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.
Busyness is today’s badge of success. We even carry this over to ministry, thinking the busier we are for God, the more He must be blessing our church, our business, or our ministry. But God would rather have us be with Him than do a bunch of things for Him.
We are to work hard when we work.
Colossians 3:23-24 (NKJV)23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
But we are commanded to rest;
Deuteronomy 5:12-15 (NKJV)12 'Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,14 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.15 And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
The Commandment about the Sabbath Day says as much about rest as it does anything else, in fact this Commandment is the one with the most written about it.
Psalm 127:2 (NKJV)2 It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep.
He gives to His children even in their sleep.
That means that as you rest and trust in Him, He can provide for you.
2 Corinthians 9:8 (NKJV)8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
Renew Your Spirit
Church, people, schedules and taking on Satan head-on is depleting. If you are exhausted you won't be able to fight and resist the devil. When you are feeling discouraged, stop yourself for a moment and release the burden to God. On your bad days, you should rest and on your good days, you should rest.
When you don’t feel like you can make it another day, turn to the Scriptures to drown out depression, anxiety, doubt and anger. God promised to renew our strength like the eagle, and we will run and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
Also, go to the Bible, a devotional, enter into prayer, or play worship music to encourage yourself and to keep your spirit energized. You need to come to Jesus and just humble yourself before Him.
Matthew 11:29-30 (NKJV)29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
Serve God out of love for Him, not to earn His love for you, and not in order for Him to bless you. When you take time to rest and to remember that you were created to love God and enjoy Him forever, He brings a satisfaction to your soul and a joy to your heart and a productivity to your work.
Psalm 16:11 (NKJV)11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 107:9 (NKJV)9 For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness.
That is restful and successful living.
Jesus Needed Rest and So Do You
by Alli Worthington
Our lives have gotten so cluttered up with things we think we “should” do, we can’t figure out what we were meant to do.
Setting boundaries in our lives is the only way to ensure we stay healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Jesus Himself set boundaries around His time. One of my favorite stories is in Mark 4:35-40.
That day when evening came, He said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat. There were also other boats with Him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
[And for some reason, in my mind, He then groggily laid back down on His cushion and went back to sleep.]
Here’s what is so great to me about this passage: Jesus sees that there is work to be done. He sees the crowd. He knows people need to be healed, demons need to be cast out, and lessons need to be taught. But He still tells His disciples to get in the boat, and once there, He falls asleep. Yes, the needs of the people are urgent, and their requests (or cries) for healing must have been compelling, but Jesus knows that He needs to stop and rest.
If even Jesus needs to stop and rest in the midst of a chaotic world, with all of the important things He has to do, don’t you think we need rest, too?
I think we need to follow His example and set boundaries on our time, in order to do live lives full of what we were meant to do, not what we think we’re supposed to do.
As my friend Christine often says to me, “You don’t burn out doing the right things. You burn out because of what you don’t do.” We can say no to nonessentials in order to do lots of great things in our lives. We can work all day and all night doing what God calls us to do. But without adding in time to connect with Him and others regularly, we will burn out even on good activities.
1. Add in time to stay connected to God through prayer and Scripture
One of the most beautiful reminders I have of the importance of spending intentional time with God is found in Matthew 14. John the Baptist has just been beheaded, and Jesus wants to be alone, so He retires to a private place to grieve. But the crowds hear that He is there and follow Him. He has compassion on them and heals the sick among them. Then He performs the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. And Scripture tells us this:
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd. After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray… alone.
Once again we see Jesus leave the crowd, with work still to be done, to take care of what is important. He knows He needs to connect to His Father, to pour out His heart to Him, to rest in the comfort of His arms as He grieves the loss of John the Baptist. He doesn’t rush around to fix everything for everyone. He could have — He is God, after all. But He is also a human being who needs to spend time alone with God.
We too must add into our lives what is important to the well-being of our souls.
I knew I had to learn to become a morning person and get up to pray and have quiet time before the kids woke up and the hurricane of morning activity in the household started. So I began to wake up earlier every day to pray and read my Bible.
