How About A Little Peace?

“Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.” – C.S. Lewis.

“Peace on earth” is a phrase you will hear over and over during the Christmas season. For many people, peace is hard to find at Christmas or anytime  Sometimes we struggle to find peace with ourselves. We regret past mistakes, struggle with our present weaknesses, and worry about the future.  We struggle with the uncertainty of tomorrow and the turmoil going on in the world around us. World news brings few positive reports if any. We wonder if “peace on earth” is even a possibility.

Think about how much has changed from 1903 (Wright Brothers 120-foot flight) to 2021 (rover vehicle running on Mars). The world has seen an unbelievable amount of progress over every time horizon in those 118 years. Most people think things are so much better today. We are progressing, but even with the best of intentions, our human effort to be good and make this world a better place often falls short.

If you are looking for a solution for peace, then turn to Jesus Christ. God revealed himself to people through the person of Jesus. Jesus came to earth in a peaceful way as a baby in a humble circumstance of a manger and proceeded to live a humble life. Jesus came to restore our broken relationship with God so that we could first experience wholeness and peace with ourselves, and then extend it to others around us.

 “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled,” is a line in Hark the Herald Angel Sing that gives a picture of Jesus as God’s gift of peace to us. Jesus demonstrated the kind of peace we all long for. He always treated people with respect, wisdom, and love. He brought peace to those around Him, and He ultimately wants to bring peace between you and God. If you want tranquility that is unending, you need to build a relationship with Jesus Christ. We, too, can enjoy the oneness that He and the Father experienced. When the Lord says, “My peace I give to you,” He is not referring to a loan. His peace is a free gift, available to every one of His children.

If we focus our attention on the Son of God, then He will give us perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). That does not mean we are immune to sudden shocks or occasional times when we are thrown off balance by circumstances. But the power of the Lord’s prevailing peace is adequate to carry us through anything He allows us to experience.

Peace is a gift that we can receive and give to others. Creating inner peace means that we don’t allow the outside world to define the state of our inner being. We take time to breathe, regain our composure, and think clearly. We take a moment to pause and pace ourselves in a healthy way, not letting the pressure of others and the holiday dictate our lives.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When you think of peace, what picture comes to mind? Where are you? What are you doing? What’s going on around you?
  2. What are some things we need to do in order to experience the “biblical” version of peace? How can the group encourage you when your life gets hard?

Helping The Hurting

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2 Corinthians  1:3-4.   

Barbara Streisand sang a popular song in the 1960s called “People.” A line in that song said that “people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” And isn’t it true? People need people. And we need one another even more in times of difficulty. So what do we do when people we know are hurting?

Christians will experience God’s comfort many times and in many ways, whether it is His mercy, grace, healing, and help. But God does not comfort us to make our lives better, He comforts us so we can comfort others who are hurting. We might have a tendency to try to hide our struggles from those around us. Yet, when we are vulnerable with others about our suffering, we find deep joy in Christian community. Our painful experiences can also open doors for us to come alongside others who are suffering.

Every follower of Jesus can have a ministry of encouragement because every believer has experienced pain or difficulties of one kind or another and has been comforted by God. The comfort that we received from God may just be the comfort that people who are hurting need.

Ask yourself several questions: first, are you approachable?  If people feel safe disclosing their problems to us, most likely we are approachable. Secondly, are you available? Don’t be afraid to approach a person in pain. Chances are, they want someone to listen. Inside, they may be like the Psalmist who cried, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” (Psalm 25:16). It doesn’t really matter what we say to comfort people during a time of suffering, it’s our concern and availability that really counts. We just need to be available, as Christ is available to us. When He was comforting His disciples before He left them, they were confused, questioning, and frightened. He said, “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.” (John 16: 22).

Third, do we pray for those who are hurting? A simple prayer, a Scripture that has meant something to you can be a comfort to a hurting person. Rather than giving personal advice, how much better would it be for Christians to share God’s loving promises? It is a comfort to hear the words of God in times of stress.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the ways we can show more mercy, love, and kindness to those who are hurting? Is there something we can stop doing? Do more of? Improve?
  2. In what practical ways can we better reflect God’s mercy this week?

