You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Theology’ category.

One podcast I regularly listen to is The White Horse Inn. This Sunday it began a series on the topic of The Good Life, and what we can learn about the good life from scriptures. In the introduction, the show host talked about a conversation he recently had with a man who was concerned about his lack of ambition. His brothers were all very ambitious to advance in their careers and put in a lot of time at work. This man said he just wants to put in his eight hours on the job and then get home to enjoy his family and friends. He wondered if something was wrong with himself because he wasn’t more ambitious. The host quoted 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. Paul writes, “…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands.”

I love that verse! It has been instrumental in helping me to think about my priorities and living the good life. People are ambitious about so many different things that in the long run don’t lead to the good life, but to the tired, anxious, stressful life.

I have been thinking a lot about the good life since I listened to that White Horse Inn episode. I have been considering what the Bible has inspired me to believe about what the good life is and how to live the good life.

First of all, what is the good life? The Bible has a ton of verses that relate to what the good life is, but for me, in a nutshell, the good life is contentment (1 Timothy 6:6), peace (Philippians 4:6), and joy (1 Peter 1:8). These aspects of the good life, an abundant life (John 10:10), come from Jesus. Those who put their hope and trust in Jesus should find these elements rich in their lives.

Putting our hope and trust in Jesus means studying His Word, and applying it to our lives. Here are a handful of verses that have helped me to live the good life:

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands. (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

Seek first the kingdom of the Father, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you. (Matthew 6:33)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs. (Ephesians 4:29)

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God. (Ecclesiastes 2:24)

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. (Colossians 3:2)

One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. (Proverbs 11:24)

These are the main verses that help me to enjoy the good life in God. When I start feeling a bit stressed, frustrated, bitter, resentful, anxious or worried, I turn my thoughts, my focus, from me and my problems, to God and his Word, and soon enough I am back on the sunny side of life. These verses work for me. They may not bring the good life to everyone, but I’m pretty sure that the Word of God has truths in it for everyone, that will enable everyone to live the good life, full of contentment, peace and joy.

******************************

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it one thousand times.

This confidence in God’s grace and knowledge of it makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and with all creatures; and this is the work of the Holy Ghost in faith. Martin Luther

The liturgical reading for Monday of Holy Week included a passage from Hebrews 9. Verse 12 talks about Jesus entering the perfect tabernacle and the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. Pondering this verse made me think of Jesus blood, and more importantly, why, exactly he was bleeding. I thought of the whip, the punches, the crown of thorns, the nails and the spear. A lot of blood!

Today is Maundy Thursday, the night that Jesus was betrayed. The night he celebrated Passover with his disciples, or the Last Supper as most Christians refer to it. The night of the New Covenant. Matthew 26:28 records Jesus saying to his disciples, “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Other verses appropriate for us to consider as we approach Good Friday and consider the crucifixion:

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)

He reconciled all things to himself, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:20)

In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. (Ephesians 1:7)

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:14)

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus. (Hebrews 10:19)

Since we have been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (Romans 5:9)

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood-to be received by faith. (Romans 3:25)

These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:14)

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb…(Revelation12:11)

When Christians think about the blood of Christ and what it means to their lives, they think primarily, if not exclusively, of forgiveness of sins. That is certainly important, but as these verses point out, the blood of Jesus is much more than that. It is redemption, salvation, justification, atonement, triumph, covenant, the church, peace, power to serve God, reconciliation, clean consciences, access to the Most Holy Place, and white robes throughout eternity. Wow! How incredible and powerful is the blood of Jesus. A lot to give thanks for and tremendous motivation to worship the exalted King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Reasons to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever!

Oh, the wonderful blood of Jesus

Your wounds were gaping open,

‘couldn’t recognize you at first

And all I had to offer you was an insult or a curse

Your blood dripped down like poison

On the nauseated earth

Mercy’s War by Jon Foreman

I have been thinking about our suffering Ukrainian brothers and sisters in Christ, and I have been asking myself a couple of different questions? One is, “Can I be thankful it’s not me?”

Or, to put it another way, is it spiritually okay for those Christians who are “taking their ease in Zion”, to be grateful that they are not suffering like so many others around the world?” After pondering those questions, I have been wondering if the better question might be “Should I be jealous of them?”

This new track of thinking started as I finished up reading 2 Corinthians. Paul writes about his thorn in the flesh in chapter 12, and asks God to take it away three times, and God doesn’t, which leaves Paul to exclaim in verse 10, “I delight in hardships and difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Isn’t that interesting? He doesn’t say that he perseveres, or stands firm, or endures hardships, but that he DELIGHTS in them. That reminded me of what he said in 6:19; he was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing“. That made me think of James 1:2, “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”. Which led me to 1 Peter 1:6,8, “you have suffered grief in all kinds of trials…and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” Which brought me back to Paul in Phil. 3:10, “I want to know Christ … and participate in his sufferings”.

