Drown It in the Light

I love watching sunrise and sunset. I have to admit, I’ve seen far more sunsets because I’m usually not up that early, however, I now leave my house as the sun rises. This morning, there was fog hanging in the air and beams of light were pouring through from a deep orange sunshine. All around the sun were these beautiful pinks and purples weaving in and out of the clouds. And one of my favorite verses came to mind:

 

 

“But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings…” Malachi 4:2a

 

There are so, so many things that battle for our attention—for our hearts—day in and day out. It is incredibly easy to give in to distraction, and that’s where we get caught. When we remove our focus from above, from the Lord, we turn down a curvy, bumpy road filled with potholes.

Jesus promised that we would have difficult times in life, but He also said, “Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33). There is darkness in this world. I know that; I’ve experienced too much pain to be naïve to his presence. But hear this: as long as there is darkness, there will always be a Light to drive it out. We do not have to live in fear, shame, guilt, doubt, confusion or bitterness—we traded those in at the cross and received a new life. Jesus took on all of those things at the cross and put them to death.

 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.”

2 Corinthians 5:17

 

But you and I, let’s be honest, we try to resurrect what He’s buried. And we’re not supposed to do that, so it’s even more painful the second time around, right (Acts 10:15)? God designed life to be beautiful, but we’ve messed up our world with sin. Life still has a whole lot of beauty, but when we keep dragging our dirt back down in front of us, it’s really hard to see. Sometimes, those negative things even block our view of God. But please know, God has not left you and He never will.

 

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.”

1 Corinthians 10:13

 

“Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us…” Ephesians 3:20

 

There is nothing that God cannot handle. Life will be tough, but God will always provide a way of escape. I know the verse above is talking about temptation, but it so applies to difficult circumstances. God always provides rest or a break, even if He doesn’t remove you from the situation.

Going back to Micah 4:2, sin breaks us, and you and I are in desperate need of healing. So, know that the Lord can heal you. He has the power to bring you out, the strength to sustain you, and the love to uplift you while you’re still walking through your trial. His righteousness is light, and it breaks up the darkness within us.

I also really love the end of Micah 4:2. The analogy might sound a little comical to us today, but I think you’ll get the point. When the Lord sets you free from carrying the your burdens on your own shoulders, and lights the darkness before you—you’ll feel lighter, happier, your strength and joy renewed.

 

 

“…and you will go out and playfully jump like calves from the stall.”

Micah 4:2b

 

Have you ever seen a calf or a foal when he’s released from the stall after a long night’s sleep? They almost bounce around. So, leap, sing, laugh, and be playful–that’s what joy renewed will make you do.

 

So, how do you get rid of darkness? You drown it in the Light.

 

Journal Questions:

  1. Write down a few ways, as many as you can come up with, to fight darkness or sadness when it arises.
  2. What does healing mean for you? In other words, what areas in your life need healing?
  3. What are the things Christ buried that you keep digging back up? Let’s put them back where they belong. How can we keep them there?

 

 

 

 

 

Hush Now

What’s so great about quiet? Come on, as a woman, I know we use an average of 20,000 words per day and our friends probably talk just as much. But people in general almost have an obsession with words—needing to speak and wanting to be heard. We always feel like we have to say something, but do we? What happens when the words from our mouths run right over the words in our hearts? And how on earth can we hear what God has to say when our own words take away so many of our thoughts?

Why is it that Moses spent time as a shepherd in the wilderness before God asked him to lead the Israelites (Exodus 2-3)? What made John the Baptist stay in the wilderness, eating locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:1-11)? Why did Paul spend three years in Arabia and Damascus before really digging in to his ministry (Galatians 1:17-18)? These men were leaders, and they certainly had a lot of words to say. But they listened, too, just as often as they spoke, if not more. Moses, John and Paul all had great ministries, but they built those on what they knew of God. And who knew God better than His own Son? And guess what? Jesus often went off alone to pray (Matthew 26:36, Mark 1:35, Mark 14:32, Luke 6:12).

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

Luke 5:16

Jesus went off alone, mostly away from people and all sorts of distractions, and He just spent time with His Father. Living a life filled with His peace requires living like Him. “But, Stephanie, they just didn’t have all the distractions we have today,” you might say. Jesus still had plenty of distractions; He just didn’t allow them to distract Him. He knew His purpose. He knew that He needed to stay in constant communication with His Father about His mission and the people given into His hands.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him.”

Colossians 2:6

 

Quiet, peace, and prayer form a wonderful trio, which is abundantly helpful in everyday life.

“Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”

1 John 2:6

Mondays can be messy—if you let them—and boy, was I letting my Monday be messy this week. I was 30 minutes late to work and I forgot to eat breakfast. I love food, so you know it’s bad when I forget to eat—I was a bit ruffled. Silly, I know. But it happened. Have you ever had days like that? Not very peaceful, huh?

But that’s not the point—what happened during my drive to work, is really what brought on this lesson. I love music and I’m sleepy driving into work at six in the morning. My radio is almost always playing. But that morning, I was so stressed out that every little note of country twang grated on my nerves. So I pushed the power button, with every ounce of frustration I had left, and exhaled.

I said, “God, what on earth am I doing here? I mean, I know why I’m here, Lord. But what am I doing with my life? Why am I doing this to myself? I’m sorry for being so difficult, Lord. I want is to see more of You, to breathe in Your presence and breathe out my irritability, anxiousness, anger, and frustration. I want peace.”

I shook my head at myself. Inhale. Exhale. The sun is rising above the clouds on a misty morning. Breathe in. Breathe out. There’s beauty all around me. That’s where I found peace—in the quiet place, where I cut out the noise—I told God how I felt, that I was thankful for His beauty and then I just listened.

