Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Struggling with Target Fixation

When police officers come to an accident scene they’re looking for a number of ways the accident could have happened.  They want to find a cause for the accident.  They look to see if it was mechanical failure.  Was somebody speeding or driving unsafely?

But there’s another thing that they look for as the cause of the accident and that’s target fixation.  Target Fixation is when you’re looking at an object and subconsciously steer in that direction.  You drive toward the thing you’re focused on.

This video is a perfect illustration of Target Fixation.  There are a number of scooters making a turn.  The scooter in front of the scooter that’s filming loses control and crashes.  Notice how the filming scooter doesn’t even try to make the corner but steers directly into the crashing scooter.  That’s target fixation.

We’re all heading in one direction or another and once you realize that you’re going in a certain direction, you can begin to understand that there’s a force that’s guiding you in the direction you’re heading.  What is it that’s setting your direction?  What’s guiding the direction you’re heading in life?  Is it education?  Is it your parents wishes?  Is it the events and circumstances of life?  Or is it God?  Is God the guiding force of your life or are you just adding God to the direction you’re already taking?

What I mean by that is , id God guiding your steps?  Is he the principle focus of your life?  Or is God just another thing that you’ve added to what you already do?  Where you set your eyes is where you’ll end up?  Are you purposefully being guided in a direction or are you just a victim of target fixation?

Today I want to post a message on finding the direction for your life, the guiding force that will lead you into the promises of God.

Matthew 6:29-33 (NKJV)
6:29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.


How many of us have goals in life?  All of us have certain things we want out of life, isn’t that right?  Success marriage, children, all of us have goals.  These are things that we all want; that we’re striving for.  How are you going to get all those things? What is it that guides the direction you’re taking? 

There are those who go through a kind of target fixation.  They see where they want to be and do whatever it takes to get there.  They use people.  They lie, cheat, and steal.  Ambition can be a good thing when it motivates you to do what you do in excellence and integrity, but it’s a two-edged sword because it can also motivate you to do things that aren’t right.  What are you counting on to take you in the direction that you want to go?

Is it education that’s guiding you?  Do you believe that education is the force that can take you to the place you want to be in life?  “If I went to a better University I could go farther.”  “If I get a higher degree, I can get a better job.”  “If I continuously take classes, I will make more money.”  So you wrap your whole life into getting an education.  Your whole life is invested in education.

Is it your job that’s taking you there?  “If I work harder and more hours than anyone else, I’ll get the promotions and bonuses.”  “If I put my job before everything else in my life then I’ll be indispensable to my boss.”   “If I uproot my family and move, chasing a salary, and I’ll make more and more everywhere I go.”

Is it the events and circumstances in life that are determining where you end up?  “I’m so overwhelmed by the circumstances in life, that I don’t know what to do to go beyond this point.”  Because I’m always reacting to the events in my life I’m just barely keeping my head above water, there’s no way I can move forward.”

So the question here is this:  Can you trust God enough to allow Him to be the guiding force in your life?  That’s basically what our text is saying to us.  If you seek FIRST the kingdom of God, then all these other things will be added to you.  I see most people, not just in the church, but most people seeking the prizes and using their wits and education and jobs to be the thing that provide for them.  The scripture says to seek God’s kingdom and he will get you to that place you want to go. 

If you’re pursuing or following God then all those other things will come to you.  Allow your pursuit of God to shape the direction you take in life.  I’m ot saying an education isn’t important, or that you shouldn’t work hard, only that those things should’net be the thing that gives your life direction.  Let God be the guiding force in the direction of your life.

Following God

If God is the thing that’s guiding your life then what you’re doing Is following God’s lead – following God.  Let’s look at an example in the Bible:

Genesis 12:1-4 (NKJV)
12:1 Now the Lord had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, From your family And from your father's house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." 4 So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Here’s Abraham (Abram), God has called him out of his country to a place that God will show him.  God tells him, “I have a plan for you, that will include, even your descendants.  I will make you a great nation, I’ll give a great land for an inheritance.  Those who bless you, I will bless, those who curse you, I’ll deal with.”  All Abraham had to do was follow God.  He had to say, “I can stay here and make it on my own or I can follow God and see what He has planned for me.”  It’s no different than what you and I have to do. 

