Wise Words

The tongue of the wise brings healing. —Proverbs 12:18 NIV

What is the strongest muscle in the human body? Some say it’s the tongue, but it’s hard to determine which muscle is the most powerful because muscles don’t work alone.

But we do know that the tongue is strong. For a small muscle, it can do a lot of damage. This active little muscular organ that helps us eat, swallow, taste, and begin digestion has a tendency to also assist us in saying things we shouldn’t. The tongue is guilty of flattery, cursing, lying, boasting, and harming others. And that’s just the short list.

It sounds like a pretty dangerous muscle, doesn’t it? But here’s the good thing: It doesn’t have to be that way. When we are controlled by the Holy Spirit, our tongues can be turned to great good. We can speak of God’s righteousness (Ps. 35:28) and justice (37:30). We can speak truth (15:2), show love (1 John 3:18), and confess sin (1 John 1:9).

The writer of Proverbs 12:18 spells out one of the best uses of the tongue: “The tongue of the wise brings healing” (niv). Imagine how we could glorify the One who made our tongues when He helps us use it to bring healing—not harm—to everyone we talk to.

Please guard each word we say so we reflect You and Your love. Help our
tongues speak words of healing and not harm.

Encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 niv

INSIGHT:  Proverbs warns us of the consequences of our words (Prov. 10:20-21; 12:13,18; 13:3; 16:24,27-28; 18:7; 22:5; 25:11-12). Wrong words are likened to a powerful fire (16:27) and weapons of war (12:18; 25:18; 26:18). A wise person is one who is restrained and judicious in his speech. Interestingly, we are reminded that if we keep silent, we will never say the wrong thing (10:19) and we will even be thought to be wise (17:28).


Our Anchor

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. —Hebrews 6:19

After Estella Pyfrom retired from teaching, she bought a bus, decked it out with computers and desks, and now drives the “Brilliant Bus” through Palm Beach County, Florida, providing a place for at-risk children to do their homework and learn technology. Estella is providing stability and hope to children who might be tempted to throw away their dream for a better tomorrow.

In the first century, an avalanche of suffering and discouragement threatened the Christian community. The author of Hebrews wrote to convince these followers of Christ not to throw away their confidence in their future hope (2:1). Their hope—a faith in God for salvation and entrance into heaven—was found in the person and sacrifice of Christ. When Jesus entered heaven after His resurrection, He secured their hope for the future (6:19-20). Like an anchor dropped at sea, preventing a ship from drifting away, Jesus’ death, resurrection, and return to heaven brought assurance and stability to the believers’ lives. This hope for the future cannot and will not be shaken loose.

Jesus anchors our souls, so that we will not drift away from our hope in God.

Jesus, in the face of all kinds of trouble and uncertainty, help me to have a
confident expectation that is grounded in Your unfailing love for me.

Our hope is anchored in Jesus.

INSIGHT:  The book of Hebrews is a book of comparisons between the Old Testament and the person of Christ. Throughout the book, the author makes comparisons between what is good and what is better: Jesus is better than the prophets and angels (ch. 1), better than Moses (ch. 3), better than the priesthood (chs. 4–8), and better than the sacrificial system (chs. 9–10). The greatness of Jesus is our hope and our anchor, an anchor that Hebrews reminds us is “both sure and steadfast” (6:19).


The Slow Walk

I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever. —John 14:16

Caleb was sick. Really sick! Diagnosed with a nervous system disease, the 5-year-old suffered from temporary paralysis. His anxious parents prayed. And waited. Slowly, Caleb began to recover. Months later, when doctors cleared him to attend school, all Caleb could manage was a slow, unsteady walk.

One day his dad visited him at school. He watched his son haltingly descend the steps to the playground. And then he saw Caleb’s young friend Tyler come alongside him. For the entire recess, as the other kids raced and romped and played, Tyler slowly walked the playground with his frail friend.

Job must have ached for a friend like Tyler. Instead, he had three friends who were certain he was guilty. “Who ever perished, being innocent?” asked Eliphaz (Job 4:7). Such accusations prompted Job to bitterly declare, “Miserable comforters are you all!” (16:2).

