Archive for January, 2020

The Power of Words: Do they Dictate Your Path?

I thought I was finished, at least for the moment, talking about the power of our words, but the Lord has been impressing on me the extreme importance of this topic. I’m always looking for confirmation in things I dream, hear, or that are put on my heart to research or blog, and, once again, this topic popped up. This week I was given confirmation when the topic kept coming up in a discussion group with whom I meet, which is made up of developmental believers anointed as prophets. After that I heard a teaching by Glen Berteau on this topic as well. Glen taught a new dimension that I hadn’t thought of when it comes to our words, so I want to share this with you today.

Glen taught from James 3, which likens the tongue to the bit of a horse bridle or ship rudder.

James 3:1-12

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers [and sisters], this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers [and sisters], can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Using the bridle as an example, Glen mentioned how a 2,000-pound Clydesdale horse can be guided from right to left simply by attaching a tiny bit that weighs ounces into the horse’s mouth. Clearly, our tongues act much like this bit and bridle. Unlike the horse, however, we don’t always have the careful guidance of the rider to move us from place to place. Instead, we move ourselves by our words, and those words move us directly toward the thing of which they speak. This means, for example, that we can move toward positive (blessings) or negative (curses) positions based on those words.

For example, let’s say you get a medical diagnosis, and let’s say it’s bad, like cancer. You can move toward the cancer by constantly talking about it, how bad it is, how unfortunate you are, how your family genetics likely caused it, etc. Or you can move away from it by using words of healing and thanks to God for a long and healthy life.

As another example, we may find ourselves constantly talking about something or someone that simply isn’t in the will of God for our lives. As a theological concept, free will means that you can speak those words and move toward that thing or person. But don’t be surprised when you ultimately recognize that the thing or person wasn’t the best thing for you and something you likely could have known by holding it up to the Word.

It’s like driving on the highway. You tend to veer slightly toward the thing upon which your eyes focus. So, it’s not just a spiritual law; the notion that you’ll move ever closer to the things you think, say, and repeat is also true in the natural world. What makes it different is that in the natural world people don’t necessarily have the grounding needed to focus and make this law work for them.

People with a natural worldview might say that there is “power” in positive thinking, or that the “universe” somehow moves to bring things about when spoken in the right way. With a biblical worldview, we remember a few important truths. First, what comes from the tongue indicates what is in your heart – “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34) – but you can dramatically change your heart through your words, starting with words that confirm Jesus as God and asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit – “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17) Second, God moves when people are expectant of his power: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24). Third, the Bible actually tells us what we should focus upon: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Phil. 4:8-9) By the way, if you haven’t figured it out already, these things are somewhat circular. The more you speak in faith, the more your faith grows; the more positive your words, the more expectant of blessings you become.

Where is your tongue leading you – to life or to death? To blessings or to curses? To the spiritual best for you or to secular notions of success? Once again, I ask you to take your words and thoughts captive and to pay attention to what you’re thinking and what you’re speaking. Even if your situation does not bear witness to the blessing at the moment (for example, prayers for healing often find immediate purchase in the spiritual realm but take time to manifest in the natural) continue to thank our Lord for his work on the situation and for His continued blessing and protection for you and your family.

Dare to Be Different

While traveling in Jerusalem, our tour guide thanked us for showing our love for the Israeli people by visiting Israel and desiring to see the holy sites. He then told a story that touched the center of my heart about observing a group of Christians from Africa parading through Jerusalem with signs that read, “We love you Israel.” During that parade, our guide said that he overheard a young boy saying to his father, “I thought the Christians hated us.” Our guide said that he felt a deep sadness to hear this question, for he, too, was a Christian – a Messianic Jew – with a deep knowledge of Israel’s history and culture. And yet, he became instantly encouraged when he heard the father’s response to his boy, which was, “Son, not all Christians are alike.”

This father was teaching his son to be discerning rather than to lump great groups of people into uniform stereotypes based on often misleading or incomplete knowledge. And the whole narrative runs somewhat counter to the narrative we have seen in the past and that we sometimes still see in America today. In America, until very recently, if you would have told people you were going to see Israel or that you actually “love” Israel, you might have had a great number of secular persons trying to debate with you over Jewish “settlements.” “What’s the deal with Israel?” one person asked me several years ago. “Why does our country support them so much no matter what they do?” More recently, if you say you “love” Israel, they lump you into the category of so-called “political Christians,” who are often people with a shallow knowledge of their own worldview, but with a firm conviction that self-described “evangelical” Christians are politically required to show their love and concern for Israel. Our notions of what it means to love or support Israel – and why we might do it – seem to sway dramatically in even recent winds.

In Israel, however, the concept of time and history is much deeper. The Jewish peoples’ idea of what people think of them comes from thousands of years of often supernatural survival, glossed with an indescribable hatred that can only be understood through the lens of the Bible. Unfortunately, many in the Jewish community believe that Christians do, in fact, hate them, a notion that is not altogether assuaged when one looks at history. Whether it stems from the completely misinterpreted notion that Jews killed Jesus, the evil ramblings of insane tyrants such as Adolf Hitler, or more subtle understandings of White Nationalist tenets that are moored to a deeper, if unstated, hatred of Jews, the idea that Christians are not necessarily in lock step with Jews is always just below the surface.