There’s a calling on your life – God is calling you.  “Seek first the Kingdom of God,” that’s a calling.  Abraham trusted God so he laid aside what he was already doing and followed God to that place.  Abraham wasn’t sitting around waiting for God to call.  He was just as occupied with his life as you are with yours, but when God called he followed Him.  He dropped what he was already doing and followed God.  God’s call became the focus of his life.

It’s interesting because Abraham wasn’t raised serving God.  He grew up in a pagan nation.  He didn’t know the God of the Bible, but when God called he allowed that promise of God to be the guiding force of the direction of his life. 

He received all the blessings of life:  Success, children, home all of it, and his descendants received the inheritance and became a great nation, too.  All of that happened because Abraham pursued God.  He sought first the Kingdom of God.

There was a point when Abraham didn’t follow God.  He went out on his own.  He stopped following after God.  I don’t mean that he started worshipping idols, but he was no longer following God’s direction.

Genesis 12:10-15 (NKJV)
12:10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, "Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. 12 Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, 'This is his wife'; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you." 14 So it was, when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful. 15 The princes of Pharaoh also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaoh's house.

There was a famine; life became difficult.  So Abraham left the place God had taken him and he went to Egypt.  He wasn’t following God; he was allowing the circumstances and events of life to guide his direction. 

This is important for us to see.  How many of us are allowing God to lead?  How many of us are allowing God to guide us and direct us?  Whe nwe get saved we don’t all focus our lives on God’s calling.  We don’t all pursue God like Abraham did.  Often we become Christians and God becomes something we add to the things we already do.  That’s when God becomes a PART of our direction.

We’re already pursuing education.  We continue to get more and more.  We’re already pursuing our jobs.  We’ve made our families second to the job.  Now, we’re going to fit God in to the schedule of things that we’re already doing.  It’s not seeking the Kingdom of God that’s the focus of your life; you’re already fixated on a target.  Our text tells us though, that it’s the wrong target.  The target should be the Kingdom of God.

When Abraham followed God, God took him in the direction that led to all those other things.  When he wasn’t following God he almost lost those same things.  What is the primary guiding force to the direction of your life?  is it God or is it a target fixation?  If you’re focused on the will of God, He will take you where he wants you to go AND He’ll add blessings to yor life.  If you’re focused on the target, you may end up hitting the target but crashing and losing something more important.  I have no doubt that Abraham could have become materially wealthy down in Egypt, but at what cost:  His wife and the promises of God?  He would have hit the target but crashed and lost it all. 

Seeking the Kingdom of God

God is calling you.  he’s calling you out of your old ways and your old life.  he’s calling you into His purposes.  He’s calling you to a place that He will show you.  He’s calling you into a new direction for your life.  He’s promising that if you will seek first the Kingdom of God that you will receive blessings as well. 

Hebrews 11:8 (NKJV)
11:8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Abraham followed God even though he had no idea where God was taking him.  He had God as the guiding force for the direction of his life.  God has a plan for your life.  He has a direction for your life AND God wants to bless you.  Look again at the promise to Abraham:

Genesis 12:1-4 (NKJV)
12:1 Now the Lord had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, From your family And from your father's house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." 4 So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Follow ME.  I will make you a great nation.  I will bless you and make your name great.  I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.  Why are we afraid that following God will cost us, and there won’t be any blessing?  We follow our bosses and it costs us, doesn’t it?  Work can take a toll on your health and your family and your boss never promises you anything beyond your salary – But you’re willing to follow him.

God says follow me and you’ll be blessed, can we trust that?  Is God more trustworthy than your boss?  If I believe the Bible and the stories of God’s provision, and blessing, and faithfulness, then I believe God for the promise.  If I can believe God then I need to live like I believe God.

