“And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” – Matthew 12:36-37.

Nothing matches the exhilaration of hearing your baby’s first words. The language development months can be a lot of fun — especially when you’ve been impatiently waiting for the first “mama” or “dada.” Parents are as excited as they can be. They tell everyone around about it, share it on Facebook, and encourage the child to say it over again. Once the child starts talking you tell him or her to “use your words.” As soon as the child learns how to string words together, they chatter nonstop. There’s no filter and they parrot words they have heard in places where those words shouldn’t be said.

Children have an excuse. We as adults, not so much. Consequently, we spend a lot of time considering the right words to say, the right tone to use, and the right time to speak. God’s Word tells us that it is not only what we say and how we say it that is important. What is equally important is what we choose not to say. Ecclesiastes 5:2 (NIV) says, “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” In other words, don’t make careless statements in the heat of the moment without considering how they would be received.

Jesus used His words to bring life and hope to people. And He went beyond just His words. Jesus listened. He wept with those grieving, served those who were hungry, ate with those who were rejected and persecuted, and healed those who were broken. We must follow Jesus’ example.

Proverbs tells us that, “The tongue can bring death or life…” (Proverbs 18:21) Words have so much influence they can cause a person’s life to change.  Proverbs 16:24 (NIV) says, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

As Christians, our words should be of the life-giving variety. We should use our words to graciously build others up. The Bible makes very clear the value of having kind and thoughtful words rather than quick ones. Even with people we do not necessarily like, our words of kindness and love can make a difference. We won’t always know if our words were enough to soften someone’s heart, but we can trust in the promises of God’s word as we are showing love toward others.

Our words should reflect our relationship with God. You always have a choice when you speak. Remember, the world is watching how Christians treat each other and other people. We are walking, talking representatives of Jesus. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

What will your last words be? Consider what Jesus said at the beginning of that painful time of the crucifixion, on Good Friday. He’s on the cross, He’s dying, He’s beaten for our sins, and He said, “…Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing…” (Luke 23:34)

Discussion Questions:

  1. The quality of your life is directly connected to the content of your conversation. Agree or disagree and why? 
  2. Can you remember a time when you weren’t careful with your words? What could you have said differently in that situation?


For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” – Hebrews 4:12

The Bible is the single most important book ever written. It is an eyewitness account of historical events that have shaped the world in which we live. This book is a priceless, fascinating, and incomparable treasure. People have died torturous deaths simply to gain access to the Bible in countries where this book is discouraged or even banned outright. It raises the dignity and rights of every human being ever born. It is truly an amazing and remarkable piece of writing that will astonish and surprise you. Consider the following:

First, the Bible was written over a period of 1,600 years by 40 different authors and in multiple languages yet it speaks with a common voice.  On days when movie producers have a hard time recreating a scene exactly from day to day, the Bible has an internal consistency and theme that is nothing short of amazing.

Second, think about its circulation. The Bible is the most published book in history. It has been at the top of the best-seller list yearly for 200-300 years. It is impossible to know exactly how many copies have been printed in the roughly 1500 years since the Bible contents were standardized, but research suggests that the total number is somewhere between 5 and 7 billion. And that does not include all the digital versions that people have on their various devices. The Bible in its entirety has been translated into over 700 different languages and more happen each year. No book comes close to this.

Third, we can trust in its reliability. The Bible is the Word of God and has been miraculously preserved through the years of copying and translation so that we can be sure of its trustworthiness and reliability. The same goes for the Bible’s durability. Some have tried to eliminate it. All who have tried have failed.  The Bible has survived bans and burnings, ridicule and criticism by opponents.

Fourth is the Bible’s effect: people who start reading the Bible never finish reading it. They want to keep reading it over and you keep seeing new things. People have multiple versions. They study it and carry it around. What people learn transforms their lives and values like no other book ever has. The Bible is truly a gift.

If you are a Christian, the Bible is an indispensable book. Our walk alongside God takes a thousand twists, turns, and obstacles. Fortunately, the Bible is the map for that journey. Take time every day to read this remarkable book. Read it with an open mind and open heart. It contains pure truth about God, about life, grace, love, and an eternity with God. You’ll be amazed at what you discover about God, and about yourself.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What makes the Bible so unique in your mind?
  2. What can we do this week to spend more time in the Bible?

