard for discussion.

David said, “I will:”

Praise God 

Praise the Lord according to His righteousness – praise You with my whole heart – praise You among many people – praise You forever – praise Your name, O Lord, for it is good – praise His word – praise His word – praise His word – render praises to You – sing and give praise – awaken the dawn, praise You, sing to You among the nations – sing praise to Your name forever, that I may daily perform my vows – my lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live: I will lift up my hands in Your name – praise You yet more and more – lift up my hands in Your name

Sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High – sing praise to Your name, O Most High – sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me – sing praises to the Lord – sing and give praise – sing of Your power – sing aloud of Your mercy – sing praises for God is my defense – praise the name of God with a song and will magnify Him with thanksgiving – also with the lute I will praise You – sing with the harp – sing of mercy and justice – sing praises – sing and give praise – awaken to the dawn – praise You, O Lord among the peoples – sing praises to You among the nations – greatly praise the Lord with my mouth – praise Him among the multitude – praise You with my whole heart – worship toward You holy temple – praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made – praise Your name forever and ever

Pray

Pray – will cry – call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Evening and morning and noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice – cry out to God Most High – from the end of the earth I will cry to You

Worship 

Come into Your house – dwell in the house of the Lord forever – abide in Your tabernacle forever – Worship toward Your holy temple

Bless the Lord – in the congregations I will bless the Lord

Bless the Lord – bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you

Extol You – extol You, my God O King (extol-praise enthusiastically)

Go about Your altar

Witness

Tell of all Your marvelous works – make mention of Your righteousness – declare Your greatness

Give Thanks

Give thanks – give thanks to You forever –give You thanks in the great assembly

Not Be Afraid 

Not be afraid – fear no evil – not be afraid, what can man do to me? – whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You – in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge

Trust 

Trust – trust in You. – my soul trusts in You – trust in the shelter of Your wings

Rejoice

Be glad and rejoice in You – in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice

Offer sacrifices of joy – freely sacrifice to You

Live Righteously 

See Your face in righteousness

Wash my hands in innocence

Walk in my integrity

Behave wisely

Walk within my house with a perfect heart

Set nothing wicked before my eyes – not know wickedness

Guard my ways lest I sin with my tongue – restrain my mouth

Teach Others

Teach (children) the fear of the Lord – teach transgressors Your ways

Wait and Meditate on the Lord 

Wait on Your name, Wait for You

Meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your wondrous works

Live in Peace, Hope, and Strength of the Lord

Lie down in peace

Look up

Hope continually

Go in the strength of the Lord God

Just as David did, we have the choice to determine whether or not we will follow God.  Those choices can make us people after God’s own heart.

© Stephanie B. Blake

Scripture quotations are from the NKJV

 

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Women’s Leadership Workshop: Called to Reflect His Light

The Teacher has come and is calling for you” (John 11:28).

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were some of Jesus’ closest friends.  The account of His coming to see them when Lazarus died was among the most moving stories of the Bible.  He raised Lazarus from the dead, ministered to him and his sisters and made Himself known as the Resurrection and the Life.

When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Martha ran to see Him. After talking with Him for a little while, she found Mary and said, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.”

One women’s ministry leader testified that before she met Jesus, her life was sin-filled, fearful, insecure and rebellious. When, in her darkest hour, she wanted someone to save her, she began to hear God calling her to Himself.

Just like Mary and this woman, Jesus is calling for you.

Jesus has called you to His family. Jesus has called you to lead others to Him – to be an example of His grace. Jesus is calling for you to reflect His light to others.

Jesus is Our Teacher, Our Leader

Christian Leaders Follow Him

Throughout the Bible, God communicated personally with His people – women as well as men.  He called them by name.  He provided for them.  He gave them guidance.  He cared for them.  He still does.

In the Old Testament, God spoke to women through many means.  With the coming of Jesus, He revealed Himself as a friend and a brother.  Now, His Spirit lives within His sisters, comforting and guiding them.

Good big brothers love, protect and guide their sisters. Jesus loves us so much that He gave His life for ours. His life is our model for living and leadership.

Paul said, “Imitate me just as I also imitate Christ.” Even if you don’t have a leadership role in the church, you are a leader.  Someone is watching you. You are an example to your husband, your children, grandchildren, other relatives and friends who know you. You do have an influence on others.

Jesus led by example

Some presidents and CEOs never mix with the workers of their company. They only see those in upper management. They delegate.  They manage. Their decisions are sometimes made without understanding the intricate workings of the business. They are known for stepping on or over those underneath them in order to get ahead.  Often these leaders do whatever it takes to make their position look good.

Jesus is the opposite of these ivory tower managers. He did not separate Himself from those He was trying to lead. On the contrary, He lived among them.  He used various teaching methods, but one teaching style. He led by example.

Jesus led by the example of His life.  He demonstrated how to follow God’s commandments by obeying every one of them perfectly. He never avoided anyone. He showed how to relate to everyone – no matter how different they may be. He showed His disciples how to be a servant leader by washing their feet. He showed them how to endure hardship through His sacrificial suffering.

