Blessing or cursing: Are your words wholesome and edifying or critical and destructive? If someone had to describe what comes out of your mouth in one word, would your words be described as blessing or cursing?
Oh, the tongue … how much damage we can do with that little member! Especially damaging is someone who claims to be a believer, and yet makes no effort to control his or her tongue.
“Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh” (vv. 10-13).
If someone had to describe what comes out of your mouth in one word, would it be blessing or cursing? Bitter or fresh?
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from our mouths, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (NASB)
Unwholesome words are more than just vulgarity or using the Lord’s name in vain. According to Strong’s Concordance the Greek word means “rotten, useless, corrupt or depraved.”
Merriam-Webster defines rotten as “decayed, bad, unpleasant or unhealthy.” Useless as “ineffectual or inept.” Unpleasant means “displeasing.” Corrupt means “tainted or morally impure” and depraved means “perverted.”
So certainly we need to put off any kind of speech that could be described by any of those adjectives, but it’s not enough to just quit saying things that fit those descriptions. We also need to put on speech that is, as Paul said in Ephesians 4.29, edifying and grace giving. Continue reading →
Verse 19, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!”
John MacArthur says that demons, while they seek to deceive others about the truths of God and while they chose to follow Satan, are orthodox in their theology. They know who Christ is, they know they are under His authority, and they know that one day they will be cast into the lake of fire (Mk. 5.6-10).
But just believing in God isn’t enough.
Do you know someone who claims to believe in God, but without any evidence of saving faith? This is a great verse to memorize and share. Believing in God does not save us, that is, merely, believing that He exists. It’s belief in the gospel that saves (Mk. 1.15; Rom. 1.16). It’s believing He is who He says He is and believing what He says is true.
Instead, many have some general idea of God as some kind of a benevolent Father. They often expect that He will weigh the good and the bad things we have done and since most of us think we’re really not that bad (Prov. 20.6), hope the good will outweigh the bad.
But the gospel is the truth that we are sinners dead in our trespasses and sins and unable to save ourselves. We cannot be saved by good works (Jn. 3.10, 3.23, 6.23; Eph. 2.8-9), nor through any amount of religion (going to church, being baptized, taking sacraments, etc.).
God sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sins. He died on the cross, was buried, and was raised again. We are saved by His grace when we admit that we are sinners in need of a Savior and by putting our faith in Him and Him alone to save us. It’s Jesus who saves us, but we must “receive,” choose to believe, the truth.
1 Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, 3 when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand” (ch. 33.1-6).
Ezekiel was called to be a “watchman” to the people of His day. He was to warn the people of their need to repent and turn from their sin and idolatry. We, too, are “watchman” called to share the gospel with those around us. Matthew 28.19-20 says:
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
If we are faithful to share God’s truth, even when it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient, we are free from guilt. But if we refuse, God says “their blood is on our hands.” Continue reading →
In last week’s post, Blended Families Part 11: How to Start Dealing with Ex’s, we talked about some of the reasons for conflict and the beginning steps of working toward a better relationship with an ex-spouse. We discussed the need to first seek God’s help to have the right heart attitude and then to do some self-examination (Matt. 7.3-5).
I suggested making a “log list” of ways you’ve sinned against your ex without focusing on what he or she has done or not done.
This week in “Blended Families Part 12: Seven A’s of Confession,” we’ll look at the next step.
God puts a high priority on peace and reconciliation in our relationships.
Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone (Rom. 12.18 NLT).
23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matt. 5.23-24).
He doesn’t say seek peace with everyone but your ex, but rather do “all that you can” to live at peace with “everyone.” Certainly, there are some people who won’t be at peace with us, but unless there is some reason (like physical abuse or safety issues), we should be willing to do our part.
The next step is seeking forgiveness for the things on your log list.
This can be challenging if you believe your ex-spouse is the one who should be asking for forgiveness, but remember, you are only responsible for you. What the other person has done is between them and God.
Seeking Forgiveness God’s Way
Seeking forgiveness requires three things: repentance, confession, and asking.
Repentance is a change of thinking that leads to a change of action. Confession is to agree with what God says about something and asking is more than saying, “I’m sorry.” It is a sincere request to be released from a debt.
Address Everyone Involved. As a general rule, you should confess your sins to every person who has been directly affected by your wrongdoing. Note that since all sins offend God by violating His will, all sins should be first confessed to Him.
Avoid If, But, and Maybe. The best way to ruin a confession is to use words that shift the blame to others or that appear to minimize or excuse your guilt.