It still hurts when my alarm goes off so early, and I need two cups of coffee to get going, but when I stay connected to God and prioritize that time, I am more likely to spend the rest of my day focused on the important instead of the urgent. There’s no right or wrong way to spend time alone with God each day. I remember in the early days of my faith, I heard that I should spend twenty minutes a day having a “quiet time” with the Lord. But later in life I met a woman who told me she never used the words “quiet time” to describe the time she spent connecting with God each day. Instead she calls it “unhurried time with the Lord.” I love the picture that paints. It’s not rushed, it’s intentional, it’s purposeful, and it’s meaningful. Exactly what staying connected to God through prayer and Scripture should be like.
2. Add in time to connect with others
We have to be intentional about connecting with others, including our spouse, our children, and our friends. It’s easy to allow our work, even our work for the Lord, to keep us from purposefully connecting with those we love.
Throughout the Gospels, we see that Jesus spent time with those He loved. He spent weeks on end traveling with His disciples. Sure, they did ministry together. They even performed miracles together. But Jesus also went to weddings. He visited His mother and brothers. He hung out with His great friend Lazarus and Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha. (Of course, He had to raise Him from the dead first…) Jesus was a man who not only understood the importance of spending time with those He loved, He modeled it throughout His time on earth.
3. Add in time to take care of yourself
Breaking busy also means adding in space, time, and energy to take care of yourself. Just as you would make an appointment to go to the doctor, make appointments during the week to exercise, to read that book you have been putting off, to take a bubble bath, or even just to lie on your bed and stare at the ceiling.
You have permission to take care of you because the world needs what only you can bring to it. Your colleagues, your family, they need you to be who you were created to be, and you were not created to be overstressed and overbusy.
Are you doing things today that are urgent? Or important? When we put every choice through that filter, we are able to prioritize how to spend our time instead of living a life of crazy busy. We have to start breaking busy before the busy breaks us.
Adapted by Alli Worthington from Breaking Busy, copyright Alli Worthington.
Have you ever felt like a fraud or failure as you struggle to find balance in life? Do you find yourself juggling everything in mediocrity and feeling like you’re succeeding at very little? In her no-nonsense way, Alli Worthington tackles the big questions about finding happiness and one’s God-given purpose. Breaking Busy marries popular secular research with solid biblical principles, instilling confidence that you, too, can move from crazy busy to confident calm. With refreshing candor, uproarious true stories, and a Christian worldview, Alli delivers truths that dismantle common happiness myths. Then she empowers you to get unstuck, to let go of the good to make way for the great, to know yourself and your Creator, and ultimately to find peace and purpose in this world of crazy. $16.99
The dictionary defines still as not moving or making a sound; deep silence and calm.
To be still then can mean not moving, and being quiet.
However, from a biblical perspective, to be still takes on much greater meaning.
The word still is a translation of the Hebrew word rapa, meaning “to slacken, let down, or cease.”, to let go, surrender.
To be still means to stop frantic activity. The meaning would be best understood to say “cause yourself to become restrained or to let go”. For Christians being “still” would involve looking to the Lord for their help. In other words, we need to come to a place where we are willing to submit ourselves to God and acknowledge that He is in sovereign control.
Exodus 14:13 (NKJV)13 And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.
This command—“be still”—forces us to realize that we are finite, and that God is infinite, that He’s in control, He’s sovereign over our lives, He’s Lord of heaven and earth.
Romans 14:11 (NKJV) For it is written: "As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God."
Being still doesn’t mean that there won't be trouble. It is remembering that He promised to never leave or forsake us.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV) Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."
Romans 15:4 (NKJV) For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
In a Bible study that I led we talked about creating a “God-space”.
Matthew 6:5-6 (NLT)5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
I don’t think that Jesus was talking about a literal closet but a place where it was just you and God. It could be a literal closet, or a place in your home where it is quiet with no major distractions from outside you, But it doesn’t have to be a literal place if you are able to “create space in which God can act.” That’s a God-space, a place to be still
Psalms 46:10 NKJV Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
The word exalted means being lifted up or honored. The next verse says that we can be still because God is our refuge.
Psalm 46:11 (NKJV) The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
That means that God is our shelter from danger or trouble. A place to be still.
Jesus told the multitudes;
Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
by Sarah Jennings Phillips
Be still and know that I am God. (Ps. 46: 10)
The affairs of God are accomplished little by little and almost imperceptibly. The Spirit of God is neither violent nor hasty. -- St Vincent de Paul
If you're American, you're probably busy right now. We're a country filled with activity. Studies show we're some of the most sleep-deprived people in the world. We work long hours, come home to more work (completed with the television blathering on in the background) before collapsing into bed to repeat the process again the next day.