So what does it mean to seek first the Kingdom of God?  It means to put God first, to go in the direction that leads to the Kingdom of God.

Don’t come to church to curry favor with God.  Don’t come because you think you have to.  Don’t come for favors; come to worship God.  Come thinking that God is going to speak to you.  Come thinking that God is trying to communicate His plan for your life and you don’t want to miss it.  If yo think that way I guarantee that you’ll hear from God.  If you’re open to His call, then he’ll call you to His promise.  If you’re not open to His call then you’ll never hear from Him. 

There’s one last thing I want to talk about:  The joy of your salvation.  Some people seem discouraged, even bummed out.  That’s no way for a Christian to feel.  Christianity should be about joy – We GET to go to Heaven.  Our God loves us.  In the traditional Taiwanese religion, do the gods love you?  I don’t think so.  Our God has a plan for our lives, but I think people come to church and they think this is it.  Every Sunday we take a couple of hours out and listen to a sermon.  We don’t come and pray that God will speak to us.  We don’t take it in and apply it to our lives.  We don’t let God touch us with His word.  We sit for a couple of hours and then go home unmoved.

We don’t get involved in what the church is doing, that’s where the fun and camaraderie come from.  We’re preparing to do a drama.  The things the church does are an opportunity for you to have some expression; to actually SERVE God and bring His word to life.  Wghat’s more fun to PLAY baseball or WATCH baseball?  It’s more fun to serve God than to listen to sermons about serving God.  Living out God’s plan for your life will chase away the discouragement.  It’ll make serving God fun! 

This is what SEEKING FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD is really all about.  It’s about making God your focus and direction and He will make sure your needs are met.  If your going to fixate on a target, make the Kingdom of God the target.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Fundamentals of our Faith: Overcoming

Editor’s Note:  This is from a series I have been preaching entitled the “Fundamentals of our Faith.” 

There it is!  That’s your life isn't it?  All of these obstacles in front of you, and you have to jump over them to get anything accomplished.  Do you want to raise your children to be productive adults?  You have to jump over hurdles.  Do you want a better job?  You have to jump over hurdles.  Do you want to do something for God?  You have to jump over hurdles.  Life is like an Olympic Event.

Have you ever wondered why nothing is easy?  It’s like one thing after another.  You’re trying to get somewhere in life and it’s one obstacle after another.  It’s one thing after another.  We all have to face obstacles in life.  We all have to face roadblocks in what we want to do. 

Sometimes, it’s the devil.  He hates you and doesn't want you to succeed at your dreams, especially if it involves God’s will for your life.  Other times it’s you and your flesh.  You just want to give up and quit, or you just can’t find the energy to persevere. At still other times it might be God doing a work in you. checking your faith, or teaching you to overcome.

Today, I want to post on being someone who can overcome the obstacles of life.

Romans 8:35-37 (NKJV)
8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

When it’s Worthwhile it’s Hard

God’s promises are not always easy to receive.  Very often these things look like struggle, turmoil and adversity taking place in your life.   God promised the people of Israel a “Land flowing with Milk and Honey,” but they were going to have to fight for it.  They were going to have to move out the current inhabitants of the land.  The PROMISE was there…but it was going to be difficult to receive.

Nothing in the world is worth having or doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…I have never, in my life, envied someone with an easy life.  I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well. – Theodore Roosevelt

Let me break this down for you into Christian language. Let me tell you what he’s saying in Christian speak:  Blessing comes through struggle.  It’s a principle of life – The harder it is the more worthwhile it is.

For example, raising kids is hard.  It’s really hard, and the bigger they get the harder it is.  My dad told me when my daughters were babies, “When you have little kids you have little problems, when you have bigger kids, you have bigger problems.”  He’s exactly right.  When your kids get older you don’t have problems like whose toy it is, or a scraped knee, or a wet bed.  You have problems like: Are they going to get pregnant?  Are they going to get killed while driving?  How am I going to pay for college?  Are they dating/marrying the right guy?

