20 Resolutions for Your Tongue

Sunday’s sermon was on James 3:1-12, “The Faith that Speaks.” (You can listen to or watch it by clicking here). In a nut shell, James shows us the power of words (to direct or devastate), our inability to control them, and our only hope in the God who can change our hearts. At the end of the sermon I gave 4 steps for us to walk in so we can put this Scripture into practice:

  1. Reflect on your words. – Examine how you use your words and who you’ve hurt.
  2. Repent of your sins. – Apologize to people and confess to God.
  3. Renew your heart. – Only Christ can renew your heart; ask the Holy Spirit to increase your love for Jesus, your longing for holiness, and your control of your tongue.
  4. Resolve to resist sin and speak life. – The greatest work is what’s done in your heart, but it doesn’t mean we don’t make an effort as well.
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According to James, this would be a lot easier than taming the tongue.

The battle of our words is a battle for our heart! We must take practical steps to outwardly change what we trust God is changing inwardly!

For help in that fourth step I turn to Pastor Sinclair Ferguson who has put together a list of 20 Resolutions on the Use of the Tongue from the entirety of the book of James (because James talked about our words and how we should use them, a lot!). I encourage you to read these resolutions, the scripture they come from, and then pick 2-3 that you want to work on, even as God is at work in you.

20 Resolution on the Use of the Tongue from James by Sinclair Ferguson [1]

1) Resolved: To ask God for wisdom to speak and to do so with a single mind.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. . . . in faith with no doubting. . . . For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything . . . he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5–8).

2) Resolved: To boast only in my exaltation in Christ or my humiliation in the world.

“Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away” (James 1:9–10).

3) Resolved: To set a watch over my mouth.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13).

4) Resolved: To be constantly quick to hear, slow to speak.

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19).

5) Resolved: To learn the gospel way of speaking to the poor and the rich.

“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1–4).

6) Resolved: To speak in the consciousness of the final judgment.

“So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty” (James 2:12).

7) Resolved: To never stand on anyone’s face with words that demean, despise, or cause despair.

“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:15–16).

8) Resolved: To never claim a reality I do not experience.

“If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth” (James 3:14).

9) Resolved: To resist quarrelsome words as marks of a bad heart.

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1).

10) Resolved: To never speak evil of another.

“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge” (James 4:11).

11) Resolved: To never boast in what I will accomplish.

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:13). 

12) Resolved: To always speak as one who is subject to the providences of God.

“Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:15).

13) Resolved: To never grumble, knowing that the Judge is at the door.

“Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9).

14) Resolved: To never allow anything but total integrity in my speech.

“But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation” (James 5:12).

15) Resolved: To speak to God in prayer whenever I suffer.

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray” (James 5:13). 

16) Resolved: To sing praises to God whenever I am cheerful.

“Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13). 

17) Resolved: To ask for the prayers of others when I am sick.

“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14).

18) Resolved: To confess it whenever I have failed.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16).

19) Resolved: To pray for one another when I am together with others in need.

“Pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

20) Resolved: To speak words of restoration when I see another wander.

“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19–20).

[1] http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-tongue-the-bridle-and-the-blessing-an-exposition-of-james-3-1-12

 

Beyond Costumes

This article was originally published in the July 2016 issue of Homefront Magazine. “HomeFront is a monthly magazine and parenting curriculum combined into one – based on the 10 Environments highlighted in the book Spiritual Parenting by Dr. Michelle Anthony. It is filled with recipes, craft ideas, stories, and more to inspire, equip, and support you on your parenting journey.” Subscribe to the magazine here!

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Beyond Costumes

“Are you Luke Skywalker?” It’s not an odd question in our house, where costumes are king and one minute my oldest son, Hutch (5), will be in Peter Pan green and the next, he’s in a white karate suit holding a blue light saber. At the same time Oakes (4) is dressed as Darth Vader and Avonlea (2) is wearing an Iron Man glove, storm trooper helmet and a bright green tutu. But as they go flying down the hall, and I ask the obvious question, I usually get the reply, “No, Dad, it’s me, Hutch!”