I’ve felt a little out of balance for a few weeks. I’ve wanted to grow closer with God, instead I seemed to be walking further and further away—closer to my distractions and further from His peace.

Have you ever been there? I think I needed the quiet, but all I felt was stress. In the end, on my messy Monday, God met me right where I was.

God often uses our stresses, failures, and anxiety to show us just how much we need the quiet that comes from living in His presence. And it isn’t natural or easy to be quiet, as much as we want peace, we have to make ourselves sit still—and the hardest part—be alone, be quiet and let our hearts be vulnerable with our Lord.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Philippians 4:6

As difficult as they are to create, those quiet moments prepare us for the day, and ultimately, for the rest of our lives. The more we can get away and be alone with Jesus, the more we become like Him and become more focused on our purpose of leading others to Him. And that’s really the goal isn’t it? So—hush, now—find your quiet place, shut down, and sit quietly in His presence.

“Come near to God and he will come near to you.”

James 4:8

 

Journal Questions:

  1. What can you do to cut out the noise?
  2. Where do you go when you want to be alone? Where do you go to pray? What can you do to make sure you have time to get there today?
  3. How does your quiet time prepare you for the day ahead?
  4. When you have more quiet in your life, what do you notice about the quality of your life?
  5. How does quiet affect your relationship with Jesus? With others?

Return and Rest

“You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence.” Isaiah 30:15

 

When it comes to shopping ‘til you drop, running yourself ragged, or playing your heart out—I’m one of the worst. There’s something to be said for perseverance, dedication, and passion but what about rest? Be honest y’all, you feel like life just never stops moving, right? Well that’s because it doesn’t. Life is always changing. And I know, I know—you don’t want to miss out on anything. I get it, I’m right there with you. But I’m starting to miss out on rest instead and not just physical rest; I miss the resting in God’s presence. Just being still and being with Him.

Can you tell a difference when you haven’t rested, really rested, in a while? I don’t think we realize just how much we’re fighting against on a daily basis and how much those battles drain us. Spiritual weariness affects every single part of our lives. So we’re going to take a few deep breaths and just relax in God’s presence. Ready? Okay. Now, let’s take a look at Isaiah 30:15 in depth. We’ll be doing a word study of the terms in bold.

 

What does it mean to be…

 

Delivered>

What do you think it means to be delivered?

  • Saved, rescued, defended, victorious
  • This can mean that God delivers you from your sin, from an ongoing problem or from a person depending on the context.
  • More Scripture: Philippians 1:6 (highlight the word: completion), Ephesians 2:8-9 (highlight the words: grace, saved, faith, gift of God); Psalm 34:6 (highlight the word: saved); Psalm 80:7 (highlight the words: restore, saved); Jeremiah 17:14 (highlight the words: heal, healed, save, saved); Romans 5:10 (highlight the words: reconciled, saved); Job 33:28 (highlight the words: delivered, live to enjoy); Psalm 34:4 (highlight the words: I sought, he delivered); John 3:16 (highlight the words: so loved, He gave, believes, everlasting life)
  • Journal Question: How has God delivered you?

 

Return>

  • Retire, withdraw, repent
  • This means to go back to what you first believed; your behavior will change because of that belief.
  • More Scripture: Isaiah 45:22 (highlight the words: return, saved); Jeremiah 4:14 (highlight the words: wash, saved); Titus 3:5 (highlight the words: saved, rebirth, renewal); Hosea 14:1-2 (highlight the words: return, take words, forgive, receive us—also read verse 4 for God’s answer); 1 Peter 2:25 (highlight the word: returned); Acts 2:38 (highlight the word: repent); Acts 3:19 (highlight the words: repent, turn, wiped out, refreshing); 2 Corinthians 7:10 (repentance, salvation, no regret)
  • Journal Question: What do you need to do to return to God? What beliefs do you need to reset? What things do you need to confess?

 

Rest>

  • Quietness, descent, better, go down
  • This is often described as a falling motion of an arm, something that comes down but not necessarily in linear motion.
  • More Scripture: Exodus 14:14 (Highlight the words: be still), John 10:9 (highlight the words: saved, come in, find pasture); Psalm 23 (highlight: still waters, green pastures, refreshes my soul); Psalm 46:10 (highlight the words: be still); Psalm 16:9 (highlight the words: rest secure)
  • Journal Question: How can you make yourself lie down and be still enough to listen to God? When can you make time during the day to just sit and talk with Him and listen to Him?

 

To have…

Strength>

  • Force, mastery, might, valor, bravery.
  • This means to be strong, to have power, in comparison to others. Because of this a sense of awe is often given to the person holding such power.
  • More scripture: 2 Timothy 1:7 (highlight the words: God, given, and power), Isaiah 41:10 (highlight the words: do not fear, I will strengthen, I will uphold); Isaiah 40:29 (highlight the words: gives strength, increases the power); Psalm 18:32 (highlight the entire verse J ); Acts 1:8 (again, highlight the whole verse)
  • Journal Question: Who doesn’t want strength? What are some things you need the strength of God to accomplish?

