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.
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.
Hebrews 13:20-21 – Now the God of peace equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight.
The Scripture above is part of the benediction the writer of Hebrews gives as he brings his letter to an end. The benedictions of the Apostles emphasize “peace.” True peace can only be found in “the God of peace.” Men have sought to establish peace in the earth, but it has been a peace on their terms. True peace can only become reality when the “Prince of Peace” is received. The true peace of God was brought about when He raised Jesus from the dead. He is the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant.
Jesus equips His saints in every good thing to do His will. By the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we are given the mind of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ was equipped in His life and ministry to do the Father’s will. He now is equipping His followers to do the same. Through gratitude and thanksgiving, we should pursue the Father’s will to do what is pleasing in His sight. This is a great conclusion as we approach the end of one year and prepare for the new.
Equipping implies training. Training begins with personal responsibility and discipline. Throughout the year we have examined numerous disciplines that should be in every believer’s life. As a believer, we have been called to the fellowship of prayer with our heavenly Father. As we open our hearts to Father God through the pattern of prayer Jesus gave us in Matthew 6:9-15, we are continuously brought to the Throne of Grace. As we develop the discipline of reading the Word of God, including memorizing scripture, meditating upon truths, and writing down what the Lord shows us, we prepare ourselves for “every good thing.”
As we develop our relationship with Father God, we become prepared to relate the Good News of the Gospel to others that come across our paths. This happens mostly by how we live our lives, but also by taking every opportunity to share God’s love. Every day, ask the heavenly Father “what is pleasing in Your sight”? Ask to be filled each day afresh and anew with the Holy Spirit so you can do the will of God.
Father, thank You for the peace You have made possible through Jesus Christ. Thank You for the blood of the eternal covenant making it possible for Jesus Christ to equip me in every good thing to do Your will. Strengthen me in the disciplines of the faith so I might bear witness of Your love to others. Fill me today with Your Holy Spirit to be empowered as Your witness.
Hebrews 13:5 – I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you.
With confidence we can say the Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. We are living in questionable times. Many of the certainties we have known in the past have disappeared. More and more uncertainty grips the hearts of people. As we have considered before, God is shaking everything. Only the unchangeableness of Christ cannot be moved. It is in His promises every believer can depend. We must draw near to the Lord through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to receive the confidence necessary in these challenging days.
As we move toward the Christmas season, it is vital that we seek the wisdom of God regarding finances. The world will be working hard to draw people into debt. The world will play on our emotions, both through guilt and greed. The Scriptures state, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5a). Perhaps this is a time for simplicity rather than extravagance in terms of material things. During this season, I want to seek the Lord for a greater simplicity in my lifestyle and an increase of extravagance in terms of consideration and love of others. Would you join me in greater expressions of gratitude to our heavenly Father for His blessings and increased expressions of love toward others?
The Lord desires to draw closer and closer to us. The willingness of our heart to give the reigns of our life to Him is what draws the Holy Spirit into increased intimacy with us. He is waiting for our invitation for Him to draw near. There are times when it feels like the Spirit of God has taken leave. He really has not, for He promised to never leave us nor forsake us. He waits for us to be desperate for His presence. It is a prepared heart that the Lord desires, not a need for a momentary fix.
As we prepare for the Christmas season, be reminded how the Lord spoke through the prophets of old concerning the day He would dwell among His people. He looked forward to the time He would be among those who named the name of the Lord. His desire has not changed. He sent His Holy Spirit to indwell our lives, filling us with the presence of the Lord. He so desires to draw close during this time of remembrance of His birth long ago. Let us first remember to seek Him and invite His presence among us. Next, let’s remember others above ourselves. Finally, let us reach out to those less fortunate, even as the Lord reached out to us.
Father, again I give thanks to You for all Your multiplied blessings in my life. Your love to me is so undeserved, but I receive it with gratitude. Work deeply in me that I might communicate Your love to others. I stand in the knowledge that You will never leave me nor forsake me.
Psalm 100 – “Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His loving-kindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.”
What an expression of praise and thankfulness! When it comes to the Lord, a quiet thank you does not seem sufficient. Shout to the Lord. There have been times when I just had to lift my voice to a loud level and shout to the Lord. Not shout at the Lord, but to the Lord. It was not because He was hard of hearing, but simply because He is worthy to receive my praise and thanks with all my strength.
Part of being filled with the Holy Spirit is being filled to overflowing with praise, thanksgiving, and gratitude for all our great God and King has done for us. Truly, there is no one like our God! Consider how our God humbled Himself and became as one of us. God, who is Spirit, took on our form in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The God of all creation allowed His created man to crucify His flesh on the “Old Rugged Cross,” the cross stained with the blood of our Creator and now our Redeemer. What utter shame, complete rejection, and absolute cruelty He endured. Love beyond imagination, love so sublime was poured out all for you and me.
It is difficult to comprehend this kind of love! It is a love for individuals, a love for communities of people, and a love for the nations. The entire world has known His love. God’s love spread from Israel to Asia Minor and Europe and then across the Atlantic Ocean to what became America the Beautiful. The Gospel spread from Europe and America to the nations of the world. The message of God’s salvation is so rich and so free. The Gospel continues to impact the nations as Asia is filled with men and women born into the kingdom of God. The Gospel is not static. It is a dynamic force in the earth bringing transformation to those who will believe what Christ has accomplished in His death, burial, and resurrection.
Like the Sun that moves across the sky from east to west, the Gospel is moving back to Jerusalem. Its power will transform Arab nations to trust in Christ. Eventually, a great company of Jewish people will come to know the Messiah who died for them, as the nations are harvested for Christ. Rejoice O Saints of God! We are victorious in the end!
As Americans celebrate the National Day of Thanksgiving, let us remember what God has done for all mankind. Here are a few Scriptures to encourage us as we express personal gratitude to the Creator and Redeemer of our souls.
“Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11).
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2). “Amen, blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 7:12).
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.