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BEING QUICK AND SLOW AT THE SAME TIME

James 1:19 – You know this, my beloved brethren. Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

What a great word from James, the brother of Jesus! Every believer should know this principle of truth, but at the same time we all need to be reminded. The principle of quick hearing and slow speaking is especially needed this season of the year. Most will spend time with close friends and family members as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whenever we spend close time with others, sharing responsibilities and conversation, there is opportunity for misunderstandings to occur.

The saying, “think before you speak” is especially helpful in preserving peace. Listening carefully to another not only provides one with information about their reasoning or opinion, but an opportunity to keep one’s emotions under control. It is important to respond to differing views with respect and as few words as possible. Well thought out responses can provide for interesting and stimulating conversation. I have determined not to be pulled into emotionally driven political talk. If the discussion is not supported by an educated view, I am not interested in plunging into heated emotional opinions.

When I first began secular work, I realized I would see my follow workers daily. I did not need to reveal everything I thought at one setting. I prayed daily for the Holy Spirit to guide me in my conversation with my fellow employees. I can testify that God was faithful. Over the years, I had opportunity to lead some to Christ. Others were interested in what I had to offer and would seek me out in conversation; there are always those who reject your views no matter how you approach the conversation.

As believers, we need to give a listening ear for the voice of the Holy Spirit. He knows both how to nudge us forward and to hold us back from quick responses that could lead to anger. It takes discipline to stop and pay attention to His impressions. I have found more times than not, the Holy Spirit will have us listen a great deal more than having us speak. Early in my ministry life as I began to relate with pastors from many different streams and traditions, I practiced being the last one to speak. I wanted to hear what the others had to say and listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit to instruct me in what I should bring to the conversation. It was a difficult challenge, but it proved to be helpful.

As we celebrate the Prince of Peace and His birth, let us take the lead in peaceful conversation and helpful participation in activities of the day. As James instructs, “Be slow to speak and slow to anger,” celebrating, not only Christ, but others and their life in relationship with you. You are Christ’s servant and a representative of His kingdom.

Father, I thank You for this season of the year. I ask for this to be the most peaceful and enjoyable Christmas my family has ever known. I pray for the Holy Spirit to be my constant guide and helper as I relate with others in this season. I pray for Your presence in all my holiday activities, all for Your glory.

A FOOT LAMP TO GUIDE ME

Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

I have some solar foot lamps to guide along a path in my yard. Each lamp only puts out enough light for a few steps. The Word of God is like the foot lamps. We need light for each step we take. This is why it is important to be in God’s Word regularly. The Word of God profits us more than anything else in life. It is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction.

The Scriptures give us the principles of the kingdom of God. They teach us about God’s design of how to live successfully. The Scriptures teach us how we must rightly relate to authority. We learn of various areas of responsibility God has assigned to us. We are responsible for our words, our actions, our thoughts, and our attitudes. The Scriptures teach us about ownership, motivations, freedom, and success.

The word of God is profitable for reproof in areas of our key relationships such as relating to God, self, family, friends, and preparing for the future. It is especially helpful for a young person in learning how to relate to the opposite sex. Reproof is not negative unless we choose to respond negatively. The wise person loves reproof. “Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline, but he who regards reproof will be honored” (Proverbs 13:18).

The word of God teaches responsible steps of action in our relationship toward God and others. An example would be, “making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). A responsible “action” would be to budget time as one ought to do with money. How much free time do I have? How do I presently use my time? What could be eliminated, what is of the utmost importance? Another example would be speaking “kind words.” “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:3-4). The insight is to not let kindness become separated from you. The action would be to keep kindness in your thoughts and habits.

Finally, God’s word is profitable for instruction. Deepen your commitment to God’s word as your means of instruction in righteousness. Pray, asking for “specific instructions” from the Lord on applying biblical principles in your daily walk. As the Lord helps you to grow in spiritual maturity, share what you have learned with others.

Father, help me increase in basic steps of spiritual maturity. I pray for Your word to illuminate steps along the pathway of my walk. Help increase my love of teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction.

