Yesterday, November 6, 2018 was election day. Millions of people went to polling places throughout the nation and millions more voted by mail or voted early. Today there is great elation and great sadness; hope for the future and despair; there are those hoping for healing and those determined to continue fighting; all depending on how you voted. It’s my prayer that no matter the outcome the healing process started when the polls closed. We can all pray that no matter what the outcome of our elections, we will remain solid in our faith walks, true to our beliefs, and still praying for our country.
Psalms 33:12 NKJV Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord , The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.
Editor's Note: The following is from No Matter What, God Is Still on the Throne By Debbie McDaniel - Crosswalk.co - The Devotional
“The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.” Psalm 103:19
Today, close to half of our nation may relate to those feelings. It’s never easy to lose. It's discouraging. Disappointing. You may feel defeated and wonder why it all didn't go your way. Or why others didn’t see things the way you did.
Many will celebrate election results this evening. And, many others will not. Yet no matter which side of the race you’ve been on over these long months, this truth remains... every time we’re willing to have a voice, to take a stand for what we believe in, we “Win.” And we can trust God with the results.
The enemy is at work more than ever during these times. He will seek to divide believers and stir up strife and hate.
Don’t fall for that trap.
Whether it’s in election season or just daily life, we win when we do what God asks us to do. We win when we’re willing to live wisely. We win every time we choose to obey His word to the very best of our ability.
There’s great freedom there. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from defeat. Freedom from anger and hate.
Nothing has taken God by surprise. Not ever. He’s on the throne and Sovereign over all. He has a plan and is at work on behalf of His people, “for such a time as this.” Esther 4:14
Our prayers matter, our voice matters. We can choose to move forward from here with grace. We can choose to stay involved, to have a voice, to be engaged, and maybe more than ever before, to make a difference in our nation.
May we be ever faithful to pray for all those in authority, for the leaders of this land. May we be brave to speak with wisdom and discernment, and to live these days with hearts of compassion and love. May we be strong to follow God’s voice, even when it’s not the most popular choice in our culture.
I was reminded this morning, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases.” Proverbs 21:1
God’s got this. He’s got us. He is powerful and able to do far more than we could ever imagine.
Grace and peace.
Remember today, God is faithful. And His presence of power and peace rule over all that swirls around us in our nation. Choose to trust Him and believe that He is in control. Nothing is too difficult for Him.
Editor’s Note: In an interview with The Christian Post best-selling author and singer Sheila Walsh has shared how her battle with depression and suicidal thoughts allowed her to experience the power of Jesus — and why the Church must "wake up" to the number of pastors struggling with mental illness. This post is the full content of the article written by Leah MarieAnn Klett and published October 29, 2018.
Best-selling author and singer Sheila Walsh has shared how her battle with depression and suicidal thoughts allowed her to experience the power of Jesus — and why the Church must "wake up" to the number of pastors struggling with mental illness.
Walsh, an internationally-known speaker and Bible teacher, recalled to The Christian Post how, twenty-six years ago, she checked herself into the psychiatric ward of a hospital. She was diagnosed with clinical depression, a devastating condition affecting more than 16.1 million American adults.
"At the time, I was serving as the co-host of The 700 Club show on Christian Broadcasting Network," she said. "I knew how to put on a good face and isolate myself from people. I was surrounded by people, a ministry leader, but so desperately lonely and depressed. Up until that point, I'd based so much of God's love on me getting everything right. When you end up in a psych hospital, that platform has been pulled from beneath you."
While at the hospital, Walsh said she was overwhelmed with a sense of God's presence in the midst of her pain. She cried out, "I never knew You lived so close to the floor."
"There was such a profound sense of, 'The Lord is close to the brokenhearted,'" she said. "So often, that's what depression feels like. You feel as if you've been crushed. But in those times, that's when you can experience the presence of the Lord. When things go wrong, we feel as if God has left us or doesn't hear us, but I am learning that even in the darkest places, God's timing is perfect and His presence is promised."
Walsh draws from her experience with depression and mental illness to share eight simple, practical steps to help women move forward one day at a time in her new book It's Okay Not To Be Okay: Moving Forward One Day At A Time.
"After opening up about my own struggles, so many women reached out to me asking for advice," she said. "This isn't a self-help book; it's a God-help book. I don't think self-help is help at all. I wanted to share eight things I've learned in my own life to help others move forward."
One of the most important steps in her journey, Walsh said, was daring to have "gut-level, unedited conversations with God."
"We have this head knowledge that God knows everything, but there's something so healing about pouring your heart out to God, telling Him everything," she said. "We think we have to use certain words, we have to be respectful and careful with God, but what I've discovered, just as the Psalmist David did, that our honesty invites the nearness of God's presence."
There's this "incredibly damaging" misconception in the Church that believers shouldn't struggle with mental illness, Walsh contended.
"So often, when people are already hurting and struggling, we shame them, we make them feel as if there's something wrong with them," she said. "We tell them there's a lack of faith or trust in God, we tell them to pull themselves together. But, it's not a lack of faith; it's a lack of chemicals in your brain to be able to function well."
"I've had way too many conversations with spouses or parents whose child committed suicide because they were told within their church they don't believe in medication; they're told, 'We'll pray for you,'" she continued. "That makes me desperately sad, because mental illness isn't curable, it's treatable. Medication corrects the chemicals in your brain, allowing you to function well and be who God created you to be."
Pastors and ministry leaders, Walsh contended, are particularly susceptible to burnout, depression, and mental illness — and the Church needs to "wake up" and support those in leadership positions amid what she referred to as an "epidemic."