The Gospel Changes Everything…Including Me

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” – Romans 10:9-11. 

You may be thinking that the gospel is pretty abstract. Yes, it applies to me but it doesn’t seem tangible, practical, or applicable. The gospel is all those things. The gospel comes to life in the stories about people who were heroes of the Kingdom. We want to be brave like David, who slew the giant with a stone. We want to be as faithful as Abraham, who did not hold back his only son. We want to be righteous like Noah, as wise as Solomon, and unwavering like Paul. But if we spend too much time reading stories of the heroes of the Bible, we may miss the greater story those heroes are pointing us toward.  

Throughout the Bible, God is telling one story: God’s plan to rescue His people from sin through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the gospel. And the gospel changes everything. 

 Somewhere along the line, we underestimate the role of the gospel. The gospel is words – we need to use words, and the word of God, to explain the gospel. But they are powerful words. God-breathed words. But the gospel is more than merely religious words and ideas that we get out and admire in church on Sunday, then we put them back on the shelf till next week. The gospel is a message of power, a message used powerfully by the Spirit of God, to convict people of their need for Jesus. The gospel message has the power to change lives.

We believe that it is just about us and Jesus and our external home. But the gospel is so much more. The gospel transforms societies, renews families, and heals relationships. It is a message of action. The gospel is not to merely inform but transform. The gospel should change our lives. Otherwise, we are left with mere words, mere facts, and mere formality.

1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 says, “We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people. For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true. And you know of our concern for you from the way we lived when we were with you.”

We know that God not only loves you but has selected you for a special purpose. The gospel in action to the world is simply being real in love towards all men, women, and children: smiling, looking them in the eye, giving way to them, being truly kind, telling them God loves them, and praying for them. This is the gospel in action. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you think of the gospel on a daily basis? If not why not?
  2. What can we do this week to make the gospel a part of our daily lives? 

The Power of Prayer

When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven. Then I said, “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.”– Nehemiah 1:4-7.

The power of prayer isn’t in the person praying. It’s not a magic formula. It isn’t keywords. It is an open heart, humble and filled with awe of who our mighty God is. Rather, the power resides in the God who is being prayed to.

Nehemiah had a burden for his people and for the city of Jerusalem. He had a vision of what could be, but he didn’t immediately pack up and race off to Jerusalem and try to get things fixed. He didn’t start developing a strategy or plan. He didn’t communicate with the populace in an attempt to get them on board. Instead, he went to the Person who knew the problem and had the power to fix it. Nehemiah went to the Lord and prayed. Nehemiah understood that he needed God to be successful.

We all have dreams just as we have have a purpose in this life. Every day each of us is faced with numerous choices. Decision-making can be difficult. There is often a lot at stake. So the question is: How do we choose wisely? What criteria do we use to evaluate, to discern the best course of action? Gathering all information necessary to make a wise decision is essential. We need the kind of wisdom that comes from above and that wisdom begins with prayer.

We know that God is sovereign. God is above all things and before all things. He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. He is present everywhere so that everyone can know Him. God created all things and holds all things together, both in heaven and on earth. That being the case, God can help us with our decisions about our dreams and purpose if we ask Him in prayer. In His timeless plan, God has conceived all possible scenarios and has thought of every possible contingency. There has never been an event that took God by surprise, and there never will be.

That should be comforting to every follower of Jesus faced with a decision. Pray and tell God that you are worried about a decision. Pray that God would give you a heart of wisdom. Pray that you will make wise choices; and when two paths seem to be equal, pray God will help you to trust even as you make the decision. Pray if the decision is the right one that God would open the door wide. And if it’s not what God has for you, that God would close the door tightly.  And at the end of this decision, pray for continued guidance.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you believe every decision should begin with prayer? Why or why not?
  2. What can we do to make prayer an integral part of the decision-making process?   

Ezra And His Dream

“He had arranged to leave Babylon on April 8, the first day of the new year, and he arrived at Jerusalem on August 4, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.” – Ezra 7:9-10. 