Fix Your Eye On The Goal

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.– Hebrews 12:1-2.

There is no way to quantify this fact, but the Hebrews 12 passage of scripture may be preached on more than all others (although there are hundreds of candidates). One reason is the comparison between the Christian journey and a race. The other is because it applies to every believer.  Every believer could testify that there are things in our life that distract, hinders, or tangles us from heeding the call of God.  

But this passage will also help us refocus our attention on Christ. Taking our eyes off Jesus is one of the easiest things we do while keeping our eyes on Jesus is rarely an easy thing. Culture and the enemy are constantly conspiring against our efforts to remain faithful to the Savior. We can allow the cares of this world to push us away from the Lord instead of looking to Him in the midst of our trials and circumstances of life. This was the danger faced by the original audience of Hebrews. Their trials and circumstances were seen as reasons to abandon the race.  

That is why the author of Hebrews reminds us to look to Jesus. As we remember our Savior and His endurance for the sake of the prize, we will be enabled to press on and finish the race. Looking to Jesus, however, does not mean we do nothing ourselves. The remainder of the book of Hebrews focuses on those things that can be done to prepare us for the race ahead. As we follow the commands given by the author, the Holy Spirit will work through us and cause us to cling to Jesus.

When you are running a long distance, it is easy to get discouraged and frustrated that you are nowhere near the finish line. Often you cannot even see the finish line from where you are. But as a runner, you need to keep your eyes on the road ahead. When you start to get discouraged and look elsewhere, you slow down, you begin to doubt you can finish, and you begin to struggle.

But when you keep looking forward to the finish, you remain focused. So whenever you get discouraged or frustrated—feeling like you want to quit—fix your eyes on Jesus. Keep your eyes on Him, and He will keep you right on track to where you need to go.

Discussion Questions:

  1. In what area of your life are you successful at looking forward and being faithful? What are some practical ways you can apply your approach to an area of life in which you’re tempted to look backward and be fearful? 
  2. What is one thing you can do to fix your eyes on Jesus instead of safety, security, and comfort? How can this group support you?


A Little Encouragement Goes A Long Way

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

Have you ever had someone tell you something and it changed your whole day? Or maybe, someone told you something that changed the course of your life. Perhaps, it was just some encouraging words on a hard day or maybe someone shared their story or life experience. Words can be powerful tools to change our outlook on life for both better and worse.

The New Testament reveals that encouragement was a regular part of the early church’s life together, One example is Acts 16:40: “When Paul and Silas left the prison, they returned to the home of Lydia. There they met with the believers and encouraged them once more. Then they left town.”

The gift of encouragement is important in our lives. We can come alongside others and be there for one another. We can listen, comfort, console, and affirm. It’s a way of living out the command to extend grace and love to one another.

If you took a few minutes to think about it, each one of us could come up with any number of people who have encouraged us. Like the friend who made you laugh when you thought you may never laugh again. Or the aunt who listened to you while others just talked. Or the small group member who prayed with and for you when you were having doubts. Then ask yourself: “When was the last time I encouraged someone?” It’s not difficult, and the people you encourage are so blessed by it.

Ask God to give you a heart that loves others and the creativity to know how to show it. Ask God for the opportunities and desire to build others up. Ask God to be more like Barnabas. Barnabas was nicknamed the “son of encouragement” by the early church.”For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus.” (Acts 4:36). It is a fitting name, as we see him actively encouraging a young follower of Christ, a young church, and a young failure. His encouragement gives us an example to follow in encouraging one another in our own relationships.

Make encouragement a daily discipline. For some of us, encouragement comes naturally, for others, not so much. Find the time daily to send someone an encouraging note, email, text, or phone call. It just may be the encouragement they need. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever felt prompted to encourage someone? How did it turn out?  
  2. How is encouraging someone one of the most spiritual things you can do? Who do you want to encourage? How could you spiritually encourage them?

Will You Stand?

“A small change can make a big difference. You are the only one who can make our world a better place to inhabit. So, don’t be afraid to take a stand.” -Ankita Singhai

Many people seek to better their lives by leaving, changing, swapping, or modifying their commitments. But, God’s Word holds up a beautiful value that, while difficult, leads to deep satisfaction and great reward: endurance. It requires that we take a stand in our faith journey and remain firm to the end.