A FOOT LAMP TO GUIDE ME

Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

I have some solar foot lamps to guide along a path in my yard. Each lamp only puts out enough light for a few steps. The Word of God is like the foot lamps. We need light for each step we take. This is why it is important to be in God’s Word regularly. The Word of God profits us more than anything else in life. It is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction.

The Scriptures give us the principles of the kingdom of God. They teach us about God’s design of how to live successfully. The Scriptures teach us how we must rightly relate to authority. We learn of various areas of responsibility God has assigned to us. We are responsible for our words, our actions, our thoughts, and our attitudes. The Scriptures teach us about ownership, motivations, freedom, and success.

The word of God is profitable for reproof in areas of our key relationships such as relating to God, self, family, friends, and preparing for the future. It is especially helpful for a young person in learning how to relate to the opposite sex. Reproof is not negative unless we choose to respond negatively. The wise person loves reproof. “Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline, but he who regards reproof will be honored” (Proverbs 13:18).

The word of God teaches responsible steps of action in our relationship toward God and others. An example would be, “making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). A responsible “action” would be to budget time as one ought to do with money. How much free time do I have? How do I presently use my time? What could be eliminated, what is of the utmost importance? Another example would be speaking “kind words.” “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:3-4). The insight is to not let kindness become separated from you. The action would be to keep kindness in your thoughts and habits.

Finally, God’s word is profitable for instruction. Deepen your commitment to God’s word as your means of instruction in righteousness. Pray, asking for “specific instructions” from the Lord on applying biblical principles in your daily walk. As the Lord helps you to grow in spiritual maturity, share what you have learned with others.

Father, help me increase in basic steps of spiritual maturity. I pray for Your word to illuminate steps along the pathway of my walk. Help increase my love of teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction.

GRATITUDE IS THE BEST ATTITUDE

Hebrews 12:28-29 – We receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.

The writer of Hebrews had been speaking of “the unshaken kingdom.” He admonishes the reader not to refuse the Lord who is speaking from heaven like those of old refused the one who spoke from earth, chiefly Moses and the Law. The ground shook when God spoke from the mountain to Israel. God promised to shake not only the earth, but heaven as well. The Lord indicates the removing of things that can be shaken. He also declares there are things which cannot be shaken. It is in this context the writer assures us that we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken.

As a believer our attitude should be one of gratitude. If we are in Christ Jesus through faith in His finished work on the cross, then we have been made partakers of an “unshakable kingdom.” No matter what happens around us, we are firmly established in Him. Shaking will take place. There are those things which will be consumed, “for our God is a consuming fire.” His eternal plans for His kids are settled. From this truth and our understanding, gratitude should dominate our life. From that gratitude flows – “an acceptable service.” The service the writer is addressing is a life of praise and worship.

Gratitude cannot be worked up, but is an attitude of the heart that comes from the knowledge of who we are in Christ Jesus the Lord. It is knowledge that we have a heavenly Father who has given us all things that cannot be removed for His praise and glory. With that knowledge firmly established, praise and worship becomes a constant in our life.

This is a season when Americans celebrate what God has given us, principally “freedom and liberty” rooted in a strong faith in God through the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Many have lost vision regarding the true meaning of the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims. There is a great shaking happening in both the nation of America and throughout the nations of the world. Nevertheless, God’s kingdom cannot be shaken, only our wrong concepts of His purposes.

Let gratitude fill your heart today for all that our great God and King has done. Regardless of what is happening around us, what we see on the television news of the shaking of our culture; we must know that our God reigns! His promises are sure. He never changes! For that reason His eternal plans will be accomplished. “Walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude (Colossians 2:6-7).

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

Father, I thank You that You are good. Fill me with gratitude for all You have done in Christ Jesus. From that gratitude, open my spirit so that heavenly praise and worship might flow from my innermost being. Give to me a true heart of gratitude.

THE FATHER’S DISCIPLINE

Hebrews 12:5 – My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him.

This section of Scripture is one of the strongest affirmations of the Father’s love toward every believer. The phrase “my son” carries with it a very strong commitment of love. For Father God to address us as sons puts us on an equal level with Christ. Because of Christ’s sacrifice of His life for our sins, we have access to the Father as sons of God. This includes believing women, much the same way as believing men become part of the bride of Christ.