 

Quiet Confidence>

  • Quiet> undisturbed, at peace, okay in any circumstance, implying ease, security and satisfaction. Does not imply tumult or strife. Inaction. Attitude of patience.
  • Confidence> trust, faith, belief in something as true or trustworthy.
  • Basically these two words together> unshakable faith even in the midst of trials and things that would make anyone angry.
  • More Scripture: Romans 8:28 (Highlight the word: good); 2 Corinthians 9:8 (Highlight the words: abundantly, good works); Psalm 37:7-9 (highlight the words: be still, wait patiently, do not fret, refrain, hope in the LORD); Romans 8:24-25 (highlight the words: hope, saved); Matthew 10:22 (highlight the words: hated, stands firm, saved); Hebrews 6:19 (highlight the words: hope, anchor, firm, secure);
  • Journal Question: What can you do to build your faith? How has God already strengthened your faith or helped you feel secure?

 

I know your highlighters have been busy and your brain probably feels like it’s about to explode. And the best part—this is not all of the scripture for any of these words. God is so much bigger than all I could fit on these pages, and much more than we will ever know. And, you know, He has grace just as big to restore us to Him and give us rest, strengthen our faith and help us to feel more secure in Him. Amazing, right? I just want to challenge you this week to find some time to rest, to talk to God quietly and uninterrupted, allowing Him to restore your belief.

 

Where He Lives

photoDo You live among our prayers? I can just imagine, all  of these prayers–words and feelings too deep for us to express–surging around You. But You’re not stressed. You’re smiling. Not that You need me to talk to You or need my many, many words or even need my prayers, but I believe You want me to talk to You. Cry. Be silent and let my soul speak to you on a level that I just can’t quite reach.

Out of this crazy, amazing love You have for me, You invite me into Your dwelling place–the very place where You live. You call me into the richest palace–Your own heart. You don’t shut me out of Your heart as I sometimes try to do to You. You draw me in, Your love like the strongest magnet. You bring me into the most intimate place I can possibly be–where Your heart and my heart meet. Where my soul can rest in Your presence.

Just like my best friend here, sometimes, You and I just sit and enjoy being together. I don’t need music, or words, or loud thoughts bouncing around in my head–and You know that–so You fill me with indescribable peace. And we just sit. You make me know that this is where I belong–in Your palace, in Your presence, learning to connect with Your heart.

But there are days, so many days, where I need to talk or cry or scream and let it all out. And You let me. You already know, but Your love compels me to share my heart anyway. Your arms are big enough to wrap around my sob shaken shoulders, my wildest dreams, my deepest pain, my waning hope and my joyful laughter, and still hold me together. You remind me that all of my mess will work together for something beautiful. But I think, the most beautiful thing of all is that I’m here. And I’m here with You.

A Promise Is A Promise

If you’ve ever been to church, chances are you’ve heard the word “covenant”. Right? There’s the covenant God made with Abraham, the Ark of the Covenant, the Mosaic covenant, the Davidic covenant, and the New Covenant. Looking at those names in a list kind of makes your head spin, doesn’t it? So, what does it all mean? What is a covenant? Get out your Bibles, notebooks, pens and highlighters, because you and I are going to break this down together.

 

First things first, what is a covenant?

  • A solemn (serious, sincere, firm) promise between two parties, where one promises to serve the other in some way.
  • A covenant has specific terms.
  • A covenant is binding (comes from the Hebrew word meaning “to bind”).
  • In the Old Testament the shedding of blood—a sacrifice—signified a covenant. Blood demonstrated authenticity, that a covenant was secure, or the real deal. It also represented a vow, which if broken, was punishable by death.

 

What was the first covenant?

Most people think of the word “covenant” and say that the first covenant was between Abraham and God. But, looking at the definition above, what do you think?

 

We actually need to look back just a little further, okay a lot further.

 

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:9-10

 

“In the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.” Titus 1:2

 

Did you catch that? God the Father and God the Son (Jesus) made a covenant together that Jesus would come to earth as the Father’s grace-in-real-life. What do you see promised here? Think specifics—grace and the hope of eternal life. Let that sink in for a minute. You and I were promised grace and the hope of eternal life before the beginning of time. I want you to take a second and just sit here. Plant yourself in this truth, and let God’s word act as a balm for your soul. Allow these words to bring healing and hope to your heart as you write about the things God’s teaching to you.

 

Here are a couple of questions to help you get started.

1. How do you feel about God, His grace and His salvation after reading this?

2. What does it mean to you that Christ still came for you; knowing what would lie ahead, well before it happened?

 

Can you imagine? Jesus loves you so much that He still came for you after knowing from the beginning of time the pain He would feel, the rejection He would experience and the death He would die. Forever is a really long time to sit on that kind of knowledge; yet He didn’t back out.

After that first covenant, we messed up; we started in the Garden of Eden and are still going strong today. Here’s an overview of the covenants made between God and Man.

  1. God promised Adam and Eve that their seed would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).
  2. God promised Noah that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood (Genesis 9:9-17).
  3. God promised Abraham to make his descendants as numerous as the stars and that He would bless ALL people through him (Genesis 12:1-3, 15:4-6). God also repeated His promise to Abraham in Genesis 22:18.
  4. God promised to protect the Israelites and to rule over them with benevolence if they kept His laws. This is also called the Mosaic covenant (Exodus 19:5). This made Israel distinct, set apart, as God’s people.
  5. God promised David to establish his kingdom forever (2 Samuel 7:1-17, 23:1-5).

 

And then there’s the covenant of all covenants—the New Covenant.

 

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. 
“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:33-34

 

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:26-27

                       

“But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another… By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” Hebrews 6:6-7, 13

 

“But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here,he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtainingeternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 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! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” Hebrews 9:11-15

Christ came to fulfill the law given in the Mosaic covenant—the Ten Commandments—so that we could have eternal life with God. No more sacrificing bulls and goats. Jesus’ blood paid it all. His blood is eternal. Eternal means forever, never ending, going on and on and on, perpetual. Everything about the New Covenant has already been fulfilled except for Christ’s return.