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” – 1 Timothy 6:11

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” – Ephesians 6:13

Ask God to speak to you as you meditate on the above verses by answering these questions:
1. What are these verses telling us?
2. What application do these verses have on my life?
3. What commands are there in these verses?

In this week’s message, we talked about the stand that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego took when asked to bow down to idols. But for this blog, I would like to outline another biblical story of someone taking a stand. That person is Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph was the man who buried Jesus. John 19:38 tells us: “Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.”  The facts were that he was a secret disciple of Jesus, but his fear of the Jews prevented him from taking a stand, even though he knew that he should have.

But now, Jesus is dead and His followers are hiding. Joseph gathered up his courage (Mark 15:43), and “went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body” so that he could give Him a proper burial. Joseph had nothing to gain and everything to lose by identifying himself with Jesus at this point in time. Jesus was dead and no one was expecting His resurrection. It would have been easier for Joseph to think this through and come to the conclusion that “Jesus was a good man and a prophet of God. It’s sad that this happened in such a grim manner, but life goes on. It will be better if I don’t cause waves or bring unnecessary attention on myself.” But in spite of the risks, Joseph came out of hiding and took a strong stand for Jesus by providing Him a proper burial. He gives us an example of taking a stand for Jesus in this hostile world.

No one knows why Joseph took this stand. Luke tells us that Joseph was “a good and righteous man, who was waiting for the kingdom of God” (23:50). Maybe the deciding factor was standing at the cross and watching Jesus die. Today on Good Friday, we celebrate the cross as the center of our faith. Paul summed up the core of the gospel, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). While we cannot stand and take in the events first hand, as Joseph and the others did that day, we should come often to the foot of the cross and think about its implications. If you go there often, you will not be the same. It will strengthen you to take a stand for Christ.

So take a stand. It my not be on a grand scale, but it doesn’t matter. Take a stand by your behavior, your attitude, and your quiet resolve not to compromise. Just “show up” in the sense of siding with Jesus, even if you aren’t clear about how to defend the faith. Show your commitment and love for the Savior, and He will use you as He used Joseph, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do we know when to take a bold stand and when to be more diplomatic and polite?
  2. How can a people-pleaser learn to become a God-pleaser?
  3. God is bigger than anything we will ever face in our lives. What challenge or obstacle are you currently facing that you need God’s strength to help you endure through it? Does it involve taking a stand?
  4. In what ways do you experience God’s presence on a daily basis?
  5. Pray and ask God for the wisdom and the courage for when and how to take a stand for Him.

Knocked Down, But Not Out

There was a man named Jim Jablon, who lived with two lions in their habitat for a month to raise money for his wildlife rehabilitation shelter in Florida. The two not-yet-ferocious feline occupants living with him were named Ed and Lea. Jablon completed the month together with the two-year-old lions with just a few minor scratches and significant donations to his cause. There’s a reason that this stunt made news. Even if the great cats were young and completely calm, some change or some provocation or simply an accident and Jablon could have been lunch. The risk of injury or death would frighten even the bravest soul.

In Daniel 6, that brave soul was Daniel. He knew his prayers would put him in the lion’s den. He refused to let that change a thing. Daniel was a man of excellence. Not only did he instill so much confidence in King Darius that he was in line to be the first in command (v. 3), but Daniel’s worst enemies were unable to find fault with him (v. 4). But that didn’t stop them.

Here’s a question for you. Have you ever been involved in office or business politics? Most people in business have. It impacts even the newest employee, as people begin to get him or her on their side and at the same time evaluate if the new person is a threat to their position or ranking in the unofficial business pecking order. Everybody takes sides so they are not left to themselves when power and influence is needed. That often requires currying favor with the boss or bosses on one hand and watching out for your back on the other. Because if people see you as a threat or as a competition, they will do whatever they can to eliminate that threat. It is the crab mentality. Crabs will pull each other back into the bucket, because if I can’t get out, neither will you. That doesn’t mean it will always be overt, illegal or unethical either. They can withhold needed information or deny you authority. Other times it may be slander or accusations. It is the survival of the fittest and it can feel like you are fresh meat for the lions.