How unlike Jesus. On the eve of His crucifixion He took time to comfort His disciples. He promised them the Holy Spirit, who would be with them forever (John 14:16), and assured them, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (v. 18). Then, just before He returned to His Father, He said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

The One who died for us also walks with us, step by painstaking step.

Father, we tend to say too much to our hurting friends. Help us choose our words wisely. Teach us to walk slowly with those in pain, as You walk patiently with us.

Sometimes the best way to be like Jesus is to sit quietly with a hurting friend.

INSIGHT:The story of how Job wrestled with tragedy and how he struggled to understand God’s role in the apparent injustices of life is well known. Job and his three friends (Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite) engage in a series of debates to try to come to terms with life’s great heartaches. In Job 16, Job responds to more charges from Eliphaz who says Job’s suffering is punishment for wickedness (see 15:17-35). The issues of suffering and injustice do not always find resolution in this life, regardless of our attempts to explain them away. In the end, the wise response is to say that “the secret things belong to the Lord our God” (Deut. 29:29), for some things are just not revealed to us.


Look Up!

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. —Psalm 121:2

In a park near our home there’s a trail I enjoy walking on. Along one section there’s a panoramic view of red sandstone rocks in the Garden of the Gods with the majestic 14,115-foot Pikes Peak behind them. From time to time, though, I find myself walking that section occupied with some problem and looking down at the wide, smooth trail. If no one is around, I may stop and say aloud, “David, look up!”

The psalms known as “Songs of Ascents” (Ps. 120–134) were sung by the people of Israel as they walked the road up to Jerusalem to attend the three annual pilgrim festivals. Psalm 121 begins, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence comes my help?” (v. 1). The answer follows, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (v. 2). The Creator is not an aloof being, but a companion who is always with us, always awake to our circumstances (vv. 3-7), guiding and guarding our journey through life “from this time forth, and even forevermore” (v. 8).

Along life’s path, how we need to keep our eyes fixed on God, our source of help. When we’re feeling overwhelmed and discouraged, it’s all right to say aloud, “Look up!”

I look up to You, Father, for You are the One who can help me. Thank You for the joys
and trials in my life right now. I’m grateful that I never walk alone.

Keep your eyes on God—your source of help.

INSIGHT:  This psalm reminds us that God is our Helper (vv. 1-3) and Keeper (vv. 4-8). As Helper, the Creator of the universe (v. 2) assists us as we journey through life, giving us the security and stability (v. 3) we need. As Keeper, God is the vigilant watchman, fully aware of the events of our lives because He never sleeps (v. 4). This reality allows us to rest in safety and serenity (Ps. 3:5; 4:8; Prov. 3:24).


Never Stop Learning

You must continue in the things which you have learned . . . and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures. —2 Timothy 3:14-15

Sheryl is a voracious reader. While others are watching television or playing video games, she is deeply engrossed in the pages of a book.

Much of this zeal can be traced back to her early childhood. Her family often visited a great aunt and uncle who owned a bookstore. There, Sheryl would sit on Uncle Ed’s lap as he read to her and introduced her to the wonders and delights of books.

Centuries ago a young man named Timothy had his steps guided on the road to learning. In Paul’s last recorded letter, he acknowledged that Timothy was first introduced to the Bible by his grandmother and mother (2 Tim. 1:5). Then Paul exhorted Timothy to continue in the Christian way because “from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures” (2 Tim. 3:14-15).

For the believer, learning about the spiritual life should never cease to delight us and help us grow. Reading and study can be a big part of that, but we also need others to encourage and teach us.

Who has helped you grow in your faith? And who in turn can you help? That’s a great way to enhance our appreciation of God and strengthen our relationship with Him.

Lord, give us the desire to learn throughout life, so that we may grow increasingly
closer to You each day. Thank You for those who have inspired us to learn about You.

Reading the Bible is meant not to inform but to transform.