 

What is His promise worth?

For us, keeping promises isn’t always easy. Life gets busy—we get caught up in work, family, friends, etc—and we sometimes fall through on our word. Oh, certainly you and I meant well, but we got busy living day-to-day life. Occasionally, we forget the promises we made and other times we just push them so far off to the side that we eventually forget they exist. And people do the same thing to us, right? In a world stuffed full of mess, it’s hard to know who to trust. It’s hard to know what a word is really worth.

But God has kept His promises. He ALWAYS keeps His promises. He has proven faithful over and over again. Still, somehow, there’s this little pinch of doubt that creases our brows with worry when things go wrong. You and I have a tendency to lift our eyes and our shoulders toward the sky and say, “God, where are you? Why have you left me?”

 

But He hasn’t. He promised us we’d never be alone.

 

 

“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5

 

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

 

And this New Covenant, means He is with us eternally. But in our busyness, in the crazy, hectic lives we live, we forget. We forget how big and how real He is. We forget that He is not just God above, but that He is God with us (Matt. 1:23, John 1:14). When things get really tough, when you and I think we’ve reached the end of our ropes and there’s nowhere else to go—He is there.

 

Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods.” 2 Kings 17:38

 

Let’s stop giving into our fears and our worries, and instead give in to our hope. He is our Hope—our God—our Promise Keeper.

 

Journal Question:

Think it through. Look back at your life. God never really left you, did He? Write about a time when He really showed you that He was Promise Keeper, that He would not let you drown. Then spend some time giving thanks.

Revealing the Broken

Have you ever seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy? I am telling on myself a little bit here, but I love those movies. They all have really epic battle scenes, but particularly in the final movie. These huge animals, that look like a cross between rhinos and lizards, carry in catapults. But these are no normal catapults—they’re huge. The army did not just load stones into their catapults, they slung boulders.

Think about the damage that caused, the evil army took out sections of wall at a time. Parts of the wall completely crumbled when those gigantic stones smashed into the surface. Now, imagine how long it would take to repair the walls to such a fortress. Nehemiah knew just what that was like. He learned of Jerusalem’s destruction—heard that the walls were broken.

We know that Nehemiah eventually went to fix the walls but there is a gap between the moment he finds out and his first step back to Jerusalem. During that time, what was the state of the wall? How well did it protect those it surrounded? The soldiers probably had their work cut out for them in trying to help everyone feel safe within the city’s broken walls. Nonetheless, the walls had crumbled and needed rebuilding.

When we trusted the Lord as our guide, took our torches and explored the deepest, darkest pains of our past; you and I finally reached our breaking points and saw our need for change. Right now, feeling a little discouraged is completely normal. But, y’all, I’ll be honest—we are only getting started. Do not think that trusting God removes the devil from your life. On the contrary, it angers him and he will come after you stronger and faster than ever. Seriously, we need to prepare for some rough stuff ahead.

I know, I am really winning a lot of fans here. Working our way through this, girls, it is already tough—already so far over my head that I feel like I cannot breathe. Are you tracking with me? I feel a little like a broken toy; useless and discarded. I let go of a lot of my past, some things that used to define me, I had to redefine me. But redefining takes time. For a little while I stayed still, in God’s presence, awash in His light. Yes, I could still see my mistakes, I could still see my pain, but they were covered by gold-like grace.

As we were reading through Isaiah 58, my friend said, “ You know, I love the thought that God can take the darkest parts of me and turn them into the brightest parts of my testimony.” Wow. What an awesome thought! If that does not put a whole lot of hope in your heart—you might be missing the point. You did not go through all of that junk without reason. God can still use you.

 

Scripture for Our Study

1 Samuel 16:7

But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the Lord sees,for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.”

 

  • Remember that the heart is the center of a person, the core, will and desires. God looks there. He doesn’t label us by appearances. He knows what’s in the deepest parts of us, in our heart and soul. No other label even counts.

 

Psalm 142:1-3a, 6-7a

“I cry aloud to the Lord; I plead aloud to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before Him; I reveal my trouble to Him. Although my spirit is weak within me, You know my way…Listen to my cry, for I am very weak. Rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Free me from prison so that I can praise Your name.”

  • The Hebrew word for cry, here, is zaeph and it means a cry that comes from anguish. A pouring out of the soul. A pleading with God. And in this time David shed (Hebrew word shaphakh) his fears before the Lord. He became completely open and vulnerable.
  • How often do you even look within yourself? Better yet, how often do you pour out your secret thoughts to the Lord—those thoughts that would sound “incriminating” or guilt inciting if you were to speak them aloud to someone?
  • Why is it important to pour all of these things out to the Lord?

 

Philippians 3:13-14

“13 Brothers, I do notconsider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”

  •  Paul didn’t mean that he didn’t remember what he did or what happened to him, but (I imagine in light of God’s grace) he simply left it behind. Left it in the dust. Paul no longer cared for it. Instead, Paul was forward focused. He stretched himself away from his past and reached forward toward the goal at the end which is heaven and spiritual maturity.

 

Philippians 4:6

“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

  • “Don’t worry” here means stop being anxious. Easier said that done, right? How do you take your mind off of the pain or the person who hurt you long enough to pray for them?

 

  • Honestly, how in the world do you make yourself thank God for anything when you’re hurting, let alone come to Him completely in a spirit of thankfulness?

 

What are you afraid of bringing to the light? And what would be the worst possible outcome—what’s the reason you’re afraid? Usually, this includes some kind of reaction by another person.