In Daniel chapter 6, Daniel is now set in a high place and office politics has intensified. The people around him are jealous and devise ways to sabotage Daniel. They set up a conspiracy against him, and were looking to report to the king any error, or mistake Daniel would make. But in Daniel 6:4, we are told that: “At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.”

People will try to tear you down because you are a Christ follower. You can’t always stop what people are thinking about you. You can’t stop how people plot against you. You can’t always defend yourself. And it is not always possible to be extricated from such environments. But we can understand that if we serve God, people will try to tear us down. And more importantly we need to understand our enemy. The forces of darkness are real and would like nothing more than to marginalize you and your relationship with God. And as Roy said on Sunday, “if we are not ready to face opposition, we are not ready to be used by God.”

God did not promise to give us a trouble-free life, but to give us victory over our troubles. He is a very present help in our troubles. We have the promise that He will never leave or forsake us and Jesus said that He would be with us until the end. Our trust in God is a conduit through which His power flows to and through us. It is called faith.  And when we take a stand for God, that faith will be tested.

Discussion Questions:
1. “When God raises you up, expect people to tear you down.” Have you experienced the truth of this statement? If so, how? Have you experienced office politics? What was your reaction?
2. What is it about Christianity that provokes the need to tear Christians down? Do you believe Christians are arrogant? On a pedestal?
3. Are we sometimes guilty of tearing down other Christians? Why?
4. How do we prepare for the day when we are confronted with people trying to tear us down? What can we learn from Daniel on this issue?
5. Pray and ask God to give you the wisdom and courage to keep your eyes fixed on God when confronted with people who wish to tear you down.



Not To Worry

“Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?” – Mark 8:18.

Americans tend to make a national sport of being anxious. And we as Christians are no different. We stress, we panic, we fuss, and we fret. We act as though the sun will not set unless we get everything done on our agenda for that day. And when something doesn’t get done in a timely and productive manner, we freak out in direct proportion to how important the project/task is.  The Psalmist said it this way, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” (Psalm 43:5).

I think the reason behind being anxious is that amidst all the activities of the day, we forget that God’s promises, God’s power, God’s grace, God’s providence applies to every situation. The rest of that verse from the Psalms says, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” God’s salvation, of our hope in Him, is the best cure for anxiety, stress, and panic. God is in control.

The Bible is full of stories that remind us that this is not a modern phenomenon. The Israelites, less than a week after walking through the Red Sea, complained that they couldn’t find water, and worried that God would let them die (Exodus 15:22-25). Elijah, having just conquered 450 prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, immediately ran into the wilderness and asked to die when Jezebel threatened to kill him (1 Kings 18-19). The disciples, having just witnessed Jesus feeding 4000 people, started arguing amongst themselves because they forgot to bring along any bread (Mark 8:14-21). They were in the boat with the One who had just fed 4,000 people; and yet they were worried because they forgot to bring along any bread.

I think that this is the fundamental reason why we stress, fret, and worry. We forget what God has done. We think that our problems are greater than God’s vision, our troubles are too much for Him to bear. We worry that God might just not be watching, or is distracted.

Then we read the story of Daniel in the first chapter of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar was a man of great military and political power. He ruled the nation (Babylon) with an iron fist, and Babylon dominated all other world powers of that day. He was the commander who defeated and destroyed Jerusalem and who led most of the Jews into Babylonian captivity. The people of Judah seemed insignificant and impotent against such a great man as Nebuchadnezzar, and indeed they were. Despite his youth and the obvious pressures to conform, Daniel “purposed in his heart” to uphold the law of God, no matter the cost. Because of his willingness to put God first, God granted Daniel favor in the sight of others.

God has proven His faithfulness, time and time again. We need to remember this at all times. Maybe that’s why Paul, in his encouragement to Timothy said, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel” (2 Timothy 2:8). We need to constantly remember that He is risen, He is alive, He rules and reigns over us and for us, He holds all things in His hands.

And while everything may not end up well as did Daniel’s resolve in chapter one, we can trust God to work it all out for our good.