Costumes are a powerful way to encourage imaginations and a fun way to think through what might be. In choosing a costume kids think: “What powers would I like to have?” “What would I change about myself?” “What would make me special?”

Growing up and out of costumes doesn’t really take those questions away. Instead of superpowers it becomes a matter of friends, skills or achievements. We weigh the different options of education, relationships and careers still wondering: “What power will this give me?” “What change will add value?” “What will make me special?”

As parents we need to help our children navigate these questions, but how can we if we are still held captive to them ourselves? If I equate my identity to my success at work or how I compare to other dads then all I can ever offer my kids is another costume change. And the thing about costumes is that they are sweaty, difficult to wash and don’t actually change who you are. So what will?

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“Who Am I?”

When it comes to the superheroes of the Old Testament, Moses is right at the top. His name immediately brings to mind the power struggle with Pharaoh, plagues and parting seas. But that is not the guy you have in Exodus three. In chapter thee, Moses isn’t a hero, but a failure, an outcast and a fugitive. Yet this is the Moses God calls.

In a less than impressive answer Moses says, “Who am I?” He is no longer impressed with himself: not his resume, education, reputation, abilities or faithfulness. In a way, Moses has reached the place that each of us need to reach: tired of trading one costume for another and acknowledging that the real problem is within. Moses is correct in his admission of his insufficiency, but incorrect in his math. Our weaknesses are overcome by God’s power; our poor identity with the riches of His own. God is greater than any insufficiencies.

Our weaknesses are overcome by God’s power; our poor identity with the riches of His own. God is greater than any insufficiencies.

This is the story of the gospel too. Rather than leave us to the judgment our insufficiencies and sinfulness deserve, God bends down, through the incarnation of Jesus and shows that God is not only all-sufficient in Himself, but that He will take care of our insufficiencies through Jesus’ perfection and payment for sin so that God might call us His children.

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Nail Guns,  Shepherd’s Staffs & Father’s Hands

Sometimes when I’m working on a house project, my son will come join me with his toy tools and his “worker-man” costume. Recently I was working with a nail gun and I saw a look in his eyes showing he simultaneously wanted to join and also knew this was a tool he couldn’t use. So I said, “Hutch, come help me make this headboard.” Puzzled, he responded, “How can I?”

I handed him the nail gun and immediately I surrounded his hands with mine. I guided the nail gun into place and said, “Pull the trigger” and he did. I moved it over to the new spot and said, “Again.” And we kept doing this, his hands in mine as I directed the work and carried the weight of the gun until we finished. Then he ran and yelled, “Mom! Look what we built!”

At the end of Exodus 4, though Moses still doesn’t get it and is lost in his own insufficiency, God says to him, “…take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs. (Exodus 4:17 ESV)” And in the pages that follow, God places His hands around Moses’  hands, so that when Moses gets to Pharaoh, God can whisper, “Pull the trigger. Tell Pharaoh to let my people go.”

We must point ourselves and our children to this wondrous truth: identity is not first about who we are, but about whose we are; for when we are God’s our “who is also changed. We don’t need a different costume; we need the Father.

Beyond Costumes - HomeFront July

Like what you read? Find more engaging articles on Identity in this month’s issue of HomeFront.

Because He Lives! (04.20.14)

Because He Lives!

Easter Sunday

Movie makers are willing to change true stories to make more believable or inspiring films, but what happens when people take away the physical resurrection of Jesus in order to make Christianity more believable?

We lose Christianity.

Sunday night, Easter Sunday, we looked at 5 primary implications of Jesus’ resurrection and how we wouldn’t have anything of value without it:

1) Because He lives Jesus is exalted & God is glorified.
2) Because He lives your forgiveness is sure and secure.
3) Because He lives Jesus works on your behalf.
4) Because He lives you will be raised too.
5) Because He lives you can believe.

Thoughts:  Jesus’ love isn’t grounded in my value, my love-ability or innate worth; Jesus’ love for us is grounded in his desire to bring glory to the Father.

If it is by Jesus’s death, if it is by his own blood that he signs the check and pays the bill then it is his resurrection that confirms that his check was good. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the receipt that confirms God accepted his payment as full and complete.