It’s not easy.  It’s expensive, you have to discipline, and sometimes you have to remember. “I’m supposed to be the mature one here,” when it would be easier to just kill them.  Is it easy? No, it isn't.  Is it worth it?  Yes, it is.

My daughters are a HUGE blessing, now.  They weren't always.  My mother and sisters always tell me what great kids they are, and they are.  It wasn't easy to get them there, though.  It wasn't easy for me, and it wasn't easy for them, but we all persevered.  I have two grown, beautiful daughters whom I believe will make it in life.

The difficulty and struggle was worth it.  Receiving the promises of God is also worth it, if you can overcome all the obstacles.

There are three places that obstacles come from.  The first is that lying devil.  How many know that the devil’s a liar.  He wants to keep you from God’s plan for your life.  The second is your own flesh.  Your fears, your feelings of inadequacy, laziness, or whatever keeps you from doing what you need to do to see God’s plan work out in your life. The third is God, Himself, checking your faith; whether or not you can believe God for His promises.  I can illustrate this from the Bible.

Taking the Promised Land was no Piece of Cake

There is a story in Numbers Chapter 13:  Israel has left Egypt.  They've finally made it to the Promised Land.  They've arrived at the promise of God to Abraham.  Moses has sent out spies into the the land to check it out and they have come back with their report:

Numbers 13:32-33 (NKJV)
13:32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, "The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight."

That Lying Devil

So, here’s the devil lying to them.  “There’s too many obstacles…it’s too hard.  You’re weak and puny, like little baby grasshoppers.  What can you do against GIANTS?”

How many times have you heard that voice in your head say, “You can’t do it.”  Or, “You’re not good enough.  You’re not smart enough.  You didn't go to a good enough high school or college”?  Maybe someone even actually spoke those things to you.  That’s the devil trying to work in your mind.  He’s trying to sow unbelief or doubt into your heart.  You can trust God for His promises, but the devil says, “No!”  He’s doing the same thing he did to Eve.  In the Garden of Eden he said, “Did God really say…?”  He cast doubt about the Word of God into Eve's mind.

In our text, when they saw the giants, the devil said, “Look at them, You’re puny little grasshoppers.  These guys will eat you for breakfast.”

Verse 32:  “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours it’s inhabitants.”
Verse 33:  “We were like grasshoppers in our OWN sight and so we were in their sight.”

The spies were just telling the people what the devil told them.  The devil said there are obstacles and you’ll never overcome them or conquer them.  God may have promised it, but there are GIANTS!

Believing the Lie

Let’s continue with the Bible’s narrative:

Numbers 14:1-4 (NKJV)
14:1 So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, "If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?" 4 So they said to one another, "Let us select a leader and return to Egypt."

None of them is willing to fight for the promise.  God doesn't say it’s going to be easy.  Nowhere in the Bible does he say that.  We have to be willing to fight for His promises, but we get discouraged.  We become defeatist.  Have you ever said this, “Nothing ever works out like I planned.  Why does it always have to be so hard”?  The devil lies to us, but we don’t have to believe him.  In our text the people of Israel believe the lie. 

The devil lies to you and sometimes you listen to him.  You say to yourself, “This is too hard.  Nothing ever works out for me.  I might as well quit!”  Quitting is the easy way every time, but what’s the reward of quitting:  Wasted time, wasted money, shame, guilt, letting yourself down, letting others down?  Those are the rewards of quitting.  Making it through the obstacles will be harder, often much harder, but what are the rewards of succeeding?  Aren't those rewards much easier to live with? 

Israel stands to receive a great inheritance.  God has a covenant with them, to bring them to this place.  It’s called the Promised Land, because it’s promised.  God promised it, but the devil tells them, “You can’t do it,” and the people all say to themselves: “You know he’s right.  We’re not strong enough to defeat giants.  Those cities are fortified; we can’t break in.  Let’s beat up Moses, and find a new leader to take us back to Egypt”  Which one would be a better ending:  Owning a land flowing with milk and honey?  Or going back to a land of slavery and oppression?  Here’s the reward for Israel quitting on the promises:

Numbers 14:34 (NKJV)
14:34 According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection.