Jesus led by the example of His words. He told stories to illustrate spiritual truth. He is Truth and told the truth. He exposed hypocrites. He offered compassion to those who trusted Him. He offered truth and allowed His hearers to make a choice. He called many to follow Him.  Some did. Some turned away.

Jesus led by the example of His pure heart.  He is God, but His life was an example of humility. He never sinned and never needed forgiveness, but as He bore our sin on the cross, He demonstrated the ultimate example of forgiveness.

Jesus led by demonstrating how we should live and lead. He asked for love, loyalty and service, but He did not demand it. He demonstrated it.

Jesus was a sacrificial leader.  He only asks those who follow Him to do what He did – as our example.

A “shining example” describes someone who has a lifestyle worthy of following. Jesus led by shining. He is Light. He shares His light with His brothers and sisters.

He is calling for you to let Him shine through you.

As not all leaders are good leaders, not all Biblical examples were positive.  Some had a negative influence.  However, lessons can be learned from both good and bad examples of leadership.

Application

God called to leadership many women in the Bible. We will examine just a few of them.  Reflect on whether their influence was positive or negative. Group discussion questions, a leadership application and a private reflection follow each example.

These women’s stories are familiar, but the application of lessons learned from their testimonies, coupled with Jesus’ leadership example as Light of the World, can have a tremendous impact on your own influence of others.

Eve 

And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” (Genesis 3:13a). 

The first time we find the Lord asking for any woman is after Eve ate the forbidden fruit and gave it to her husband.

Eve had a unique opportunity to set a shining example for all women to follow.  She had the privilege of walking with God in the Garden of Eden.  Unfortunately, her example brought darkness – sin – into the world. It is easy to blame Eve for all of our troubles; however, would any of us have been any different?

Group Discussion Questions

Eve may have been unaware that she was a leader, but she was.  Why did Adam name her Eve (Genesis 3:20)?

Paul warned the Corinthians not to have their minds corrupted from the simplicity that was in Christ – just as Eve did when she was deceived by the serpent (2 Corinthians 11:3). Why do you think Eve gave in to the temptation to do what God clearly told her not to do?

The consequences of Eve’s disobedience have been far reaching.  When Christians sin, what are the consequences – in their personal lives, in their witness, in the church?

Leadership Application

Since it is true that we can learn from negative examples of leadership, what did Eve’s experience teach you about your influence on future generations?

Private Reflection (for your journal, not to share):

The first question the Lord asks any of us is, “Is your heart right with Me? Is there sin in your life?”

Even after becoming a Christian, we sometimes allow sin to reign in our lives.  When that happens, we are not allowing Jesus to be Lord.  We are allowing Satan to rule in that area. Is there some sin in your life that you need to confess to God so that He can have complete control.

Hagar

Now the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness…and He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:7-8a).

Hagar has been referred to as an abused woman. In her service as Sarai’s maid, she did Sarai’s bidding, becoming pregnant by Abraham. Sarai then became jealous and treated Hagar so harshly that Hagar fled.  The Angel of the Lord found her by the spring and called out to her.

Hagar obeyed the Lord when He told her to return to Sarai and submit to her.  Her encounter with the Lord made her aware that although she was unfairly treated by Sarai, she was not alone…the Lord has heard your affliction (Genesis 16:11). God knows, God sees, God comforts, God leads and God calls.

Group Discussion Questions

Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” (Genesis 16:13).  How did her understanding of God change because He called to her?

This was not the last time she was treated harshly by Sarai or rescued by God (Genesis 21:9-21).  God called to Hagar again (verse 17-19).  When she wept, God responded. God opened her eyes, provided for her needs and gave her a promise.  She was a slave girl and yet, God made a great nation of her son (Genesis 21:18). As a girl who had always been in situations beyond her control, how do you think God’s personal response to her made her feel about Him and her value in His eyes?

Leadership Application

Hagar, an unlikely leader, demonstrated faith in responding to God’s call in her life. What leadership principles does she exhibit?

Private Reflection

Like Hagar, have you ever been abused or despised by those closest to you?  Have you heard God calling you while you were in a situation totally beyond your control?  Have you given Him your fears and let Him meet your needs? 

Sarah 

Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?”… And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? …But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh!” (Genesis 18:9-15).

Sarai, the woman who had been so cruel to Hagar, had a special calling from God.

God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, promising He would bless her, give her a son and that she would be a mother of nations.  When He told Abraham this, Abraham laughed, wondering how it would be possible for a child to be born to a man one hundred years old and a woman who was ninety (Genesis 17:15-17).

Sarah, beyond the age of childbearing, also laughed in disbelief when she heard it. She then lied about her laughing when she was caught.  Amazingly, God used her anyway. He instilled in her strength and faith to be the mother that He called her to be (Hebrews 11:11).

Group Discussion Questions

God called for Sarah indirectly, through Abraham.  Although women are individuals in God’s eyes – His chosen daughters – as wives, they have a special role in relation to their husbands.  See Ephesians 5:22-24.