Discussion Questions:
1. What are some of the reasons Jesus gives for trusting in God, rather than worrying?
2. Regarding yourself, what do you worry about most? What keeps you awake at night?
3. When do you replace your faith in God with worry?
4. For what specifically are you trusting God? On what basis are you trusting him for these things?
5. Read Matthew 6 which s a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount. In verses 25 – 34, Jesus lays out the stark contrast between living a life of worry and living a life in total dependence on God the Father. It is a choice between trust in ourselves and trust in God. Pray and ask God to help you depend on Him in your life.

Spread the Word

“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.” Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

I’m a little concerned that if you have been religiously following the devotional this week that you may be afraid to open your mouth. You probably are thinking about putting an “out of order” note on your tongue and leave it at that. But, while we do need to control it and it has the capacity to cause harm as James tells us, the tongue can also bless you and be a blessing to others. If we guard our words, they in turn will guard us.

He you ever read or heard Winston Churchill speak? Winston Churchill knew the power of words. In speeches, books, and articles, he expressed his feelings and laid out his vision for the future. His wartime writings and speeches have fascinated generation after generation with their powerful narrative style and thoughtful reflection. His words gave the British people hope in some pretty dark times during World War 2.

There is much to be gained from keeping your tongue or using it for the glory of God. Not the least of which is praising God. Psalm 92:1:“It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High…” Express our faith as in Romans 10: 9-10: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Pray and pour out our hearts to Him. Psalm 62:8: “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

We can also use our tongues to build up and encourage one another. That is one of the reasons we meet together every Sunday and each week in our Northstar Groups. Ephesians 4:29 states: “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.” We can be positive, inspirational and encouraging. And in days like these, there are many times when each one of us could use an encouraging word. The world that we live in today tends to be negative and the news and media reflect that. As Christians, we don’t try to sugar-coat reality, but we point people to a Savior who is the answer to the problems of this world. And that is something to be positive about.

Taming our tongue is something that will definitely take time and we will have to go through a season of pruning, improving, and changing because there are so many aspects and dimensions to this topic of taming our tongue, that we have been dealing with this week.

Guard every conversation and speech that you expose yourself too. Do not entertain anything that does not glorify God or edify people in or around you. Put your eyes on Jesus and begin holding onto His promises for your life. Surround yourself with godly friendships and relationships that can help you pursue Him. That is how you can cut off the root of every wrong, negative and ungodly speech that comes from our tongues.

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you believe the tongue has as much power for good as for evil? Why or why not?
2. Give an example of where the tongue was used for good today? What can you glean from that example?
3. The tongue can reveal who you are as a person. Reflect on what you have spoken today. What can you learn about where your heart is based on your conversations?
4. Christians have been referred to as leaky buckets – once we have been filled by God, we have to continually seek him for fresh fillings of His Spirit. What do you need to do to be “re-filled with the Holy Spirit?”
5. What are some simple rules that you can follow to control your tongue? What do you think God is prompting you to do to take the next step in “taming your tongue?”

Hold Your Tongue

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

I feel this devotional may create some unease or even some apprehension. Even so, I think it is important we don’t use being a Christian or Christianity as justification for harmful, or as I described them in Sunday’s message, life taking words. Let me explain. History is replete with examples of people who caused great harm through their words under the guise of religion.

David Koresh was the American leader of the Branch Davidians religious sect, believing himself to be its final prophet. Revelations of wrongdoing provoked the historic 1993 raid on the center by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The subsequent siege by the FBI ended with the burning of the center, where Koresh and 75 others were found dead after the fire.

Now I grant you that this is an extreme group and what they do under the guise of following God is an extreme example. We don’t have to go to that extreme to be judgmental and even harmful in what we say as Christians. But each of us as followers of Jesus have to be careful that we do not harm others with our words because we are Christians.

Let’s face it, there are times we open our mouths and wish we hadn’t.  Often we are trying to stay morally anchored but can’t resist the urge to get on our soapbox. Or the countless other incidents when Christians open their mouths because we believe we may be right, although we are not always right, doesn’t mean it needs to be said or we are the right person to make a moral judgment call.