There is nothing that most Christians want, including me, but to enjoy a painless, trouble free life without any suffering or hardships. But that seems opposite and contrary to what much of the NT teaches. So maybe in prayer request time at church or small groups we should pray for grief, trials, suffering and hardships. Maybe we should be righteously envious of those in pain or fleeing their homeland. How about desiring persecution, after all, Jesus said, “Happy are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil things about you because of me. Rejoice and be glad…” (Matt. 5:11)

But then I think of Jesus weeping at Lazarus’ tomb and how he was troubled in spirit before he went to the cross. He didn’t seem to be glad and rejoicing. Or, how about in the parable of the Good Samaritan? The Samaritan didn’t approach the man who had been beaten and robbed and proclaim blessing and joy. No, he took pity on him and helped him. He loved his suffering neighbor. In the sermon on the mount Jesus taught the disciples to pray “save us from the time of trial; deliver us from the evil one.” So now I’m honestly not sure what to think of the Ukrainian Christians plight or how to pray about it.

On top of everything else, I have been going through Isaiah and his prophecies against Judah, Israel, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Moab, Damascus, Cush, Tyre, and Edom, just to name a few. The significance of these prophecies is that God is in sovereign control of all the countries, all the time, and does with them as he likes. Also, Jeremiah proclaimed to Judah that “I will summon my servant, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon” to destroy you completely. For all we know, Putin is also God’s servant, summoned by God to invade Ukraine. I think we have to ask, “Was it just some random act of chance that Russia invaded Ukraine? or is God behind it all, pushing some buttons and pulling some levers so that in the future he will somehow be glorified through it all? Or is it just sinful humanity run a muck? Or both? I don’t know. It’s easy to ask hard questions. It’s more difficult to come up with good answers.

All I know for sure is that God loves us and wants us to be happy, especially in the long run, in the big picture of life, in eternity. It’s easy to be happy when everything is going our way, but God, in His Way, makes it possible for His Children to rejoice and be glad amidst seemingly impossible and extremely difficult situations.

God, help us to be like Paul and delight in weaknesses, hardships and difficulties, for when we are weak, You are strong.

I always have to chuckle when I remember the story of the basketball coach that was disappointed in one of his players performance and told the man that he was either ignorant or apathetic, and asked him if he knew what that meant. The player replied, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

Most of my life I believed that ignorance and apathy were bad things. Negative characteristics for a person to have. You never wanted anyone to accuse you of being ignorant or apathetic.

Recently I have begun to think differently about ignorance and apathy. In fact I have come to regard ignorance and apathy as badges of honor in some cases. There are a lot of things in this crazy culture and weird world of ours that we should be proud of being ignorant of and apathetic to, especially as Christians.

For example:

We could be a little more apathetic about our Facebook account, and be more accountable to the Good Book.

It’s okay to be ignorant about what CNN, CBS and Fox News have to say, but not about what the apostles Peter, Paul and John have to say.

Apathy is generally good when it comes to Twitter and TikTok, but bad when it comes to Timothy and Titus.

We can be ignorant of what is going on in the wide, wide, world of sports, but need to know what is going on in the world of missions, evangelism and outreach.

It’s not a problem to be apathetic about investing in the stock market, money market funds or real estate but it’s tragic to not care about investing in the poor, oppressed and abused.

Don’t worry about being ignorant of your news feed, but always be intentional about your God Feed.

We can be apathetic to WhatsApp messages and it won’t destroy us; being apathetic to What’s Up with the message of salvation will.

We can all live happy lives being ignorant of what Adele, Eilish and Beiber are doing, but be miserable not knowing what God wants us to do.

It won’t hurt us if we don’t care what blursday, maskne, or walktails are, but it’s definitely detrimental to our well being if we don’t care what atonement, propitiation and redemption are.

Considering these examples, I think we can find reasons to celebrate ignorance and apathy with regards to the things of the world, but should never be apathetic to the things of God and always seek to know our Creator and Savior better.

As Pascal intimates in the quote above, we should all be wary about being unduly knowledgeable in small matters and ignorant in great matters.

Don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. James 4:4

Have you ever thought about King Solomon’s heart? I hadn’t until recently when I was asked to give a talk about Solomon’s errors in life, and what we can learn from them. Ever since then I have been thinking about Solomon’s life, and it is a complicated one.

