Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Power of the Tongue

"God gave you a brain – use it!" Okay, maybe no one ever said that to you, but it illustrates a point: God gave us the parts of our bodies for a reason. What about your tongue? What is its purpose?

Well, it's not just for tasting Rocky Road ice cream (though that is clearly a heavenly design!). Your tongue was given to you as an organ of expression. We use language to express our thoughts, feelings, suggestions, complaints, and you name it! But specifically we are to express ourselves in two ways:

1. Offering praise to the Lord

2. Encouraging others

The former is amply evident from the Bible (Psalm 89:1, Hebrews 13:15). The latter is also evident, though often ignored. Consider the power of the tongue for destruction and grace-giving:

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Ephesians 4:29

Your words can actually be a means of grace used by God for building other up in a way that perfectly meets their needs! That is an awesome high calling! But watch the tongue as well – it can also tear down and destroy in a moment what took build up (James 3:1-12).

So, how are you going to use your tongue today? Isaiah gives us a picture of the proper use of the tongue:

"The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught." Isaiah 50:4

You can be used to sustain those who are weary with the words you use! But you have to have the ear of one taught! What does that look like? First, morning by morning you must look into God's word to you. Look for words that sustain you. Then look for words that you can take along with you to sustain others.

During the day, use your ear to listen to the needs and concerns of others. Then, while you are praying with them (please do pray with them!), bring that sustaining word to bear in your prayers. In fact, it's better to pray it that to quote it! And watch how God encourages the both of you. What a privilege to be a grace-giver and soul-sustainer, all with the power of the tongue!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Day 7 toward the Global Day of Prayer

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Faith that Works II

Last Sunday we spent some time sorting out what Paul and James are saying about Faith and Works. Though on the surface they may seem at odds with one another, when we dig deeper we see they are affirming the same things. Namely, true saving faith is a living, active power at work in our lives. And like a living growing tree, faith that is alive will produce the fruit of loving acts of compassion and mercy.

So, what does the Lord have to say to us about "Faith that Works"?

  • To the "lawless" He says:
    • Jesus can't be savior if he is not Lord!
    • True saving faith changes you from the inside out, but it will get out!
    • If you don't have real fruit that lasts, you don't have real faith that saves!
  • To the "Legalist" He says:
    • You can't hide behind mechanical efforts at keeping rules and regulations.
    • Such so-called "works" can be a way to keep God at arm's length.
    • "Legal" works emphasize the external with no real life change!
    • The "works" the Bible talks about are acts mercy, love, compassion to others in need!
  • To Both He says:

The change the Lord wants to see is always from the inside out! Change the heart and you will change the life.

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Faith That Works

Few people have struggled with the relationship between faith and works as Martin Luther. As today, people in Luther's time wanted to separate faith and works as if they were two distinct acts of the human will. Or we think we begin with faith and then works take over to get us the rest of the way. Instead, Luther saw faith as a living vital work of God that would inevitably produce a changed life. Here is how he put it:

Faith, however, is a divine work in us which changes us and makes us to be born anew of God. It kills the old Adam and makes us altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers; and it brings with it the Holy Spirit. O it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them. Whoever does not do such works, however, is an unbeliever. He gropes and looks around for faith and good works, but knows neither what faith is nor what good works are. Yet he talks and talks, with many words, about faith and good works.

So the key to good works is true saving faith. True faith produces action naturally, without even having to be told! Luther goes on to say:

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that the believer would stake his life on it a thousand times. This knowledge of and confidence in God's grace makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and with all creatures. And this is the work which the Holy Spirit performs in faith. Because of it, without compulsion, a person is ready and glad to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, out of love and praise to God who has shown him this grace. Thus it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from fire.

So it all comes back to the Gospel. It's not about trying harder. Rather, "God's grace makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and with all creatures". Go to the cross! Saturate yourself with the gospel of grace until true faith arises in your soul!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Quotes from "Martin Luther, "Preface to the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans," in Luther's Works, vol. 35, Word and Sacrament I, ed. E. Theodore Bachmann (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1960), 365-380, at 370-371.)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

2009 Relay for Life

Never a dull moment...

Okay. Now we schedule a cardiac cath for Jonathan to do an "ablation" (sound's vaguely catholic) to correct a conduction problem called "Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome". Details to be arranged on Monday - film at 11. Surgery to be rescheduled. Never a dull moment!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

“Receiving the Face”

Let's face it, we are a "face" oriented society. We judge on appearances. We value the beautiful, the stylish, the "cool", the successful. If you have your face on a magazine cover, you have made it! It's no surprise that we interact of "Facebook". This is all well and good, if you have the right appearance.

But we all know the pain of being judged by appearances. It hurts when we experience prejudice, partiality, stereotyping, profiling, and favoritism. The Bible calls such discrimination "receiving the face" (James 2:1).

But the church is a place where we are called to "receive the heart". We are to look past appearances into the "true self". The Gospel demands that we love indiscriminately. What does the gospel teach us? The gospel tells us that:

"I am weaker and more sinful than I ever before believed, but, through Christ, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope. " (Tim Keller)

If we see ourselves (and all others) as weak and helpless sinners – in spite of what we project in our appearance – then we can experience a heart of mercy for all people, rich or poor, beautiful or plain, privileged or marginalized. The person who seems to have everything together is spiritually bankrupt apart from Christ. We should love them out of mercy! The person who seems dull or disadvantages – and yet a follower of Jesus – is chosen by God, rich in faith, and heir of God's kingdom, and a lover of God (James 2:5). We should love them out of honor!

So, let us love as we are loved – freely, passionately, unconditionally, and indiscriminately!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom