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The Power of Life and Death.

Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!

Deuteronomy 30:19

In Ancient Rome the spectators of gladiatorial fights had the privilege of determining whether a victorious warrior would kill his injured opponent.  Those in the stands would gesture with their thumb to vote for life or death, and the gladiator would respond by either throwing down his sword or using it to finish off his opponent.  What tremendous and frightful power these Ancient Roman crowds had over the lives of others. 

Much like those spectators of Ancient Rome, we also have a tremendous power over the lives of others.  Did you know that every time we open our mouths to speak, we have an opportunity to choose life or death?  Yes, life and death lies in the power of our tongues (Proverbs 18:21). 

We can carefully choose words of life that will bring love, encouragement, joy, comfort, relief, peace, kindness, gentleness and/or understanding to those around us.  Or we can choose words of death that bring hatred, criticism, harshness, deceit, flattery, slander, lies and/or gossip to others.  Our words can either heal or kill.  Proverbs 15:4 says:

Gentle words are a tree of life;
a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.

The good news is that as believers, we don’t have to tame the tongue all by ourselves.  The Bible teaches that we have a Helper called the Holy Spirit who lives inside of us.  He is God’s spirit, and He knows what we’re going to say before we say it (Psalm 139:4).  God can help us choose life rather than death by helping us to tame our tongues.  Let’s ask him for help with this tremendous task so that we can bring life to everyone around us.

Think About:  Have my words recently brought “death” rather than “life” to someone around me?  Could I repair this damage by confessing my sin and asking that person’s forgiveness?

Pray:  Father God, you know the tremendous power that lies within my mouth.  You also know that my mouth speaks out of the overflow of my heart, so I’m asking you to cleanse my heart and renew my mind.  May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.  Thank you Father God for the work you are doing in me.

 

 

/JGreene/

Politically Incorrect

A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse. 

Similarly, a family splintered by feuding will fall apart. 

Mark 3:24-25

After accepting his party’s nomination to run for the Senate in June 1858, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech during which he famously said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  What you may not know is that this speech was widely regarded at that time by Lincoln’s colleagues as a spectacular failure.  At that particular moment in history Lincoln’s words on this subject were seen as politically unpopular, and it gave his opponent, Stephen Douglas, plenty of ammunition with which to criticize Lincoln.  Some even blamed this speech for Lincoln’s failure to win the Senate race against Douglas in the fall of 1858.

But Lincoln’s words, seen as politically incorrect in 1858, would eventually propel him to the presidency in 1861.  These very ideas would give him the resolve to see our country through a tumultuous and tragic time known as the Civil War.  Eventually Lincoln’s convictions, no matter how unpopular they were in 1858, would solidify his place in American history as the president we widely regard as having preserved the United States of America.

Lincoln knew the incredible wisdom of these words originally spoken by Jesus Christ almost two thousand years ago.  Any organization (company, church or family) that is riddled with discord, hatred and infighting will not be able to stand for long. 

In today’s culture and political climate Christians don’t have to look far to see all the hot-button issues that scream for our attention.  It seems like everyone has an opinion and a platform proclaiming his/her own side.  But if we, as the church, are going to thrive, we must find the common ground that unites us and move boldly forward past the pits of division that threaten to devour us.  We must rightly recognize our enemy, and it is NOT our fellow Christians.  Ephesians 6:12 says: 

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in heavenly places.

As a Christian my common ground with another believer (regardless of his/her color, race, sex, political affiliation, educational background and/or denomination) is Jesus Christ.  The apostle Paul said it so well in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “My goal while I was with you was to talk about only one thing. And that was Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.” For believers, Jesus Christ is our common ground and every other difference should fade away.  Let us maintain our union so that we can stand together now and for all eternity.

Think About:  Has a difference of opinion over a minor issue caused you to despise another person?  Have you let any differences overtake your common ground in Jesus with another believer?

Pray:  Heavenly Father, I confess that I have let some silly things create potential rifts in my relationships with other members of my forever family.  Even if these rifts have remained in my own heart, Lord, you know about them.  Please forgive me.  Renew my mind with what is important to you, Oh Father.  Help me to have your perspective about those around me.  Restore and repair these divisions in Jesus’s name, Amen.

 

 

/JGreene/

Harmony Brings Health

How wonderful and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in harmony!

Psalm 133:1

A recent YouTube documentary highlighted the connection between musical harmony and health among dementia patients at one of NYC Health & Hospitals’ largest long-term care facilities.  The dementia patients at Coler were given headphones and iPods pre-loaded with an individualized playlist designed to spark brain activity and to specifically stimulate memory.  This Music and Memory project has been tremendously successful, eliminating patient falls and fights and reducing the need for antipsychotic prescriptions.  Musical harmony truly improves the health and quality of life of dementia patients.

Much like the impact of musical harmony on those dementia patients, relational harmony or disharmony can greatly affect our spiritual health as believers.  But did you know that relational harmony actually starts with us as individuals?  We can’t cultivate harmony in a group of people if we don’t have it within ourselves.  Proverbs offers much wisdom on this subject:

A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body.  Jealousy is like cancer in the bones.

Proverbs 14:30

A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.

Proverbs 16:28

I choose harmony by holding my tongue and putting down my phone when confronted with an opportunity to add fuel to the fire of a social media debate.  I choose harmony when I refuse to pick sides in a relational disagreement that does not involve me directly.  I choose harmony when I avoid sharing the details of other people’s lives, even if it’s veiled in the form of a “prayer request.” 

I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit can help me as a believer to do the hard things.  When my insecure human flesh wants to drag a friend into a disagreement I’m having with another friend by telling her my side of the story, I can stop, ask God for help, and make the right decision to keep my mouth shut.  That kind of Holy Spirit-empowered harmony will bring relational and spiritual life and health, not only to me, but also to everyone around me.

Think About:  Are you facing any situations in which you could bring harmony by changing your own attitude first? 

Pray:  Father God, I know that harmony begins with me.  I want this refreshing and peaceful way of life.  Would you please help me to choose harmony in every situation and in every relationship?  Thank you God in advance for empowering me to do this often hard thing.

 

 

/JGreene/