Admit Specifically. Specific admissions help convince others that you are honestly facing up to what your have done.
Acknowledge the Hurt. Your goal is to show that you understand how the other person felt as a result of your words or actions. Although you should not dwell excessively on feelings, it is important to show that you understand how other people feel and to express genuine sorrow for hurting them.
Accept the Consequences. The harder you work to make restitution and repair any damage you have caused, the easier it will be for others to believe your confession is genuine.
Alter Your Behavior. Explain to the person how you plan to change your behavior in the future. This could involve describing some of the attitude, character, and behavior changes you hope to make with God’s help.
Ask for Forgiveness (and Allow Time). Ask, “Will you forgive me?” Be willing to allow the person some time to work through things.
Examples of biblical confessions:
“I realize I have not been treating you fairly and I want to change. Specifically, I have made it hard for you to pick up the kids and I have frequently brought them to your house late, cutting into your time with them. I plan to make every effort to have them there on time and ready when you to pick them up at my house. I’d like to make it up to you by allowing you to have them for Thanksgiving, even though it’s my turn. I want you to know that I’m sincere and I hope to prove it to you. Will you forgive me?”
“I want to ask forgiveness for lying about you in court. I told the judge that you were not a good mother/father. I also lied about how much money I make. I have damaged your reputation and cheated you out of child support. I plan to write the judge a letter and I will give a copy to you and both of our lawyers so the child support can be adjusted. Will you please forgive me?”
Some of you probably gasped when you read the second one. Taking responsibility for things like that runs contrary to the adversarial nature of the divorce process. But we are called to live radical lives … radically pleasing to God. And remember part of sincere repentance includes a willingness to accept the consequences of our actions.
Push Back from Your Current Spouse
Even though you may be convinced of the necessity of confession and restitution, your current spouse may or may not be completely on board, especially where either contact with your ex or financial repercussions are concerned. Continue reading →
Blended Families Part 11: How to Start Dealing with Ex’s
In last week’s post, “Behavior Contracts,” we talked about two tools for more successful and biblical parenting, “behavior contracts” and “think papers.” By the way, both are great tools for any family, not just blended ones.
This week in “How to Start Dealing with Ex’s,” we’ll begin talking about the prickly subject of dealing with ex-spouses. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll discover some things that may improve relationships so you can better co-parent your children and find out how to respond biblically when your ex isn’t willing to work with you. In this post we’ll look at some of the precipitating factors for this kind of conflict and talk about how to start working through the issues.
Dealing with relationships with ex-spouses is often one of the most difficult challenges for a blended family. Although some formerly married couples are able to work out their differences and successfully co-parent their children, many find their attempts filled with conflict.
These conflicts can result in arguments over visitation, rules at each others’ homes, child support, and a host of other issues. Children are often expected to take sides, carry messages back and forth, and report back about what’s going on when they are with the other parent. Children can become casualties in a war that seems to never end.
Depending on who wanted or caused the divorce (at least in the eyes of the other person), ex-spouses can be filled with bitterness or guilt, anger or hurt or any combination.
A person who left may suffer guilt that causes them to continue trying to prove they were right in leaving. This results in constant complaining and criticizing.
The person who’s been sinned against may be angry and begrudge the other any happiness. He or she may hope the other one will finally realize what a huge mistake they made or somehow have to pay for their “crimes.” Their anger may not just be about how they have been hurt, but about how their children have been hurt, too.
Sometimes the conflict began during the former marriage, possibly even going on for years leading up to the divorce. Sometimes conflict comes to the surface when a former mate remarries.
In some cases, the anger, bitterness or guilt drains energy that should be going into a new marriage. In other cases, one spouse may spend a great deal of time and effort trying to appease the former spouse and keep peace at any cost. Both can create problems in a new marriage.
Guilt and anger can both cause problems in relationships with children and step-children. Guild may cause a biological parent to over-indulge their own children and/or be cold and indifferent, even harsh to their step-children.
Anger can be directed at children who want to live with or spend more time with the other parent. Some ex-spouses lay a big dose of guilt on children who start building a relationship with their step-parent.
No matter what combination of guilt, anger, bitterness or jealousy are driving the conflicts, God expects us to do our part to resolve the issues and respond in ways that are pleasing to Him (2 Cor. 5.9).
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matt. 5.23-24).
Where do you start?
It starts with you!