You are talking to a friend before church and you point out that somebody you both know is too liberal for your taste. The person who they are speaking about may never hear what is said, or it may get back to them at some point. Either way, the tongue in this case is not being used as God intends it to be used.  There are many other examples of things Christians say in homes, coffee shops and outdoor settings across the country and world. After all we are Christians and we are here to help. And we are armed with the gospel and biblical truth. That does not mean we don’t need to have a firewall on our tongue to stop us from using words that create death in others.

Scripture is pretty straightforward on this subject. Ephesians 4:29-31 speaks to this: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up.”

I know how easy it is to let loose with a crushing verbal blow.  I know just what words and phrases can cut to the quick; if most of us are honest, we probably use them with alarming regularity. But now I am trying to start small and using my words for the positive, not the negative. My witty yet biting banter, or gossip, or harsh words did nothing for God or the Gospel when I was hurting people rather than helping them to find healing in Christ Jesus. I cannot, for the life of me, understand what makes us say some of the hurtful things we say.  We are not called by the living God to be hurtful, but to reflect his grace and love.

One more thing to think about. It seems to be all the more prevalent now that we do not need a face-to-face with the person to say harmful things or to get on our soapbox. Now we can write them online, post them to our Facebook and Twitter accounts, and stream them on comments sections as if they are not directed at another person, and therefore, not really hurtful.  Well, they are. Not only are they directly painful, but they are painful to read even when they are not directed at us.

It is quite a challenge to tame the tongue as James 3 indicates. Yet, as Christians, we need to watch what we say so Jesus will be glorified through our lives. Matthew 15: 10-11 says, “Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Discussion Questions: 
1. Imagine if we could erase the reputation of Christian soapboxes and become known for our love and co-work with Christ’s redemption in His world. How can our words help that happen?
2. How different would your life be if you clothed yourself in love rather than in anger or being holier than thou?
3. Set aside some prayerful moments to ask the Lord to search your heart, and help you in the areas of the tongue.
4. Read Romans 12: 17-18. How does this apply to the words we speak?

Think Higher Thoughts

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” – Isaiah 55:8-11

This week we are looking at the the general idea of our thoughts and how to make them more pleasing to God. We also talked about taking small steps at first and building on those small steps over time to make a big difference in our life. In this devotional, I want to look at a famous and important passage of scripture that is referenced almost every time the subject of thoughts is discussed.

In Isaiah 55, God makes a declaration that His thoughts and ways are higher than ours. That is a very easy premise to believe and accept. He is God and we are not. But here is the rub with that statement. Yes, it is easy for me to accept that as theory, however it is more difficult sometimes to accept it as reality in every facet of our lives.

The thoughts stored in my heart are what determines my thoughts and how I view life. If I can replace my thoughts with His, I can change my heart. But Marty, we all readily agree that His thoughts are higher than ours. So how can I think His thoughts? The answer is yes, you can.

God’s thoughts are higher than ours, but thank God He wrote his thoughts down. Just as our minds contain rational thoughts we think every day and “heart” thoughts that make up the underlying pattern of how we think, the Bible contains what God thinks about any subject as well. So no, we cannot instinctively think God’s thoughts, but we can read His thoughts.

God’s thoughts from His written word have the ability to impart life to us and transform our thoughts to be more like His. Jesus said His words are spirit and life. (John 6:63) Hebrews 4:12 says the Word of God is a powerful living thing. The Word of God has been given the power by God to change how we think.

It does not happen overnight, but it does happen if we give ourselves to it. Step by step toward your heavenly Father. God doesn’t expect you to know how to live a perfect Christian life. But God does want us to try. Just try to take a few new steps every day. Start to read the Bible a little each day, and ask God to help you do what it says. Talk to God and tell Him you need help to make His thoughts your thoughts. When you mess up (which you will, we all do) quickly ask Him to forgive you. As you seek God and obey Him, you will see some big changes. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Discussion Questions:
1. How does a bigger, more accurate picture of God help us gain perspective on ourselves and our limitations?
2. What is comforting about the fact that His “thoughts are not (our) thoughts, neither are (our) ways (His ways)?” What is, at the same time, unnerving about that statement?
3. How can we align ourselves with God’s ways, when His ways seem elusive or unclear?
4. What is an area in your life where you are struggling (or have struggled) to align your thoughts with God’s? How did you fight for control?