"Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."

Tag: devotion

The Consecrated Body – Part 1

What does the word “consecrated” mean? Webster’s defines it this way; “to declare to be sacred or holy : set apart for a sacred purpose”. When God saves us He declares us sacred and holy for His purposes. We are chosen to be His “peculiar people”. (1 Peter 2:9)

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

When we accept Christ as the Saviour of our soul our physical body also then belongs to Him. Jesus purchased us with His blood on the cross. Just as the church is the body of Christ and each member of the church body is consecrated to specific services for Christ, so should each member of our individual bodies be consecrated to the work of the Holy Spirit which lives within us. Over the next five weeks we will look at different parts of our body and see what God says about their specific use.

The Consecrated Tongue

James had much to say about the importance of controlling our tongue in. In chapter three he compares the tongue to a horse’s bit and a ship’s rudder, each relatively small parts but when kept under vigilant care are able to turn about the whole body or ship. Likewise when the tongue is carefully guarded and directed by the power of the Holy Spirit it is capable of comforting, encouraging, enlightening, and convincing lost souls to surrender to Christ. James also compares the tongue to a little fire, which when under control gives warmth and comfort. However if left unencumbered to our sinful nature the tongue will kindle a fire that affects the course of nature and way of life for generations to come, fueled only by the forces of hell.

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.
(Proverbs 21:23 ESV)
The Christian does well in keeping or guarding his words. Our natural tendency is to speak as quickly as we think. We know that seldom works to our advantage, especially in moments of anger. Our thoughts need to be weighed out, carefully meditated upon, scrutinized to make sure they align with God’s word. Even then we should take counsel of the Holy Spirit to know if our thoughts when turned into words will bring honor to God. Our quietness often brings more honor than volumes of our words. Therefore our daily prayer should be as Psalms 141:3 “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.”

A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4)
A wholesome tongue is one that edifies and benefits the hearer. The word wholesome here means healing. The speech of a wholesome or healing tongue gives truths and pardons. It gives instruction and counsel in the gospel message of Jesus Christ, the path of righteousness to the tree of life whose leaves are for the healing of all nations. A perverse tongue however brings the opposite, corrupting the hearts of men bringing distress and despair and wounds that will never heal, grieving the spirit of God.

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. (Proverbs 31:26)
Proverbs 31 is the well known description of a virtuous woman, one that fears the Lord. When she speaks it is with discretion and prudence. Her gentle words are given for instruction in the wisdom of godly living. With a heart of grace and mercy her kind words are spoken to exhort and edify those in her care.

By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone. (Proverbs 25:15)
Words spoken in anger and arrogance rarely accomplish anything but bitterness and contempt. A patient man however carefully considers not only his words but the timing of his speech. Having patience to wait for the right opportunity to present our thoughts may persuade the hearer to use sound reasoning in contemplating an idea that may be adverse to his beliefs. Harsh words usually are met strong resistance, a resistance that instinctively protects the bones from harm. Soft words however, find their way through the thinnest crevices to touch the heart of a man, breaking the strongholds of resistance to bring about peaceful resolutions.

If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. (James 1:26)
Probably the most dangerous and certainly unconsecrated use of the tongue is that of the man who seems to be religious, even to the point of believing he is righteous, but then is boastful of his own works. Rather than words of exhortation he inclines to criticize and tear down the character of others in order to appear righteous. He is the Pharisee, confident that his own works and words will bring about his salvation. The Christian can easily discern his godless character but to the unsaved his enticing words only lead them ever closer to hell. All his religion is useless. Jesus warned us that such men would arise and told us to take heed, (reference Mark 13:22).

In John 14:6 we read “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Allow God to consecrate your tongue to tell His truth today.

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Circle of Trust

My typical day begins at five A.M. I take a few pills which my doctor insists I need in order to stay healthy. I then sit down at my desk to enjoy my life sustaining daily bread from God’s word. After a few chapters and maybe a few notes it’s time to eat a light breakfast and get ready for work. My commute takes about thirty-five minutes and it’s mostly two lane roads with light traffic. During those thirty five minutes of relative quiet I have my morning talk with my Father. My mornings have become a series of routine habits. I like having a routine. Some would say I am a “creature of habit.” I am comfortable with that. It is my nature to dislike change. Any disruption of my routine tends to frustrate me. I’m no different from most people; I want to stay in my comfort zone.