When God delayed, in her eyes, in bringing about the birth of the promised child, Sarai took matters in her own hands by giving Hagar to Abraham to bear a child. What did this impatience and lack of faith cost her? Why do you think God waited until Sarah was past childbearing age to give her a son?

Sarah obeyed Abraham (1 Peter 3:6), but she struggled with the issue of control.  Have you observed this as a problem in marriages in the church where you serve? How can you help women with this issue?

Leadership Application

Was Sarah a positive or negative leader? Is it possible to be both? Why or why not?

Private Reflection

Resentment of the husband’s role of leadership is a common struggle among wives.  When Eve sinned and God pronounced judgment on her sin, He said, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).  Do you resist and resent your husband’s rule over you? If so, what is your proper response?

Rahab

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham…Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab…By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace…likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (Matthew 1:1, 5, Hebrews 11:31, James 2:25-26).

Without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6).  The story of Rahab is told in Joshua 2, but she is mentioned several times after that as an example of a woman of faith.  She and Sarah are the only two women mentioned in Hebrews 11 – the role call of the faithful.  James couples her name with Abraham’s as an example of faith.  Most importantly, we know that God called her to be in the lineage of Jesus Christ himself.  What a surprising and amazing sign of God’s grace – to call a Gentile, a harlot to be a shining example of faith!

In practically every reference of Rahab, she was called Rahab the harlot.  There was no mistaking the fact that Rahab was a sinner.  She, however, had something that many righteous (i.e. Pharisees) did not have – an understanding of the fear of God and faith that He could and would save her.  Her faith did not disappoint her. Her faith was so strong that it pleased God and He rewarded her richly for it.

Group Discussion Questions

God forgives sin. He rewards faith. How can Rahab’s example help you minister to women who have a hard time believing God loves them?

Rahab was bold when it came to protecting her household and defending the men of God.  Would you agree that the opposite of fear is faith?  How is that practically carried out in everyday living?

Leadership Application

What positive leadership traits did Rahab exhibit?

Private Reflection

Satan sometimes is successful in hindering the fruit bearing of a Christian because she is unable to forgive herself for past sins in her life.  Is there a personal application in Rahab’s story?

Ruth 

Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God…So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife, and she bore a son…and they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David (Ruth 1:16, 4:13, 17).

We find another pagan woman, Ruth, in the genealogy of Jesus.  Her history was not like Rahab’s.  She was described as a loving, obedient daughter-in-law of Naomi.  God looked on her heart, saw her faith and called her to be the grandmother of King David.  Her true story illustrates persistent devotion to her mother-in-law;  the kinsman redeemer (a foreshadowing of Christ); obedience, faithfulness, humility.

Group Discussion Questions

Ruth’s story clearly indicates that God works behind the scenes in our lives to accomplish His will.  How does the Romans 8:28 principle apply in Ruth’s story?

Ruth had been observing Naomi throughout her years married to her son.  Why do you think Ruth was so determined to stay with Naomi and to worship her God?

Leadership Application

Ruth, though humble, was a very determined woman.  She would not be swayed from her convictions.  As Jesus evidenced in His own life, it is possible to be strong and humble at the same time.  Examine His leadership characteristics and chose all that apply to Ruth.

Private Reflection

Have you ever let Satan keep you from taking a stand for Christian principles?

Hannah 

For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him (1 Samuel 1:27).

Hannah, a godly woman, barren for years, demonstrated her strength and faith in God by praying for a son.  She made a commitment to Him that she would dedicate her son to his service.  God answered and Hannah followed through on her promise.

Hannah’s primary concern was bearing a son for her husband. Although Elkanah tried to comfort her, she still asked God for a child. When she committed her unborn son to God’s service, there is no evidence she told Elkanah about her vow.  However, she must have trusted in his support and she got it (1 Samuel 1:23).  As a result, God blessed both Elkanah and Hannah with more children (1 Samuel 2:20-21).

Group Discussion Questions

Someone who makes a vow to God must be determined to keep that vow.  How hard do you think it was for Hannah to leave Samuel with Eli as she had promised?

Hannah’s barrenness and the mistreatment by her rival grieved her (1 Samuel 1:6). How she handled her sadness made all the difference.  What did she do?

Leadership Application

Hannah did not consider herself a leader. She desperately wanted to be a mother. Mothers, however, have an important leadership role. Which leadership traits are necessary for mothers?

Private Reflection

Have you ever let bitterness eat at you until you were unable to function?

Esther

For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this (Esther 4:14). 

Ruth and Esther are the only women who have Old Testament books devoted to them. Both were strong and courageous.  Ruth’s courage enabled her to leave her culture, her home and trust in Naomi’s God as her own.  Esther was a Jew. Her courage enabled her to stand up for God’s chosen people, even at the point of risking her own life.

Group Discussion Questions

The Bible has a lot to say about being careful with our words.  Sometimes it is best to keep silent.  However, at other times, it is necessary to speak out.  How did Esther prepare herself to speak to the king?

What were the possible consequences if the king did not like what she said? How did Esther present her case to the king?