We have this skewed idea of what it means to represent Christ; we think we need to look like the Good News," she said. "We don't. Jesus is the Good News. We need to simply begin having this conversation, acknowledging that this is an issue. We need to be telling our pastors, 'Please don't be ashamed, please don't give up — help is available.'"
Still, the Church has made "great strides" when it comes to the issue of mental health, Walsh said, pointing to the ministry of Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, who lost their 23-year-old son to suicide several years ago.
"From their unspeakable grief, the Warrens have done so much good," she said. "Their son, Matthew, was a darling boy, but he suffered so deeply from depression. Rick and Kay have such a phenomenal ministry and are leading the way in helping other churches understand mental illness."
Walsh said that one of her favorite quotes comes from theologian Charles Spurgeon, who suffered from extreme clinical depression
"Sometimes, his depression was so severe, he couldn't be on the pulpit for a whole month," she said. "Still, he said, 'I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the rock of ages.'"
"When you understand the life of the man who said that, it's much more profound to me," she continued. "He learned to be grateful for the darkness that plagued him, because it threw him to the arms of Christ."
The author hopes her book will change the stigma surrounding Christians and mental health — and encourages readers to "fall more in love with Jesus."
Proverbs 4:23-27 GNT Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. Never say anything that isn't true. Have nothing to do with lies and misleading words. Look straight ahead with honest confidence; don't hang your head in shame. Plan carefully what you do, and whatever you do will turn out right. Avoid evil and walk straight ahead. Don't go one step off the right way.
Philippians 4:8 (NLT) And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Thinking good things even works for non-believers and sceptics just think of what it will do for you. When you think only of the good things you allow the fruit of the Spirit to flourish in and through you.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
When we do this we are able to push those feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression into the background and focus on the things of God.
We are what we think, and our lives, attitudes, feelings, reactions, results, failures, successes, and personalities are formed by the strands of thought that tie our brain cells together like baling wire. This is so self-evident it’s been at the heart of philosophy and religion from the beginning of human civilization.
Even non-Christians know this. The Hindus taught, “Man becomes that of which he thinks.” The Buddha said, “The mind is everything: what you think you become.” Marcus Aurelius said, “Your life is what your thoughts make it.” Descartes wrote: “I think, therefore I am.” The nineteenth-century Unitarian preacher William Channing wrote: “All that a man does outwardly is but the expression and completion of his inward thought.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson summed it up nicely, saying, “A man is what he thinks about all day long.”
William James laid the foundation for today’s motivational movement and positive-thinking literature with these simple words: “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”
The homespun British philosopher James Allen wrote:
A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts. . . . Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bad fruit. . . . Let a man radically alter his thoughts, and he will be astonished at the rapid transformation it will effect in the material conditions of his life. Men imagine that thought can be kept secret, but it cannot; it rapidly crystallizes into habit, and habit solidifies into circumstances.
Allen added, “As the physically weak man can make himself strong by careful and patient training, so the man of weak thoughts can make them strong by exercising himself in right thinking.” - From Avoid Ministry Burnout, Think On These Things)
A Prayer To Transform Your Mind And Life
By Tracie Miles
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Romans 12:2a (NLT)
If we allow our minds to be shaped by negative thoughts, we are headed straight toward a life lacking peace, joy and hope. But, when we humbly admit our need for change and invite Christ to renew our minds — one thought at a time — we are blessed with the ability to enjoy life, despite its challenges. Although it might seem difficult at first, it is possible to change the way we think if we commit to three easy steps:
1. Recognize Negative Thoughts.
Each time a negative thought enters your mind, make note of how you’re feeling. Ask yourself things like: Does this thought help me in any way? Does it make me happy, or does it steal my peace? Is this a problem God can’t handle, or am I assuming it’s too big for Him? (Trick question: Nothing is too big for God!) Is it even true according to God’s Word? Asking God to make us aware of our negative thoughts is the first step to learning to control them.
2. Reject Negative Thoughts.
Once you learn to be aware of your negative thoughts, you can begin to combat them and fight back. Each time you notice a negative thought, aim to pause and reject it. Remind yourself not to focus on the negativity, and instead, try to focus on something positive. If you’ve decided it’s not really true, don’t allow yourself to entertain it anymore. If that negative thought is stealing your peace, refuse to give it power over your joy, peace or happiness, much less your life. Take control of what you’re thinking, rather than letting your thoughts run rampant. Then, turn that negative thought around.
3. Replace Negative Thoughts.
If something bad happens to us, we don’t have to believe we have a bad life. When we experience something positive in the morning but have to deal with something negative in the afternoon, we have the choice to decide whether we’ve had a good or bad day overall. If someone hurts our feelings, we can forgive and refuse to let it fester in our thoughts and steal our confidence. If someone insults us, we can focus on our positive attributes and remember what God’s Word says about us is most important.
Each time we notice our minds are wandering to a place where discouragement, sadness, fear, anger or negativity reside, we have the authority and the power to choose to reject those negative thoughts and shift them to be more positive.
Lord, How I Long To Break Free From Negative Thinking And Embrace Peace And Joy And Optimism. I Invite You To Begin Transforming My Thought Patterns And Help Me Recognize, Reject And Replace Thoughts That Are Not Pleasing To You.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Editor’s Note: Some content taken from the Encouragement for Today devotional, “3 Easy Steps to Transforming Your Mind and Your Life,” written by Tracie Miles.