A few weeks ago on my way to work I was praying to my Father as usual. My prayers always begin with praise and gratitude. I’m specific with what I am grateful for. I think it’s important to not just generalize “blessings”. God blesses each of us with so much that we can’t possibly name them all, but I believe it’s important to name a few things that are special to us, especially if it’s an answered prayer. From praise and gratitude I move to asking forgiveness for anything I’ve done wrong. Next is the intercessory portion of my prayer. I had confidence in intercessory prayer because I have seen those answered many times. I have family and loved ones that I name daily to God, for protection, guidance, or comfort as the need may be. But this particular morning the Holy Spirit threw up a giant stop sign, freezing me in the middle of my routine.

I needed to pray for me first.

I don’t know if it was a few seconds or a few minutes, but I couldn’t speak, humbled into silence by the omniscient God. Finally, the realization was prodded into my mind. I needed to pray for me first. I rarely ask anyone to pray for me. Somehow I think it sounds selfish, especially since God has so richly blessed me with good health and provisions for life.

Let me be perfectly clear though, It is NEVER selfish to ask someone to pray for you. We survive by God’s grace alone and we absolutely should be praying for each other. At this particular moment, when God’s Holy Spirit stopped my “routine” prayer, I realized that I needed to make some changes.

My prayer life had always included asking for help in understanding God’s word, that I would glean something from it that would be a help to me in serving Him. I’ve asked for help in recognizing when God puts an opportunity in my path to serve in whatever capacity He chooses. I would be careful to ask that whatever is done by my hand would be seen as the work of the Holy Spirit, not by me. But the one thing that’s needed that I wasn’t asking for is that I would be counted as trustworthy by everyone I meet. People must trust you before they will accept anything you say or try to do for them.

We all have acquaintances, family and friends that, even though we may love them dearly, we know we can’t trust them. We can’t change that. What we can change however is to live our life in a manner that makes us known to be trustworthy, especially to those people that we do not trust. Although I’m sure those closest to me, those in my circle of trust, would know me as trustworthy, I realized that I was not making a conscious effort for those that I did not trust to know that. I was doing very little to make those people believe that they could safely confide in me. Without confidence in me how could anyone trust me enough to listen when I tell them about Jesus? That doesn’t sound very Christ-like does it?

When Jesus walked this earth He provided many examples of His trustworthiness. Sadly, His disciples and those close to Him were often the most forgetful of what He could accomplish for them. Nevertheless, the fame of the miracles He performed was widely known. Jesus made an intentional effort to seek out society’s least desirable people of the day in order to show the power of His Father. It was an effort that caused these people, the ones that were least trusted in society, to trust Him fully. Zacchaeus, the distrusted tax collector for example, showed no hesitation when Jesus called him down out of the sycamore tree, and because he trusted Jesus, he and his family were saved. The most moving story of compassion though I believe is that of the Greek woman, a Gentile, who came begging Jesus to cast out the devil that was in her daughter. Jesus’ first answer may seem cruel, but this woman knew she could fully trust Jesus to help her. Jesus was her last hope and because she was able to trust Him her daughter was healed. The compassionate, trustworthy character she saw in Jesus is the character that I need to strive for.

The Christian as an ambassador for Christ should have the same listening ear, the same helpful hand, the same compassionate heart, for the stranger as he does for the closest loved one. That is very difficult if not impossible for us to do on our own. It is simply not in our natural character. We must fully surrender to Christ and allow Him to change our character. Our character should, without any trace of doubt, show us trustworthy to whoever we meet, whether it be a hated tax collector or an outcast foreigner.

And now I humbly ask you to pray for me, that I would be considered trustworthy to anyone that crosses my path, so that I might be trusted to point someone to Jesus, whether a trusted loved one or an unknown stranger.