Leadership Application

Esther was strongly influenced by Mordecai.  Her own circle of influence included King Ahasuerus, the king’s eunuch, the other women in the court, Haman, and the Jewish people. Without her leadership, things might have turned out differently.  Which leadership principles did Esther exercise in order to save her people?

Private Reflection

Have you ever been responsible for someone else’s well being?  If so, do you think you acted wisely?  If you were in Esther’s situation, what would you have done?

Mary 

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus                (Luke 1:31).

Of all the women in our list, Mary is the one who most captures our heart.  What an honor it was to be chosen to be the mother of our Lord.  Only a humble woman with a servant spirit could have filled this role.

When Mary speaks, it is often with praise on her lips for God.  She is most often said to have kept things in her heart.  She must have pondered and reflected on so much of what happened in her life and the life of her Son.

Group Discussion Questions

Mary’s response was immediate, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).  What were the implications of her obedience? How did people view her and Joseph when she became pregnant?

Although considered an adult, Mary was still young when she became pregnant – very likely a teenager. How did God prepare her for this special calling?

Leadership Application

Mary prompted Jesus to perform His first miracle (John 2). “Whatever He says to you, do it,” is a guiding light for any Christian leader.  What does Jesus say to do?

Private Reflection

What is your normal response to God’s asking you to do something that others will not understand, something that might cause major problems in your life?

Anna 

Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38).

All we know of Anna are in the verses above; however, that is enough to let us know that God prepared both a man (Simeon) and a woman (Anna) to recognize the Savior when He arrived.

Mary was young. Anna was very old. God had given each of them a unique assignment in the declaration of the Good News.

Age does not seem to be a factor in receiving a special calling from God.  Anna’s service was not public.  She served in one place – the temple – for many years.  Her service was a private, consistent devotion to God.

Group Discussion Questions

Every person’s calling from God is unique.  Sometimes He has His daughters serve in a public calling with many people observing their lives.  Sometimes He asked them to serve in obscurity.  Who do you think gets the greater reward?

Do you know an “Anna?” If so, describe her.

Leadership Application

Obviously, those in the public arena can influence a greater number of people.  God rewards those who follow Him, no matter how large the sphere of influence. How can an “Anna” be a leader?

Private Reflection

What do you believe is God’s calling in your life?  What is the essential ingredient for following that calling?

Samaritan Woman 

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink”                (John 4:7).

Some of the women in the Bible remain unnamed to us, but not to God.  The story of the woman of Samaria gives a beautiful truth to women everywhere – no matter who you are, where you have come from, what you have done – God is calling you.

Iris Blue is an American who travels and tells her remarkable story of God’s calling her to Himself. As a young rebellious girl, she ran away from home, became involved in drugs and was arrested as a teenager and sentenced to eight years in prison. She served a longer time because of her bad attitude.  One and a half years after her release, a young man shared the gospel with her. She became a Christian, stating that she “knelt down a tramp and stood up a lady.”

Group Discussion Questions

When Jesus called this woman, He deliberately went through Samaria. Other Jews would have gone around it. He spoke to a woman. Other men would not have done this. He continued a conversation with her until He reveals Himself as the Messiah.

As a result of His calling her, what happened to her? How did she change? What did she do? Were other people saved because of her testimony?

How can her experience help you minister to other women?

Leadership Application

If the assignment of a believer is to lead others to the Light of the World, this woman was a shining example of how to do that.  Although she knew about the Messiah, her knowledge was confused.  However, all she needed to do was tell her story for others to be introduced to Jesus.  What leadership qualities did she exhibit?

Private Reflection

A witness is someone who gives an account of a personal experience. Have you neglected to share the gospel because you didn’t know what to say? Does this woman’s example help you realize your story is the good news – the gospel?

Dorcas 

At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas… full of good works and charitable deeds… But it happened in those days that she became sick and died…And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up…And many believed on the Lord (Acts 9:36-42).

The only extraordinary thing about Dorcas was her service to others. She was a seamstress, caring for the widows in her city.  Her death so affected them that God called her back to life, using the prayer of Peter as His tool. Through her resurrection, many believed on the Lord.

Group Discussion Questions

God called an ordinary woman to meet the needs of many widows in her community.  He notices the deeds of every person.  When they serve Him, as Dorcas did, He rewards them and allows them to bear fruit.

Do you know women who feel frustrated because they are not accomplishing “big” things for God – they are just ordinary?  What does the story of Dorcas reveal to you and them about God’s evaluation of a life?

Christians are called upon to exercise the spiritual gifts they have been given to serve the church.  Some of these gifts are public, some are private, but all are important. What does 1 Corinthians 12 say about the importance of each gift?

Leadership Application

Some Christians with spiritual gifts that are service oriented do not feel that they qualify as leaders.  They believe leadership is left to those with the gift of prophesy, or teaching, etc.  Everyone has influence, however.  Which leadership principles do you see in Dorcas?

Private Reflection

Do you know what spiritual gift God has given you?  If so, are you exercising it for the good of the body?  Are you satisfied with how God made you?