 

Take a few minutes and pray. Ask the Lord to really reveal these areas of hurt to you—to journey with you as you take light to the darkest parts of your heart.

IMG_3595You are beautiful. Lovely. Amazing. Your eyes, your hair—all of you—is breathtaking (Song of Songs 4:7). God isn’t in the business of ugly, less than or too much.

He created a magnificent work of art when He painted your face and stitched together your character (Genesis 1:27). Not only did He form you brilliantly on the outside, He crafted a beautiful soul for you.

Each soul and each body, though captivating, is very different. And they should be! God designed each of you for a unique role to play in bringing Him glory and helping others see His love.

But we just can’t help ourselves, can we? As a woman, you have to play the game of comparisons. Don’t try to pretend like you have no idea what I’m talking about. As a woman I’m walking this line with you—I compare myself all the time. We say things like:

 

“I wish I had curly hair like Sonya!”

 

“I would love to be more like Andrea. She’s sweet, she’s funny and she has such a cute laugh. Everyone loves her.”

 

“Good grief! Jennifer just had a baby and still looks like she just stepped off the cover of Vogue! I go to the gym everyday and don’t come close to being in THAT kind of shape.”

 

“I wish I could learn to talk less and listen more, then maybe people would like me as much as they like Renee.”

 

 

I want to get real with you for a minute. Please don’t think I’m coming down on you. I’m talking just as much to myself. You and I compare ourselves until we’re sick of ourselves. And what do you do when you become fed up with being you? You try to become someone else. You try to become a woman you weren’t supposed to be. The funny thing is, you will always fall short of trying to fill a role that was not designed for you. Only she can play her part and only you can play your part.

Somewhere along the way, we lose interest in other women as women. We see them as some unreachable, perfect standard. We envy what she has or what she doesn’t have. We think about her status, beauty or personality as a goal to achieve and she somehow becomes less human in our eyes. She’s just another goal to conquer. We lose the desire to even talk to her or try to befriend her. It’s so much easier just to talk about her or to tear her down in your own mind, is it not?

This is sad isn’t it? That you and I can’t simply appreciate each other as women, created out of God’s beauty. We don’t always know how to love each other and we don’t always know how to embrace our differences instead of letting them build up walls between us.

And ladies, we already have so much to fight off in this world. Can we just go ahead and say how crazy it is that we waste our time and energy on fighting each other when the real enemy is Satan, the one who put these crazy ideas in front of us anyway?

Through this week’s study I hope that we can learn to stand together. You and I have to learn to embrace who we are (and who we are not) and love her for everything she is (and everything she is not)—only then will we be able to function as more than just woman. We will be able to stand united as women—a vital part of the church as the body of Christ—and take a stand against the lies of Satan. He tells us we’re not enough, that we should be more like her or that we’re just too much for anyone to handle, or the biggest lie of all—God could never use a woman like you.

I’m so ready to stop listening to his nonsense. I’m tired of comparing myself, when I’m doomed to fall short. I want to learn to embrace the woman God created me to be and the women God gifted in the world around me. How about you?

 

Here are four things I believe we can do to help us love our Lord, ourselves, each other and the whole world.

 

Embrace His Love

 

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17

‘“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”’ John 8:3-11

“walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:2

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

 

Embrace Your Beauty

 

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

‘But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”’ 1 Samuel 16:7

 “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come…Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:25, 30

 

 

Embrace Your Role

 

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:3-8

 

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” Acts 17:26

 

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

 

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Ephesians 4:1-16

 

Embrace Each Other

 

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” 1 Peter 3:8

 “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” 1 Timothy 4:4

 “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27

 “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8

 

Ladies, none of us is perfect (Romans 3:23, 3:10). We each have our flaws, things we wish we could change, things we want to do better. So embrace yourself—beauty, need-to-fix-its and all—and we will be capable of embracing each other. Even those women, who seem to have it all together, or just seem to have it all, need Christ.

We are all together in that. We need Him. We need His love to rescue us. And we need each other. We need support and encouragement and love. What would happen if we started building each other up instead of tearing each other down? Embracing our differences instead of embracing bitter jealousy? Working together to stand up against Satan’s lies instead of working against each other and giving them wings?

We have to stop discounting our spiritual strength just because we are women. We need to embrace it. And fight. When we fight Satan’s lies together instead of fighting each other—we win.

Embracing Me

Even When it Hurts

“Stephanie, your head knows what your heart knows—there’s just a disconnect along the way. Your mind developed protective measures when your heart was broken. So every time your heart tries to feel what it knows, your mind cuts it off. Something in the back of your mind screams, ‘You’re crazy. You can’t go there again. People only hurt you when you let them in.’ But your heart was made to love. Not to give in to cynicism or mistrust. If you don’t make that connection, you’re going to dive into and crawl out of depression for the rest of your life.”

 

The rest of your life. I decided, right then, that I would move forward no matter how many backward steps I took in the process. My friend was right. When my heart started to feel, tried to drop its defenses or started learning to love—fear crept into my mind and those feelings were immediately shut down. Trust me, that’s not life. Not the kind you want to live anyway. And I lived that way for over 13 years.

13 years is too long. Honestly, one day is one day too many to live only half of a life. Even when I finally decided it wasn’t a good idea to keep my pain bottled up inside, even when I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had, even when I moved to a smaller town with a slower pace, even though I was surrounded by a family, friends, and a church that loved me—things didn’t get any easier. The issue went much deeper than that. I cried, “Lord, why? I want to feel something other than pain. I want to let love in and pour love out. Lord, show me…please show me what I’m missing.”

