Self-controlled Words

Last week I heard of another person making a foolish remark on Twitter…again.  This happens every day on social media sites.  Yet I ponder the foolish, hurtful remarks communicated face to face daily.  People feel more and more entitled to say what they want to say no matter how it comes out or who it hurts.  Ouch!

Self-control seems so hard, but especially self-control of the tongue.  James, a New Testament writer and brother of Jesus wrote:

“For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way…a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire… no one can tame the tongue…Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!”  James 3:2-10

Thankfully, Jesus gives us the power through his Holy Spirit to live self-controlled lives, even control of the tongue. “The fruit of the Spirit is…self-control…”  Ephesians 5:22-23.  “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7.  Even self-control of what we say or what we communicate through our written words to others.  As we abide with Christ and learn from Him, we can instead use our words for good.

Self-control keeps us from speaking evil.  We have the power from Jesus to speak truth instead of lies, hope instead of discouragement, love instead of hate, peace instead of fear.  Jesus changes our words and the world is amazed!

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation [Jesus Christ] for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,”  Titus 2: 11-12

As I abide with Jesus I will trust in Him to produce self-control over my tongue and to use it to share words – spoken and written – for His good and the good of others. Speaking His praises and His truth to others always brings a joyful heart – a reward from practicing self-control.

“Cold words freeze people, and hot words scorch them, and bitter words make them bitter, and wrathful words make them wrathful. Kind words also produce their image on men’s souls; and a beautiful image it is. They smooth, and quiet, and comfort the hearer.”    Blaise Pascal

Peace not fear

He was shivering, cold and sitting in the myrtle tree but singing the prettiest song.  All fluffy, he seemed to not have a care in the world while looking for his morning breakfast.  I saw the grey bird this morning in the extremely cold wind.  I smiled thinking about all how much God cares for that little bird. And how much more He cares for me.

Jesus told his disciples not to fear those who would want to harm them. But that they could be at peace knowing He would take care of them.  He compared them to the sparrows.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”  Luke 12:6-7

Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle of Elmira, New York knew the strength of this peace.  Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for 20 years and her husband was an incurable cripple who lived in a wheel chair.  Yet, they lived happy Christian lives bringing inspiration to others. In the summer of 1905, Civilla Martin and her husband befriended the Doolittles.  One day, Dr. Martin asked them for the secret to their bright hopefulness.  Mrs. Doolittle commented, “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.” Inspired by this comment, Civilla went home and penned the words to this famous hymn:

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Jesus sees and cares about all the sparrows yet we are worth more than them.  He knows all about us, whether we know him or not.  He knows what we are going through at this moment.  He knows how we feel, the burdens we are carrying, the difficult choices we have to make and the hard daily work of providing for ourselves or our families. He has not forgotten us.

Abiding with Jesus and knowing He cares about me brings such peace. Just like He hasn’t forgotten the sparrows – the little birds in the dead of winter. He hasn’t forgotten those who are near him. They are more precious than those little birds. He brings peace not fear.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on…Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”  Matthew 6:25-26

Kindness of Forgiveness

Recently, there has been a surge of YouTube videos showing amazing acts of kindness.  Helping the poor, giving away one hundred dollar bills, paying for food or gasoline and even letting physically handicapped sports opponents win in a competition. To me, the most amazing acts of kindness are those directed toward others who do not deserve the kindness.  That is the definition of kindnessshowing favor, grace and mercy.

The greatest kindness is one that shows forgiveness. The apostle Paul wrote. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:32

Many people know the story of Corrie ten Boom who suffered in a Nazi concentration camp in Germany during WWII.  After her miraculous release, she traveled the world preaching God’s forgiveness and reconciliation.  But her kindness in forgiving was challenged when she came face-to-face with one of her tormentors in the camp after giving a talk at a church in Munich.  The man came towards Corrie and spoke:

“‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk…I was a guard in there. But since that time, I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein,’ …his hand came out…‘will you forgive me?’ I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do…I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart…”Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently…I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place…this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried, ‘With all my heart!’ For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”

Through God’s kindness and love, He performed the most amazing act of kindness toward those who didn’t deserve it:

“Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But when God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.”  Titus 3:3-5

The kindness of forgiveness is given at the price of someone else. It is an act of kindness the receiver doesn’t deserve but freely receives.  Is there someone in my life or your life who needs your act of kindness, your forgiveness?  Jesus said, “…apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5. As we abide with Jesus and understand His kindness toward us in “washing away our sins”, He can produce the fruit of kindness in our lives. Like Corrie, I’ll ask Him to help me show kindness in forgiving others, thankful that He forgave me because of His kindness.  “Be kind to one another…forgiving one another.”

Peace for the Past

“Happy New Year”, the store attendant said to me today.  Yes, it is still a new year.  A new year filled with new hopes, new plans, and new resolves.  I have also heard others say, “I’m glad last year has passed.  It was a horrible year.” Personally, I can see their point.  I had two friends pass away, a change in direction for our family, our daughter in the ICU of a hospital for 4 days and our son who had knee surgery and lost his summer job.  But we should also be thankful for our past.  I have grown closer to God through all the difficulties and changes of last year and seen His work in amazing ways. Through abiding with Christ, He has produced a peace in my heart about the past but also a peace for today and tomorrow.

As I was looking through my Oswald Chambers devotional, My Utmost for His Highest on the last day of the year; I appreciate how he said it:

“…the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”  Isaiah 52:12

“At the end of the year we turn with eagerness to all that God has for the future, and yet anxiety is apt to arise from remembering the yesterdays.  Our present enjoyment of God’s grace is apt to be checked by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders.  But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them in order to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual culture for the future.

As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, unremembering delight, nor with the flight of impulsive thoughtlessness, but with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us.  Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future.  Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ.”

I will be at peace about the past, learning from it and entrusting it to Christ as I remain with Him and look towards a new day, a new year.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  John 14:27

Shelter from the Stormy Blast

Another year has ended and a new one has just begun. It’s interesting to me that the New Year on our Gregorian calendar starts in the beginning of winter.  It would seem that it should start in the spring when life begins anew and winter has past.  Perhaps starting a new year in the dead of winter when life seems slower and the celebration of Christmas has past is good.  It puts me in a more reflective mood.  It is this time of year when I can think about the past and the future during the dark days of winter.

Like the harsh winter, many people have gone through long dark times this past year.  I know several who have lost loved ones, suffered financial hardship, born months of physical pain, and have walked in despair with no hope for the future.

God’s people experienced the same things through some dark days.  But Isaiah, the prophet encouraged them.  He reminded them that God was still with them and had not left them.  He said, “…for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”  Isaiah 52:12

Issac Watts, the great hymn writer, paraphrasing Psalm 90, encourages us as we ponder the past and the future.  He wrote these words from the hymn, O God our Help in Ages Past:

“O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home.

O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, be Thou our guide while life shall last and our eternal home.” (Verses 1 and 5)

Like winter, life can be full of “stormy blasts”.  God is our shelter during those times that may seem to never end. He has been our help in the past and as a new year comes with new challenges, God is our hope.  No person or thing can bring us the hope that God brings.  He alone is our hope.

Like the branches clinging to the vine in the winter storms, we can hold on to Him and know His love, peace, kindness and goodness.  God goes before us in the new year and as Isaiah would say, He “will be your rear guard” – He “has our back”.  He is still God in control of our world no matter what has happened this past year or what will happen in this new year.

I’m holding on to God this year to be my “guide while life shall last” and “my eternal home”.  I look forward to a new year bearing the fruit He produces in my life.  Is He your only hope?  As you trust in God, remember He “has your back”.