When your world has been turned upside down by the news of a serious, maybe terminal illness for you or a loved one; the death of a parent, child or spouse, loss of employment, a serious financial crises, a divorce, the collapse of a close friendship. When any of those things happen, and sometimes more than one of them happens at once, it feels as if everything is closing in our you and there's no way out.
You may be praying for something that hasn't happened yet too. Maybe it’s for you, a friend, or family member to be healed of an illness, maybe it’s for a financial blessing, maybe it’s for a new job, maybe it’s for a spouse, whatever it is hasn't happened and you are wondering if it will ever happen.
Maybe you’ve been praying for what seems like forever for someone you love to come to Christ. So you wait. You might be asking God for another kind of miracle. For someone to be healed. For someone to be freed from an addiction. For a promotion. Or a spouse. So you pray. You wait.
Then you wait some more.
Author Cindi McMenamin gives us 10 reasons why you might still be waiting.
10 Reasons God Might Not be Blessing Your Life
Are you looking around at other believers’ lives and feeling “skipped over” when it comes to God’s blessings? I’ve received emails from several people in the last month asking why God isn’t blessing their lives? Some of those emails recount all the things they are supposedly doing right and others complained that God wasn’t keeping His part of the bargain.
We know from Scripture that God is a good God who loves to bless His children (Matt. 7:11). At the same time, God knows our hearts, our capabilities, and what’s around the corner for us, so if He choose not to bless in a certain area, that might even be a blessing in itself.
1. You haven’t asked for the blessing.
How many times do we get disgruntled at God because He hasn’t provided for us when we haven’t taken the time to even ask Him for what we specifically need? Sure, God knows our needs. But He wants a relationship with us in which we come to Him, in faith, and ask for what we need.
Scripture says, “You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). And Jesus told his followers: “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24). Start asking specifically and see what God wants to teach you about asking, trusting, and being thankful.
2. You haven’t asked in faith.
If you’re asking God for blessings and He’s still not answering that prayer, it could be that you are not asking in faith, truly believing He will answer. Jesus told His followers: “Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (Matthew 21:22) and “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24).
Jesus said everything is possible to the one who believes (Mark 9:23). If you’re having trouble believing that, ask Him to help your unbelief. Jesus honored the sincerity of the man who asked for something and followed it up with “help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
3. You’re asking with the wrong motives.
Have you ever wondered why God doesn’t answer people’s prayers to win the lottery? James 4:3 gives us insight: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
Try asking God for blessings that will help you bless others. Or try asking Him to bless others first, rather than yourself. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” If He is your desire and your delight, it will delight His heart to grant your desires.
4. You’re all about you.
I recently received an email from a man demanding to know why God wasn’t blessing him. He recounted one unfortunate situation after another and, in a tone of bitterness, expressed his utter disappointment in God. His email was littered with references to “I,” “me,” and “my.” He never asked what he could do to please God, only complained at how God hadn’t pleased him. He didn’t talk about his obedience or any desire he had to be a child whose Father would be pleased to bless him. In fact, he never even talked about a Father-child relationship with God.
God is not a glorified Santa Claus. Nor is He obligated to bless any of us. If you’re all about you, and what God is or isn’t giving you, God might be choosing not to bless your life until you become all about Him (Luke 9:23). When you die to self (Galatians 2:20), your focus won’t be on whether or not you’re being blessed, but on how to be a blessing to God.
5. There is unconfessed sin in your life.
Are you praying for the blessing of a job? A promotion? Success in a certain endeavor? If there is unconfessed sin in your life, it could be affecting your relationship with God and affecting His handout of blessings. God is all about relationship. So, if He’s not blessing, perhaps the relationship is strained through disobedience in your life or habitual sin that you are not surrendering to Him.
After instructing believers to pray with the right motives, James instructs, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James seems to be implying that as we get the relationship right with God, and maintain a level of humility, the blessings – or promotions – will flow.
6. You are being directly impacted by someone else’s sin.
If you’re being responsible and obedient with your money and yet God is not blessing you, financially, you might want to look at the behavior and spending habits of anyone else who shares your bank account. God doesn’t punish us for the sins of others, but we sometimes share the consequences of sin or irresponsibility from those who are closely connected to us.
The Bible is full of warnings about the consequences of unhealthy associations. For instance, Proverbs 22:24-25 warns: “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.” Psalm 101 is a good example to us to pray for integrity in all our dealings: “My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; the one whose walk is blameless will minister to me. No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence” (verses 6-7).
7. God’s timing is different than yours.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 assures us: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” I believe that includes a season for blessings. God may want you to wait and grow in dependence on Him before He gives you something.
Scripture also tells us that God’s ways are perfect and His Word is flawless (Psalm 18:30). That means He knows when it’s the right time for us to receive certain blessings and when it’s not.
8. He wants you to be persistent.
Have you become discouraged or given up when it comes to receiving certain blessings? Maybe you haven’t been persistent enough.
In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus told his disciples a parable “to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (verse 1). Because God is more concerned about a relationship with you than giving handouts, He may simply want you to persist in prayer. Don’t give up. The blessing may be right around the corner.
9. What you’re asking for isn’t truly good for you.
Scripture tells us: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). But sometimes we haven’t stopped to consider if what we are asking or expecting from God is truly good and perfect for us.
Psalm 84:11 assures us “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” That shielding aspect of God’s character might be protecting us from something we’re asking God for that isn’t necessarily God’s best for us. In that case, what we assume is a blessing might not be a “good thing” for us, after all. Trust God with what you don’t see.