First, get your heart right. No matter how you’ve been sinned against or how often, God intends to use it for good in your life.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8.28-29).
When Joseph was reunited with his brothers after years spent as a slave and in prison because of their sin, he said:
19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.21 Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen. 50)
Do Some Self-Examination
Second, examine yourself to see where you may be guilty of causing or aggravating conflict.
3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matt. 7)
Make a list of your own logs. Pray for God’s help, be brutally honest with yourself and Him. To do this effectively, you can’t minimize your part, blame-shift to your ex, or justify your sins.
Do you ever feel frustrated about having time to pray and spend time with the Lord because it seems like you’re always on the run?
But how much of that time is actually spent waiting? Waiting in line at the grocery store or the drive-through bank? Waiting for a friend or client at lunch? Waiting in traffic or for soccer practice to end? And what about the hours you spend doing mindless chores? Why not fill those otherwise lost moments with “little” prayers?
15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Eph. 5)
It may sound like a good idea, but how do you train yourself to redeem those small chunks of time? Could it be that the prompts are all around us?
I once heard Bible teacher Cynthia Heald speak at a conference. She was talking about how to incorporate time for Bible reading and study into your life. During the question and answer period, a lady raised her hand and asked, “But what about your prayer time … when do you pray?”
That conference took place many years ago, but I never forgot her answer. I wish I could quote exactly what she said, but the gist of it was this … I just see God as my Father and I’m walking with Him all day long. I talk to Him all the time.
That’s what I want. I want to be aware of His presence every moment. I want to talk to Him about everything. I’m still a work in progress in this area. Sometimes I do better than other times. But here are some of the prompts I use. Maybe they can help you be more alert to opportunities to talk to Him and be a part of His work all around us.
Prayer Prompts for Powerful “Little Prayers”
When you hear the sound of an emergency vehicle … you can pray for the victims, for their salvation, their protection, and wisdom for the medical personal. You can ask God to use the situation for good in their lives and to help them see their need for Him.
When the kids are out the door for school … stop and pray for them. Pray that they have the strength to resist peer pressure (Prov. 29.25) and the courage to be lights in a dark world (Phil. 2.14-15).
When your husband heads off for work … pray that he would excel at his work (Prov. 22.29), but always have integrity and a desire to please God (2 Cor. 5.9; Matt. 16.26). Pray that God would guard his heart, his mind and his eyes from immorality (Prov. 4.23; Rom. 13.13-14; 1 Cor. 6.13). Pray that he’ll be more and more the man, the husband, the father that God wants him to be everyday.
When you find yourself single and wishing you were not … pray for God’s will in that area of life and ask Him to help you focus on being the woman of God He has called you to be.
When waiting in line at the drive-through … pray for those who are serving you. Pray for God’s help to treat them with courtesy and that they would see Christ in you, no matter how they treat you. Remember there may be no one in the world praying for them, if you don’t.
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.44 But I say, love your enemies![r] Pray for those who persecute you!45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.47 If you are kind only to your friends,[s] how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matt. 5)
When someone cuts in front of you on the highway or is rude in some way … pray for their protection and the protection of those around them. Ask God for the grace to give you a forgiving heart and to deal with any anger (Eph. 4.31-32).
14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matt. 6)
When pulling weeds, planting flowers, or mowing the lawn … thank God for His creation.
When heading out or a car trip or an hour of carpooling … turn off the radio and pray. Pray for your protection. Pray for any children or co-workers who’ll be traveling with you. Pray for opportunities to build relationships and share biblical truth.
When putting your kids to bed … don’t give in to the fatigue of another day and the desire for it to be over. Stop and pray for them. Ask them if there’s something they would like you to pray about. You might be surprised what you learn. Don’t let it be a meaningless ritual (Matt. 6.7). Let them hear you pray for real needs with sincerely and give them a chance to do the same (Deut. 6.6-9).
When you go shopping … pray for wisdom to spend wisely and to be a good steward of God’s blessings.
When you pass a school, hospital, or homeless shelter … pray for those inside.
When you pass a government building or a flag … pray for those in authority. Pray for your leaders, your nation, your state, and your city.
¹ I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.3 This is good and pleases God our Savior,4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. (1 Tim. 2)
When waiting for someone who is late … pray for the people in your life who are difficult to love. And pray that you would not be the difficult friend or family member. Continue reading →
Before this election there were posts and memes and tweets everywhere saying, “No matter who is president, Jesus is King.” And no matter which side of the election battle you were on or whether you went into the voting booth wishing you didn’t have to vote for anyone … that meme is still true!
