Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Tongue and Heart

“That will never work!”
“I shouldn’t say this, but . . .”
“Oh, why don’t you grow up!”

Have you ever heard yourself say similar things? That’s when I wish I could reach out, grab my words, and slap them back in my mouth. As soon as they become audible, I know I shouldn’t have said them. And sometimes I know BEFORE I speak that I should just keep my mouth shut. But do I? Unfortunately, not always. And what follows is not helpful, necessary, or kind.

Lots of Scriptures warn us about the power of the tongue and our need to keep control of it:
  • Ephesians 4:29, 31 No unwholesome talk.
  • Ephesians 5:3-5 No course joking or obscenities.
  • James 3:2-12 Keep the tongue in check.
  • 1 Timothy 4:12 Be an example in your speech . . .
  • Colossians 3:8 Rid yourselves of filthy language. Don’t lie.
  • Philippians 2:14 Do everything without grumbling or complaining.
  • Proverbs 21:23 To stay out of trouble, be careful what you say.

 All of these verses are wise, but how do we gain that kind of control over something that seems to have a mind of its own? How do we get our tongues to submit to God’s expectations? According to God’s Word, it all starts in the heart: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

In Matthew 6:35 Jesus says, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Again, in Matthew 12:34-35, He explains: “Whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.”

How do we maintain a “good” heart, a heart full of selflessness, love, mercy, gratitude, and pure motives? Here are a few verses I have found helpful:

  • “Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves.” (Galatians 4:16) Ask the Holy Spirit to guide in all our dealings with others.
  • “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you.” (James 4:7-8) Getting to know God better makes me better.
  • “If we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing.” (1 John 1:9) When the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts are NOT acceptable in God’s sight, we can confess it to God.
  • “Dwell on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.” (Philippians 4:8) The old adage, “What goes in is what comes out,” has a lot of truth to it. Turn away from programs, books, and other media that dishonor and displease God. Instead, meditate on God’s Word, listen to praise music, and read accounts of God at work. 
  • “Pray at all times.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Ask God to help us use the gift of speech with kindness—and tame that out-of-control tongue!

 Be encouraged!

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Arm Yourself

“Build up your strength in union with the Lord and by means of His mighty power. Put on all the armor that God gives you, so that you will be able to stand up against the Devil's evil tricks. . .  Put on God's armor now! Then when the evil day comes, you will be able to resist the enemy's attacks; and after fighting to the end, you will still hold your ground. (Ephesians 6:10-13)

The armor of God is necessary every day, not just when we recognize a spiritual battle is imminent. We need to build up strength; it doesn’t happen overnight or without effort. Just like physical strength is gained gradually and requires work, so does spiritual strength.

We are instructed to arm ourselves today for the battle that may not come for weeks or even years from now—but it WILL come.  We are to be preparing TODAY—improving, learning, pushing ourselves a bit farther than the day before—so that we are ready for future challenges.

How do we prepare? How do we arm ourselves? Ephesians 6 goes on to explain:

“So, stand ready, with truth as a belt tight around your waist, with righteousness as your breastplate, and as your shoes the readiness to announce the Good News of peace. At all times carry faith as a shield; for with it you will be able to put out all the burning arrows shot by the Evil One. And accept salvation as a helmet, and the word of God as the sword which the Spirit gives you. Do all this in prayer, asking for God's help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason, keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God's people.” (vs. 14-18)

  • Are we speaking truth at all times? Or do we give in to Satan’s whispers that it’s okay to tell “little white lies”?
  • Do we do those things we know are right in God’s eyes? Or do we allow pressure from the world to convince us we need to compromise?
  • Are we sharing God’s good news with friends and family? Or have we bought into the half-truth propagated by the Devil that people need only see a sermon, not hear one?
  • Is faith in God our shield against evil and despair? Or have we given in to hopelessness?
  • Have we accepted God’s gift of salvation or are we putting it off till “someday”?
  • Are we daily reading God’s Word or have we set aside that essential piece of armor, filling our minds instead with the world’s words via every other form of media?
  • Do we pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads or do we worry and whine instead?

In all honesty, I have been guilty of walking out of the house without my spiritual armor, naked and unprotected from the onslaught of Satan and the world. Will you join me in putting on every piece of armor God provides, ready to face whatever lies ahead?

Be encouraged!

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Woolly Bears

“Look, Kenzie! A Woolly Bear!” I pointed to the fuzzy orange and black caterpillar climbing on the tire of the four-wheeler.

“Can I touch it?” my brave four-year-old great-niece asked, stretching out her pointer finger to pet the creature.

“Sure! Some caterpillars can irritate your skin, but this one won’t.

I picked up the caterpillar and held it out to her. “Look how it rolls up into a ball!”

I have always been fascinated with the beautiful Banded Woolly Bear caterpillar. This black bristly creature with its distinctive rusty orange bands is plentiful in our area.