For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.”
(Mark 7:25-30)

Photo by Christopher Ott on Unsplash

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Seed Sowing

As a child in the sixties almost everyone I knew had a vegetable garden. Gardens were a lot of work and Dad always assigned some garden chores to me. Dad always took care of the more difficult labor of clearing new plots and tilling the ground. The weeding and hoeing tasks usually fell on me. I was also called on when the harvest time came. Picking green beans, corn and tomatoes wasn’t that bad, but things like squash and okra with their prickly vines and stalks always left my hands and arms itching. Although I did enjoy the fruits of our labor garden chores were not really wasn’t what a young boy wanted to do. Especially since there were nearby woods to explore not to mention all the creatures to find and catch out the creeks. You know an eight year old boy just has to have a pet salamander or crawdad that he caught himself.

When I was a little older we moved to a small farm and gardening chores became much more intense. You would think that move would strike dread in the eyes of young boy with all the extra labor involved. But instead I found a new attraction for the ancient vocation when I was allowed to drive the tractor. Nothing could compare to being in control of such a powerful machine to change the shape and texture of the earth itself. Aah the delightful smell of morning dew and diesel fuel. The aroma of fresh plowed earth in spring or fields of summer cut hay still stirs up fond memories of a simpler time. It also reminds me of the life lessons that the never-ending hard work taught me. Painstaking preparation is essential for a life-sustaining harvest.

Jesus used our age old knowledge of gardening and farming when he recited the parable of the sower, (see Matthew chapter 13 and Luke chapter 8). He compared seeds to the word of God. We can understand that only the seeds sown in good ground, that ground which has been painstakingly prepared, can produce a bountiful harvest. Jesus gave three more scenarios in which the seed cannot produce any harvest at all. Those seeds seemingly were just wasted. But we know from the book of Isaiah, chapter 55 that God said His word would not return void but would accomplish His purpose and would indeed prosper.

How can we say seeds prosper if there is no harvest? Let’s look again at Matthew chapter 13 verse 4. The Bible tells us that “some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up”. This one is easy. The purpose of those seeds was to provide nourishment for the birds. Birds might even be considered detrimental to the harvest but they are also part of God’s creation and serve their own purpose. Aren’t we instructed to feed our enemies? If we are preaching, teaching, or simply telling God’s word like we’re supposed to be doing then it will be spilling out to all those around us. Just because His word doesn’t always find a lodging place in the heart doesn’t mean it won’t find a place in the mind. Who knows when some circumstance or situation will come that will bring that word back to remembrance and finish it’s purpose? The Father knows.

Verses five and six tells us about the seeds that fell in stony ground and though they sprouted up they were unable to take root so they died. Then in verse seven we read about the seeds that fell among thorns which took away all the nourishment the seeds needed to survive. These two scenarios I believe Jesus intended us to see how we can make a difference, with His help of course. If we want a bigger harvest on the farm that generally means we have to clear some land. It means hard work. Trees might need to be cut and stumps dug out. Shrubs and thorny bushes might need to be cut down and rooted out. Rocks might need to be broken up and carried out. The land is then plowed and harrowed to create the best possible environment for bringing forth and nourishing life from the seeds.

If our prayer is as it should be, to enlarge God’s kingdom by bringing in a greater harvest, then we need to follow the lessons Jesus taught us in His parables. Just as I was given simple tasks as a young boy in the garden, new Christians have opportunities to work and learn within the body of Christ and have a part in the benefits of an eternal harvest. Like the old farmer with his storm weathered wiry frame setting his mind and putting his hand to the task of expanding his fields in order to provide a lifetime of sustaining work for his ever-increasing family, the mature Christian must set his mind to expanding the reach of the gospel of Christ. A rugged expanse of sinful brier bushes and hardened stony hearts lie all around us waiting to be rooted out and cultivated into fertile fields bringing forth a bountiful harvest for our King. As the old saying goes, it will take blood, sweat, and tears to complete the job successfully. Jesus provided the blood when he sacrificed His life for ours on an old rugged cross. The Holy Spirit gives us the strength to work which will likely make us sweat. And God says that one day He will wipe away all our tears.

So my brothers and sisters in Christ, I challenge you with this question. Are you ready to climb up on the tractor and plow some ground? Remember, painstaking preparation is essential for a life-sustaining harvest.

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