Growing up I would attend Sunday School, and it seems, at least once a year I would hear the story of Solomon asking God for wisdom, and the teachers would tell us students that it was a wonderful thing that Solomon asked for and that we should be like Solomon and ask God to make us wise.

Considering Solomon’s foolish ways toward the end of his life, one naturally is prone to ask, “Hey Solomon, what happened? You started out wise and ended up a dummy.”

My initial answer to that question, is that when God asked Solomon what he wanted, he should have said he wanted a heart that would be dedicated to God and follow him all the days of his life. While wisdom is important, whole hearted devotion to God is sublime.

The story of Solomon asking God for wisdom is found in two places in the Bible, in 1 Kings 3, and 2 Chronicles 1. I think the Sunday School version is from 2 Chronicles because in verse 10 Solomon specifically says, “Give me wisdom and knowledge that I may lead your people.”

In the 1 Kings account, Solomon doesn’t specifically ask for wisdom. Instead he talks to God about his father David, who had a righteous and upright heart, and then Solomon asks God in verse 9 to “give your servant a discerning heart”. God was pleased with Solomon’s request and responded to him in verse 12 saying, “I will give you a wise and discerning heart.”

Following this encounter with God we see examples of Solomon’s wisdom:

Two women have a dispute over a baby and Solomon says, “Cut the child in two and give half to each women (1 Kings 3:16-27)

He spoke 3,000 proverbs (1 Kings 4:32)

From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom (1 Kings 4:34)

He builds the temple (1 Kings 6)

He dedicates the temple saying, “You keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue whole heartedly in your way.”

Martin Luther said that if someone came knocking on his heart and asked who lived there, he would say, “Not Martin Luther, but the Lord Jesus Christ.” I think that at this point in Solomon’s life, that if we went knock – knocking on the door of Solomon’s heart and asked who lived there, he would say, “Not Solomon, but the Lord God Almighty.”

Let’s fast forward to 1 Kings chapter 11, toward the end of Solomon’s life. Verse 4 tells us that as Solomon grew old, his (700) wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of his father David had been.

The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomom to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. (9,10)

If someone were to knock on Solomon’s heart at this stage of his life, and asked him who lived there, I wonder what the wisest mortal who ever lived would have said. Maybe, “Solomon the mighty lives here.” Or “Solomon the wise” or “Solomon the great”. Whatever it would have been, it would not have been “the Lord God Almighty.”

How tragic. How depressing. How did it happen? It makes me think that if this happened to the wisest person who ever lived, a man that God appeared to twice, what hope is there for me? What hope is there for any of us?

It helps me to consider the words of Jesus from Matthew 18:3-4, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I find it hard to see Solomon taking the lowly position of a child. I find it hard to imagine him humbling himself to serve like Jesus served, or to wash feet like Jesus did. I see his great “wisdom” leading him to be arrogant, haughty and proud, and in the end his Godly wisdom became the wisdom of the world, which as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1 is foolishness. In the end, his heart became hard toward the things of God.

So what about us. What do we say when someone comes knocking on our heart, asking “Who lives here?”

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:9,10

Misty morning – Tlacolula Valley – Mexico

2022 is coming ’round the bend, and you can be sure it is loaded with affliction, anguish, battles, calamity, catastrophe, confusion, difficulties, financial setbacks, family issues, misfortune, obstacles, pandemic, sorrow, spiritual attacks, stress, trials, tribulation, work drama, unexpected loss, vexations and a ton of zabernism (the misuse or abuse of military authority) around the world.

What should we do when we encounter nastiness and unpleasantness? What mindset can help us through frustration and disappointment? How can we remain happy and content amid the turmoil and trouble that we will inevitably encounter in 2022?

Our modern world is full of books, articles, essays, blogs, podcasts, youtubers, conferences and retreats that aim to answer those questions in a myriad of ways. But for me, I found a nugget of truth I plan on hanging onto in 2022, from Thomas Haemmerlein, also known as Thomas a Kempis, that dates back to the 14th century. He wrote in his book The Imitation of Christ, in a chapter called That all troubles are to be endured for the sake of eternal life:

An hour shall come when all labour and confusion shall cease. Little and short is all that passeth away with time….Peace shall come in one day which is known to the Lord; which shall be neither day nor night, but light eternal, infinite clearness, steadfast peace, and undisturbed rest….death will be utterly destroyed, and there shall be salvation which can never fail, no more anxiety, happy delight, sweet and noble society.

Thomas a Kempis is giving us all words to live by and to thrive by when we are going through times of difficulties. He is reminding us to always have in mind a larger perspective and bigger picture than we normally have, especially when events and circumstances are not going our way; are not fitting into our plan. He is telling us to look at life from the vantage point of Eternity. The picture doesn’t get any bigger than that. With that view, everything changes.