The claim of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead is Christianity’s most ostentatious claim. It is wild. It is odd. And yet, the thing which sounds most ludicrous (the message of the Resurrection) is also what gives me the most confidence for believing it to be true.

Scripture: And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. – 1 Corinthians 15:14

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. – Romans 4:25

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:58

Links: 

The Bible in 311 Words

In the beginning, the all-powerful, personal God created the universe. This God created human beings in His image to live joyfully in His presence, in humble submission to His gracious authority. But all of us have rebelled against God and, in consequence, must suffer the punishment of our rebellion: physical death and the wrath of God.

Thankfully, God initiated a rescue plan, which began with His choosing the nation of Israel to display His glory in a fallen world. The Bible describes how God acted mightily on Israel’s behalf, rescuing His people from slavery and then giving them His holy law. But God’s people -like all of us- failed to rightly reflect the glory of God.

Then, in the fullness of time, in the person of Jesus Christ, God Himself came to renew the world and restore His people. Jesus perfectly obeyed the law given to Israel. Though innocent, He suffered the consequences of human rebellion by His death on a cross. But three days later, God raised Him from the dead.

Now the church of Jesus Christ has been commissioned by God to take the news of Christ’s work to the world. Empowered by God’s Spirit, the church calls all people everywhere to repent of sin and to trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. Repentance and faith restores our relationship with God and results in a life of ongoing transformation.

The Bible promises that Jesus Christ will return to this earth as the conquering King. Only those who live in repentant faith in Christ will escape God’s judgment and live joyfully in God’s presence for all eternity. God’s message is the same to all of us: repent and believe, before it is too late. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved.

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Excerpt from Trevin Wax’s book, Gospel-Centered Teaching, pages 49-51. I highly recommend this book for anyone with a mind to teach from the Bible.

Time keeps on ticking away, ticking away…

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once. – Albert Einstein

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Time is often seen as our enemy; rarely our ally and always a kind of governor or manager overseeing what we do. We waste it, we blame it, and can never quite capture enough of it to be fully satisfied. For each person has but 24 hours a day and seven days a week: no matter whether you’re in the 1% or 99.

I have not been posting these past couple of months because of my own battles with time. I hope to begin again, and even post some simple things (like sermons) in the future, but right now… I just can’t find the time.

What has been taking up this time, you say? Well, all the regulars of course… being a husband, a dad, work, preparing sermons, trying to have friends and even (occasionally) trying to exercise. But on top of all that… we bought a house. And well… one day I will share the story of this house buying process (a testament of God’s greatness and unmerited favor toward us, ie “grace”), but let me just say this… it took a lot of time. And as we work to restore and repair and renovate… it will take time. And as Rebecca is 3 days past her due date with our new little one on the way, we will be spending some serious quality, family time.

Now, I have not experienced the sort of fear and devastation expressed by David in Psalm 31, but let me (and you) say with him:

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”

My times are in your hand;

Psalm 31:14-15a

Sure, we can wrestle with time, but we serve the God who made it; and who has our time in His hand. Praise God that we have Him to trust in! Let time not be a battle but an exercise in our faithfulness to the One who made us.

And so… I must again bid you farewell. Hopefully it won’t be too long. And to you it may not matter, but it has mattered greatly to me, and so I look forward to my next post… whenever that may be.

I’m no John Piper

In an effort to do a little catch-up on this blog-thing, (which has largely turned into a place for posting sermons… sorry about that – hopefully it will become more and not less), I will be posting three different sermons this week. However, with the breadth of good sermons on the internet, why should you listen to these?

  1. If South Shores is your church
  2. If Remix is your service
  3. If you want to encourage young men in their journey of becoming better preachers
  4. You know me.

But, be warned, they may not be all that you could receive from some famous pastor, so here’s a fantastic article excerpt to help you love me (us) a little better:

Steve Burchett, When Your Preacher Is Not John Piper:

Many who have had the privilege of hearing John Piper preach in person would testify that it felt like a monumental event. His preaching powerfully combines truth and passion, leading to convicted and exhilarated listeners. After the sermon, certain hearers might leave wondering if they were just in the presence of a figure who will be talked about in future centuries.

