All posts by John (HFJ Director)

The tongue can bring death or life

The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. Proverbs 18:21

Proverbs has a way of concisely summing up great wisdom into ways that we can remember and apply more easily. We do well to periodically reflect on how we are using our tongue (or other communication) to bring life or death.

James commented quite a bit on this subject as well.

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. James 1:19

 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. James 1:26

Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. James 3:9
 

I encourage you to read all of James 3 as James expounds a great deal more on the power of the tongue in a very relevant way.  I could not say it any better than he does.

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God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity

Jesus calls us to speak the truth courageously, share the gospel with love, and to demonstrate self-discipline as we represent Him in how we live.

People around us will pressure us to accept everything as an equivalent point of view and then the same people turn around and attack Christians who stand up for truth because it is not what they want to hear.

2 Timothy 1:5-14 shows us important points we should understand.

To fulfill God’s call we must begin with genuine faith and keep growing it. This does not mean blind faith, but rather faith we hold because of the overwhelming evidence of the truth of the gospel.  Faith that grows with our ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

We must fan into flames the spiritual gifts God has given us. We must practice and work at it intentionally to get the most out of it… just like building up any muscle in our body. It does not just land in our lap ready to go with power to move mountains.

We are called to live a holy life, one that is set apart for God’s purposes. We are not to live as the non believers do. If we as Christians are not the light, then how shall anyone else find their way to Jesus Christ?

We are called to carefully guard the precious truth and not let anyone corrupt it or compromise it. God’s word is 100% true and sufficient.

Think about your life… are you different for Jesus Christ, even if you will face hardship for Him? or do you blend in?  The light should not be placed under a bushel basket but on the lampstand to provide light for all.

I found it helpful in my life to start stepping out for Christ in little ways first to practice overcoming timidity… at the coffee pot, the water cooler, at the ballpark… even amongst other Christians (who tend to be a supportive audience for this message).

2 Timothy 1:5-14

I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him.

With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News.

And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News. Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.

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Jesus reveals Satan’s strategy

The greatest trick the devil ever played is convincing the world he does not exist. Most people today, even Christians, overlook the very real existence of Satan and do not anticipate or prepare for his temptations and traps which can separate us from God and wreck our lives.

Matthew 4:1-11 seems like a quick series of verses and may be easy to overlook as a simplistic view that Jesus will triumph over the devil, but it is much more elegant than that. Jesus is communicating  a key message regarding strategy that the devil employs. Let those who have ears hear…

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.

During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’ Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the LORD your God.’

Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the LORD your God and serve only him.’

Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.

 

Some key points to the devil’s strategy?

  • Satan does not start by introducing himself as the devil. Sometimes he comes disguised as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 7:14)
  • Satan comes when we are weak and alone.
  • Satan twists and misuses scripture. Yes he knows it well.
  • Satan offers us an easy way, instead of God’s way.
  • Satan lies, promising what sound good but separate us from God.
  • Satan comes more than once.

So how do we resist the devil? God could have just flicked the devil away if He wanted to.  I believe Jesus was showing us how to prepare.

  • Jesus prepared Himself before the temptation came.
  • Jesus committed Himself ahead of time to serve God.
  • Jesus recognized and accepted He would be confronted by Satan.
  • Jesus studied the scripture meticulously; not just a quick surface read. He recognized lies even though they were cloaked in scripture.
  • Jesus had the courage and self discipline to stand up to the devil when the temptation came.

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A virtuous and capable wife is more precious than rubies

In Proverbs 31:10-31 we are shown the picture of what it means to be a virtuous woman.

  • A virtuous woman respects and supports her husband. She is a very present help, not a hindrance.  Her husband can trust her.
  • A virtuous woman is an energetic, strong, and hard worker. She runs her household in a godly way. This is not an easy task!
  • A virtuous woman helps the poor and needy. Actively serves God in the home and with outreach outside the home.
  • A virtuous woman trusts God and diligently plans ahead. She has no fear of the future.
  • A virtuous woman speaks and gives instruction with wisdom and kindness.
  • A virtuous woman raises her children in a godly way. They stand and bless her.
  • A virtuous woman fears the Lord. She seeks to understand and live out God’s will with all her heart, soul, mind and strength.
  • A virtuous woman should be rewarded and praised! Do not forget this one husbands and fathers of girls.

Women… do not be discouraged. God does set the bar high and challenges us to strive toward it rather than rationalize why we should lower the bar or why today it does not apply. But He knows we are not perfect. It is a goal to work toward, a journey that will never be completed but transforms your life on the way.  Start by taking it in pieces one day at a time. Link up with other Christian women who share a passion to honor God in this way.  (Check out links to two online women’s ministries at bottom of post.)

Husbands… we don’t get off easy either. Ephesians 5:25 calls us to love our wives as Christ loved the church. He gave up His life for the church and we are to give our lives to serve and lead the ones we love. Measuring up to Jesus Christ is a target we can never achieve, but we are called to work toward it!

Click the link to read the scriptures directly (Proverbs 31:10-31).

Proverbs 31 Ministries and a virtuous woman.org are two separate ministries with an online presence that help women in the midst of their busy lives grow toward becoming a Proverbs 31 woman.

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Love does not demand its own way…

Paul defined love very well in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. It is not nearly the same as how the world or many Christians define love. Far too often we talk of love as a noun… a passive thing. How much better to think of it as a verb… an action we choose to do! We talk of falling in or out of love as if something random is happening. Love is a choice, not a “warm and fuzzy” feeling!