10. He IS blessing; you just haven’t noticed.
What do you consider a blessing? Something financially rewarding? Something that makes you happy? The fact that you have life, breath, and someone in your life who loves you are all blessings that He’s given that you may have been taking for granted.
Ephesians 1:3 says God has “blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” The next 11 verses describe, in detail, our eternal inheritance if we are trusting in Christ Jesus for our salvation. Start thanking Him for all that you have, even what doesn’t appear to be a blessing, and you may find He has already blessed you far more than you had realized.
Do you trust God’s timing? I mean if God’s timing is different from yours can you wait and wait patiently? Do you believe that faith in God includes trusting His timing over yours?
Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.
You Have To Believe That God Acts on Your Behalf
In order to patiently wait on God’s timing and not “freak out” with stress and anxiety we have to know that God acts on our behalf. We have to rely on Him and HIs timing to guide our lives, not our own schedule and timing. What we can see and know is limited but God’s knowledge is unlimited because He knows the end from the beginning.
Isaiah 46:10 (NLT) Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.
It really doesn’t matter what you are waiting on God for; a job, a spouse, a house, a car, a child, healing, whatever. God’s timing is always perfect. So whatever you are praying and trusting God for wait patiently, even if it’s very hard to do.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Faith and Patience Go Together
James 1:3-4 (NLT)3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
Faithful and patient Christians inherit the promises of God.
Hebrews 6:12 (NLT) Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.
Abraham gives is an example of someone who waited patiently.
Hebrews 6:13-15 (NLT) For example, there was God’s promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name, saying: “I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.” Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.
What are our choices?
We can try to manipulate our circumstances.
We can try to do things our way. Change our approach. We can try bargaining with God, we can try working with different people, start networking with people we think can make it happen. We can try all of these things but it will not change God’s timing.
We Can Walk away from Him.
We can decide that God isn’t going to move and answer our prayer and that He is wrong for not doing it our way, so we can say I’m done with God because He doesn’t keep His promises. That won’t help because if we walk away from God and try to do it on our own there are consequences. (I’ll talk about them later)
Or we can wait on the Lord and watch Him work.
The best thing to do is just wait on the Lord and see His goodness in action.
Psalm 27:14 (NLT)14 Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.
Lamentations 3:24-26 (NLT)24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”25 The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him.26 So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD.
How to Trust God’s Timing in Your Pain
By Rick Warren
“‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT).
It is not God’s job to make every moment of your life easy. If he did, you would never grow up! You’d be immature, spoiled, and incredibly self-centered. That is not what God wants for you.
So when you’re in pain and you pray and don’t see the answers, should you give up? No. Your job is to keep praying and keep trusting God with the answer, because you know that everything he does and everything he allows in your life he will use for good. You accept a “No,” a “Slow,” a “Grow,” or a “Go,” because you know that God is a good Father, even when you’re in pain.
If a doctor does surgery on you and cuts you open, that’s going to cause some pain. But if that surgery saves your life, would you say that’s a bad doctor? No, because she just saved your life!
When God doesn’t immediately end your pain, he is saying to you in that moment, “My grace is sufficient for you, and you can handle a little pain and even a lot of pain in your life, because I am with you and I am going to use this for your good.”
I’ve had a lot of pain in my life. In fact, almost everything I’ve learned in life, I’ve learned through pain. I’ve learned nothing from pleasure. I’ve learned very little from success. But I’ve learned boatloads through pain. God is more interested in making me a man of God than he is in making me comfortable. And God is more interested in making you a man or woman of God than he is in making you comfortable. You will be comfortable for all of eternity in heaven, but right now, you’re in the grow-up stage, so you’re not going to get everything you ask for.
In Scripture, we read, “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts’” (NLT).
While you’re praying at one level, God is thinking about your life at a much higher level and from a much bigger perspective. He wants good for your life even more than you do.
Will you trust him?
We should not speak evil words and words that slander others . Our words must be a blessing to others . Our words must be truthful and humble . Our words must be free from bitterness and anger.
James 3:3-12 (NLT2) 3 We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth.4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong.5 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.
6 And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.7 People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish,8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?
12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
The average person speaks 11,000,000 words a year. That would be 715,000,000 words at the age of 65.
Our Words Matter
Words are incredibly powerful. They can build up, encourage, and motivate. Words can also tear down, hurt, and cause horrible scars. Remember the saying many of us used as kids, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." It isn't true. Words can hurt. Some of us are living with the scars of the hurtful words of others. The Bible reminds us that "Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit."
Proverbs 18:20-21 (NLT2)20 Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction.21 The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.
Words matter to God. He keeps a record of our words. We say some words carelessly, without concern for their impact on others. Why would God care about those? We assume that the sins of our tongue are minor sins, sins that God will overlook. Jesus was fully aware of the devastating nature of our words.
Matthew 12:35-37 (NLT2)35 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.36 And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.37 The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” (emphasis mine)
What Does The Bible Say About How We Should Use Our Words?
The Bible has a lot to say about how we use our words. Here are a few biblical principles about the use of words.
Refrain from attack words
Words can be used as a weapon to lash into people. Sometimes our goal is to hurt people by what we say. The first thing some people do in the morning is brush their teeth and sharpen their tongue. Words can cut like a knife and we want to stick the dagger in deep. God does not want us to use our words as a weapon. He wants us to use our words to bless others.
Matthew 5:43-48 (NLT2)43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Refrain from gossip
We need to be careful about the news we share concerning others. You can’t unscramble eggs and you can’t “unspread” a rumor. Gossip is destructive, and it is subtle. Don't believe everything you hear. "A gossip usually makes a mountain out of a molehill by adding some dirt."