Why do we live such frantic, hyper stimulated lives? Sometimes it's out of a sense of obligation - we feel it's a sin to say "no" so we overextend ourselves trying to fill the roll of Savior for everyone around us. Sometimes our frenzied lives stem from a sense of inadequacy - "If I work hard and accomplish such-and-such, I will have value." Sometimes it's a mode of escape - burying ourselves in work or in a TV program keeps our minds off life's disappointments. And sometimes we've just lost sight of our priorities, defaulting to the heightened pace of the culture around us, unaware that we've let our down time slip away little by little.
Regardless of why we're living in the fast (and loud) lane, deep down we all know we need to get out of it. Our souls crave peace, stillness, and silence. And even if we can ignore the cries of our souls for awhile, our bodies demand it when they eventually wear out.
Why do we crave that stillness? It seems the "noise" of life is more often man-made than God-ordained. In Scripture we see that time and again, God calls us to find peace in Him, to lighten our burden with Him, to set aside our anxieties and meaningless business. We see God speak to the prophet Elijah through a "gentle whisper" and tell an anxious Martha that her sister Mary chose the "better" part when she abandoned household duties to sit at Jesus' feet. (Luke 10: 41-42)
After a long day of running here and there, you may find yourself longing to be peaceful Mary whose only job is to be with Christ. So how can we become more like Mary when the vast majority of us more closely resemble worried Martha? I love the opening Scripture verse -- it's so simple, it cuts through all the junk clanking around in my brain. Be still.
In the midst of the activity surrounding her, Mary made a simple choice. To sit and be still. You and I can make that simple choice too, even when life seems to be pressing on all sides. It may be awkward at first - we may be tempted to grab for the remote or cut our time with God short. But by seeking stillness we are effectively saying, "Nothing else is as important to me as You at this moment, Lord."
PSALM 47:1-9 AMP O clap your hands, all you people; Shout to God with the voice of triumph and songs of joy. For the Lord Most High is to be feared [and worshiped with awe-inspired reverence and obedience]; He is a great King over all the earth. He subdues peoples under us And nations under our feet. He chooses our inheritance for us, The glory and excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah. God has ascended amid shouting, The Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises; Sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises in a skillful psalm and with understanding. God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne. The princes of the people have gathered together as the people of the God of Abraham, For the shields of the earth belong to God; He is highly exalted.
KING OVER ALL
All kings have derived authority; only one King, the great God of heaven, is absolute in power and righteousness. This psalm not only exalts and worships God as King, but foreshadows Jesus as the coming King.
1 TIMOTHY 6:13-15 AMP I solemnly charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and [in the presence] of Christ Jesus, who made the good confession [in His testimony] before Pontius Pilate, to keep all His precepts without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will bring about in His own time--He who is the blessed and only Sovereign [the absolute Ruler], the King of those who reign as kings and Lord of those who rule as Lords, (emphasis mine )
He reigns over the people;
LUKE 1:32-33 AMP He will be great and eminent and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob (Israel) forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” (emphasis mine )
He chooses an inheritance for them;
EPHESIANS 1:11-12 AMP In Him also we have received an inheritance [a destiny--we were claimed by God as His own], having been predestined (chosen, appointed beforehand) according to the purpose of Him who works everything in agreement with the counsel and design of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ [who first put our confidence in Him as our Lord and Savior] would exist to the praise of His glory.(emphasis mine)
Was exalted by God;
PHILIPPIANS 2:9-11 AMP For this reason also [because He obeyed and so completely humbled Himself], God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow [in submission], of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess and openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord (sovereign God), to the glory of God the Father. (emphasis mine)
And ascended into heaven, where he is seated once again on his holy throne.
Acts of the Apostles 2:33 NLT Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today. (emphasis mine)
Through King Jesus, victory is promised for God’s people;
PSALM 47:3 AMP He subdues peoples under us And nations under our feet. (emphasis mine)
The church longs for the day when Jesus will return — a day when he will display all his glory. He will sit on his throne in all heavenly glory with all the nations gathered before him. And he will say to his people;
MATTHEW 25:34 AMP “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father [you favored of God, appointed to eternal salvation], inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
Editor's Note:. In the past six months my church family, my own family, and several friends have gone through and are still going through the loss of loved ones. The cause of death has run the gamut from natural causes, to suicide, even murder. They and we are all grieving in different ways. Some of us cry, others question God; some of us wonder if there was anything we could have done differently; some of us try external aids like alcohol or drugs (both legal and illegal). One of the big issues grief and the grieving process is the inability to sleep. In this post our guest blogger Sara Bailey gives us great advice for dealing with our sleeplessness while we grieve.
