Sunday, July 9, 2017

#7 Devotion: July 9 - 15

Focus intently upon the Word, in order to be changed.

Have you ever thought about that little organ in your mouth called the tongue? Have you ever thought about the cage God created in which to contain it? The tongue is not only tucked away behind the lips, but it is also behind the teeth. In order to loose it and allow it to be used, we must open our lips and teeth.

The tongue is very important to us in several ways. It enables us to swallow, taste, and talk. Sometimes we find ourselves in a bit of trouble from all three especially if something tastes so good we overeat. However, the most powerful effect the tongue can have on us and on others is by our talking. This week we are going to focus on the harm we can bring as well as the good we can bring to ourself and others by the way we choose to use our tongue. Maybe God put our tongue inside the cage behind our teeth and lips for a reason!

Taming the Tongue
Sunday: Read James 3:1 “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”  Let’s think about that verse for a bit today. It seems that not many of us should become teachers because those who do teach will be judged with greater strictness. Exactly what does that mean? It means we who teach are responsible to God Almighty for what we tell others and guide them to believe and do as a result of our teaching. We will be accountable to God for our actions, but also for the actions we lead others to do. It is imperative that we know the Word and we are led by the Holy Spirit as we teach. We must remember that it is God’s Word and Message that we are conveying to others; therefore, we must convey it as a holy message. We are not to take His Word and Teaching flippantly. For those whom God chooses to teach, have a great responsibility. We must guard our hearts, minds, and actions so that what we teach is parallel with how we live. We must represent the Word of God in every aspect of our lives, so we do not appear as a hypocrite when we stand before a Sunday school class or a small group Bible study. I have seen the damage that the life style of a hypocrite can cause upon a new Christian or one who has not accepted Christ just yet. This kind of life can do more harm than good. Yes, the scripture is true when it says that those who have been called to teacher will be judged more strictly than those who do not teach. We are not only responsible for our actions based on the scripture, but we are also responsible for what and how we guide others to believe and live. (Keep in mind that if you are a parent, you too have been called to teach—your children).

In your journal today write out how you have been teaching your children. What are they learning from your words, your actions, and even from your prayer and Bible study habits? Now,  write how you are teaching others. Are you teaching from the prompting of the Holy Spirit or from your own knowledge? 

Monday: Focus on James 3:2-3 “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.” Yesterday, we focused on the seriousness of what we say in do if as we teach others. I’m sure that made each of us feel maybe we should never teach again because it is impossible to not make mistakes. Today we are going to see that God understood that we are not nor ever will be perfect while we are living here on earth. The passage today tells us that we all stumble from time to time, and it is normal and okay if we stumble. However, it makes a difference as to how we handle situations when we do stumble and make mistakes.

We are to be controlled by the Holy Spirit just as a horse is controlled by his rider through the bit and bridle.  If you have ever ridden  horses, you know they sometimes have a mind of their own and have to be controlled with a bit of force by the rider through the bridle. If horses are not being properly and tightly guided, they could take the ridder into a bit of a dangerous situation. If we allow God to take the reigns and guide us as He desires, He will detour us from dangerous situations, and we will speak only the words He wants us to share, resulting in our teachings being blessed by Him. We will be less likely to speak from our own thoughts and insight, and we will make less mistakes. We as teachers are not expected to have all the answers and to know everything,  but we are to earnestly seek the truths from God’s word to find the answers. We should never speak unless we have been given the answers and the go ahead from God.

In your journal today, list ways you have stumbled as you were trying to guide, teach, or mentor others in their faith in Christ. How did you handle the situation after you stumbled? What does God want you to do with mistake now?

Tuesday: Focus on James 3:4 “Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.” Let’s think about how a big ship is controlled by a little rudder even when these ships are in middle of a huge storm that is sending the waves back and forth uncontrollably. The captain of the ship has the ability to direct the ship based on that tiny little rudder. The point here is that the captain has control and can steer that big ship regardless of the storms, the wind, or the direction of the waves. The example of steering the ship should be a metaphor for us as Christians. God should be able to control us through our hearts regardless of what is going on around us. We should not take off on our own, nor should we be guided by the circumstances and obstacles.

In your journal today, make a list of some of the directions you have gone lately. Beside each one indicate if that direction was completely God controlled, completely self controlled, or half and half (half self and half God)? Write a statement by all or any that you feel God is prompting you to go back and re-do or correct.

Wednesday: Focus on James 3:5-6: “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” Our tongue is a very small part of our body, but too often it boasts of great things, says a lot of things it shouldn’t leading to a great deal of damage. It is compared to a small spark creating a forest fire that spreads and soon destroys a whole forest. Visualize a forest fire for just a moment. When a forest fire begins and spreads, it is nearly impossible to control and stop. When the fire finishes, the damage is unreal and devastating. This passage indicates that the tongue is like that same fire in the way it can cause as much devastating damage as a fire. It can destroy all that is in its path. It can change the entire course of one’s life and possibly the lives of others. The last part of this passage indicates that such destruction comes from the fire of hell. There is no good in this kind of damage; it is certainly not of God. Our tongues at times can be a tool of Satan damaging and destroying and leaving us feeling desolate.