Woolly Bears hatch in late summer to early autumn and hibernate over winter when they freeze solid. In the spring they spin their cocoons and about two weeks later, the Isabella Tiger Moths flutter forth with their muted apricot and tan wings, differing strikingly from the vivid black and orange of the Woolly Bear caterpillar.

As I researched the moth’s life cycle, I was reminded of the Sunday in 1977 when I trusted Jesus as my Savior. At that time God led me to 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence.” (GOD’S WORD Translation)

According to Galatians 5, when we ask Jesus to forgive us, our sinful human nature, with its pride, anger, envy, etc. is nailed to the cross. God’s Holy Spirit fills us instead, producing in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control.

Ephesians 1:19-20 shares the awesome news that the mighty strength which God used to raise Jesus from death is the same force that is at work in all who believe! What incredible power God releases to shape us according to His will. The change God brings about in us is even more remarkable than the make-over a Woolly Bear caterpillar undergoes, emerging from its cocoon as an Isabella Tiger moth!

Could your life use a radical transformation? God forgives us for our sins and failures when we believe that Jesus paid the penalty for them by dying on the cross. Along with that forgiveness is the offer of a new life, a clean slate, a complete makeover! Ask Him today. It’s a request He always answers.

Be encouraged!

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Speaking for Those Who Have No Voice

“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth; judge righteously; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9

I surreptitiously eavesdropped on a conversation in the airport. Though I couldn’t catch enough to grasp the gist of the conversation, fond memories from over 40 years ago flooded my mind as I watched the two friends signing companionably to one another.

Thanks to my friend Steve, those who are deaf hold a special place in my heart. Born with profound hearing loss, Steve was sent away to a school for the deaf at the age of two, coming home only occasionally for holidays. At 19, he returned to the tiny town where his parents lived.

Neither Steve’s father nor his mother learned sign language. Though Steve couldn’t hear a car horn blowing beside him, his parents were convinced that if they shouted loud enough, he would hear. Understandably, moving back home was trying for Steve.

Steve attended our church regularly, depending heavily on lip reading. Steve always carried a pad and pencil, writing down what he wanted to say and asking others to do the same.

Many people in the town feared Steve. He was a big man, with many frustrations. Though I never witnessed it, several people warned, “Steve’s got a bad temper.”

God filled me with a desire to help Steve. I learned that the local university offered Sign Language, so I registered for the class. As I gained confidence in my signing ability, I forged a friendship with Steve. Delighted, he began stopping by the house. He often brought our son candy, always requiring Seth to sign “Thank you!” or “More candy, please.”

I invited Steve for supper. I left him and my husband to “chat” while I cleaned up the dishes. Afterward, Dick said, “Guess I should learn some basic sign language, too. How about teaching a class at church?” I felt grossly unqualified but agreed anyhow.

To my great surprise, forty people wanted to learn! Steve was later offered a job by one of the men who took the class and felt confident enough to communicate with Steve.

Steve also gained acceptance in the church and community because people better understood the challenges he faced and made the effort to interact with him. I was so thankful and surprised that those basic sign language classes opened so many doors for Steve.

God asks us to open our mouths for those who have no “voice”—unborn babies, children, those genuinely poor, the handicapped, the aged, refugees, and animals. (God even gave a donkey a voice!) If God is calling you to “speak”, please, don’t ignore His nudges. You never know what life-changing effects God can bring about when you say, “Yes, I will help.”

Be encouraged!

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Coffee Shop Observations

This past week I spent some time with a new friend at Brisco's, a local coffee shop. We enjoyed learning about each other's past while slurping lattes and savoring pastries.

I love coffee shops—the Big Oak in Chambersburg, The Main Bean in Luzerne. In fact, this week, while I am visiting my daughter in Minnesota, she and I will stop by Jitters Java Cafe in Sauk Centre for some great coffee and conversation.

What I love about coffee shops isn’t necessarily the coffee. It’s the atmosphere. The aromas and tastes and ambiance encourage me to sit back and relax, listen with an open heart, and speak with honesty. It reminds me of James 1:19 "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen . . .", and Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens . . .”

These are my “Coffee Shop Observations”:

Folks two to ninety will come gather here,
Couples and singles, and students with gear,
Men, women, children, both oldsters, and teens,
Regulars, newbies whom I’ve never seen.

Some come in leisure and some on the go,
Anticipating a hot cup of joe.
Sticky bun? Muffin? Or Cranberry scone?
Lemon tart? Carrot cake? Coffee alone?

Coffee with sugar and coffee with cream,
Coffee with flavors in seasonal themes.
Peppermint mocha or rich pumpkin spice
Cinnamon, hazelnut, hot or with ice.

Long conversations and short meet-and-greets,
Serious, funny, exciting, discreet.
Outbursts of laughter and sometimes a tear,
Tête-à-têtes relished with loved ones held dear.

Come to the coffee shop; Don’t rush to go!
Savor espresso or cappuccino.
Sit with a friend to sip coffee and talk
Read a great book, but don’t look at the clock.

Where do you meet those with whom you want to share a little conversation?

Be encouraged!


©2018 Pamela D. Williams