The Best Advice for Managing Sleeplessness Following the Loss of a Loved One
By Sara Bailey
Losing someone you love impacts your entire life, often making it difficult to get through your days and nights. When you’re unable to sleep during bereavement, it can make you feel even worse. Instead of tossing and turning, take some simple steps to improve your sleep.
Loss of a loved one and lost sleep. Even if you never experienced insomnia before, the loss of someone you love can mean losing sleep. You might lie awake, sifting through memories and emotions, or staring at the ceiling feeling empty. Insomnia in the wake of loss is actually not unusual. Some studies reflect a link between sleep and grief. Basically, it’s a vicious circle. People struggle to rest when they are grieving, which in turn, exacerbates their grief and makes it harder to sleep. Focus on the Family points out grieving is an entirely personal journey, and there is no right or wrong path, nor is there is a certain time frame for grief. Even Jesus wept with grief, but when you can’t sleep well, it inhibits your ability to heal from your loss.
Examine your environment. Your bedroom surroundings can play a key role in how well you sleep. Make it a point to keep your room dark, cool, and quiet. You might try some aromatherapy to help you rest and relax. Vanilla and lavender oils are known to be helpful with getting a good night’s sleep, calming your body and mind. Some people benefit from sleep-assistive devices. There are hybrid machines that monitor your habits and incorporate sound and light to help you fall into sound slumber. There are even “smart” sleep masks that analyze your sleep patterns to help you snooze. Another idea is to change up your bedroom. Now might be the perfect time to invest in a new mattress. A new bed could help you achieve some closure and make you more comfortable for sleeping. If you decide it’s time to replace your mattress, consider ordering a bed in a box. Once delivered, a bed in a box is far easier to move to the right room than a traditional mattress. It can be maneuvered through halls and around tight corners with minimal hassle, which is particularly important if you’re trying to manage it by yourself. You should also select a mattress that suits your sleep position to help optimize your comfort.
Sleepy and synchronized. Getting into a routine can help synchronize your body with a healthy sleep pattern. By going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning, your body begins to expect that routine—allowing you to fall and stay asleep more easily. Changing what you do in the hours before bed can also be helpful. For instance, looking at your cell phone, tablet, or television right before bed can actually trigger you to feel more alert. Those electronics emit a blue light that is counterproductive to sleeping. Getting in some physical activity can also help, especially if you work out early in the day. Exercising offers bonus benefits as well, helping to lower your stress and anxiety levels, and releasing feel-good chemicals in your brain. Avoid late-day exercising, though, since the boost might keep you awake at night.
Rethink your eating habits. Many people are comfort eaters, and while that might feel good in the moment, it’s important to be conscientious about eating a nutritious diet. Psychology Today explains nutrition plays an important role in supporting your mental health—and you are going through an especially difficult time. Certain foods can help lower your risk for depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns, while at the same time boosting cognitive function. Include fatty fish, whole grains, leafy greens, and yogurt in your meals. There are also some foods you should avoid eating before bed. Steer clear of spicy foods, dairy products, and sugary foods at bedtime since they could interfere with your sleep.
It’s important to get sufficient sleep for your well-being. Change your environment and habits to encourage better slumber. Rest in the palm of His hand and know that in time, you will heal.
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Psalm 4:8 (NLT2) In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.
Psalm 127:2 (NLT2) It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.
Proverbs 3:21-24 (NLT2) 21 My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment. Hang on to them,22 for they will refresh your soul. They are like jewels on a necklace.23 They keep you safe on your way, and your feet will not stumble.24 You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly.
A skewed view of God shuts down our prayers, but relating to God as He actually is fosters freedom and confidence in prayer.
Think of a friend that you have gotten to know over the years. Was there ever a something that puzzled you or put you off but you now understand. For example when you first met them they seemed aloof and like they didn’t want to be bothered with you only to find out later that they were very shy. Or talking about a party you were planning for family member and they changed the subject or didn’t want to help you only to find out later that they lost a child through an accident. Now that you know these things your relationship with them has gotten better because your view of them has changed.