Accordingly, in this blog I am asking for all of us to develop a deeper understanding of Israel and the Jewish people. In some ways, I’m merely asking for a stronger understanding of the Biblical worldview, which would automatically call us to love all humans, including Jews and those who hate Jews alike. But we must never forget the Biblical history, which clearly shows a nation chosen by God to achieve His ends for all of civilization.

It’s a call to an understanding that can ignore whimsical changes in attitudes based on political power. It’s a call to love everyone, but with full knowledge of the special nature of the Jewish community and Israel now and in the future. But mostly it’s a call to love God and to trust Him when he makes promises to whom he chooses. Are we so vain that we think we can either slow or hasten God’s plan?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, history is replete with misunderstanding and even hatred of the Jews, but that hatred is often the symptom of a larger community disease. So, as in all things, I rely on the teachings of the most famous and influential Jew ever to walk the earth, Jesus Christ. He said, “A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

How can we do that? We must continually assess our thoughts and words to keep our hearts, minds, and spirits clean of the kind of hatred too often seen in the world. We must love others, but we must also be certain that the love we share is grounded in the Truth of the Bible and in the Father’s love rather than in some fleeting political notion or worldly desire. We must study the Word, which provides the Truth not only of a people, a nation, and a messiah, but also the Truth of a universal plan designed to save each of us despite our natures.

Most people don’t take the time to develop a worldview that explains the nuances of belief in Jesus. Dare to be different. Dare to dive deep into the faith and develop that worldview. Dig into the Old Testament. Learn about Israel, the Jewish people, and the supernatural story of their existence. Above all else, though, show your allegiance to the teachings of Jesus through your love. Do your part – however small it may seem at the time – to make the statement, “I thought the Christians hated us,” so absurd that no one will utter it ever again.

Are You Awake? Are Your Eyes Open?

We just returned from a blessed dream vacation in Israel for two weeks. I call it a “vacation” even though it was more like an intense college semester abroad. We learned so much, and we connected with the Holy Land in a way that I’m not sure I can even describe (even though I’ll try in future blogs).

Even before I went, though, I’d been praying for revelation on the things happening in our world and here in the USA, and requesting confirmation that my eyes are open and that I’m not blinded by the worldly propaganda I seem to be seeing. Fortunately, I’ve been getting that confirmation, but it only makes my heart ache from seeing the hate and division being sown by so many people, including those professing to be “Christians.” This blog is about “hate,” and the spiritual darkness it causes.

We know that hate has been a big factor in human history since the Fall. And a lot of that hate has been advanced in the name of God. History is replete with wars, disputes, invasions, conquests, etc., by seemingly well-meaning persons hoping to satisfy their own notions of what God wants for the world. Some of these things “done in the name of religion” are what caused me, ultimately, to refrain from using the word Christian at all. Too much worldly baggage. I use “follower of Jesus” instead.

Through biblical history we see people’s insecurities and imperfections flare up when they’re challenged for their beliefs, and I see a lot of that as a root of the hatefulness in our world today. Importantly, I also see how the enemy is blinding people – using what psychologists call “confirmation bias,” which is a powerful motivator for fueling nascent belief. In short, people seek to confirm the beliefs they already have to avoid cognitive dissonance, which causes even physical discomfort. Confirmation of the Truth can be a very good thing, but knowing the Truth of God often means having a fully developed theological worldview, and I’m not sure a lot of followers of Jesus have that to begin with. People will try to confirm what they believe, but if their belief of the Truths of the Bible is only superficial, they will, instead, confirm notions that occasionally (or even often) go against a biblical worldview. This includes hateful notions, and this makes the whole thing very dangerous. In the world, confirmation of hateful notions has led to all sorts of desensitization and horrible atrocities.

In writing to a group of believers, John reminded them of the slippery path toward spiritual blindness caused by hate when he said, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister] is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” (1 John 2:9-11). Notice the temporal progression: hate causes darkness, and then the darkness causes people to stumble.

And remember, too, that as with all sinful behavior, Jesus set the bar so that we would not be able to justify small or “insignificant” amounts of hatred; even what we might consider miniscule amounts of hate – going even to our thoughts – is sinful to a perfectly loving and righteous God. Indeed, as in other places in Scripture, Jesus corrected our notions of sin by articulating this new bar. For example, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48) Love your enemies? Be perfect? Yes, indeed. That’s the bar Jesus set to keep us out of the darkness.

So, in my opinion, just a little bit of hate from a follower of Jesus – such as a random post on Facebook, screaming at another driver, or even wicked thoughts – has the potential to create spiritual darkness, which then causes him or her to stumble further on a myriad of theological tenets. Is it any wonder that a follower might quote the Old Testament out of context when he or she has been blinded by his or her own hateful thoughts? Indeed, is it any wonder that followers might do or say anything unbiblical when even seemingly small instances of hate have blinded those persons to the Truth and Light? If they’re stumbling in the dark, they’re stumbling in the dark. Don’t expect them to do a crossword puzzle. Expect them to break their toe.

We need to be sure that we aren’t in the darkness. To do that, we must pray for revelation of the Light and for recognition of even the smallest of behaviors that can lead to spiritual darkness. Keep your focus on the Lord and his Word. Measure everything against what Jesus taught. Keep your spirit clean. Stay awake. Open your eyes.


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