Conclusion

God is calling you first and foremost to a relationship with Him. When His Spirit lives within you, He can shine through your life. He calls you to reflect His light. When you do, you can light the way for others to follow.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven  (Matthew 5:16).

© Stephanie B. Blake

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Word Focus

“Word” Focus – God’s “Word”

            One of my favorite descriptions of God is “The Word.”  In every form of “the Word” that applies to God, we come to understand more of His nature and His desire to be with us, His creation. The Word is a very personal description of God as it conveys His desire to communicate with those He created. God is revealed through His spoken word, written Word, and as the Living Word.

  • God’s spoken word resulted in the creation of the world. When God spoke, creation happened.  See Genesis 1. In creation of man, God took special involvement as in conjunction with His statement, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26), He formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).
  • Throughout history, God has revealed Himself through His word.  He has preserved His written word so that people could learn about Him by reading it. “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). See also Isaiah 40:8, Matthew 24:35, 2 Timothy 3:16.
  • So that we could discover the incredible measure of the love of God, He sent us the Living Word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . (John 1:1, 14). Jesus told His disciples if they wanted to see and know God, they must look to Him (John 14:9-11). See also John 6:63, John 6:68.

God speaks through all three persons of His Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  In the Old Testament, God revealed Himself in many different ways. God . . . at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets (Hebrews 1:1). His Word tells us that God has in these last days spoken to us by His Son (Hebrews 1:2).  Jesus, the Son, promised that the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name . . . will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you (John 14:26). [Emphasis-author’s].

The apostle Paul provides a picture of spiritual resources in Ephesians 6. Every part of the spiritual armor (belt, breastplate, shoes, shield and helmet) is protective or defensive except for one. Understanding the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer, Paul described the one offensive part as the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). God’s word is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). When a person trusts in the Living Word, His Spirit  provides what is necessary for protection and an offensive stand in the battle against evil (Ephesians 6:11).

Questions for Reflection:

  • Do you believe that God spoke the world into existence?  A preacher friend  made the following statement in a sermon based on Genesis 1.

“What you believe about Genesis 1:1 determines what you believe about God.  If you believe it, you are a ‘theist.’ If not, you are an ‘atheist.’ God is mentioned thirty two times in this chapter.  The beginning of faith is faith in the beginning. Everything in the Bible is interpreted in light of Genesis 1:1. We must admit the prior existence of God – outside, above and superior to His creation” (Joe Music).

  • How important is the Bible, God’s written Word, to you? Reflect on Psalm 119:11and 2 Timothy 3:16.
  • Why do you think that John described Jesus as “The Word?” Notice also the description of Jesus in Revelation 19:13.
  • How can you use the word of God to defend yourself against temptation? Examine Jesus’ example in His experience in the wilderness (Matthew 4).

Our “Words”

A Reflection of What We Think About God

God made it clear in the book of Job that what we say about Him is important to Him. “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7).

James spends much of his letter giving instruction about the value of how we use our words. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless (James 1:26). If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. . . . Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire. . . . But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things out not to be so (James 3:2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10).

A.W. Tozer said, “The most important thing about us is what we think of God.” What we think of God will become evident in our words and our actions.  Our words to God are our prayers; our words to others are a reflection of our relationship to God. Our most important words are those spoken to God and about God.  That truth was evident in Isaiah’s confession: “Woe to me, for I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).

Input = Output

Most everyone understands that you only get from your computer those things that have been programmed into it.  The same is true of speech.  If there is a large “data base” in your mind of foul talk, then it is likely at some point that will come out of your mouth.  How much care should be taken to internalize the Word of God so that edifying words are easily accessible.

Jesus said, “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” (Matthew 12:34b-37).

Paul told the Ephesian church, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen . . . .Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving (Ephesians 4:29,5:4 NIV). Hearing God’s words, hiding them in our hearts, will then enable us to use His words to benefit others. Great care should be taken before we speak.  Words, once said, cannot be taken back.

Silence or Speech?

How many times have you heard “Silence is golden”?  Consider these quotes:

  • “I regret often that I have spoken, never that I have been silent” (Syrus, 1st century BC).
  • “The first duty of love is to listen” (Paul Tillich).
  • So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19).
  • When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise (Proverbs 10:19 NIV).
  • Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue (Proverbs 17:28 NIV).

If your personality leans toward being quiet anyway, this is not as hard for you as it is for others. However, for some, silence is torture! So, what can we conclude from this?  Should we always be silent?  Is silence truly golden?

What about the proverbs that say: A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver (25:11 NKJ) and  Gold there is and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel (20:15 NIV)?

The Bible does not say that God is pleased with only silence.  Remember God’s call to Moses?  God was very displeased when Moses begged not to speak on God’s behalf. Moses attempted to refuse the call several times.  In Exodus 4:10-16 we see God’s frustration with Moses’ reluctance.

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14). The truth of the gospel is most often communicated through words.