Ezra is the story of how God takes a defeated people and moves supernaturally to send them back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. Solomon’s temple was destroyed and laid in ruin for decades. God raised up a remnant to return to Israel. God moved the heart of the Persian King, Cyrus, to allow the Israelites in Babylon who desired to go back to Israel and rebuild the temple.

The Phrase in Ezra, “the hand of God” sums up what was happening. The Lord was in this return. It was part of His master plan. “This Ezra was a scribe who was well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given to the people of Israel. He came up to Jerusalem from Babylon, and the king gave him everything he asked for, because the gracious hand of the Lord his God was on him.” (Ezra 7:6) Ezra 5:5 says, “But because their God was watching over them, the leaders of the Jews were not prevented from building until a report was sent to Darius and he returned his decision.”

Ezra completed his journey, and the vulnerable exiles arrived safely in Jerusalem, according to “the good hand of his God upon him.” It is evident as you read the entire story that follows in chapters 7 and 8 that God’s blessing was upon Ezra. God’s care, provision, and protection were with Ezra and those returning to Judah with him. “Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.”  (Ezra 7:10)  

Ezra had first, prepared his heart. To set the heart is to determine, to devote, and to dedicate our whole being to something.  He sought the law of the Lord. To seek the Law of the Lord is to invest time and effort in studying the Bible. We seek to know the mind, the heart, and the ways of God through His Word. The hand of God was upon Ezra because he was determined to know and understand God’s Word. Ezra was committed to doing the Law of the Lord. James taught that to be a hearer of the Word without being a doer of the Word is to be self-deceived (James 1:22). The hand of God was upon Ezra because he was determined to obey God’s Law.

The story of Ezra with rebuilding the temple is an example of how obstacles can be overcome when God’s moving hand is behind His people. There is power when the “hand of God” is with His people. 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Do we need the “hand of God” to fulfill our dreams?
  2. How do we go about rebuilding the temple of our lives? 

The Attributes Of God – God Is All Powerful

What are God’s attributes? When we talk about the attributes of God, we are trying to answer questions like, Who is God, What is God like, and What kind of God is He? An attribute of God is something true about Him. Each Friday we will look at the attributes of God. This week, God is all-powerful.  

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?…How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!” – Psalm 8:3-4, Psalm 147:5. 

Effective relationships are based on knowledge. You can’t presume to know a person until we have the opportunity to learn more about that person, such as his or her history, personality, likes, dislikes, and desires. The more we know the more effective we will be in developing a relationship with that person. It is much the same with our relationship with God. That relationship needs to be rooted in a firm understanding of who He reveals Himself to be in His Word.  

People have many different perceptions of what God is like. Some see Him as a divine helper, others as a vengeful deity. Some fear God. God wants us to view Him correctly. He wants us to know Him intimately. How you view God touches every facet of your life.  The more accurate your understanding of who God really is and how He is involved in your life, the more highly motivated you will become to excel in the use of your time, talents, and abilities. 

God is all-powerful and the ways He demonstrates that are too many to mention. God merely spoke the universe into being — a universe that astronomers estimate contains more than 100 billion galaxies. But all the power contained in this entire universe is but a small representation of the unlimited power of God. The combined energy of all earth’s storms, winds, ocean waves and other forces of nature do not equal even a fraction of God’s almighty power. 

Because God is all-powerful, He has the ability and strength to do whatever He pleases. His power is not restrained or inhibited by any of His created beings. People and nations are powerless when confronted by His might. No task is too big for Him. He never fails. 

No matter what you might be facing, God can help you. Nothing is too hard for Him. No need is too great for Him to meet. No problem is too complicated for Him to solve. No foe is too strong for Him to conquer. No prayer is too difficult for Him to answer. The Bible promises tells us, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)

Have you considered that God wants us to reflect His power on earth? As we begin to understand God’s vast and magnificent power, our lives cannot help but be transformed. Everything about us will change – our attitudes, actions, motives, desires, and lifestyle. And as we are transformed, we will light up the world around us. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does God being all-powerful mean to you?
  2. What would you change in your life this week knowing that God is all-powerful?   

Can You Imagine?

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21. 

