For decades I have observed the culture around me become increasingly saturated with a distorted emphasis on the “greatness of self.” The tune plays over and over again: “You’re great! You can do anything! Love yourself. Follow your own heart.” A deadly deception chokes our heart when the message becomes “It’s all about you.” Yes, the Bible teaches that we are made in God’s image and that we are capable of achieving great things. Jesus taught us to love others as we love ourselves. The Bible also teaches that our hearts are evil at the core and prone to sin. The truth is we need help. We need salvation. We need Jesus! While reading the Book of Isaiah, I see that the Lord calls His people away from sinful self-absorbed disobedience. He reminds them of who He is so they can get it straight. “This is what God the Lord says—he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it…” (Isaiah 42:5). This verse reminds me of the miracle of birth. When you and I were born, we had a sudden infusion of the breath of life. Where did that come from? Where does our spirit—the part of us that gives us a unique personality—come from? If life was just physical, we would be no different than a rock. But God made us, and He has the right to give us His Word with its’ commands and decrees. His motive is love; He wants us to live a good fruitful life, filled with the Spirit and living in right relationship with himself and one another. So, resist the voices in our culture that try to persuade you to glorify yourself as the “all in all.” Get things straight and allow God to be God. He goes on to declare through Isaiah, “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols” (42:8). May the day we stand before God be one of great joy, knowing that we glorified Him on this earth! Praise Him and not yourself.
You never know what a day may bring forth. This past Monday was my day off, and I had plans to do some outside work and other errands. Then, I woke up with vertigo! This “friend” shows up a few times a year and throws my “normal” life out the window. All day Monday I was propped up in a chair trying to move as little as possible due to the dizziness. I couldn’t eat or drink anything. Well, enough of that! Today is a new day, and I’m feeling better. In my devotions I read about the hope and blessing of the future for believers where there will be no more sickness or death. Isaiah the prophet spoke, “On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations: he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 25:7-8). As I type these words, the school staff at SGA is on the way to New Jersey for the funeral service of Zorana (a former teacher) who passed away at the age of 34. While we are in this body of flesh and blood, we face battles with sickness and thoughts of our own mortality. However, these facts are covered by the grace of God given through our Lord Jesus. We know that Jesus manifested himself to the world to defeat the enemy…and the last enemy to be destroyed is death. Before we experience the final victory, we trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross and pray for one another. The Lord has given us power over death so that our death is like His…followed by a resurrection into new and glorified bodies. In the meantime, we pray for one another to be healed and praise God for the strength and victory He gives. While we are in this life, facts and faith sometimes collide, but be assured that the Lord will always have the last word. He will “swallow up death forever,” and He “will wipe away the tears from all faces” (verses 7b and 8a). Trust Him and wait on Him!
A comedian once joked, “I can resist everything except temptation!” For the Christian, temptation is no laughing matter. I know a man from a long time ago who was tempted to steal from his employer…and gave in to the temptation. He was amazed at how easy it was to get away with. So, he continued to steal from his company for years. And, then he was exposed! His crime made the news, and he was immediately fired (and faced jail time). The judge allowed the man to avoid prison since this was his first offence, but he had to pay back everything…plus a hefty fine. Maybe money isn’t our issue, but we all know our personal temptations. Even Jesus was tempted. In Matthew 4:1-11 we read of the devil tempting Jesus in the wilderness. God allowed this time of testing because God knew that Jesus needed to prove privately faithful before He could be publicly fruitful. Jesus had to pass the test, and He did! He refused to perform foolish miracles like turning stones into bread or jumping from the temple pinnacle to have angels save Him. Finally, He refused the offer of the devil to shortcut God’s plan in receiving the kingdoms of the world. Jesus refused to worship Satan and turned away from each temptation. In Christ, we not only find a model but also discover His power and ability to overcome our temptations. His victory is our victory! Of course, we need to do our part in overcoming temptation. We need to humble ourselves and ask for His help. Also, the proverbs teach us that we need to avoid the pathways of temptation (see Proverbs 7:6-27 about adultery). Finally, we need to love the Lord and hold God’s Word dear to our hearts. What a great help to memorize encouraging verses like 1 Corinthians 10:13: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” Let’s remember that when Satan brings us to a wall of temptation, the Lord provides a door of escape!
Jesus and the apostles warned us about perilous times before the second coming of our Lord. As believers we are aware that the Bible tells us the love of many will grow cold and morals will plummet. There is one special area I want to address to help us stay close to Jesus and avoid the downward spiral so prevalent in the world. This involves the words we use. We need to especially watch what we say when it comes to foul language and cursing. The Apostle Paul said, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6). I find it distressing to hear believers carelessly compromising with vulgar language. Pardon my saying so, but I find the use of the “F” word demeaning and offensive. Are we to pick up garbage language just because others are okay with this? And, why in the world would we go on social media and write filthy words? Words are powerful—as a witness for good or an influence for evil. In Ephesians 4:29 Paul declares, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Every day we have an amazing opportunity to use uplifting, wholesome words that bring hope and life to others. Let’s not poison the well by mixing it with cursing and degrading language. Sometimes before reaching a company representative on the phone, I hear a recording telling me, “This call is being recorded for training purposes.” What if we lived believing that everything we say will be broadcast for all to hear? Jesus said in Luke 12:3, “What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” As a follower of Christ, dare to different…and let it start with your mouth!