Forty years of wandering in the desert until the whole generation died.  All of the adults died in the desert, never seeing the promise of God play out in their lives.  Let’s go back to the Promised land:

Numbers 14:36-38 (NKJV)
14:36 Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land, 37 those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the Lord. 38 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive, of the men who went to spy out the land.

Faith Activates God

So, the people of Israel wandered the desert for forty years, because they didn't believe the promises of God.  The whole generation never saw the promise of God except Joshua and Caleb.  They made it into the Promised Land, but why them?  Why did they see God’s promises?    Why weren't they like all the others? 

Numbers 14:6-8 (NKJV)
14:6 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; 7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: "The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, 'a land which flows with milk and honey.'

The entire congregation of Israel, all the people gave up.  They all wanted to quit.  They believed the devil and all of his lies and doubted God.  All of them except Joshua and Caleb.  They wanted to go and take the land.  “God promised it, so let’s go get it.”

The people of Israel made their decision based on their own strengths, but they left out something important:  THE GOD FACTOR.  God can do what we can’t.  God is more powerful than us, AND he’s more powerful than the devil.

It may look impossible to you.  You may think, “I can never do this!  I can never make this happen.  I can never have God’s promises, because I’m not strong enough to do it ”  You may be right.  You probably can’t do it on your own.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that what God has for you is too hard for you to do on your own.  You can’t do it...but God can.  I guarantee it’s not impossible for God. 

Luke 18:27 (NKJV)
18:27 But He said, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."

So knowing that the question is:  Can you believe God for His promises?  That’s what God is looking for.  He wants to show Himself strong.  He wants to win your faith and trust.  If God wants to show himself strong why would rely on YOUR strength?

If Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to show you how strong he was, he wouldn't tell you to lift up the weights.  He would lift them.

Joshua and Caleb understand that God is a God who cannot lie.  They know His promises are real – They’re promises.  So, they believe God for what he’s promised and because of that they are the only ones to see those promises play out in their lives. God fought with them to take the land.  Their faith activated a move of God and they succeeded and received the promise.

What about you?  Do you want to see God’s promises for your life?  It’s our faith that activates a movement of God.  We need to believe Him; we need to speak like Joshua and Caleb, and live like we believe what we've spoken.  Most of all we need to have faith that the promise IS a promise. 

We are more than Conquerors

Our text promises us that we are more than conquerors:  That we can overcome the lies, and the flesh to see for ourselves the promises of God.  All it takes is faith and a willingness to fight for it.

What is it that God has promised you?  Provision? That’s a promise.  Your family saved?  Salvation is a promise.  A Plan for your life?  It’s a promise.

What is your role in receiving the promises?

  1. You're going have to believe God for the promises, and
  2. You’re going to have to fight for it.
God has a promise for your church as well.  People get discouraged:  They’ve seen people leave the church.  It seems like no one responds to the outreaches.  It seems as if the church is falling apart.  So, is God mad at us?  Is the devil too strong for us?

Here’s what’s happening, first, the devil is lying.  He says, "People can’t get saved in Taoyuan City.  It’s too hard for them.  They won’t believe Jesus.  They won’t go against their parents.  The traditional religion is a giant, we’re too small and weak to make a difference."

Second, people believe the lies.  Some of the people who've left have left because of that.  They believed the lies.  Some others are discouraged, “Why bother with outreach, it doesn't work here.”  Others even say, “I wanted to do something for God, but I don’t see it happening (in my time-frame).  So, they give up?  That’s happening in the church and it’s happening in people’s lives.

We need to be like Joshua and Caleb, “Hey God promised this… Let’s go and take it.” 