With eternity in mind (or our eternal home and heavenly country, as Kempis writes in a later chapter) we can think better and overcome the challenges that sometimes surround us. All pain and suffering eventually become “little and short” and soon pass away, even if they last a lifetime, because a lifetime on earth is but a drop of water in the ocean of eternity.

Compare present turmoil to “steadfast peace, undisturbed rest, no more anxiety, and happy delight” that will endure forever and ever.

We don’t know what 2022 holds for us, but we do know Who holds 2022 – Our loving Heavenly Father! We are his dearly loved children, and he will tenderly care for us, in the coming year and for eternity.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14

This has been A Christmas Carol Christmas season for me. I didn’t go looking for it, but it seems at every turn I have been bumping into it.

It started a couple weeks ago when I was reading an article in Mockingbird by Alison Kjergaard, titled A Christmas Carol and Grace in Practice, which I highly recommend. I was inspired and challenged by it and thought it would be a good jumping off point for a blog post. She focused on the quote above.

Shortly after reading that article I was listening to a Christian podcast about A Christmas Carol (sorry, don’t remember which one). But I do remember listening to the In Our Time podcast with Melvin Brag and his guests who spent 45 minutes talking about Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic. Also the podcast The American Story touched on it. Finally, I read an essay from the Imaginative Conservative by Chuck Chalberg called Christmas Dinner with G.K. Chesterton where he referenced an essay by Chesterton. Chesterton mentioned the “soul of Scrooge and the body of Cratchit”.

After all that, I decided I should gather the family around and watch the movie since I have not seen it for years, and my children never. I forgot how mean and humbuggety Scrooge was throughout the movie and how transformed his life was at the end-a man who ended up keeping Christmas as well as any man alive. I must admit I shed a few tears. Some because of the wonderful change in Ebeneezer Scrooge, and some because of the scroogieness that still dwells within me. I don’t know if it is my culture, nurture or bent nature that occasionally brings out the humbug in me, but I know I don’t like it. I’m still a man in need of a Savior.

The Christmas Carol thing that really got my attention through the Scrooge deluge was the quote above from Jacob Marley which comes toward the beginning of the book and the movie, “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Isn’t that a great line? Especially hard hitting for a lot of us who are more task oriented than people or relationship oriented. Even though I grew up in a Christian home, it seems to me that the task is what was usually front and center in my developing years. My family lived on a farm and there was always pigs to feed, fields to seed and a garden to weed! That was beside regular household chores and schoolwork. Certainly there was love expressed in various ways between the family members, and the message of the love of God was never far off, but what primarily stuck for me was to accomplish the task. Do the business and do it good. Even after Bible college and 16 years of giving of my time, talents and treasure here at the home for needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico, I sometimes forget the reason I am here – charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, and I end up more focused on planting gardens, watering plants, killing bugs and pulling weeds, since I am the gardener.

So, just as Jacob Marley had to give Scrooge the business about what is the true business of life, I have to remind myself that people are more important than projects, relationships are more important than responsibilities, and the well being of my neighbor is more important than the well being of my garden. Loving and helping humanity is my business because it is God’s business.

I think we should all try to be more devoted to making others lives beautiful rather than our own; living the love of God rather than loving the “good life”; tending to souls rather than careers. If we have these attitudes and actions we will enjoy God more and truly glorify him in our lives, families, churches and world.

Truly he taught us to love one another

His law is love and His gospel is peace

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother

And in His name all oppression shall cease

From O Holy Night

Recently I was reading the first chapter of first Peter when a phrase in verse 18 hit me – Empty Way of Life. Peter is telling his readers that now that you are believers you should be holy in all that you do (15) and live in reverent fear of God (17). In verse 18 he reminds them that before they were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, they were living an empty way of life. Those four words – empty way of life – prompted me to begin thinking of our culture and all the people who think their lives are full, but are really empty. Here are a few thoughts for all of us to consider:

If your checking account, savings account and wallet are full of money, but you don’t know the riches of God’s love, your life is empty.

If your Christmas tree of life has been filled with beautiful ornaments like cars, houses, fine furniture, new appliances and electronic gadgets, but you don’t know the Christ of Christmas, your life is empty.

If your time is full of political podcasts, right wing books or left wing propaganda, and you know powerful people in high places, but you haven’t experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, your life is empty.

If you identify as LGBTQ but aren’t the least bit concerned about WWJD, then your life is empty.

If you give lots of money to charity and spend lots of time promoting good causes, but have not received God’s gift of forgiveness, your life is empty.