Young children tend to be curious, possess great imaginations, and have seemingly unlimited creative capacity. The dog can morph into R2 D2. A stick can become a light saber. And a couch turns into the Millennium Falcon.

Chances are, although you are no longer a child, you still have a healthy imagination. Imagination plays a powerful role in our lives, so it’s not surprising that the apostle Paul mentioned it in his prayer for the followers of Jesus in Ephesus (Ephesians. 3:14–21). In verse 16 he says, “ I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.”

Paul prayed that they would be able to grasp and experience the full dimension of the love of Christ (vs. 17–19). In closing, Paul gave glory to God who “through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (v. 20). He is giving us a reminder that regardless of your imagination, God has something better.

Think about that for a few moments. God, working through you, has plans that you can’t even imagine and haven’t even crossed your mind.  That should boggle our minds.  

You see, God’s plans are greater than ours, not just because God is bigger than us, but also because God’s ultimate objective is so much greater than what motivates us daily. We tend to pray about our daily needs, our daily wants – and God does care about those things – but He knows we will be most fulfilled when we have experienced His will for our lives. We taste life to the fullest when we are in a relationship with God, and when we are living each day with a divine purpose.

God, who He is and what He does, will do, and has done is immeasurable. We only see and know a slice of the whole pie in the sky.  All we ask of God isn’t all He intends to do through us. The more time spent with God in His Word, the Bible, and in prayer and worship, the more we begin to see through His perspective.  

Paul is praying for the Ephesian church to be blessed beyond anything they have ever dreamed. But he is also praying that the glory of God will be experienced through this church.

May we be reminded that our imaginations are so small compared to what God has planned for our lives through His power and glory.

Discussion Question:

  1. How do you rate your imagination? 
  2. How does knowing that God can “accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” impact our lives? 

Are We Glorifying God?

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father” – Colossians 3:17. 

God calls us to glorify Him in all we do. Or perhaps to put it more precisely: One of the great ways God glorifies Himself is by calling and enabling us, His people, to glorify Him through our holy conduct. Doing everything to the glory of God sounds exhausting. Do you ever find yourself wondering how to do this every day? What does my daily mundane schedule have to do with the glory of God?  

Theologian Jonathan Edwards once said: “From time to time [in Scripture], embracing and practicing true religion, and repenting of sin, and turning to holiness, is expressed by glorifying God, as though that were the sum and end of the whole matter.” 

If the creation could talk, and in a sense it does, it would say, as the psalmist writes, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.” (Psalm 19:1) Since we are part of His creation, we too should strive to glorify God.  Again, the psalmist writes, “You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!” (Psalm 22:23 ESV) But this isn’t just a command for Israel but it is for us as well: “Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.’” (Isaiah 43:7)

So what does glorifying God mean in our daily lives? In Colossians 3:17, the apostle Paul says in his letter to the Church as Colossae, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (ESV) He was reminding the Colossians that their ultimate purpose on this earth was to give God glory by showing God’s love and walking in peace with one another and doing all things with a heart full of gratitude.

How often are we focused on the everyday activities that we forget that they are not an end to themselves; we go through the motions looking for things to satisfy a longing in our soul that only living a God-glorifying life can satisfy. We were made to worship and glorify God, and He gave us the gifts and abilities in which to do that every day.

It means to worship and advance Christ in everything we do. In Philippians 1:20, we see that Paul’s attention was focused on one thing and one thing only.  While in prison, unsure of what his sentence might be, he maintained that laser focus. He expected that Christ would be exalted in everything he did. His one focus was glorifying Christ in everything. And he meant everything. In fact, he taught this in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  

God is worthy of all glory: “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.”(Revelation 4:11).  Matthew 5:16 says: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Who are we living for on a daily basis?  
  2. What can we do this week to glorify God? 

When Small Things Become Big Things

“You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” – Galatians 5:7-9.

There are many things in life that initially seem significant. The one thing in your office you didn’t put away. The one task that you didn’t complete. That relationship you didn’t work on. The bill you didn’t pay. The deadline you let pass. No big deal unless you never get past the half-way, the almost, the in-between and the just about to address them. Most big problems start as small, easily addressed items. By not addressing them, you allowed them to grow into big issues.