INSIGHT:  Timothy was of mixed parentage, having a Greek father and Jewish mother (Acts 16:1). Although his biological father probably did not play a significant role in his spiritual development, Timothy was taught the holy Scriptures from childhood and came to faith through the teaching and godly influence of his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5). Timothy first met Paul in Derbe at the start of his second missionary journey (Acts 16:1), and Timothy soon became Paul’s protégé. The apostle Paul affectionately called him “a true son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2) and “a beloved son” (2 Tim. 1:2).


What Is That to You?

Jesus said to him, “. . . You follow Me.” —John 21:22

Social media is useful for many things, but contentment is not one of them. At least not for me. Even when my goals are good, I can become discouraged by continual reminders that others are accomplishing them first or with greater results. I am prone to this kind of discouragement, so I frequently remind myself that God has not short-changed me. He has already given me everything I need to accomplish the work He wants me to do.

This means I don’t need a bigger budget or the assurance of success. I don’t need a better work environment or a different job. I don’t need the approval or permission of others. I don’t need good health or more time. God may give me some of those things, but everything I need I already have, for when He assigns work He provides the resources. My only assignment is to use whatever time and talents He has given in a way that blesses others and gives God the glory.

Jesus and Peter had a conversation that got around to this subject. After making breakfast on the shore of Galilee, Jesus told Peter what would happen at the end of his life. Pointing at another disciple, Peter asked, “What about him?” Jesus responded, “What is that to you?”

That is the question I need to ask myself when I compare myself to others. The answer is, “None of my business.” My business is to follow Jesus and be faithful with the gifts and opportunities He gives to me.

In what ways do I need to learn not to compare myself with others? How has God
blessed me to fulfill His purposes?

Resentment comes from looking at others; contentment comes from looking at God.

INSIGHT:  Today’s text is often used to show there is forgiveness for even the gravest of sins because Jesus forgave Peter for denying that he knew Him. What must not be overlooked in this wonderful story is that Peter’s confessed love for Jesus is met with Jesus’ expectation of service. Each time Peter says that he loves Jesus, Jesus asks Peter to do something for Him.


Don’t Lose Heart

In due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. —Galatians 6:9

Cooking can become tedious work when I do it three times a day, week after week. I get tired of peeling, cutting, slicing, mixing, and then waiting for food to bake, grill, or boil. But eating is never tedious! It’s actually something we truly enjoy even though we do it day after day.

Paul used the illustration of sowing and reaping because he knew that doing good can be tiring (Gal. 6:7-10). He wrote, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (v.9). It’s difficult to love our enemies, discipline our children, or pray without ceasing. However, reaping the good we have sown isn’t tedious! What a joy when we do get to see love conquering strife, or children following God’s ways, or answers to prayer.

While the cooking process can take hours, my family usually finishes a meal in 20 minutes or less. But the reaping that Paul talks about will be eternal. As we have the opportunity, let’s do what is good and wait for the blessings in God’s timing. Don’t lose heart today as you go about following God’s ways. Remember that joy is guaranteed for more than a lifetime.

Dear Lord, help me not to become weary of doing good today. I’m thankful that some day I
will be with You for a joy-filled eternity!

Keep running the race with eternity in view.

INSIGHT:  The churches of Galatia, a province in ancient Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), were recipients of this emotionally charged letter from Paul. He had founded these churches (Gal. 1:8; 4:13,19), yet they had fallen away from the gospel of grace that he had preached to them. Instead, they had begun embracing a blend of the gospel and legalistic Judaism. Because grace (rooted in God’s kindness) and legalism (rooted in our performance) are incompatible, Paul responded with this letter in which he expresses deep concern for their spiritual condition.


Strength in Stillness

In quietness and confidence shall be your strength. —Isaiah 30:15

Early in my Christian life the demands of commitment made me wonder if I could make it past a year without returning to my old sinful ways. But this Scripture verse helped me: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exod. 14:14 niv). These are the words Moses spoke to the Israelites when they had just escaped from slavery in Egypt and were being pursued by Pharaoh. They were discouraged and afraid.

As a young believer, with temptations engulfing my world, this call “to be still” encouraged me. Now, some 37 years later, remaining still and calm while trusting Him in the midst of stress-laden situations has been a constant desire for my Christian living.