Silence is “golden” if that is God’s will at the moment.  Jesus is our example in how to live. There were times when He kept silent. We learned about Him and the possibility of reconciling to God through His love and sacrifice, however, through not only His deeds, but His words. We know about God because of the things that Jesus said and did.  Christ is the Living Word: God personified. His word tells us that whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Colossians 3:17).

Integrity must define our actions and our speech.  Two of the Ten Commandments deal directly with our speech: You shall not misuse the name of the Lord . . .  you shall not give false testimony against your neighbor (Exodus 20:7, 16 NIV).  Jesus said, “Anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell”  (Matthew 5:21b-22 NIV).

The book of Proverbs is filled with guidelines about speech. Look at these positive and negative contrasts. Pay attention not only to the fact that the wise man is careful about his speech, but his words have great influence on others.  The opposite is also true. The foolish man does not care for himself or the consequences of his speech.  What about you? How do you want your speech to be described by others?

Our Words – A Study of the Contrasts in Proverbs

Edify/Build up                                                           Tear Down/Destroy

Constructive                                                             Destructive

Beneficial                                                                  Harmful/Hurtful

Good                                                                          Bad

Truth                                                                           Lies

Wise                                       Foolish

 

For further study on the importance of words in the book of Proverbs, see the following verses:

Positive: 12:14; 15:23; 15:39; 16:13; 16:21; 16:23; 16:24; 17:27-28; 18:4; 18:20; 20:15; 21:23; 22:11; 23:15-16; 24:26; 25:11; 25:12; 25:15; 25:25; 31:26.

Negative: 10:18; 14:7; 16:27; 16:28; 17:4; 17:7; 17:14; 17:19; 17:20; 18:6; 18:7; 18:8; 18:13; 18:23; 19:5; 19:9; 19:22; 19:28; 20:19; 20:20; 21:6; 21:9; 21:19; 21:28; 24:2; 24:7; 24:28; 25:18; 25:23; 26:6; 26:7; 26:9; 26:20; 26:22-25; 26:28.

The tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21).

The Scripture quotations in Proverbs are from the NIV.Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

All other Scripture quotations (unless noted otherwise) are from the NKJV. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

© Stephanie B. Blake

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Your Treasure: Temporal and Eternal, Part 1

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21).

If your attitude about money is not right, even being rich will not satisfy you. Some rich people never feel like they have enough money. Some poor people don’t realize they are poor.

What you treasure in life will be evident in the way you live. Worldly riches are uncertain. They can be lost. Those that “fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches” are often very disappointed.

The Riches of the Believer – You Never Lose

The good news is that spiritual, eternal riches cannot be lost. No one can take them from you. In fact, nothing can separate you from the love of God in Jesus.

Read Romans 8:38-39

Spiritual riches start with two things you have total control over: your thoughts and your heart. The Bible combines the two. “For as a man thinks in his heart so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). This often quoted proverb is in the context of a person’s attitude about money.

Read Proverbs 23:4-5

Read the following passages and write down what each one says about your attitude toward money:

  • Proverbs 16:16
  • Proverbs 23
  • Proverbs 24:7
  • Ecclesiastes 5:10
  • Ecclesiastes 5:13-15
  • Ecclesiastes 7:14
  • Hebrews 13:5

Your attitude and your perspective determine how you handle any given circumstance. Your state of mind is directly related to your character, to who you are as a person. The Bible addresses that part of you as your “heart.” One person who loses his financial resources might throw himself out of the window – seemingly no hope in sight. Another in the same circumstance might trust God, ask Him for direction, pick himself up and go on to the next part of his life, knowing this life is so short that it should not be spent in doubt and worry.

Erroneous Teaching About Riches

Unfortunately, there are some preachers who would have you believe if you don’t have worldly riches, it is because you don’t have enough faith. They make their own fortunes by talking people into sending them money as “seed faith,” making those who do so feel that the only way God is going to bless them financially is to support the preacher’s ministry. That is not what the Bible teaches about riches.

Priorities

When possessions become more important than God or people, your perspective on life is backwards. It is God who gives us all things to enjoy. Without Him, we would have nothing. He puts such a value on us as people that He sent His Son to die in our place. That’s why, I think, that when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, He replied: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matthew 22:37-39). Obeying this commandment enables us to view life the way God intended. Giving Him first place in your life does not rid you of anything. Instead, it enriches you. Those who are truly rich are those who can love – they can receive love and they can give love.

Two Parables About Money

One of Jesus’ most well known stories about money is the story of the prodigal son. A young man who so wanted to live on his own and spend money any way he wanted coaxed his inheritance out of his father. What an insult this would be to a father. The son could not wait until after he died to get his portion of his goods. His father consented to this request. The son leaves home and squanders his money in wild living. After it is all gone, he returns home, truly repentant, intending only to ask to be a servant to his father. The father, having been looking for the return of his son since the day he left, saw him from a distance and lovingly took him back in – not as a servant – but as a beloved son.

Jesus clearly intended to communicate to the religious leaders, as well as His disciples, that God the Father is a loving, forgiving God longing for repentance on the part of those who have misused the gifts He has given.