Let’s face it, the devil’s big and bad...and ugly...and mean...and nasty.  He’s a liar and the father of lies.  He WANTS you deceived and discouraged.  He wants to see you give up on the promises of God for your life and for the church.  But look at this promise:

1 John 4:4 (NKJV)
4:4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Are you ready to give up?  Well don’t!  Maybe it’s hard right now, but anything worth doing is hard.  It’s life – It’s hard!  That’s the way life is, but if you want to see the promise of God you have to be willing to fight for it.  You have to be willing to have faith.  I’m willing – We can take the Land.  We can also see God’s triumph in YOUR life.  Let’s go get the promise.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sticks and Stones

Sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never harm me!  Our mothers taught us this to help us to overlook the put downs and downright meanness of other kids.  It was an attempt to help us to keep from being damaged by bullies who use words to hurt.

The problem with it is that it’s a lie.  Words spoken can do great damage.  Words break no bones, but they do break hearts.  I've seen children’s lives messed up by carelessly spoken words.  I've seen marriages ruined by hateful words. 

The plain fact is that we DO care about what others think of us, especially the people we love.  Sometimes, those words are designed to injure, sometimes they’re just spoken in anger, and sometimes they’re just spoken carelessly without regard for the effect it has on the hearer.  Today I want to post on words, from this portion of scripture.

Romans 14:17-19 (NKJV)
14:17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 Therefore let us pursue the things, which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.
Word Power

Words are powerful tools:

  1. They can be used to describe complex theories
  2. They can be used to evoke an motional response
  3. They can be used to express love
  4. They can be used to bring understanding
  5. They can be used to create:

The Bible tells us that God used words to speak the universe into existence.  Nine times in the first and second chapters of Genesis the Bible says, “Then God said…!”  He didn't create the universe with His hands.  He didn't use any tool except words.  Words can be used to create.

Words definitely have power.  You can ask any novelist, politician or lawyer, who use words in their profession.  Novelists create a scene and a story through the use of words.  Politicians use words to influence people to a course of action.  Lawyers use words to persuade and allow innocent men to go free.

These people can testify to the power of words.  Words can create but words can also damage.  According to Psychology Today:

“…prior to the recent study by Martin Teicher and colleagues at Harvard Medical School, taunting and other verbal abuse experienced by middle school children by their peers was not thought to leave a structural imprint on the developing brain.  But it does, according to their new study published on-line in advance of print in the American Journal of Psychiatry.” *
So we can see that words can also be destructive.

There is power in the words you speak.  There’s the power to edify, or build up, and there’s the power to destroy.  How we use the words we speak to another person determines the direction our relationships take.  Our text tells us that the “Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  Do the words you’re using reflect that?  Are you using words that “make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”?  Are you building up or tearing down?

We use words so quickly, don’t we?  Listen to a casual conversation, sometime.  Our minds work so quickly that we have words to respond in fractions of a second.  We don’t even have to think about it.  Words just come flowing out of our mouths. 

Sometimes, though, I think this is a problem, because we speak through our emotions.  We speak through our anger.  We speak through our frustration… and we do it instantly, without thinking.  Maybe we should take time and think about what we’re going to say.

I don’t think people try to damage their children by speaking words of discouragement to them.  It’s just that frustration and irritation come out of our mouths without thinking.  We do the same thing in other relationships.  We jam our wives or husbands with no thought as to the effect those words will have on them.

“You’re lazy.”  “You’re so stupid.”  We label each other and those labels can have destructive consequences.  Sometimes, the problem is that we speak words that aren't positive or faith affirming.

At our house we’re trying to speak positively.  It’s amazing how many times something comes out of people’s mouths that are negative.  I’m not saying that we sit around and say hateful things to each other, but we don’t always speak faith-affirming words.  For example, someone might say, “We’re not going to have enough money to pay the church rent this month.”  The response might be something like, “God will help us.  Don’t be so negative.”