Be careful about listening to gossip. There's a saying, "He who gossips to you will gossip about you." The Bible warns us;
Proverbs 20:19 (NLT2) A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers.
Proverbs 16:28 (NLT2) A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.
Use clean words
Some words are just not proper to speak. When we were kids our parents would wash our mouths out with soap if we said such words. Having a foul mouth is not something to be proud of. Some words are not supposed to be said.
Ephesians 5:4 (NLT2) Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.
Use truthful words
Matthew 5:37 (NLT2)37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.
People need to believe what we say. Lying destroys our credibility. Chances are that we'll eventually be caught if we make a practice of lying.
Be honest. Let the words that flow from your mouth be truthful.
Leviticus 19:11 (HCSB) “You must not steal. You must not act deceptively or lie to one another. (emphasis mine)
Proverbs 12:22 (HCSB)22 Lying lips are detestable to the LORD, but faithful people are His delight. (emphasis mine)
Proverbs 14:5 (HCSB) An honest witness does not deceive, but a dishonest witness utters lies. (emphasis mine)
Use edifying words
Ephesians 4:29 (NLT2) Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
The Bible challenges us to use our words to help people, to build others up, not to tear them down. A popular Zig Ziglar saying is, "He climbs highest who helps another up." Our words can have an incredibly positive effect.
Transforming the tongue begins with a change in the heart.
Matthew 15:16-19 (NLT2)16 “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked.17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you.19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.(emphasis mine)
“The Bible stresses that what you say is an accurate indication of what is in your heart. If your words bless and encourage others, they give evidence of a compassionate heart. If you often share the good news about Christ, you demonstrate a heart that is grateful for your own salvation. When others are in a crisis, do they know they will find peace and comfort in your words? Do you frequently and spontaneously offer prayers for others? Do your words and the manner in which you say them reveal a patient heart? All of these behaviors indicate a heart that is like the heart of the Father.”
The problem is not somewhere out there, it's within us. Something needs to change within us. Our focus needs to be transformed. Instead of looking for the bad in a situation, we need to look for the good. Instead of being preoccupied with self-interest, we need to focus on the interests of others. Changing our hearts is a good place to start.
We need to think before we speak.
James 1:19-20 (NLT2)19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. (emphasis mine)
Guard against engaging the tongue without engaging the mind. Take a moment before you speak. Before you speak ask the following questions:
T - is it true?
H - is it helpful?
I - is it inspiring?
N - is it necessary?
K - is it kind?
Sounds sort of like this doesn’t it?
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT2)4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
If what you are about to say does not pass this simple test, then don't say it. Think before you speak.
Tap into God's help. This help is available to us. Who can tame the human tongue? Jesus can. Jesus is in the business of transforming lives.
2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT2)16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (emphasis mine)
Psalm 95:1-11 (NLT2)1 Come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.2 Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
3 For the LORD is a great God, a great King above all gods.4 He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains.5 The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too.6 Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker,7 for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. If only you would listen to his voice today!8 The LORD says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness.9 For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw everything I did.10 For forty years I was angry with them, and I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’11 So in my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”
A Call To Worship
This psalm seems to have been composed for worship at the second Temple the one built after the Babylonian exile.
Ezra 1:1-4 (NLT2)1 In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the LORD fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom:2 “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.3 Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you!4 Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”
The author of this psalm is unknown but it begins with a call for the worshipers to make a joyful exuberant noise of praise. The reason for this exuberant joyful praise id because the greatness of Yahweh the King, Creator, and Shepherd.
The call to worship is repeated this time with a reminder to the worshipers of Israel's special relationship to Yahweh. That reminder includes Israel’s sin in the wilderness and serves as a warning against doubt and disobedience. Those who disobeyed were not allowed to enter the rest of the Promised Land.
Promised Rest For God’s People
The writer of Hebrews quotes this psalm when he writes about the rest believers enter at salvation. It is a rest both present and future that depends not upon "works," but upon the faith of the believers.
Hebrews 3:7- 4:11 (NLT2)7 That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice,8 don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness.9 There your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw my miracles for forty years.10 So I was angry with them, and I said, ‘Their hearts always turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’11 So in my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”12 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.13 You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.14 For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.15 Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.”16 And who was it who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice? Wasn’t it the people Moses led out of Egypt?17 And who made God angry for forty years? Wasn’t it the people who sinned, whose corpses lay in the wilderness?18 And to whom was God speaking when he took an oath that they would never enter his rest? Wasn’t it the people who disobeyed him?19 So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest. 1 God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it.2 For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God.3 For only we who believe can enter his rest. As for the others, God said, “In my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest,’” even though this rest has been ready since he made the world.4 We know it is ready because of the place in the Scriptures where it mentions the seventh day: “On the seventh day God rested from all his work.”5 But in the other passage God said, “They will never enter my place of rest.”6 So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God.7 So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.”8 Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come.9 So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God.10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world.11 So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.
The central theological message of Psalm 95 is that "the Lord is a great King". To recognize God's kingship is to recognize that God created us and sustains us. For that reason God is worthy of our praise. The psalm also suggests that our praise is more than words lifted heavenward. It is an expression of faith and it should be lived out in faithfulness and trust. This is precisely what the Israelites in the wilderness did not do. To learn from their mistakes and to connect praise and obedience is our calling.
Editor's Note: Some edited content for this post is from The "Whys" of Life - Crosswalk the Devotional - October 30 by Kelly Givens. Full scriptures inserted by the editor of this blog.