I’ve prayed that prayer for over a year now. Bit by bit and day-by-day, He prepared my heart for his answer. He started by showing my heart how to fall completely in love with him and that I was “dearly loved” (Colossians 3:12) by Him. He healed some past relationships with the kind of forgiveness only possible through His love. He began helping me to see people the way He sees them, at least as much as I could.

Then a few weeks ago, I felt the need to pray for someone else. I mean the kind of need where I had to drop everything I was doing because I couldn’t even remember what that was. What started as a gentle nudge deep in my soul, grew into an intense longing to talk to Jesus on behalf of this person. I have never felt anything that deeply or known so clearly what I needed to do. I thought—Why me? Why them? Why tonight? Lord, this is crazy. I still don’t know the answers to those questions and I still feel a little crazy. Maybe I’ll never find out and I’ll always feel crazy. Who knows? But sometime during that prayer my heart received its final blow and it cracked open as the tears flowed.

For the first time, I saw this person differently. I didn’t see what they’d done or were doing. I only saw a broken heart, just like mine, that took a difficult road and was in desperate need of healing—even if they don’t know it yet. I know the signs because I’ve been there. I’ve been down a road where nothing I tried seemed to help. I shut people out. I let no pain escape my heart. I ran from the love of my Savior. Nothing was enough. No one was enough. I was not enough—and you see that was the core issue, really.

I don’t know how long I sat there. I didn’t even know I was crying until I looked at the pillow in front of me and saw little teardrop patterns dotting the fabric. And seriously, that crazy saying “it hurt so good” actually made sense. Feeling pain for another person cut deep—it hurt. But I had this incredible joy because I also knew I was loved. God fought for me. He didn’t just help me tear down that wall—He demolished it with His grace and started rebuilding my heart with His love. And I was able to really pour that love out on someone else by fighting for them through prayer. But I don’t want you to see what I did–I want you to see what God taught me through this experience, so I’d like to share my journal entry from that night:

 

Love was poured out on the cross and poured into my heart. And you know, for a long time I only saw the beauty of that day—the picture of my Lord and Savoir dying on a cross so that I could have a chance at eternal freedom, love, and protection. I think I liked to focus only on the love in that sacrifice rather than the pain. I focused on the resurrection instead of the blood pouring over scarred wood and tarnished nails. I saw Him breathing words of forgiveness to the criminal next to Him instead of struggling for breath as He hung there dying. I felt His love poured out and into my heart, but I failed to remember the blood and water that poured from His side when they pierced Him. I remember that as the day He turned my life around, but it was also the day that held the moment His own Father turned away from the sin He became. I saw one side of His sacrifice, now I’m seeing another…

Have you ever heard someone say, ‘I love him so much it hurts?’ I have. If not in real life, then certainly in a movie or two. I used to think it was a very dramatic statement to say you loved someone so much you felt physical pain. I was too much of a realist and cynic to think of that as intelligent, but now I’m not so sure. You’d think after so many years of being a Christian, I would already understand this concept, but no, I’m not a Wonder-woman Christian. I am just me. Just Stephanie. And I am still learning.

Tonight, I learned that loving someone so much it hurts, really is dramatic. But nothing Jesus did could or should be considered ordinary and He set the example. Everything that happened on the cross inflicted pain we can’t even begin to imagine—but He went through with it because of love. Jesus understands in every way possible just how possible it is to love someone so much it hurts. So if you understand this feeling, like you’ve been twisted in a knot, wrung dry and hung upside down a time or two—then you’re in good company.            

I have prayed ‘Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours’ more times than I can count, but I don’t think I ever expected God to answer. Nor did I expect to physically feel like my heart was breaking when He did… I’ve never felt the urge to pray through the tears until I became physically sick. But tonight, I did.

The thing is, I wasn’t disgusted over what they were talking about or doing—I was hurting because I know they’re empty even if they don’t know it yet. Even though the truth is, they probably know it deep down and either don’t know how to change it or just don’t want to. And by the time they figure it out, I’m scared to think that it might be too late for them. Fear and pain coupled with God’s love and compassion wear down the walls around your heart pretty quickly. I don’t know exactly how God created this change in my thinking. I don’t know if it was a particular person or situation or just a whole bunch of little enlightenments coming together to create one big epiphany. And as I sit here sipping a coke, trying to get my stomach to feel normal or try to lay down and get some sleep without the tears starting again—I can only tell you what I couldn’t tell you before tonight—loving others who might not love you back or may not understand your love is totally worth the pain.

I may not have expressed my own hurt or rebellion in the typical way—I pretended well enough in public and I didn’t act out. I was a good student, tried to be a good friend, I was even really involved in my youth group. But sometimes those are the best hiding places—the ones in plain view. Because then, no one really knows. They think you’re fine or they just don’t care enough to ask. I remember thinking that was okay because I didn’t want to open up to anyone anyway.

But then there are those who unfortunately get caught in the crossfire. So I have to say my family—wow. I don’t really know what to say other than I’m sorry I didn’t really let you in. And I’m sorry that when I did let my pain out, I fully directed it toward you. And you had no idea what you’d done. The truth is, you didn’t do anything. You just loved me when I wanted to be unlovable because that’s how I felt. So, then I’ll say thank you. Thank you for loving me through it.

And those friends who pushed me to really look at myself, to appreciate the woman God made—thank you. Everyone needs someone like you. I’ll never forget that. God used all of you to change my life. I pray that He’ll use me to do the same for someone else.

You see, mainly my family and these friends—God used them to start preparing my heart, even then, to see how love and pain mixed. Phew, I certainly had to be a pain to love then. I still have my moments, I know. But the thing is, Jesus understood. The whole time he understood what it was like to be me. He understood the pain. He understood what it was like to love people who didn’t love him back. But He loved anyway. He loved in spite of the pain and in some cases, like mine, loved the pain away.