Sometimes we use sarcasm as a weapon, or we speak negatively to show how much we think we know.  Isn't that an amazing thought?  Someone comes to us excited about a possibility, or opportunity and we say, “What do you know about doing that?” Or “that isn’t going to happen, you’re too naïve.” Or, “You don’t understand how it works here, people won’t do that.”

When we pastored in Riverside, California, I wanted to try and reach into the Chinese community there.  There are a lot of people from China there.  I wanted to get to know some of them, to reach into that community.  So, I tried to talk to some other pastors.  I was looking for an effective strategy to reach them with the Gospel.  They all said the same thing, “That community is too close knit.  They won’t let you in.  You’ll never get anywhere with them.”   It was discouraging; I almost gave up before I started.

On a whim, I put our information on an electronic bulletin board asking for a language exchange or Chinese tutor, so we could learn to speak Mandarin.  Within 24 hours I had six or seven offers for teaching or language exchange.  This was in August, by Thanksgiving we had thirty Chinese couples over to our house to experience American culture.  We were accepted, in fact, we still have close relationships with some of those people.

So we had people who had no idea what they were talking about being negative, only because it made them appear to have knowledge and understanding.  They spoke discouragingly, when they could have been encouraging.  Is this how we should use our words?  Is this how we should use the power that we speak?

As Christians the idea is to be Godly.  We want to be Godly men and women.  We want to be like Jesus. Jesus used His words to create.  He spoke words of edification.  What words are you speaking today?  Are you building up or tearing down?


Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV)
4:29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

I want to take some time to digest this scripture.  Specifically, I want to focus on two words. 

The first word I want to focus on is edify or edification.  According to Strong’s Lexicon of Greek and Hebrew, the Greek word translated as edify literally means to be a house builder.  This word house is used a lot in the Old Testament to signify one’s family.  The House of Abraham refers to his family; the people who lived in his household.  It’s the same with the House of Jacob, or the House of David.  So, in a sense it means to build your family members; the people who love in your house, like your wife, your husband or your children.  I think it also can mean something else, as well.

A few days ago I sent a text to one of the women in our church.  I was thanking her for some help she had given us.  Her response was, “Don’t mention it, we’re family, right?”

We are family.  That’s why we use words like, brother or sister in Christ.  The Bible tells us we should be “house builders” but often we’re not we’re just the opposite.  It’s really easy to tear each other down through gossip, slander or discouragement.  Take a moment and think about the last thing you said to: Your spouse, your children, your church friends, and your pastor and his wife.  Think about the attitude you used and see if you were building the house or tearing it down.  Now, think about the last thing you said about those same people.  Were you building up those people in the eyes of others or are you tearing them down.   Were you complaining about them, embarrassing them or speaking badly of them? 

The Bible tells us in the story of Balak and Balaam that the words of cursing don’t need to be spoken directly to the people you’re cursing.  Balaam only tried to curse Israel before Balak.  Look at the moment in scripture. 

Balak has hired Balaam to curse Israel.  Apparently, Balaam is famous for cursing.  God has a different idea and puts words of blessing into Balaam’s mouth.  He begins to tell Balak what God has said.  This is a personal conversation.  He’s not saying this in front of the people of Israel.  He’s only speaking to Balak, and instead of cursing Israel he speaks blessing.  Look at Balak’s reaction:

Numbers 23:11 (NKJV)
23:11 Then Balak said to Balaam, "What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and look, you have blessed them bountifully!"

He’s beside himself.  In fact, he wants Balaam to go with him to where he can see the people of Israel and try to curse them again.  Balaam isn't blessing Israel within earshot, but the words still have the power to bless.

In the same way, words that are spoken against someone, whether they are spoken in their presence or not, have the same power to curse.  I become concerned, sometimes, when I hear someone talking about things they said to their husband or wife.  Things like, “I wish I wasn't married to you.” Or “We should get a divorce…I hate you.”  I fear for the future of their marriage, because the words you use will shape your actions.”

