Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Value of Words

If you know me you know that I’m a “words guy.” I use the Greek and Hebrew dictionaries and lexicons to help me understand the words of scripture. I also make use of English dictionaries, because I’ve discovered that what words mean and what we think they mean are often very different.

Choosing the words we say in conversation is extremely important. We’ve all discovered by now, I’m sure, that words can heal and words can hurt. Words even create an atmosphere. If you’ve ever entered a room where cruel words were recently spoken you have discovered that they leave a heaviness in the room, even if you weren’t there to hear them. Words can encourage, edify, comfort and soothe. They can also wound, discourage, alarm and destroy.

Proverbs 18:21 tells us that both death and life are in the power of the tongue. In fact, if you think words aren’t important, the book of Proverbs will prove you wrong! Jesus’ brother James wrote that with our words (tongues) we both bless and curse. [James 3:9, 10] He also instructs in the same chapter that we can steer our bodies by the words we say.

So, on one level I think most have discovered that speaking positive words makes for a better life than harping on the negative. But there’s another level I’d like us to consider. Let me start with a few of the classic New Testament scriptures on the value of words.

Mark 11:23For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.

Romans 10:9, 10 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

II Corinthians 4:13And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak,

I can’t tell you how many messages I’ve taught on “confession.” The basic principle of biblical confession is twofold: believe in your heart and confess with your mouth. Confessing what God says works! But we’re not getting the results we should. The promises of God aren’t “You win some, you lose some and some get rained out!” God’s promises are yes & amen. Jesus came to give us abundant life. We’ve been made more than conquerors.

The question remains then, why aren’t we getting the results we should? I think the answer is contained in these (and other) scriptures. For our words to carry the power they should we must first BELIEVE. Believe in your heart. Don’t doubt in your heart. We believe, therefore we speak.

If we’re honest with ourselves we’ll acknowledge that a lot of our confessions were attempts to appease God into doing something for us. “If I confess it often enough, loud enough, passionate enough …” If that’s been our focus it is fleshly and legalistic. Everything done for us by our Lord Jesus was done before we were doing anything right. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. [Romans 5:8] Making positive statement won’t change Him. He’s already for us, with us and in us.

The release of power comes as we believe in what’s already done on a heart level, and form our words around that belief. Believe in your heart; confess with your mouth. We believe unto righteousness; confession is made unto salvation, which includes forgiveness, healing, deliverance, peace and all that Jesus won for us.

That leaves us with one more question needing an answer: what if I don’t believe in my heart? Here’s where we must be brutally honest with ourselves. Most of us have confessed things we just don’t believe. No wonder it hasn’t come to fruition. So, what now?

The root meaning of faith is to be persuaded. Many times becoming persuaded is a process. The good news is that confessing what God has said will help you become persuaded. Therefore, as long as your confession does not fall into attempting to please God so He’ll come through for you, your confession can continue working for you to persuade your heart of truth.

The writer of Hebrews said it this way: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” [10:23] Hope is a confident expectation with joy. Keep speaking the Word to persuade your heart. God is faithful!

“I couldn’t help but think …”

“I couldn’t help but think …”

I’ll be the first to admit it – I’ve said this! Something stimulated one of my senses and it felt like my mind ran off on its own without my permission. But is that really true? Do our minds “have a mind of their own”? Is there really nothing we can do but let them race away, unchecked?

As in every area of our lives, the Bible has some important things to say about this subject. Allow me to peruse through a few.

Proverbs 23:6-8 – Don’t eat at the table of a stingy person or be greedy for the fine food he serves. “Come on and have some more,” he says, but he doesn’t mean it. What he thinks is what he really is. 8 You will vomit up what you have eaten, and all your flattery will be wasted. [Good News Bible]

Wise Solomon here speaks of a man who says one thing while he’s thinking something else entirely. The key is at the end of verse 7: “What he thinks is what he really is.” I’m starting with these verses to establish how important our thinking is. We’re all adept at putting on a false facade; but the thoughts, the attitudes, that come out of our hearts, they represent the real us! As uncomfortable as that can be, it is the absolute truth.

II Corinthians 10:4, 5 – For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
[New King James Version]

As believers in our Lord Jesus we have been given “weapons” or instruments to help us deal successfully with the realm of thoughts, attitudes, imaginings, etc. Notice specifically verse 5: “casting down arguments.” For “arguments” other translations have “reasonings” or “imaginations”. When we add to this the thought “Bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” we’re clearly being told to stop thinking, reasoning or imagining anything that does not comply to who we are now in Christ!

Returning to my premise, it cannot be true that “I couldn’t help but think …” if the Bible tells me not to think certain things. God would be unfair to require us to control our minds if we are incapable of doing so!