Jesus is the King!
And … no matter what His reasons, He has allowed the results of this election. For some … this is a miraculous victory and it is, based on the polling data and so many other predictions.
Others are wondering why … “Why would God allow a man as flawed as Donald Trump to become our president?” I’d like to offer some thoughts.
As I have read through the Old Testament this year, in particular the history of the nation of Israel and her kings, I was struck by God’s mercy even with the most godless of kings. When they showed any sign of movement toward Him, He often held back His judgment.
Our nation has been on a downward spiral away from God, away from morality, and in some cases, away from reason and common sense. Many of us would despair if we didn’t understand and believe in the sovereignty of God.
This morning I’m acutely aware that God has raised up a flawed and improbable man to be our next president.
It is God alone who judges; he decides who will rise and who will fall (Ps. 75.7).
Could He be holding back judgment on our nation? And if so, why? Could it be for nothing more than Mr. Trump’s willingness to take a stand for the rights of the unborn? Or could it be because God sees something many of us don’t? Remember God took a murderer and persecutor of the church by the name of Saul, saved him, changed him and allowed him to become the Apostle Paul. And many of us could look at our own lives and say … if not for God’s grace …
To be sure God has placed around Mr. Trump a number of godly men, not the least of which is the Vice-President Elect.
I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know if Mr. Trump will keep his promises. I don’t know if he believes what he has said. I don’t know the future, but I do know this …
Now is the Time to Pray for Our Nation!
Pray that God will take this flawed, imperfect man and use him for His glory. Pray that godliness, reason, humility, love, mercy and a fear of God will return to our nation. Pray that we His people will stand up for righteousness and that others will see Christ is us. Pray for revival in our land. Pray for His kingdom come and His will be done. Pray that God will do what only He can do.
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land (2 Chron. 7.14).
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In last week’s post, “A Plan for Successful Step-Parenting,” we talked about beginning to plan for more effective step-parenting, starting with better communication between you and your spouse and working on a “behavior contract” for each child when age appropriate. Today we’ll talk about how to have a family conference and introduce the behavior contract to your children. We’ll also discuss how to get older children and teens to use a “think paper” to examine their own hearts and actions. (By the way, “behavior contracts” and “think papers” are great for all families, not just blended ones.)
Last week I said that many parents in blended families (and all families) spend too much of their time putting out fires and dealing with bad behavior. Let’s look at our two parenting verses again:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6.4).
Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart (Col. 3.21).
More than merely dealing with bad behavior, parents should be instructing their children in right ways of living and responding. Rather than just trying to control their behavior, we should be teaching them to control themselves. “Bringing them up” means helping them understand how to live under God’s authority and gain a desire to please Him.
Remember, God gives us clear instructions. He spells out how we should live and the consequences of disobeying Him (Gen. 2.16-17; Deut. 28; Gal. 6.7-8). We should do the same for our children so we don’t exasperate them with unclear expectations and inconsistency.
I suggested you start by making a list of the strengths and weaknesses of each child, list character qualities that need to be developed, and come up with appropriate rewards and consequences. From those lists you can work with your spouse to develop a behavior contract for each child.
Example for a 15-year-old boy:
Notice, rewards are not always material things. Remember, the goal is to learn to live under God’s authority with a genuine desire to please Him.
Introducing the Behavior Contract to Your Children
Once you and your spouse have worked up a behavior contract for each child (you may have to simplify it for younger children), sit down as a family. If necessary, confess your own failures to be consistent, provide clear expectations, or any other way that you have sinned against them.
Let them know that you have confessed your failures to God (providing you have) and that you have a plan to change with His help. Explain the goal of parenting and that you will answer to God for your faithfulness in this area. Take a few minutes to pray as a family. You may want to read Ephesians 6.1-4 together.
Then meet with each child and review their lists of strengths and weaknesses. Spend as much time praising them for their strengths as you do talking about their weaknesses. Explain the behavior contract and go over each item.
If the child has some suggestions to which you can agree, make those changes. But this is not a negotiation, you are the parents and you are not required to make changes that you don’t believe are beneficial.
Post the contract in a prominent place and take a few days to teach and implement it before beginning the consequences. When it’s necessary to give consequences, remind the child that consequences result from their choices. Forgetting is not an excuse. Consistency is key. It’s not the severity of the consequences, but the certainty of correction that brings results. Continue reading →