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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. Ephesians 4:29

When my son was in High School he loved sports. His favorite sport was basketball. He started playing in 5th grade and looked forward to basketball season all year long. What he lacked in ability, he made up for in passion. The unfortunate thing in our society is that we place far more emphasis on ability and don’t recognize passion enough.

During his junior year he was fighting for the final spot on the varsity team. He talked with me the night before he was to play a one on one contest with another guy. My son said how every time he went up against this guy he ‘knew he could beat him’ but always seemed to find a way to lose. He was very nervous.

I’m by no means a perfect father or parent. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and overlooked many opportunities to mentor and guide my kids. I’ll admit that what I said next wasn’t thought out well, or planned. We were in the car, driving home in the dark.

“You know,” I said, “Whether you win or lose won’t affect who you are as a person. I love you for who you are, not for your ability. Give it your best shot, but don’t base your self-worth on the points you score or don’t score.”

My son told me that my words would give him even more incentive the next day. He entered the contest with renewed confidence in his ability. The nervousness was gone.

My son lost the contest that day and the chance at a position on varsity. But he won something far greater; he won the assurance that his worth wasn’t based on the scoreboard or the win/loss column. His worth was based on who he was as a person. My words gave him the confidence he needed to enter the battle and the assurance that win or lose, he was valued in the sight of his father.

The same is true for each of us. Society tells us value is measured by ability and success is measured by money, status and power. God’s kingdom tells us otherwise, and our responsibility as Christ-followers is to build value in a person even if their actions are contrary to our comfort level.

Paul reminds the Ephesian believers that every word that comes out of our mouths should have the purpose of building each other up. Anything less is contrary to God’s calling in our lives. At the beginning of this section in his letter, Paul admonishes his readers to ‘live worthy of the calling’ each of us has. Part of that calling is to build one another up by what we say.

Guard your words carefully because everything you say will either build someone up and draw them closer to Jesus, or tear them down and push them away from the only true source of forgiveness and grace. Criticism, sarcasm, angry outbursts, swearing and bullying (adults and children) have no place in the life of a believer and are contrary to our calling.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me for the times my words have attacked your loved ones. May the words of my mouth encourage others and draw them to you. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26

Ever notice how it seems like evil always triumphs over good? Does it frustrate you when you hear of really good people, giving people, spiritual people who go through physical, emotional, financial or relational attack? Do you sometimes find yourself looking to heaven and asking God: “What do I have to do to get you listen to me? Do you see what’s going on down here?

If you have ever had any of these feelings then you understand a little better the emotional struggle David is writing about in Psalm 73. David was completely happy tending sheep. It was predictable with a certain amount of adventure. Sheep are stupid animals but even in their stupidity they were easier to get along with than people. He was able to enjoy the beauty and wonder of God’s creation on a daily basis. Being a shepherd was a lonely life, but it was safe.

Then along comes some prophet and changes all that. Soon he found himself anointed king and living in a palace where his boss, the current king, felt threatened and tried to kill him, even chasing him down with the army!

Most of us don’t have physical armies chasing us or evil kings (or people) trying to kill us. But we struggle daily with other enemies. Relationships, finances, health issues, job-related issues take their toll on our emotional strength.

We suffer from the bruises and scars of our past. Some of those scars cover wounds that run deep from abusive parents, siblings or ex-spouses. We ask for relief. We plead with God to do something. Yet nothing seems to help.

Others of us may face the constant battle of addictions. Drugs, alcohol, sex and lust are the ones we think of first when we talk about addictions, but what about the addictive tendencies to always react with anger, of burying our pain in food or other safe things that really don’t do our body any good. We beg. We plead. We bargain with God.

“If you will only release me from this I’ll… (Fill in the blank)” But there is no response from heaven.

David says (my paraphrase), ‘Every emotion I have right now is negative. I feel like my very insides are tied up in one big knot. I feel like a complete failure and see no hope for my future. Everything seems stacked up against me.’

But then David remembers one thing and this one thing is what empowers him to move on, to fight for what is right, to never give up. It’s the one thing we as Christ-followers can always count on. When everything else seems uncertain, the one thing we can cling to, like a rock in the midst of a rushing river is this: “God is always with me and loves me.” He knows the battle you are fighting right now. He knows how weak you feel. He refuses to give up on you! That’s grace. That’s deliverance.

Our reputations, our relationships, our health can be destroyed by evil people, but nothing can take God’s love from us. Are you facing a struggle today that seems to big for you to handle? Hang on tightly to your faith in God. Never give up fighting for the right. Never stop living for Jesus. He remains the one constant in a volatile world.

PRAYER: Holy God. I thank and praise you for your love, mercy and grace. I thank you for the fact that even when I can’t see you, you see me clearly. I thank you that when others attack me, you know my heart and my motives. Empower me with Your Spirit to keep fighting the good fight. Help me rest in your loving arms in the midst of the battle. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37

One day Jesus was teaching His disciples and other followers about the Kingdom of God. In all of His teachings two main topics were always at the root of what He taught us. First of all, each of us, regardless of skin color, gender, or ethnic background is a creation of God. Since God created all of us, then we are all equal.

The second main thing that Jesus always taught was that life centered on relationship. Relationship with God; relationships with ourselves and relationships with others. Nothing in life is more important than these three key relationships. When these relationships are in harmony with each other the result is love, acceptance and forgiveness. However, when even one of these relationships is flawed, life takes a different turn. Rather than love, a judgmental attitude develops. Rather than acceptance, condemnation rears its ugly head. Forgiveness is replaced by bitterness, anger and revenge.

Jesus says, “Don’t judge others”. No one likes to be judged, yet it happens all the time. People judge you on the basis of your past,  your parents, your church attendance or lack of it, how you dress or speak, and the list goes on and on.