One more verse, Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.  [New King James Version]

In II Corinthians 10:5 we were told what NOT to think. Here we’re told the opposite – these are things we should think or meditate on. It’s interesting to me that the word “arguments” in II Corinthians 10:5 is the noun form of the same word translated “meditate” (a verb) in Philippians 4:8. And again, since the Bible tells us not only thoughts to cast away but thoughts to embrace, it must be in our power to do just that.

No doubt our minds need to be retrained. They can be like unruly children, involved in all kinds of mischief. But we can reel them in and train them to obey. An important principle in the New Testament is “the renewing of the mind.” You, your Bible and the Holy Spirit can get that unruly child retrained.

So, don’t give in to “I couldn’t help but think …” Take control by the instruments you’ve been given. You’ll be glad you did!

Cabin Fever

Cabin Fever

 Cabin fever, according to Wikipedia, “… is an idiomatic term, first recorded in 1838, for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in a small space, with nothing to do for an extended period. Cabin fever describes the extreme irritability and restlessness a person may feel in these situations. …When experiencing cabin fever, a person may tend to sleep, have distrust of anyone they are with, and an urge to go outside even in the rain, snowdark or hail.”

Living in upstate New York, cabin fever is a phenomenon to which most can relate. There are barely more than eight hours of daylight in every twenty-four. The cold and snow keeps us indoors most of the time. Our houses are shut up tight, trying to preserve the heat and save on energy costs.

I marvel at people who thrive in Alaska and even up in the Artic Circle. They barely even see the sun for months at a time, while the temperature drops to forty and fifty degrees below zero! Yet most of these hardy people have made adjustments and actually thrive even in those frigid winter months.

So how does “Cabin Fever” relate to our daily Christian lives? Consider this scripture passage: And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:11, 12 [NKJV]

Cabin fever sounds to me like becoming “sluggish.” Strong’s defines this Greek word as “slow, sluggish, indolent, languid.” That didn’t provide much insight for me, so I went to my dictionary. “Sluggish” is defined as “indisposed to action or exertion; not functioning with full vigor; slow to act or respond.” “Indolent” means “inactive or relatively benign.” “Languid” is described as “lacking in spirit or interest; listless.”

Okay, let’s bring these defining words to our daily Christian life. The Christian walk can be vibrant and exciting. When we consider who we are in Christ now and our future with Him in heaven, hey, life is good. But because we’re a feelings oriented lot and we all have heart issues needing attention, life doesn’t always exude stimulation. Romans 12:11 reminds us to “serve the Lord enthusiastically.” [NLT] During times when life may feel dark and gloomy, our reaction can be to become sluggish.

Notice also the wording of verse 12: “do not become sluggish.” In the Greek this is the subjunctive mood, meaning it may or may not happen. No one has to become sluggish. It involves a choice. As someone has said, we can’t control what happens to us, but we can control what happens in us. The promises of the Bible do not guarantee a life without challenges. There will be temptations, persecutions and tribulation (pressure). But we must not allow those to bring us down. Jesus’ admonition is that we’ll have tribulation, but to cheer up, because He has already overcome for us. [John 16:33]

Vine’s gives more information on the Greek word, saying that “No immoral thought or blame is necessarily involved in it.” So, spiritual cabin fever (sluggishness) may not involve sin per se. But it definitely does involve low spiritual energy, inactivity, lack of interest or enthusiasm. As a leader I’ve come to realize that I can’t afford to go down this road. It’s not good for me and I can end up “ministering” that spirit into the congregation.

Wikipedia adds this thought: “One therapy for cabin fever may be as simple as getting out and interacting with nature. Research has demonstrated that even brief interactions with nature can promote improved cognitive functioning and overall well-being.”

 Christian therapy for cabin fever begins similarly by getting out and interacting. For us I suppose that using nature can help, but more specifically we need to get out among our brothers and sisters in Christ and fellowship. Probably the worst thing we can do is to play the hermit and avoid people all together. People have told me over the years that they need to take a sabbatical because their life has been difficult. It may be true at times that a little rest does wonders. But I strongly suggest that they keep it short, because it can soon become easier to stay away than it was to be involved.

Let’s be honest, people can be irritating; responsibility isn’t perpetually exciting; and we’re all tired at times. But in the long run you’ll cause yourselves more pain by hiding on the bench than by getting into the game. God didn’t call us to be bench warmers. Verse 12 finishes with the admonition to be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Be inspired by those who enthusiastically serve God no matter what. Take inspiration from David in the Old Testament, who encouraged himself in the Lord. You can do it!