The writer begins his thoughts early in verse 4 saying, “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.” In short, he is saying that Jesus shed His blood to deal with the issue of sin. You have not lost your life battling sin. Then he reminds his readers of the Lord’s exhortation found in Proverbs 3:11: “My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof.” Do we understand that hardships are really opportunities for the Lord to develop us as mature sons of God? As one grows older, it becomes easier to identify how the Lord used difficulties to develop a Christ-centered maturity in our life. The difficult times were really instruction times from God used to train us.

Solomon reminds us, “If you are slack in the day of distress, your strength is limited” (Proverbs 24:10). The word slack means “to give up.” Lack of strength means “not understanding God’s purpose in the times of trouble.” Trouble can prepare us to endure to the end. The Lord does not discipline our lives in order to cause us to give up, but rather for us to learn how to endure. Because He loves us, He instructs us by the pressures and trials of life. Even when He finds it necessary to punish us, it is always with a view toward our benefit.

Beloved, God deals with believers as “sons.” Even in the natural realm we know that a good father will discipline his son. A believer is subject to the Father of spirits and through discipline, the believer grows to maturity. Discipline for the moment is never enjoyable; in fact, it can really feel uncomfortable and perhaps sorrowful. If we receive it for its intended purpose, it will produce “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).

“Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble” (Hebrews 12:12). As we become strong in the Lord through His disciplines, we can turn our attention to others and be a conduit of His grace to help in their time of weakness. Rejoice in correction, learn to appreciate rebuke, and learn in humility. His favor is on you when He applies divine discipline. Many times it comes through others. Don’t resist, but allow His Holy Spirit to sanctify you through the process.

Father, I thank You for Your great love revealed in Christ and continued through Your wonderful disciplines used to mature me in Christ my Lord. Fill me with gratitude for Your favor upon me as a son of God through corrections and reproofs.

CONSIDER HIM

Hebrews 12:3 – Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

When life becomes difficult through many trials and tribulations, especially personal attacks because of your faith in Christ, it becomes easy to grow weary and lose heart. This was the case for these Jewish believers. These believing Jews were the “remnant” who trusted Christ. The majority of their fellow Jews rejected Messiah’s Day. That majority made it very difficult on the remnant that trusted the good news of the Gospel of Christ’s overcoming kingdom.

As believers, we have faith in Christ’s finished work through His cross. We also trust in the promised future resurrection of all believers and His glorious return with His saints to judge all unrighteousness. By faith, we receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father. When persecution and resistance comes to our faith, it can cause a shaking. When our expectations are delayed, this too can cause us to lose heart as these precious saints were experiencing. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). The life of faith walks between these two tensions, “hope deferred and desire fulfilled.”

Our author speaks to us as he says, “consider Him.” Jesus’ life is our example. Jesus’ life in us is our hope. Paul exhorts each believer, “Put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Colossians 3:10). Read Colossians and receive Paul’s instructions and his understandings of our battle. We must take action and “put on the new self.” His life is present, but by faith we must put it on day by day. In each new challenge, make it your habit to turn to God your Father and in Jesus’ name through the power of the Holy Spirit, put on the mind of Christ. You might ask, “How is that done?”.

When you are faced with difficulties, stop and ask for God’s presence.
Recommit your entire life to Christ and surrender your thoughts, emotions, and will to Him.
Ask the Father, in Jesus’ name, for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Forgive those who are causing you trouble and thank the Lord for the opportunity to experience the sufferings of Christ.
Ask to learn obedience through this time, even as Christ learned obedience through sufferings.
Renew your faith in the hope of His glorious return with all His saints.
This will be a good start in putting on the mind of Christ. The Lord has called us to partnership with Him. He did the hard work, now we are to live out what was accomplished through His finished work at Calvary.

Father, in Jesus’ name and through the power of Your Holy Spirit, I ask for the mind of Christ today. As I consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, I know it was for me and all who believe that He suffered. Strengthen me in the hope of my calling as I journey toward that expected day of Christ’s return.