He understood and He still understands. He loved and He still loves. No matter what. I just missed that cue somehow; for years I just didn’t get it. But now I’m starting to see. I know I won’t love perfectly. But because He is love and He chose me–I choose to live and I choose to love.

Even when it hurts.

A Long Road Ahead

Did you know it’s actually healthier to eat something before doing physical activity? Should you down two plates of nachos and cheese? An entire plate of cookies? No, probably not. But something like an apple or a banana or an egg will sustain your energy well enough to get you through a good workout and actually causes your body to burn more calories. So while you might think food would cause you to be less active, and you can be certain the wrong kind of food will make you sluggish, it’s really quite the opposite. Healthy eating before a workout helps you achieve the desired effect in both the long and short term.
But seriously, what does eating healthy and working out have to do with the Bible? I want you to read all of 1 Kings 19, but let’s take a second and focus on these few verses:

“Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.”
1 Kings 19:5-9

Take a look at your life—the journey is long. And the journey is “too much for you”. You need to wake up and eat before you can try to go on. Think about it. People will come and go. There will be smiles and laughter; there will be tears and anger. You will walk through some places where you feel completely alone. There will be times when you stand in a crowded room waiting for the moment you can escape to some quiet place. But you have to keep moving in life. Time won’t let us stand still. Your journey is long. Your journey will be too much for you. But you don’t have to travel hungry and you don’t have to travel alone.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Matthew 4:4

Prepare yourself for life with the word of God. The words and the knowledge that settle inside your heart will come out in your speech and actions when life squeezes tight. Let His word settle–make its home–deep within your soul. When things get rough, anchor your hope there—where the Word lives. Where Jesus Christ took up residence when you asked Him to turn your life around. Feed your heart with His words, so that as you journey, even if you grow tired you do not faint (Isaiah 40:28-31).

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2:3-4

When you exercise your body, you have to increase your understanding of how the muscles work and bump up your workout intensity—building each day on the next—to continue getting in shape and growing muscle. Growing your spiritual muscle, as it says here growing up your salvation, simply means getting closer to the Lord and becoming more like Christ day in and day out. Crave that intense intimacy with God, where His word becomes your main spiritual food source and sustains you, as you walk through life.

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Isaiah 55:2

Even though I work out a lot, I still have to be careful not to give in to every food craving I have. I really love sweets—especially brownies and chocolate chip cookies. If those two foods were good for me, I’d probably eat them with every meal. But they aren’t. Now, I can certainly have them every now and then, and it won’t negatively affect my health because my diet is grounded in solid nutrition (at least foods that are more nutritious than cookies). Sometimes, it’s so hard not to want to eat things that are bad for my body.
​Spiritually, when we fill ourselves with things other than the word of the Lord, we live in danger of feeding on things that aren’t necessarily bad for us, but aren’t the best source of fulfillment. For example, daily devotional books and books on Christian living are by no means bad (when they’re Biblically based—always, always refer to the Bible to make sure your book or devotional lines up) but when they replace the word of God in our lives—they become more like spiritual cookies. Tasty, delicious, and great assets to growing in spiritual topics we don’t understand, but only okay in moderation with a walk based in a healthy relationship with the Lord Jesus. He is our source of fulfillment, the other things are just, well, dessert.

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
John 6:51

The more we feed on (study) the word of God and the closer we grow with Jesus, the more fulfilling life becomes. The journey is still just as long. The journey is still too much for us. Alone. But when we journey through life with Christ, sustained by His word and breathing in His presence—we will know Him and there our souls will find rest. Go back to 1 Kings 19:9. As soon as Elijah completed his journey—walking 40 days and 40 nights, climbing to wherever this cave was on Mt. Horeb—he rested. Then after asking Elijah what He was doing there and listening to Elijah’s response, the Lord asked Him to stand in His presence. Then…

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

1 Kings 19:11-13

After Elijah’s long journey and a little rest, God met him right where he was. He first spoke to Elijah in the cave and then asked him the same question after he walked out onto the mountain. I love that. Even when we’ve tried to stay with God, filling ourselves up on His word and praying for Him to sustain us, we will still have a few missteps along the way. But God isn’t done with us. In spite of our mistakes, He still meets us in our darkest moments.
But one of the other things I really like about this passage is that Elijah knew exactly when to go out on the mountain. If you notice, we’re not even told that the gentle whisper was God’s presence; Elijah just walked out on the mountain. He just knew. Elijah journeyed with God enough to know that He was not in the strong wind, earthquake or the fire. I also love that, again, God approaches gently, in a whisper. Isn’t that so like Him, though? We know His power, but when we’re afraid, when we’re hiding out on our darkest days—He gently speaks to our souls. How amazing is that?
​Again, though, we have to know His voice to be able to discern His whisper. So read His words–again and again and again. Get to know His voice. Then you’ll know when He speaks to you–not your own self-doubt or selfish desires, not your momma or your best friend, not your husband or wife or anyone else in the world and certainly not the devil—you’ll hear the voice of your God, your Savior. The voice of the One who loves you and walks with you. And you’ll know that you’ve found rest from your journey, at least for now.