It is applicable for spouses but also for parents with their children, amongst family, friends and even applies to those we do not know yet. Think about how we can show the love of Jesus Christ for all those we encounter in our busy lives.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud. or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance

 

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Think about how we can show the love of Jesus Christ for all those we encounter in our busy lives. It may even be as simple as a kind word or just being friendly even when things go wrong. When they notice you are different, give the credit to Jesus!

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Am I on the path? Are my children? Is my church?

We do well to routinely take time from our busy lives to reflect on God’s word and on how we are applying it in our lives. God Himself shows us in Genesis 1:1 by taking time as He created the heavens and the earth. As he reaches milestones in the creation He reflects on it and takes time to evaluate it … “and God saw that it was good.”

Many of us have accepted Jesus and want to serve Him, but it is not always clear if we are walking on the right path in the way we live our lives. Are we honoring Him? obeying Him? What about our church or others we trust and listen to? How do we know if they are giving good advice and direction?

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it. Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

[Matthew 7:13-23 NLT]

Always test what someone tells you about Jesus against scripture in the Bible. There are wolves who pretend to be among God’s sheep!To effectively serve Jesus and avoid traps from the enemy we must routinely read and study God’s word ourselves. Daily is best but start with as often as you can. Don’t try to speed read or take in big chunks all at once. Take in the Bible like you would a good meal… one bite at a time, savoring each for what flavor it brings you. You will never regret it!

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The greatest among you should be like a servant

As the disciples sat at dinner with Jesus celebrating Passover in what has now become known as the Last Supper they began to argue about who would become greatest among them.

Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people’. But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.

Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.”

 

Jesus “walked the talk” throughout His time of ministry on earth. He spent His time among us teaching, healing, serving and then dying for us … not creating comfort and luxury for Himself. We should remember this aspect of leadership when we choose our local or national leaders and even when we act as leaders in our communities or families.

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Not enough faith to reject Jesus…

Scientists, detectives, juries in courts of law… and the rest of us with every day common sense follow where the evidence leads when we want to understand something. Whether we want to know about who committed a crime or who took cookies from the cookie jar the approach is the same. Look for clues and follow the evidence. Witnesses are very helpful in any investigation!

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has substantial evidence and eye witness testimony confirming the validity of the Biblical events. We do not have to “take it on faith”, but rather seek to understand the evidence and let it lead you to the most probable conclusion.

Jesus was a well known and recognizable person by the time He was crucified. People recognized Him. Crowds listened to Him. He was publically executed in broad daylight in a brutal way with many witnesses. There were well trained guards at the tomb to keep disciples from taking His body. Even amongst those who reject Jesus none can reasonably argue against the fact that Jesus’ tomb was empty on the third day.

“During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.”  [Acts 1:3 NLT]

 These same disciples would face brutal treatment and execution (except John who was exiled to Patmos) and to the end they never changed their mind or testimony that Jesus Christ was God. They were certainly convinced!

Scripture goes on to document that Jesus appeared to many more than just His closest disciples after He rose from the dead.

After evaluating the evidence I realize it takes more of a leap of faith to reject Jesus as our Lord and Savior than to accept Him.

The following books are good reads and add much more detail to empower us to really understand the evidence.

The Third Day by Hank Hanegraaff

Christianity on Trial  by Mark Lanier

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Don’t wait for a sign!

Many of us know someone who has embraced the idea that they will accept Jesus when He gives them a sign. Others who may have accepted Jesus are waiting for a sign before they tell others boldly about Him.

This can be a trap! The truth is that God has already given us many signs and miracles. They are well documented in the Bible. If we wait for Him to send another sign before we accept Him or before we choose to share the good news of the gospel with others… it may be too late for us and for those we love.

In Luke 16:19-31 [NLT] Jesus tells us about Lazarus and a rich man.  Lazarus is a poor man who despite much hardship in his life accepted God. The rich man despite much luxury and worldly gain  rejected God. They both die and the rich man finds himself in hell, but able to see Lazarus in heaven.  He realizes it is too late for him and immediately thinks of those he loves…

“Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him [Lazarus] to my father’s home. For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’ The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’ But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’

Jesus Himself died for us and has risen from the dead. He was a public, recognizable figure. He was publically brutalized with many witnesses and executed in broad daylight for all to see . After rising on the third day he was witnessed by hundreds of people over several weeks moving about in good health. All of this is well documented.

Sadly most of the world and even most of those that have heard about Jesus Christ do not accept Him as Lord and Savior, even though He died and rose again to come back and tell us.

Don’t miss the opportunity to accept Jesus as your savior, to share Him with those you know, and to share the Good News even with those you don’t know as you interact with them in your daily walk.

 

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We ask ourselves ‘Can God use me?’ Yes he can!

Many of us fall prey to a common lie that God can not use us if we have flaws or areas of weakness. Because we all have flaws and areas of weakness this means that many will choose not to serve God because they do not feel they are worthy.

There was only one perfect person, that in the person of Jesus Christ… God Himself when He became man.  All of God’s servants including the prophets, disciples, and many “superstars” of the faith had areas of weakness.

Starting in Exodus 3:1 and continuing through Exodus 4:18 Moses debates with God various reasons why he is not the right choice for God to send to free His people from Egypt. Yes, that’s right… Moses as He stood in front of the burning bush and spoke directly with God had lots of reasons why he was the wrong choice.

His excuses ranged from what appears to be a lack of self confidence (Exo 3:11), to just a flat out excuse of “I don’t know your name.” (Exo 3:13), “they won’t believe me…” (Exo 4:1), to “I am not a good public speaker…”  (Exo 4:10), and finally one last plea to pick someone else “please send anyone else” (Exo 4:13).

God used Moses in a mighty way to lead His people and demonstrate God’s power to many nations. God can use you too!

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