If you love things, wealth and power, but don’t love God and people, deeply, from the heart (verse 22), then your life is empty.

As is attributed to Pascal, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the creator, made known through Jesus Christ.” Or, perhaps more accurately, “this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself”.

This Christmas season may we make a greater effort to read God’s Word, meditate on his promises, ponder the incredible significance of the baby in the manger, internalize the importance of Emmanuel and thus enjoy truly full lives.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18-19

Second Chronicles 14 begins by reporting that Abijah, king of Judah, had died and that his son, Asa, succeeded him, and that the country was at peace for ten years. That was primarily because “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God.”

Verse eight tells us that he had an army of 580,000 men, from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and that they were well equipped with various types of arms.

That is a nice place to be in life. Living at peace with everyone and secure. Confident. Well off. No worries. If only it could last.

We are informed in 2 Chronicles 14:9 that Zerah the Cushite marched out against them with an army of thousands upon thousands and three hundred chariots as well. The kingdom of Judah was clearly out numbered and in a tight spot.

What was King Asa’s strategy? PRAY! He called out to the LORD his God and said,”LORD, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. LORD, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.”

Life in the kingdom wasn’t so peaceful anymore. King Asa and his subjects were in trouble. King Asa falls to his knees in prayer. Well, like the words in the song Higher, by Unspoken say, “That’s a pretty good place to be.” It can lead to treasure. It can lead to plunder.

Verse 12 – Good News! “The LORD struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah. The Cushites fled, and Asa and his army pursued them as far as Gerar. Such a great number of Cushites fell that they could not recover; they were crushed before the LORD and his forces. The men of Judah carried off a large amount of plunder.”

So there you have it. King Asa and the kingdom of Judah were living in peace, not bothering anyone, just minding their own business. And then the bully Zerah the Cushite decides his own kingdom isn’t enough anymore. He wants King Asa’s kingdom, which isn’t really King Asa’s kingdom, but God Almighty’s kingdom. This time Zerah the Cushite picked on the wrong King and kingdom. Asa prayed and put his trust in the One, True God. God honored his prayer and his trust and not only was the Cushite army destroyed, but Judah ended up with a lot of plunder. That’s a pretty good place to be!

Now I’m not saying that (problems + prayer = plunder) all the time; or that (trials + trust = treasure) in every situation, but it does happen more frequently than you might imagine. Remember the story of Gideon and his 300 men going up against 120,000 Midianites? The Midianites were routed and plundered, with God doing most of the heavy lifting, if you know what I mean. (Judges 7-8) Or how about King Hezekiah and Jerusalem under siege by more than 200,000 soldiers under Sennacherib. Hezekiah prays that God would deliver his people, and “that night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death 185,000 in the Assyrian camp. Sennacherib retreated in haste and his camp was plundered.

It pays to pray and trust God!

I wish I could say that our friend King Asa lived happily ever after, but that is not the case. He stopped praying and trusting God. Toward the end of his life he started trusting in men, and not in God. Hanani, a prophet/seer, confronted Asa, and reminded him of the good ole days when he trusted God. He told Asa that the “eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those who hearts are fully committed to him.” But now that Asa’s heart was committing to foreign nations and looking to them for help; he was under the judgment of the LORD. Asa was angry with Hanani and put him in prison. He also began to brutally oppress some of his people. Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet, but still did not seek help from the LORD. He died two years later. (2 Chronicles 16)

We suffer needlessly when we reject God and rely solely on humans.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5,6

Art work by Elaine Croft

Proverbs 16 gives us some important insight into how our words can help other people. It talks about “gracious words”.

The wise in heart are called discerning and gracious words promote instruction. (21)

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (24)

The definition of gracious is courteous, kind, and pleasant.

According to the author of Proverbs, gracious words do three things: promote instruction, are sweet to the soul and are healing to the bones.

What would be the opposite of gracious words? And what do they do?

The opposite would be cruel words; degrading words; sarcastic words; insulting words. Instead of promoting instruction, these words hinder growth. They are not sweet to the soul like honey, but bitter like gall. They do not promote physical well being, but invite sickness and poor health.

When I think of these two extremes, I think of the art work in the picture above. Gracious words are like roses. They are beautiful and sweet smelling and bring life and happiness to the soul. Harsh or demeaning words are like dry, lifeless, dead bones and benefit no one.

This Advent season I want to be more intentional about my words. I want to put kind, courteous and pleasant words into the spiritual and emotional Christmas stockings of those I come in contact with – my family, friends, co-workers and even complete strangers. I want my words to be sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Perhaps we can all take Mother Teresa’s advice and speak kind words into our world, and then step back and listen to the endless echoes.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their need, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.