It’s strange that in a world that wants us to believe we were created at random and have lived on through survival of the fittest or just good luck, that those same people cry out against randomness and unjust advantage. We all crave order, justice, and mercy, and we feel angry and sad when a seemingly arbitrary, awful thing in life happens. There’s a disconnect between what we believe should happen and what really does happen. It’s interesting that people who believe in a random, chance creation still feel indignant when apparently random, chance events work against their lives. Their heads may believe one thing, but their hearts believe something else.
As Christians, our heads and hearts are more aligned.
At the beginning of Creation, we’re told “God saw all he had made, and it was very good”
Genesis 1:31 ESV And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
You were created to live in a perfect world, where the question of why bad things happen was never supposed to exist. But then man sinned and the world was corrupted.
Genesis 3:6-7 ESV So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
Adam and Eve immediately recognized sin for what it was, and in their guilt hid from God.
Genesis 3:8-10 ESV And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" And he said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself."
In the same way, we recognize evil as evil because it goes against the very nature of our intended existence. We cry out against suffering because we were never meant to suffer. We get overwhelming distraught over death because no one was ever supposed to die. As believers, we can take encouragement from this gut reaction to pain and suffering. It reminds us we were created for a world absent of these things, and we can look forward to the day when Jesus comes back and takes away our tears and frustrations.
Revelation 21:1-5 ESV Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
We will never utter “Why me?” again. Everything good that can be, will be. Everything evil will be undone. That is such good news; it fills me with joy and hope to think on it.
Are you experiencing seemingly random suffering and sorrow in your life? Cling to the comforting truth of your faith - all suffering is temporary, it is not random, and Jesus is coming soon to restore this world and everything in it - including you - to perfection.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Editor’s Note: This is the best I've read on the subject of how to read and interpret the book of Revelation. Full scriptural text inserted by the editor of this blog. 2 Timothy 2:15 ESV Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
10 Common Mistakes People Make When Reading Revelation
The book of Revelation is either the most exciting or the most frustrating book of the Bible to read. It can be exciting when you’re looking at prophecy fulfilled or frustrating when you’re confused about what is literal, what is symbolic, what is future and what is past. It can also be the most divisive book of the Bible because of differing views on interpretation.
Yet John, the writer of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, said “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3, ESV).
How can you be blessed or happy when reading Revelation? When you avoid the common mistakes most people make when reading it – mistakes that can lead to confusion, fear, inaccurate predictions, disillusionment, paranoia, or end-of-the-world hype. Here are 10 common mistakes people make when reading Revelation.
1. Failing to Start at the Beginning
When you read a story, would you start with the last chapter first? Yet this is what many people do when they read Revelation. They start at the back of the book, instead of starting at the beginning. The Bible is one book of 66 smaller books and the first part of the book (the Old Testament) sets the stage, introduces the characters, lays down the Law and provides the reasoning behind God’s judgment – and His deliverance – at the very end of the book. It’s common for readers of Revelation to ignore the cross references and not look at the context of the Old Testament passages that are quoted throughout Revelation. But there is a reason Revelation is filled with footnotes directing you to the beginning of the book – passages in Exodus, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, just to name a few.
By going back to the beginning of the book and looking up passages quoted from the Old Testament you can arrive at Scriptural answers, rather than conjecture, when it comes to questions like “Who is the Harlot?” and other hotly-debated points.
2. Forgetting the Original Audience
We tend to read the book of Revelation as if it’s written to Christians of 21st Century America so we can know what our future holds. Yet, the Revelation of Jesus Christ was a letter written “to the seven churches that are in Asia” to provide for them comfort in the midst of the persecution they were enduring and to strengthen them, as well as give them hope for what was soon to come.
Revelation 1:4-5 ESV John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood
So, every time you see the word “you” in a narrative, you must realize that “you” is not literally you. This letter written from prison to persecuted Christians in the First Century and delivered through the Roman Postal System used veiled language, at times, that its direct recipients would fully understand.
Revelation 13:18 ESV This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.
So, be a history buff. Brush up on what was happening in the First Century and why these words would be a comfort to them and why certain codes would be significant to them and quit trying to put yourself into the picture. There is room for application of God’s Word after you have first looked at what the text says by its original author to its original audience. The basic model of hermeneutics is to first ask What does the text say? Secondly, ask What does it mean, in light of who it was written to and the time at which it was written? The third and final question to ask is What does this mean to me and how I should live? Application is important, but keep first things first. Remember to whom it was written and read it through the eyes of a First Century persecuted Christian.
3. Misunderstanding the Term "Last Days
"Christians today read about the "last days" and they get excited. They think in terms of Jenkins/LaHaye novels and Hollywood movies and immediately think "last days of the earth." Again, if you start in the Old Testament, you will understand that most of the references to the “last days” – also referred to as “latter days” (KJV and NASB), and “days to come” (ESV, NIV and NASB) – are referring to the last days of the Old Covenant,not the last days of the world.
For example, Peter starts his powerful sermon on the day the first Church was established by quoting from the Old Testament Prophet Joelin which he says “In the last days it shall be….”
Joel 2:28-32 ESV "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. "And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.
That wouldn’t exactly be a relevant sermon on Opening Day of the First Christian Church, if Peter was talking about the last days of the earth some 2,000 + years hence, would it? But when you realize that sermon is talking about the last days of the Old Covenant that God made with Israel, it suddenly makes sense that Peter would be letting the first Christians know that, indeed, the ending of the Old Covenant was finally upon them and the New Covenant was being ushered in. The New Covenant was with Jesus – the long-awaited Messiah – who had been killed and then raised from the dead and “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you (remember the audience relevance?) crucified”.