Then they go back to their home church, where several things are different, including the preaching. Thankfully, the gospel is still proclaimed. In fact, the sermons are thoroughly biblical, but the ability of their regular preacher simply does not measure up to the phenomenal preaching they recently heard.

Unless you attend a church led by of one of the celebrated preachers of our day, you most likely have faced a similar situation. Either at a conference or on the internet, you have heard exceptional preaching, but each Sunday you’re back in your simple little home church that hardly anybody beyond your town knows about, with its “nobody” of a pastor who will probably never preach to thousands.

What if your gospel-preaching pastor is not as good as one of the great orators of our day? Is it time to sell the house, pack up the family, and change churches? No, I don’t think so. But what should you do?

Then he lists five things:

  1. Rejoice that your preacher is a man who proclaims the gospel.
  2. Recognize that certain men are uniquely gifted by the Lord to have an international ministry and appeal, but this is not the norm.
  3. (If he is dull) Remember that the mature worshiper is easily edified.
  4. Listen eagerly and with Bible open to encourage better preaching.
  5. Verbally encourage the preacher(s) in your church.

To read the full article, go here.

I hope you enjoy the sermons this week (on tents, what you do and marriage), and I hope to post some additional stuff on the marriage one in particular.

Easy Steps to Digging Deeper into the Bible

An easy assumption to make when it comes to reading our Bibles is that if you want to go deeper into the text then you need to purchase a bunch of scholarly resources: commentaries, introductions, lexicons, study Bibles, etc. Now, while these are all great resources and will help expand your understanding of the text, too often we move to these far too soon, or we are simply intimidated into inaction because we don’t own these already.

The truth is that pastors and Bible study leaders are served well to do their own thinking through and analysis of the text prior to moving to other resources… it is also true that anyone wanting to go deeper or be more prepared for receiving a sermon or participate in a Bible study would also do well to tackle the text on their own.

So, how? Well, there are a lot of different methods and ways, but I wanted to share some simple steps that make up the beginning of my sermon preparation. (This isn’t necessarily the best possible methodology, but it has worked for me thus far, and it’s pretty simple).

  1. Prayer. Thank God for His Word and your ability to study it. Repent of sin which can cloud your thoughts and the work of God in your life. Ask the Spirit illuminate your time of study.
  2. Big Picture. Now, we have been in a continuing study of Ephesians and I have constantly tried to place each week in the context of the whole book and point out its individual relationship to the previous week’s text. If you have been part of a study like this then you may already feel good about seeing where it fits in the big picture of the book. If not, then this is a step that you can put a lot into (read the whole book, give a summary to each chapter) or a less (read the paragraph before your section and after to see if it modifies how you might read your section).
  3. Read it. Read the section over a couple of times and write down your first impressions of it (what stands out, what seems important, what do you want to know more about).
  4. Line by line. Go verse by verse down a sheet a paper writing out your own paraphrase of each. If some verses or statements have a specific relationships or connections to others, make some visual note (arrows, or indent) to show those relationships.
  5. Group. Group paragraphs together and by looking at your paraphrases of the individual verses, come up with a general title or paraphrase of each paragraph. Then give the whole section a title if you can.
  6. Interrogate. Grab a different color pen and start marking things that seem important (repeated words, emphasis), write out questions you have that you hope to find answers to and write down other verses in the Bible that these make you think of.

Now you should have a good idea of what you think this section of scripture means, what’s important and what things you’d like to find answers to either in further study (resources) or from the sermon or Bible study you’re attending.

Now, this doesn’t always mean that you have it all figured out… many times I’ve moved onto the next step of checking with how scholars understand certain things and I’ve found myself to be way off, but at least I knew that I wrestled with it. Other times I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I actually had some good thoughts that I shared with smarter people.

I hope you’ll take some effort to try even a few of these steps and work it into some of your regular time of study. If you’ve already figured out what works for you to get deeper into the text, great! Keep with it! But if not, try these; it will take a little longer than just opening your Bible, reading, and shutting it… but it is worth it to not only wrestle with the text, but to let the Word of God wrestle with you.

My notes from Eph 5:3-20 (teaching at Remix on Jan 8).

My notes from Eph 5:21-33

Let the Word of God wrestle with you!