I had a friend who always talked about how much he hated his wife.  He always told her he was going to divorce her, “As soon as our son is old enough I’m leaving you.”  He told other people, “I hate my wife.”  He made jokes about it; he humiliated her, thinking she didn’t understand English, so she wouldn’t know what he was saying.  For her part she was angry and hostile to him, but maybe it was because he always said those things to her and about her.  He spoke words of cursing to her face and to others about her.  Remember, she doesn't have to hear the words to be cursed. 

Recently, he left her.  He did just what he had been speaking.  He abandoned her.  I wonder what would have happened if he had spoken the opposite way:  If he spoke blessing instead of cursing.  What could have been the outcome if he used the power of his words to build his house?

This ties into the other word I want to examine and that word is corrupt.  According to the Strong’s Lexicon, the word translated as corrupt means rotten or worthless.  Do the words you’re speaking to or about someone have power to edify, or are they destructive, corrupt, rotten, worthless words.

Matthew 12:36 (NKJV)
12:36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.

That word idle means inactive, or useless.  Words that don’t have a positive purpose for the ones they are spoken about are useless words.  We will be accountable for them.  Evil words cut more deeply than a sword.

My friend destroyed his marriage, because of the corruption that flowed from his mouth:  Because he didn't edify or build his house.  He did that through idle words.

Some of you may have already spoken like that to your spouse.  Some of you may have already torn down your children.  Some of you may have already spoken curses on your church family’s lives.  We need to understand that our words have power.

Mending Fences

Psalms 34:12-13 (NKJV)
34:12 Who is the man who desires life, And loves many days, that he may see good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil, And your lips from speaking deceit.

Hopefully, damage hasn’t already been done to the point where there’s no chance for redemption and reconciliation.  The reason I say that is because we’re all guilty of speaking things that shouldn’t be spoken.  We’re all guilty of idle words and corruption.

James 3:7-9 (NKJV)
3:7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.

James includes himself in this:  “No man can tame the tongue, with it we bless our God and with it we curse men.”  I believe we are all guilty of this.  So, what can we do to mend fences that we have torn down? 

The first thing we can do is repent before God.  When we sin against each other we sin before God.  When David sinned with Bathsheba and had her husband killed, the prophet Nathan confronted him.  In response to that confrontation, he told Nathan, “I have sinned against God.”  His sin against Uriah the Hittite was a sin against God.  When we sin against each other the sin is against God, so we need to repent before God. 

The second thing is to look for forgiveness from that person.  Do you know what power is found in two simple words, “I’m sorry.”?  Most people have the capacity to forgive.  I can’t tell you how many times as a pastor I've heard someone say, “I just want an apology.”  “If they’d just say, ‘I’m sorry.’”

The final thing is to stop saying things that are hurtful.  You can’t just say, “I’m sorry,” and continue with the same old behavior.  It makes the words meaningless.  It’s a necessary part of repentance, anyway.  There is no repentance without change.

Finally, we can help each other when people speak badly about others.  I have a friend that has been loyal for many years.  We've been friends for a long time.  Someone told this friend something about me that was bad.  They took an event and skewed it to make it look like I was saying terrible things about this friend, when I hadn't been.  So I came to this person to explain and she told me. “I wasn't worried about it, because I don’t listen to gossip anyway.” 

We don’t have to listen to people spewing gossip.  We can quickly stop it by saying, “I don’t listen to gossip.”  If people speak things to you that are cursing, you don’t have to listen to those words either.  Find someone who will edify you and let them encourage you.

I’m not saying you should go to them and say things like, “My husband is such a beast…do you know what he said to me?”  Don’t do that because the next words out of your mouth will be gossip.  You can ask them to pray for you about your relationship with your husband.  You can ask them to speak words of encouragement to you.  You can let them care for you.

None of us should allow anyone to tear down our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We should be here for each other.  The world wants to destroy us… The house of God should be there to strengthen us.

*  Psychology Today, 10/10 2010; Sticks and Stones Hurtful Words Damage the Brain;