These are just some quotes I thought you might enjoy:

“Radical obedience to Christ is not easy… It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us.” David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream

“We may speak about a place where there are no tears, no death, no fear, no night; but those are just the benefits of heaven. The beauty of heaven is seeing God.” Max Lucado, Experiencing the Heart of Jesus: Knowing His Heart, Feeling His Love

“We never grow closer to God when we just live life. It takes deliberate pursuit and attentiveness.” Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by A Relentless God

Speak Love, Give Life

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Proverbs 18:21

 

The Lord knows I love my words—maybe that’s why this week’s small group lesson and sermon really wedged themselves deep inside my heart. God gave me a gift of words, but He did not make me use them a certain way. This is one of those beautiful, sometimes unfortunate, gifts that we can choose to use the right way or the wrong way. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve been on both sides of the fence. But when I stand on the side where my words wound or drive people apart or scare me with the thought of them escaping confidence—there’s this growing, festering wound in my own soul built of fear, guilt, remorse and shame.

Why? Well, you see…God is good and He gave us our words. Though He gives us a choice in how to use our words, I believe He wants us to use those words for good—for encouragement, to build up and not to tear down. Haven’t you felt the warmth spreading from your soul to your smile when you speak lovingly to or encourage someone and see his or her entire look change? Why is it that we’re so shocked to hear good news or encouragement or love from someone else’s lips? And how to we get back to where speaking life and love is the norm? Let’s take a look at Scripture to see what the Lord says about the power of our words. As you read, I want you to use your highlighter on every mention of the words: tongue, mouth, words or lips.

 

Words Mirror Our Hearts

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James 3:3-12

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart;whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others;Psalm 15:2-3

 

30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just. 31 The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip.” Psalm 37:30-31

 

“The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful; they fail to act wisely or do good.” Psalm 36:3

 

The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.” Proverbs 10:20

A wicked person listens to deceitful lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.” Proverbs 17:4

She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26

“29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Ephesians 4:29-31

 

Words Call for Respect or Ridicule

“In the same way, the womenare to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.” I Timothy 3:11

From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be silenced.” Proverbs 10:31

A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” Proverbs 11:13

The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the speech of the upright rescues them.” Proverbs 12:6

Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.” Proverbs 12:19

The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. Proverbs 15:2

The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked, but gracious words are pure in his sight.” Proverbs 15:26

One whose heart is corrupt does not prosper; one whose tongue is perverse falls into trouble.” Proverbs 17:20

17 Pay attention and turn your ear to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, 18 for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips.Proverbs 22:17-18

 

Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.Proverbs 29:20

 

Words Can Wound

19 You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit. 20 You sit and testify against your brother and slander your own mother’s son.” Psalm 50:19-20

 

2 You who practice deceit, your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razorYou love every harmful word, you deceitful tongue!Psalm 52:2,4

His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.” Psalm 55:21

I am in the midst of lions; I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.” Psalm 57:4

Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, from the plots of evildoers.They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.They shoot from ambush at the innocent; they shoot suddenly, without fear.” Psalm 64:2-4

 

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.” Proverbs 18:8

 

Words Can Heal

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

 

1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up angerThe soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15: 1,4

 

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24

 

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9

 

Words that Bite Back

36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

12 Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, 13 keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. 14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.Psalm 34:12-14

 

3 May the Lord silence all flattering lips and every boastful tonguethose who say, “By our tongues we will prevail; our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?Psalm 12:3-4

 

12 For the sins of their mouths, for the words of their lips, let them be caught in their pride. For the curses and lies they utter, 13 consume them in your wrath, consume them till they are no more. Then it will be known to the ends of the earth that God rules over Jacob.Psalm 59:12-13

 

He will turn their own tongues against them and bring them to ruin; all who see them will shake their heads in scorn.” Psalm 64:8

 

16 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” Proverbs 6:16-19

 

The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating.The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives.” Proverbs 18:6-7

 

The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge, but he frustrates the words of the unfaithful.” Proverbs 22:12

 

Words Need Self-Control

keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.Psalm 34:13

I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked. Psalm 39:1

Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.Proverbs 10:13

Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues. Proverbs 10:19

The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” Proverbs 17:27

Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.” Proverbs 21:23

12 Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips.13At the beginning their words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness—14 and fools multiply words.No one knows what is coming—who can tell someone else what will happen after them?Ecclesiastes 10:12-14

 

Their Words Hurt Me, What Now?

1. Ask God to Reveal the Truth

 

I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.Save me, Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.What will he do to you, and what more besides, you deceitful tongue?He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows, with burning coals of the broom bush.” Psalm 120:1-4

 

2. Trust God to take care of you while you love them and teach them what He says.

 

And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” Ezekiel 2:6-8

 

3. Pray for them and love them as Christ loves you.

 

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighborand hate your enemy.’44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:43-45

 

Installing a Mouth Filter

1. Ask God how to deal with it. Listen to His answer.

 

To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.” Proverbs 16:1

2. Ask yourself, “Will the words I’m about to say please the Lord?”

 

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

 

3. Ask God to cleanse you, forgive you for what you’ve said and renew your joy.

 

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me…12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.Psalm 51:2, 10, 12

 

4. Transform the way you think—focus on His word. Pray and seek His will.

 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

 

Whew! I know this is a deep subject and it’s hard to cover every single verse. But take your time reading through these. If you feel lead, pick a verse or two to pray over. The more our thinking lines up with His, the easier it gets to let go of the need to share the latest “news”. Ask God to help you see others as He sees them, especially those you have a hard time with. I want to challenge you to write down the name of every person you’re tempted to gossip about—then write down some of their good qualities. Try to see the beauty God placed within them. Then pray for your own heart toward them and then just pray for theirs. It’s amazing what a little love and prayer will do. Not to say it’ll be easy, but I want to encourage you to try it because it has made a difference in my life. I wish you all a lovely week!