Have you ever been hurt by someone’s words? Do you remember how you felt? Have you ever said something that in the end was hurtful to someone? I have known people who speak and then think later maybe they shouldn’t have opened their mouths. When something pops into our heads, we need to think before we speak. One thought to consider is how this will affect others. Next, we should consider if it will make a positive or negative difference.

In your journal today write about a time when someone hurt you with his/her words. Discuss exactly how those words made you feel. Could the message have been conveyed to you in a better way that would have had more positive effects on you?

Next in your journal write about time when your words cut through a person and caused damage to someone. Think about how that person or persons actually felt after your words were hurled and articulate that in your journal. Could you have handled this differently? Did the words really need to be spoken?  

Thursday: Focus on James 3:7-10 “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” Today is going to get down to some serious and deep thoughts about our tongue. Keep in mind, these words do not come from me, but they are straight from God. This passage begins by saying that mankind can tame every kind of beast, bird, reptile, and sea creature, but no human can tame the tongue. It goes on to say that the tongue is a restless evil filled with deadly poison. That is a critical and harsh statement regarding the tongue that is in our mouths. Take a moment and let that thought soak into your mind. Before we go further into today’s focus pause and write in your journal the following question: Lord, do I need to get control of my tongue? If so, how do I do that? As we continue our devotional thought today, write in your journal what God reveals to you.

As we continue thinking about the evil that can sprout from our tongues, lets see how it is done. According to this passage, one minute we can bless the Lord with our words and turn right around the next minute and curse people whom God created in His own image. We curse and tear down the very people whom God loves. First, we proclaim Christ and our love for Him; then, we destroy the very ones He loves and died for. We don’t even give it a thought when our tongues are wagging and bringing destruction upon those creations of God. In a sense, we are destroying God’s work. OUCH!!!! I too have never thought of it like that either. God just brought that to my attention.

Stop now, and begin writing again in your journal. Respond to this thought: From the same mouth comes blessings and cursing. This should not be happening. Have you been guilty of this action? Have you ever stopped to think about it in this way? Are you breaking the very heart of God every time you speak harshly or negatively about one of His creations? If God has brought people and words to your mind, deal with the situation as He is prompting you. Maybe He wants you to confess, repent, and stop the destruction. Maybe He wants you to reach out to someone and apologize. Write a statement of what God is prompting you to do; then proceed in His strength.

Friday: Focus on James 3:11-12 “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” Yesterday we examined the extreme detriments of an evil tongue and how such a tongue can hurt the heart of God. Today, we will examine ourselves a little more closely to see if we are living a double life. The first part of today’s passage asks two questions: “Can a spring produce both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree produce olives or a grapevine produce figs? Of course, we know the answers to these questions. The answer is simply, “No!” We know that cannot happen. As stated in the passage, a salt pond cannot yield fresh water. What this means is that we cannot be two kinds of people. We are either one or the other. It is impossible to live two different lives. Soon one will catch up with us and usually it is the one that brings destruction.

In your journal today, write an evaluation of what kind of person you are. Be honest. This is between you and God. Are you struggling with the two people living inside you? Ask God to help you to get rid of the one with whom He is not pleased.

Saturday: Read James 3:13-18 “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” The final passage from chapter three moves beyond the evil of our tongue to the evil within our hearts. The person who is wise in the Lord demonstrates a Godly lifestyle by their good deeds that are done in humility. However, the person who harbours bitter envy and selfish ambition has not received this wisdom from the Lord, but from just the opposite: earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. That is a very powerful statement: “If you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition, your heart is controlled by Satan.” We go a bit further in the passage to discover that when we have bitter envy and selfish ambition, we will find disorder and every evil practice. If we are living those negative attributes in our hearts, we are not happy, and we are willing to destroy whomever is necessary to get what we want. What a miserable way to live!

On the other hand, the passage goes on to tell us that the person who seeks and finds wisdom from above discovers that wisdom is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. In fact, the peacemakers who sow in peace will reap a harvest of righteousness. This is the person who lives to be a blessing to others and does so through a submissive spirit. This person is controlled by God and completely at peace regardless of the situations occurring around   him/her.

Which person are you? Before you answer that question in your journal, consider your desires and ambitions. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious, but if your ambition causes you to treat others unfairly or wish bad things upon them, so circumstances will proceed in your favour, your heart is not characteristic of the second person described above. If it is your desire to be that kind of person, submit that desire to God in your journal, ask God to forgive you, thank Him and praise Him for helping you to see yourself the way God sees you, and ask Him to begin controlling your heart so you will become a complete replicate of the second person described in the passage.

Remember to be honest with God in all areas as you pray through each day. God already knows your true heart. He is calling you to get to know the real you, and be transformed into the person He has called you to be.

As always, I know these focuses can be difficult to face. I struggle myself, but I know God is there to guide me when I struggle. He wants His best for each of us; therefore, He will guide us through it all.

Please reach out to me through private messaging on Facebook or from the website blog.   I am praying for you and would love to pray with you specifically.

In His love,

Cheryl Toon

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