Who you are is not so much determined by how others see you but by how you see yourself. When we realize that we are children of God then what others say about us and to us shouldn’t affect us in a negative way. When others verbally attack us we can simply say (preferably to ourselves) “Sorry. What  you are saying about me is simply not true. I’m a child of the King. God made me the way I am, flaws and all. I’m important to Him and that is what really matters!”

The same attitude should be in us when it comes to looking at others. We may not like the way people act. We may be appalled at their past or present actions or language. We may disagree with their religious beliefs, or lack thereof. They may have different skin color, heritage, church affiliation or political stands. Even so, they ARE created by God. To ridicule, hate or judge others is really a statement about God. Our negative attitudes and actions towards others reveal an attitude that says, “God made a mistake when He made you.”

Don’t allow a judgmental spirit to cloud your view of others. Sometimes people will do things to you that will destroy your relationship with them. Ask for God to help you remain in a spirit of acceptance and forgiveness. Remember that forgiving others for their harmful actions doesn’t mean you have to trust them or restore the relationship. Forgiveness and non-judgmental attitudes free you to go on.

PRAYER: Holy God. I thank you that no matter what other people say about me, I am  your child. I confess to you here and now that I have hatred in my heart towards others and have a hard time forgiving them for the abuse they have caused. I hesitate to accept those who are different from me even though I know they are your creations. Reveal to me any harmful attitudes I have towards others. Forgive me for those feelings and empower me through your Holy Spirit to live free of a critical and judgmental attitude. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” Hebrews 13:6 (NLT)

Fear has the power to cripple us in ways that are almost impossible to overcome. We can be crippled with fear when because of natural disaster, relational issues, physical or emotional abuse, false accusations and the personal bias of others, to mention just a few.

One of the reasons fear is so effective in rendering us powerless is that we see no way to change the outcome of the situation. To compensate we may make accusations, get angry, withdraw or find something else we can control so that we feel powerful in at least one area of our lives.

The writer to the Hebrews gives us another idea. When we enter into any situation in which we feel helpless he challenges us to conquer our fear by claiming the power we have in partnership with God. When a fear-filled situation attacks us we can call on God to help. It’s as though that situation you are facing with fear is a bully and God is the big brother. While you stand up to the bully, God is standing behind you. The bully doesn’t see you. He sees God! While he knows he can beat you, he also knows he’s no match for the guy standing behind you. He turns and runs in fear!

There is no one and nothing on this earth that we need fear when we are in relationship with God through Jesus Christ. As mere mortals, we have nothing to fight with against the weapons of our enemy. But because of Jesus we can claim the victory!

What is the absolute worst thing that can happen to a human being? Ask that question of people and they may say financial devastation, natural disaster or cancer. In essence what they are saying is that the worst thing that can happen to us is death. But death has no power over us as followers of Jesus Christ. Death is not the end of our lives but the beginning of eternal life with him.

What can man do to us to destroy us? The answer, if we are Christ-followers is: NOTHING! With the Almighty, All-powerful, All-knowing God on our side we have nothing to fear!

PRAYER: Most Holy God. I come to you today to thank you Jesus and for the partnership I can have with You through Him. You know that today I am fearful of many things. I worry. I’m afraid for my finances, my health and my children. I praise you for the fact that no one can do anything to harm me when you are with me. Help me this day to remember, when worry attacks, that you are my constant helper and friend. Amen.

The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. Proverbs 18:21 (NLT)

It hit its mark. The crowd around him heard the noise but had no idea of its effect. How could they know that the wound caused by the shot went straight to the soul? The victim would never be the same.

The Bible is very clear about the power of the tongue. On the one hand it can spread goodness and elevate the needy to heights never imagined. But when used to attack, it is a weapon of mass destruction leaving the lives of many promising people to wallow in failure.

Negative words destroy potential. They come from exasperated parents who ask the ‘hard questions’. “How can you be so stupid?” “Why can’t you be more like your ‘brother/sister?” “You’ll never amount to anything. You are too much like your mother/father.”

The words sting. They go deep to the soul. Tearing apart. Gashing all the way. They leave a gaping wound. A wound that the  victim will spend the rest of his/her life trying to fill with relationships, toys or chemicals. They try soothing the pain by inflicting pain on others, hoping in some way to lessen their own pain.

If 100 people compliment you throughout your day and one person makes a negative comment about you, the negative comment will stick with you for the remainder of the day or even longer. Much as you try to dispel it, the words cut like a knife and obliterate the positive comments made.

It’s time to stop believing the lies of your past. The words spoken in anger, in sarcasm or ‘in joking’ were lies. You can accomplish great things as a child of the Living God. He created you with special gifts, God-given abilities to make a difference in the lives of others. It doesn’t matter what others have told you. You are valuable. You are a jewel, a diamond in the rough, because of Jesus!

You hold the power for life and death by the very words you speak when it comes to others. When you have a firm grasp of who you are, when you truly believe that you are God’s very special creation, then you can work to build up others. It can be as simple as a smile and a thank you. It can be as challenging as being patient when the same mistake is made for the umpteenth time with no hope in sight that anything will change…except that the perpetrator is also God’s creation given to you so you can change their world!

From this day forward covenant with God that you will no longer believe the lies of your past. From this day forward rely on God’s Holy Spirit to make a difference in the lives of others by the words you speak.

PRAYER: Holy God. Years ago I received the wound. I’ve borne the pain of it all this time. It’s time to tell myself the truth about me. I am your child. I am created in your image. I’m not stupid. I’m not worthless. I can and will amount to something! Forgive me for believing the lies of others. Help me to forgive them for their attacks. Empower me to build up those around me that have also experience the wound. Amen.

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June 2023
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