In the very next parable, the meaning is not so easy to discern. Jesus deliberately addresses His disciples before He begins this story although the Pharisees and lawyers are still present. Read Luke 16:1-13.

Wise theologians throughout the ages have disagreed on the meaning of this parable. At first glance, it appears that the dishonest dealings of the manager are being commended, which Jesus would never do. Some commentators even believe that this actually happened and that Jesus was using a real event to teach his disciples an important lesson. Just as Jesus made an important point when he was confronted with the rich young ruler, He used actual events and real encounters to teach His disciples. This encounter with this young man revealed the love that Jesus had for him, but ended with an astonishing statement, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:23). Since this was counter to everything man had imagined (riches are evidence of God’s blessing), His disciples responded with, ‘Then who can be saved?’ (Mark 10:26). Whether or not this parable is taken from a real event or one of the very creative stories that Jesus used to make His point is not clear.

I can see the possibility that it was real. I write an article for my blog every week. My blog is purpose driven. Called One Focus, I usually relate an actual event to make my point although occasionally I may create a story. Whatever the topic is, at the end of the story, I purposely relate it to something in scripture.

Either way, Jesus chose to tell this story. He directed it to His disciples but certainly was aware of the presence of those who did not believe in Him. Since Jesus intentionally included this story, the application is important.

At no point in the story, does he commend the actions of the dishonest manager. In fact, it is after he lost his job and had acted only in his own self-interest to try to protect his future that he is called dishonest by his manager. What led to his firing in the first place could have been ineptness or simple mismanagement of his master’s funds and not an intentional act of thievery. Before handing over his account books, however, his dishonest nature took over to preserve his future. His master admired his shrewdness, not his actions. The lesson that Jesus was trying to give to His disciples may have been similar to the one in His parable about the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). The man who was reprimanded by Jesus in the parable of the talents did not steal the money. He simply hid it. He did not do anything with it. In Luke 16:8-13, Jesus gives the moral of the story.

People who are not believers (people of this world) are many times smarter in their dealing with money than Christians (sons of the light). A Christian’s standards should be different than the world’s. The end result should be to glorify God. However, God is not glorified if His gifts are buried or wealth is used only for living in the present.

His gifts are given for our enjoyment now, but also to bear fruit for Him. Money, just like anything else, can be used for evil. A person’s attitude toward it is an indicator of his spiritual state. God intends His children to use it for good and to help people. There will be a day when every one of us will have to give an account to God for how we used His gifts to us, whether they are talents or money. In that way, Christians should be as clever as everyone else.

In the Old Testament, Joseph was a steward of Potiphar’s household (Genesis 39:1-6). He managed that household with integrity. Even though he was unjustly accused of betraying Potiphar, in the end, his faithful stewardship resulted in the salvation of the people of promise. When Joseph entered his eternal dwellings, he was able to give a good account of his dealings with the resources God had given him. The money was gone when he died, but the fruit of what he did with it followed him. That’s the wealth that will follow us into Heaven.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Billy Graham in The Secret of Happiness says (recalling the rich young ruler who wanted to follow Jesus, but who, when he was told to sell all and give to the poor, went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions) “that Jesus knew that one of the real tests of our yieldedness to God is our willingness to share with others. If we have no mercy toward others, that is one proof that we have never experienced God’s mercy.”

© Stephanie B. Blake

* This Bible study is excerpted from a chapter of “Money: How to Be Rich Without It and How to Stretch It Using Ten Hints from the Past and the Technology of Today”

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Your Treasure Temporal and Eternal Part 2

 Betrayed by Greed

For thirty pieces of silver, Judas betrayed Jesus. He had already revealed his love for money. “‘Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it” (John 12:5-6). Judas had an advantage few people had. He walked with God in the flesh. He observed the Son of God as He performed miracles and loved the unlovable. All the while, Judas did not get it. Even the observance of all that Jesus was and did was not enough to rid Judas of his own love for money.

Just as he was preparing to betray Jesus, Satan entered into him. Satan can only go where he finds a willing vessel. The entrance into the life of Judas was through his greed. When he finally realized what he had done, he tried to return the blood money to the chief priests and elders. They refused it. Judas threw what he thought he wanted (the coins) on the ground and realized it was too late for him. He killed himself. The treasure he so desired bought a burial place for strangers. The name of Judas is now synonymous with greed and betrayal.

Beginning of the Christian Church

After Jesus’ resurrection, the church learned an important lesson about possessions. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, believers were so united they stayed together for the teaching of the apostles, for meals, and for worship. As their hearts were changed by the transforming power of the Spirit of the resurrected Lord, they sold their possessions and shared with one another. This was a time like never before nor has there been a time exactly like this since. Others were observing their unity, listening to their testimony. Thousands were being saved. Men who had walked and talked with Jesus in the flesh could share His teachings from memory. They had been with Him. Their love for Jesus overshadowed everything else – even their possessions.