Acts 2:36 ESV Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."
By the way, the term Old Testament and New Testament is another way of saying Old Covenant and New Covenant. Understand the meaning of the various uses of “last days” throughout the Bible and you’ll better understand Revelation.
4. Comparing Scripture with Headlines, Tweets, or Tradition
If you read Revelation and compare it with headlines on the evening news or in social media, you will have a completely skewed idea about what the book is about. Likewise, if you read it with the latest apocalyptic movie in mind, or the images in your head from the Left Behind series of novels, you will be reading into it what isn’t there.
Don’t compare Scripture with headlines or movies or even long-held beliefs going back to what you heard in Sunday School as a child. Compare Scripture with Scripture (both Old and New Testament Scriptures) and you will discover what is actually Scripture and what is merely conjecture, tradition, or hype from current events.
5. Taking the Symbolic as Literal
Yes, you believe the Bible is literal. So do I. But certain portions of Revelation (and the Bible, for that matter) are meant to be symbolic, not literal. When John says “I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit” he obviously is not talking about a literal star falling from heaven and being handed a set of keys.
Revelation 9:11 ESV They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.
That is a symbolic reference to Satan from the Old Testament book of Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 28:12-19 ESV "Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God : "You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought fire out from your midst; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you. All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever."
Likewise, when John says that 200 million horsemen with heads like lions and fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths will line up in the Valley of Megiddo to kill a third of mankind, this is also symbolic of a massive battle but most likely not a literal 200 million horse-mounted demon-like soldiers akin to the machines in Terminator or Transformers! Know the difference between narrative, which is to be read literally, and portions of prophesy and apocalyptic language, which is to be read symbolically.
Revelation 9:16-17 ESV The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions' heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths.
6. Taking the Literal as Symbolic
You’re right, this process goes both ways. Some phrases are meant to be symbolic and not taken literally and some of the prophesy is meant to be read literally and not symbolically. For instance, the churches in Asia that John is writing to are seven real churches that existed at the time the letter was written. That doesn't mean it was written to the seven “ages” of the church through the past two thousand years. Nor does it mean it was written to and about the seven “types” of churches or the different conditions of the church that exist in America or around the world today. While practical application can be made from the condition of the seven churches (such as the lukewarm Laodiceans), don’t make the mistake of making something literal completely symbolic.
Another example of this is in terms of numbers. When Revelation refers to a “thousand-year reign” is that a literal 1,000 years or is it symbolic of a very long time? Likewise, when John says the time is near;
Revelation 1:3 ESV Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
and the events he has described “must soon take place”;
Revelation 22:6 ESV And he said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place."
is that literally near and soon or symbolic for a distant date in the future? Know the difference between literal and symbolic and simile and metaphor when you read Revelation.
7. Ignoring the Time References
This also becomes a literal vs. symbolic question. But it is significant that there are more than 100 time statements in the New Testament. Do you know the different Greek words/phrases used for “time” in each of these references? It takes research to demonstrate the differences and when you compare Scripture with Scripture, you will find that they progressively become more imminent the closer you get to the Book of Revelation. Since the letter was written to the First Century Church undergoing persecution, and they are being told the events are “near” and Jesus is quoted as saying “I am coming soon” there is an undeniable sense of imminence.
Revelation 22:20 ESV He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
Again, in reading the time references, refer to the Old Testament cross references. For instance, the Prophet Daniel is told to “seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now”
and he is again told “shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end.”
Daniel 12:4 ESV But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase."
Daniel was to seal his prophecy because it wouldn’t come about for another 400-600 years. Yet John is told “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.”
Revelation 22:10 ESV And he said to me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.
Did God think 400-600 years for Daniel was further away than 2,000-plus years for John? Or does “near” actually mean “near” and “far” actually mean “far”? The Bible doesn’t contradict itself, so that problem can be solved through a proper understanding of time references.
8. Not Understanding "Apocalyptic Language"
Throughout the Bible “apocalyptic language” is used to describe the devastation of God’s wrath and judgment against his enemies. In Second Samuel 22, after God spared David’s life from the hand of King Saul, David penned a song about how “the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations of the heavens trembled and quaked, because (God) was angry. Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him”. David is describing God as a fire-breathing dragon who “parted the heavens and came down” and laid bare the foundations of the world at the blast of breath from his nostrils.
2 Samuel 22:7-10, 16 ESV "In my distress I called upon the Lord ; to my God I called. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry came to his ears. "Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations of the heavens trembled and quaked, because he was angry. Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him. He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. Then the channels of the sea were seen; the foundations of the world were laid bare, at the rebuke of the Lord , at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.
But that is poetic imagery to describe God’s might and power, not a description of God as a literal dragon leveling the earth.
The same type of language is used by John when he says “The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.”
Revelation 6:12-14 ESV When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
John was using apocalyptic language similar to Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 when He was describing God’s judgment. This type of language is foreign to us, which can cause us to look at Revelation and expect literal events from the apocalyptic language. But the First Century Jews understood this language because they were familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures.