Solomon was the wisest, richest man in the world. Yet, the bible tells us in 1 Kings 11:4-6: “For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done.”

Exactly how did the wisest man in the world forget God? I believe there are several answers that apply both to Solomon and to us today. First, Solomon left a little wiggle room in his commitment to God. Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. (1 Kings 3:3) Here’s the issue.There’s no such thing as a partial commitment. When you begin with an exception clause, you will never arrive at full devotion and the Home Run Life.

Secondly, assume that you’re an exception to the rule. God commanded: He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. (Deuteronomy 17:17a) Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter. He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines, and his wives led him astray. (1 Kings 11:1,3) God commanded that he must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. (Deuteronomy 17:17b) The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents, not including the revenues from merchants and traders and from all the Arabian kings and the governors of the land …The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills. (1 Kings 10:14,27) Do we believe we are the exception to some of the rules as well?

Finally, fail to deal with your predisposed weaknesses. “But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites— from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love.” (1 Kings 11:1-2) For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. (1 Kings 11:4)

Sin has a way of creeping into our lives. A little activity here and a repeated behavior there can quietly become a habit in no time. Without being aware of it, sin can not only trip us up, but it can derail a person in short order, especially when we’re not paying careful attention.

Discussion Question:

  1. Solomon accumulated unprecedented riches. Look up Deuteronomy 17:15-17 and 28:1-14. Did Solomon go too far? Is extreme wealth a good thing or a bad thing?
  2. As Solomon grew older, he was a rich and established ruler, but he did not apply the wisdom that defined his early career. How can you continue to seek wisdom, even after you have experienced success?
  3. Did you ever let someone or something become more important to you than God? How can you show that God is important to you?
  4. Solomon’s failures began when he married women who served other gods. What advice would you give someone who is considering dating a non-Christian?
  5. Pray and ask God to help you eliminate small problems before they become big problems.

What We Do With Our Influence

by Angela Martin

“What if you don’t say anything at this time? Then help for the Jews will come from another place. But you and your family will die. Who knows? It’s possible that you became queen for a time just like this.” Esther 4:14

Influence is the ability or power to change or affect someone or something: the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen.

Women have the ability to influence, either good or bad. In the Bible we see some examples: Deborah was a warrior and judge (Judges 4 & 5), Esther saved her people (Book of Esther), Eve was the first woman (Genesis 1-3), and Mary was Jesus’ mother (Luke 2:1-7). Whether positively or negatively, all of these women were influential.

And so it remains today. As women, we have the power to influence our husbands, our children, our families, our co-workers, our churches, and our communities. Our goal should be to draw closer to Jesus and allow Him to transform us into godly women whose influence brings others toward salvation through Jesus Christ.

Where there are dedicated women, rooted in the things of God and in His Word, I believe there will be healthy families, strong men, confident children and thriving churches. Our mission as a woman is to be all we can be through Christ Jesus.

We desire and pursue growth in spiritual maturity so that we can take God’s love outside of the four walls of the church and into our workplace, schools, the grocery store, and our neighborhoods.

A woman’s attitude can affect the whole atmosphere of her home. I believe that to be true in the church. We can help one another in ways we never thought possible. 1 Corinthians 12:21, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” Every part of the body is indispensable. The relationships we build and the connecting of each person’s gifts make us indispensable.

Lately, I have been thinking about the power of influence. Who has had influence in your life? Today I am thankful for the influence of godly women. A godly woman leaves a mark on your life. She inspires us. She encourages us. She changes us for the better.

Are we a godly influence like that? Are we inspiring people to fall in love with Jesus? Are we leaving a legacy of influence for Him? Those are questions we should ponder. Let’s ask God to help us today to choose to be a godly influence in the lives of all those around us.

 Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you feel you have influence? Do you focus your influence in specific areas?
  2. What is the difference between trying to change a person (husband, child, co-worker, friend. neighbor) and trying to influence them?
  3. What is an area where your attitude may be influencing someone in a negative way? What is one thing you can do to help change that?
  4. It’s easy to look at other people’s stories and believe that God is writing a greater story. It’s harder to believe that God is doing the same in our own lives—that He wants to join His story to our stories. Do we want God to use us? Can we truly have influence?