I can be the same with God. Our perceptions or misperceptions affect our conversations with with Him. I preached a sermon, last year, about how important is to be open and honest with God (read “Stop Faking It” here). But who wants to risk being open unless we are sure that He will accept us warts and all, no matter our condition. When we have a clear view of who God is we will become more free and confident in prayer. Upgrading our views of God to match His true character is essential if we are to develop a real relationship with Him.
We all know certain truths about God:
Head Beliefs vs. Heart Beliefs
These truths are good basic theology. However, we often have another set of beliefs about God that we hold almost subconsciously. We don’t consciously think thiem, much less say them aloud. Nevertheless these thoughts are there deep in our subconscious. The lady who wrote the book “Prayer Begins with Relationship”, Cynthia Hyle Bezek, calls these two set of beliefs “head” beliefs and “heart” belief. Head beliefs are what we say we believe, and heart beliefs are the perceptions that actually shape our feelings and reactions to circumstances and our relationship with God.
For example you may believe in your head that God will protect you and provide for you and not let any real harm come to you. But when the doctor says,”we need to do a second test just to rule out cancer”, or when you lose a job, or face foreclosure, that belief of protection may not be the one you operate on. A misperception about God may take over and shake you whether you say it or not. You may operate on the belief that God is really allowing you to suffer to develop something in your character, or He’s disciplining you for something.
These heart beliefs may come from anywhere like a negative experience with a boss, a parent, or even a church leader. Those heart beliefs are usually not entirely wrong but twisted just enough to create a barrier to approaching God as He really is.
Here are some perceptions that we often have of God.
If your perception of God is that He’s an enforcer, or the strong silent type, of just wants to teach you a lesson, you may not tell anybody that’s what you think about God, you may not want to say it to yourself, because you know what the Bible says about God being love, and never leaving you alone, your relationship is based on His grace and not your performance. But you still somehow have this heart belief. Your relationship will be affected by these views of God so when you pray and have your conversations with God they become more stuffy and formal rather than real and open. Sometimes you may not talk to Him at all.
If you thought of God as a friend you would be more open about how you really feel. I finally admitted that I was worried and that I was viewing what was going on as a lesson, and that God was never satisfied with me, and He was an enforcer and angry because I wasn’t more trusting and aware of His faithfulness and love for me.
We need to change that heart belief to a head belief, something that we say we believe.
Here are some characteristics that are true about God and that enable us to talk freely and openly with Him. Truths which we should want to regularly experience as you pray.
You Have to Know God to Know How to Talk to Him
By Rick Warren
“For the Lord is always good. He is always loving and kind, and his faithfulness goes on and on to each succeeding generation”(Psalm 100:5 TLB).
Don’t you hate it when people call you on the phone and don’t identify themselves? They just jump right in as soon as you answer, assuming you know who it is. When you don’t know if it’s the pope or the pizza guy on the other end, it affects your conversation a lot. You don’t know what tone to use. You’re a little more guarded.
Even when you’re talking with someone in person, if you don’t know much about that person, you tend to be more formal. I can always tell when people I run into around town are a part of Saddleback Church because they’ll say, “Hey, Pastor Rick, how’s it going?” But when someone says, “Hello, Reverend Warren,” it’s clear they know who I am but not that much about me.
Proximity and relationship determine how you talk to somebody. What you know about somebody determines your conversation with that person.
The same is true with God. Your understanding of what God is really like shapes everything else in your life, including your prayer life.
A lot of people have misconceptions about God. Some people think he’s a grumpy god, who’s cranky and upset all the time, and they think they can never please him. Some people picture the “crouching tiger” god, who is ready to pounce on them when they make the wrong move. Some people have the flaky father god, who’s moody and changes his mind continually about them.
Some people think of God as the cosmic cop, whose goal is just to make sure you keep the rules, or the dictator god, who’s never satisfied and always demanding more and more and more. And some people have what I call the Play-Doh god and just make him into any form they want.
Ever heard somebody say, “I like to think of God as . . .”? Well, I’m sorry, but it doesn’t really matter what you think God is like. It matters what the Bible says he is!
A. W. Tozer wrote, “What comes to your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you, because it affects everything else in your life.”
It’s important that you know the real God. If you have a misconception about him, then prayer is going to be a duty and drudgery. God doesn’t want you to pray out of guilt! He wants you to talk to him because you love him. And you will love him more as you get to know him better through his Word.
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.