The Church Tested by Greed

A husband and wife, Ananias and Sapphira, wanted to be a part of this remarkable experience, but their hearts were not right. They also sold a possession and brought the proceeds to the apostles for distribution. Unlike the other followers, though, they decided to keep back a portion for themselves, pretending to contribute the entire proceeds to the cause. The Holy Spirit revealed their deception to Peter who immediately confronted them with their lie. Ananias and Sapphira died on the spot. Peter made it clear that the sin was the lie – not the keeping of a portion of the proceeds. “While it remained was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:4). The lie was the sin, but the sin originated in their love of their possessions. Like Judas, that was their downfall.

Paul: A Man Rich in Faith

Saul was a man with many advantages in his life. Not only did he have financial resources and the best education available, he was accepted both in Roman and Jewish circles. Saul’s dedication to his faith caused him to lead an effort to eliminate followers of Christ. However, when he finally met Jesus and recognized Him as God, his life was forever transformed. Upon accepting Jesus’ offer of salvation and His call on his life, he had a new name, a new life and a new goal. Paul, the apostle, made an about face and never looked back. Everything was new – even his attitude about his standing in society and his possessions. Paul gave up the advantages of status and worldly riches when he became a disciple of Christ. What he gained was greater than what he lost.  Read Philippians 3:7-8.

Paul’s heart and mind, given to God, enabled him to be content no matter what his circumstances. See Philippians 4:12-13. Paul, the great apostle, made a tremendous impact upon the world. Christians through the ages have grown as disciples because of his example. His life (as recorded in Acts) and his letters (that comprise much of the New Testament) have become guidelines for Christian living. Incredibly, he was able to honestly encourage others to imitate him just as he also imitated Christ. Who among us could make such a statement?

Unlike Judas, Ananias and Sapphira, Paul made his choice for eternal riches. To him, the choice was clear. God deserves love and loyalty.

Poverty and Riches

Poverty is a harsh reality. It does not discriminate. It touches old and young, male and female and people of every nationality. God’s word never says, nor even insinuates, that people are poor because of a lack of faith. In fact, some such as the widow who gave her all (Luke 21:2-3) are strongly commended. The poor are never degraded as a lesser part of society. Jesus said the poor would always be with us. The Bible gives many guidelines about helping the poor.

In times of economic downturn, many who used to help those in poverty find themselves in dire circumstances and in need of help themselves. Periods like the Great Depression and the Great Recession are times for a severe reality check. The health and wealth philosophy so prominent in churches and media has missed a vital point. Monetary riches are not guaranteed to anyone. God does provide for HIs own. Sometimes the provision is the ability to watch Him work in hard times. Sometimes He wants us to be the means of provision for someone else.

Having riches is not proof that God has blessed you. Read the following passages and list some of the ways God blesses His own.

  • Psalms 2:12b
  • Psalms 28:6
  • Matthew 6:24

God does not forbid riches. He created all things for us to enjoy. Some biblical men of faith, such as Abraham, Hezekiah, Job, David, and Joseph of Arimathea had great riches. Some blessed by God with riches have been given the spiritual gift of generosity serving Him through their stewardship of what He has given them.

One biblical character’s attitude toward money was radically transformed when he met Jesus. Having obtained his wealth as a tax collector, Zaccheus’ encounter with Jesus made him pledge to give half of his possessions to the poor and repay anyone he had cheated by returning four times the amount. What Zaccheus decided to do with his money was proof that his conversion was real.  Read Jesus’ commendation of him in Luke 19:9.

Other great people of faith, such as John the Baptist, many of the Lord’s disciples and the widow who gave her mite did not have the benefit of great material resources. Jesus, rather than condemning the poor or accusing them of little faith, joined them.

 Stewardship

“How we handle money is an outside indicator of an inside spiritual condition.” – Larry Burkett

In the parable of the talents, Jesus said that the man who buried his talent was unfaithful. He was immobilized because of his inappropriate fear of the master who gave him the talent to invest. He should at least have gained interest on the money that his master had entrusted to him. That is a principle of spiritual stewardship. God does own everything. He does entrust some of what He owns to us for a time. Recognizing that fact gives one the ability to release material goods when they disappear. It also helps put our thinking in the right place – on the things that really count. God is looking for a return on His investment.

That principle of spiritual stewardship is more far reaching than money. When God talks about sowing and reaping, He makes the application to every aspect of our lives: spiritual, physical, mental as well as financial. He judges us on how we use what resources we have to honor Him.  Read and discuss Luke 6:10-11 and Psalm 49:6-7.

Looking for your best investment opportunity? Invest your life in seeking God’s face and His glory. This is the only investment you can be sure of. When you share the good news of the gospel with others, you reap eternal rewards. The richest gift anyone has ever received came directly from God in His Son Jesus.

The gift of salvation through Jesus, resulting in an eternal relationship with God, is of more value than anything the world has to offer. Jesus’ parables of the Kingdom – especially the parable of the treasure in the field and the parable of the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:44—46) – emphasis the value of this relationship. No treasure on earth can be compared to being part of the family of God.

© Stephanie B. Blake

* This Bible study is excerpted a chapter of “Money: How to Be Rich Without It and How to Stretch It Using Ten Hints from the Past and the Technology of Today”

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