9. Trying to Put "America" into the Scriptures
If you’re like me, you might have grown up looking at the Bible egocentrically, believing we (and this country) are at the core of everything God is doing. That type of approach to Scripture causes us to scour Revelation to find out where America fits into all of it and that can cause people to inaccurately – and repeatedly -- predict the “next date” the rapture will happen, and attribute national storms and disasters to fulfilled apocalyptic prophecy. But the United States wasn’t around when John wrote this vision to the First Century churches. So, you’re not going to find your President, your political party, or your country in the Book of Revelation. Taking into account audience relevance, it would’ve been meaningless to the First Century church for John to tell them what would happen a couple thousand years hence to all of us here in the USA. So, don’t waste your time trying to find out which president or world leader is “the Anti-Christ”– a term not even used in Revelation. Scripture tells us that the Anti-Christ is a spirit of rejection of Christ and was “in the world already” at the time John wrote the Book of Revelation.
1 John 4:2-3 ESV By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. (emphasis mine)
We so want to believe we are “in the mix” and we will see these events in our lifetime that we convince ourselves we’re in there somewhere. In doing so, we fail to see Christ in the book and the vision of His glory.
10. Forgetting it is a Vision of Christ, Not a 'Topic of Debate'
Imagine having a dream or vision so vivid, so inexplicably glorious that you have a difficult time describing it in detail to others. John’s vision of the Revelation of Jesus Christ was something unlike anything he’d ever seen or imagined. He was no doubt at a loss for words in how to describe the glorified Christ’s presence as evidenced in phrases like “His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters” (Revelation 1: 14-15, emphasis added). John was given a peek into the spiritual realm to see what no man has seen before. Thus, in his limited vocabulary and human existence, he did his best, with the inspiration of God, to give us a glimpse of heaven.
If you don’t fully understand the Book of Revelation, you’re certainly not alone. Its interpretation has been debated by Bible scholars for centuries. But rather than allow it to become a book of divisiveness, ask the Holy Spirit for His guidance as you look at Scripture and read the book for what it is – a book of worship and the Revelation of Jesus Christ – rather than a book of argument or debate. Whether you find yourself an amillenialist, premillennialist, or post-millenialist, and whether or not you subscribe to the pre-trib, mid-trib or post-trib view, make sure what you believe is grounded in what Scripture says, not what everyone else is saying or guessing.
Are you one to crumble at life’s circumstances? Or do you allow them to make you stronger?
When life brings something painful or you simply feel like your life is falling apart, how you respond makes all the difference in the world.
You and I can either react emotionally and escalate the drama of the situation. Or we can respond biblically and grow through it.
The drama that life brings is inevitable. Yet how we respond to it determines whether or not it will be fruitful in our lives in conforming us to the image of Christ. Our response to the drama also determines whether God gets the glory or we shine the spotlight on our frailties, insecurities, and emotional instability.
With help from God’s Word, plus some practical guidance, you and I can be drama free – even when the unthinkable happens. Even when you are clearly a victim. Even when life takes an unexpected turn and you are caught in an overwhelming whirlwind of circumstances that would make any person lose it. Even then.
Here are four ways that you can keep it together when it feels like your life is falling apart. (These four steps spell the word “CALM” which is what you can be if you practice them.)
C - Consider the bigger picture.
Life – and therefore every circumstance you encounter – is meant to conform you to the image of Christ. We know this because Romans 8:28-29 tells us: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” Once you consider this, you can relax and realize God knows what He’s doing in the circumstances He’s allowing. And you can focus on passing the test, rather than failing it through unnecessary drama.
A – Acknowledge God is in control.
You are not at the whim of the weather or the most likely predicted outcome. You are not going to consider “averages” or statistics. You are going to trust the God of miracles and whatever He decides to do or not do, for your greater good. Try taking a look at God’s track record in the stories of the Bible. People went through trial after trial, but when they acknowledged God’s control and remained faithful to Him in spite of their circumstances, they experienced deliverance, protection, comfort, and peace. God has an excellent track record of honoring those who trust Him.
L – Look for the lesson.
The lessons are everywhere. And sometimes they aren’t the ones you think. Ask God to show you what He wants you to see in the moment, and then stay tuned to His instruction. I find it is helpful, and a reminder to me that God is working in my life, when I say aloud, “God, show me what You want me to see in this situation” or, “Mold me through this, God,” or, “Open my eyes to the truth of Who You are through this situation and my pain.” Maybe your short prayer is simply, “Change me through this, Lord Jesus.” By acknowledging that God is doing something through our situation, we won’t miss the lesson.
M – Make it a point to praise.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we are instructed to “give thanks in all circumstances: for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Note that command says in all circumstances, even the unexpected, uncomfortable, and unwanted circumstances. As we thank God for our circumstances – and for whatever He determines to do through them – it will change our perspective and make us people who anticipate His provision, rather than dread the worst. That is displaying faith, rather than demonstrating fear or doubt.
Here is a prayer to start with, that encompasses each step toward finding your CALM:
Lord, Thank You that what is happening in my life right now did not take You by surprise. You understand the bigger picture of what is going on and I trust You with Your plan and purposes for my life. Thank You that You are in absolute control and You are fully able to conform me to the image of Christ through this ordeal as I surrender it to You. Show me what You want me to learn through this and help me to remain teachable and sensitive to Your Holy Spirit. I thank You that You are with me, that You will never leave me, and that You are drawing me closer to You through this situation so I can experience a more intimate relationship with You. May You receive glory for how I respond to all that Your loving hand has allowed in my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Editor’s Note: Some content from 4 Ways to Keep it Together When Your Life is Falling Apart by Cindi McMenamin, a national speaker who helps women strengthen their walk with God and their relationships. She is the author of 15 books, including the best-selling When Women Walk Alone (more than 125,000 copies sold), When God Sees Your Tears, and her newest book, Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You, upon which this article is based. For more on her speaking ministry, or free articles to strengthen your soul, marriage, or parenting, see her website www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.