“Be still, and know that I am God,” the psalmist says (Ps. 46:10). When we remain still, we get to know God, “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (v. 1). We see our weakness apart from God and recognize our need to surrender to Him. “When I am weak, then I am strong,” says the apostle Paul (2 Cor. 12:10).

Daily we grind through stress and other frustrating situations. But we can trust that He will be faithful to His promise to care for us. May we learn to be still.

Sometimes the hectic demands on your day can crowd out your time with God. Find out how you
can develop a regular time of Bible reading and prayer. Read In His Presence

The Lord may calm your storm, but more often He’ll calm you.

INSIGHT:  After Pharaoh set the Jews free from slavery (Ex. 12:28-33), he immediately had a change of heart and summoned his elite army to recapture them (14:5-9). Although God had overwhelmingly demonstrated His great power through the 10 plagues (Ex. 7–11), the Jews chose not to trust in Him. Terrified, they accused Moses of deceiving them and leading them into the wilderness to die (14:11-12). But Moses encouraged them not to be afraid and to be still and trust the Lord (vv. 13-14). God was faithful and saved them from Pharaoh’s army (vv. 21-23), and He continued to provide for them during their 40 years in the wilderness.


The Unlikely

God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty. —1 Corinthians 1:27

Fanny Kemble was a British actress who moved to America in the early 1800s and married a southern plantation owner named Pierce Butler. Fanny enjoyed the life afforded by the wealth of the plantation, until she saw the cost of that luxury—a cost paid by the slaves who worked her husband’s plantations.

Having written a memoir of the cruel treatment slaves often suffered, Kemble was eventually divorced from her husband. Her writings were widely circulated among abolitionists and published in 1863 as Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838–1839. Because of her opposition to slavery, the former wife of a slave owner became known as “The Unlikely Abolitionist.”

In the body of Christ, God often wonderfully surprises us. He regularly uses the unlikely—people and circumstances—to accomplish His purposes. Paul wrote, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen” (1 Cor. 1:27-28).

This reminds us that God, in His grace, can use anyone. If we will allow His work to be done in us, we might be surprised at what He can do through us!

How will you let God use you today?

God desires willing hearts ready to be used.

INSIGHT:  Paul started the Corinthian church during his second missionary journey (AD 50, Acts 18:1-18). After staying for another 18 months (v. 11), Paul left Apollos to continue the work (Acts 18:27–19:1; 1 Cor. 3:6). Peter may have been in Corinth too (1 Cor. 1:12). Four years later (AD 56), while in Ephesus on his third missionary journey, Paul received two disturbing reports of divisions, disorders, difficulties, and denial of the resurrection in the church (1:10-11; 11:18-22). Paul wrote this letter to address those problems.


Deceptive Currents

When they had pasture, they were filled; they were filled and their heart was exalted. —Hosea 13:6

In his book The Hidden Brain, science writer Shankar Vedantam describes the day he went for a leisurely swim. The water was calm and clear, and he felt strong and proud for covering a long distance so easily. He decided to swim out of the bay and into open water. But when he tried to return he couldn’t make any progress. He had been deceived by the current. The ease of swimming had not been due to his strength but to the movement of the water.

In our relationship with God something similar can happen. “Going with the flow” can lead us to believe we’re stronger than we are. When life is easy, our minds tell us that it’s due to our own strength. We become proud and self-confident. But when trouble hits, we realize how little strength we have and how helpless we are.

This happened with the Israelites. God would bless them with military success, peace, and prosperity. But thinking they had achieved it on their own, they would then become proud and self-sufficient (Deut. 8:11-12). Assuming that they no longer needed God, they would go their own way until an enemy attacked and they would realize how powerless they were without God’s help.

When life is going well we too need to beware of self-deception. Pride will take us where we do not want to go. Only humility will keep us where we ought to be—grateful to God and dependent on His strength.

Lord, we don’t dare trust in our own strength to do our tasks today. You are the Giver of our talents
and opportunities. Help us use them not for our own advancement, but to help others.

True humility credits God for every success.

INSIGHT:  The book of Deuteronomy, the final book of the Pentateuch, covers a period of only 40 days. The children of Israel had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and now stood at the threshold of the Promised Land. This important book reviews their covenant with God.