I had a heated argument with my boyfriend over the phone in college. I stood directly in front of a mirror as I spoke very loudly. I saw that terrifying look of anger on my face and thought, Who are you, and what have you done with Vernell?
It sounds funny now, but that experience taught me that I got too angry. While reading Acts 15, I pondered their argument about the need to circumcise the Gentiles for salvation. Did these men of God exhibit more restraint than I did? Paul, one of my heroes, probably let them know precisely what he thought about them and their ideas!
Acts 15:2 says,
“And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders.”
We have a modern saying, “Go big or go home!” So, Paul and Barnabas went to the top authorities of their day for resolution as the magnitude of the argument warranted it.
The spirited debate continued in Jerusalem. Peter intervened to bring forth the wisdom of God. It must have sounded like a modern-day mic drop! Let’s read what Peter said to them,
“And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Acts 15:8-11).
Clearly, confrontations can occur at any level. Peter’s manner of speech brought silence to those gathered. James was able to make his recommendation to the council after hearing about all the wonders the Lord had done through Paul and Barnabas. There is nothing like the wisdom of God to get to the heart of a matter.
Paul, Barnabas, and Peter recognized the grace of God upon the Gentiles. They boldly spoke the mind of Christ to those gathered. The Lord did not ask anyone for permission to pour out His Spirit upon the Gentiles. Peter was an eyewitness to the Holy Spirit’s visitation upon Cornelius and his whole family in Acts 10. This same outpouring reached all the way through time to me! After college, I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and boldly proclaimed the name of Jesus as well!
As believers, God invites us to come to Him for His wisdom in those difficult situations with others. Of course, arguments happen, but God prevails when we yield to Him.
By Rev. Kyle Norman, crosswalk.com
“Open my lips, LORD, and my mouth will declare your praise.” (Psalm 51:15)
Each morning begins the same. I rise from my bed and stumble into to the kitchen to brew my morning coffee. I pass my phone, my computer, and the television. Normally, I am the only person awake, so all is silent. After the coffee (and my energy) begins percolating, I go to my office, close the door, and begin my time of morning prayer. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and begin, “Lord, open our lips, and our mouths shall show forth thy praise.” I say this verse slowly, but audibly.
There is something profound about beginning the day with such a declaration. I find it significant that the first words out my mouth are addressed to the Lord. This small act of humble praise sets the course of the day. Praying that God “open my lips’ reminds me that my voice matters. As a follower of Jesus, I am called to use my voice in a certain way. Will I use my words for praise, for adoration, for blessing? Or will the words of my mouth flow in an opposite direction?
Scripture has a lot to say about how we speak to one another. As much as we teach children that “sticks and stones my break our bones but words will never hurt us” we know this is not the case. Our words matter. What is more, our words matter to God. Paul exhorted the Ephesians to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up” (Ephesians 4:29). In case they missed the point, Paul repeats himself several verses later, writing “nor should there be any obscenity, foolish talk, or course joking, which are out of place” (5:4). God’s love, poured into our hearts, is to flow from our mouths.
From “do not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16) to “bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14), the Bible continually discloses God’s desire for our words. Our speech is to bear the mark of Christ’s love and grace. When we use vile and degrading language, or tell demeaning jokes and sarcasms, we step out of the Lord’s will for us. What is more, when such unholy speech is directed to another, either in judgement or ridicule, these words become a stumbling block to someone’s acceptance of the gospel. In fact, the book of James states that the failure to keep a rein on our tongues renders our faithful witness worthless (James 1:26). Words matter.
Our mouths should be filled with praise. As Christian people, dedicated to living our lives in the presence of the Spirit, we ought to use our voices for thanksgiving, intercession, and adoration. Of course, opening our mouths in praise is not simply about the words we use. Opening our lips in praise is also about the intention of our hearts. Our praise flow from what lies deep within our soul. It is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). This means that using our voice for praise is more a matter of the heart than the tongue.
SCRIPTURE READING — LEVITICUS 25:8-13
“Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.”
As we noted yesterday, God’s gifts of daily bread and Sabbath invited everyone to trust in him. And God poured out abundant blessings to be shared. All of this was designed to prevent poverty. Leviticus 25 explains more about debts being forgiven, freedom for slaves, and property being restored to owners who had sold it to pay off debts. These laws reveal God’s concern for social relationships and the well-being of the community.
Imagine what it was like for people who had lost their land, or who had labored under a burden of debt, to suddenly be able to start again with a clean slate. Millions of people in poverty today long for a fresh beginning like that.
As the year 2000 approached, Christians around the world proposed a kind of modern Jubilee for low-income countries that had been burdened with crippling debt for decades. The proposals were bold and countercultural, but by God’s grace they had a measure of success. Some of the world’s poorest nations were forgiven parts of their debt. And money was freed up to build education and health-care programs.
Early in his ministry, Jesus explained that he was anointed “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” a Jubilee—and, more than that, to fulfill that vision (Luke 4:18-19). In Jesus, we all get a chance to start over.
Encouraging Your Pastor
From: Intouch Ministries
How can you appreciate and serve your pastor?
If you attend church, then God has given you a pastor to care for your soul by modeling godliness, preaching the Word, and training and exhorting you in righteousness—even when you might not feel like listening. He cares about your spiritual well-being and needs to know you care for him too.
Many believers neglect giving encouragement to the pastor because they forget that he too is a member of the body of Christ. It can be lonely and discouraging to selflessly sacrifice for the congregation without ever receiving honor and appreciation from them.
Today’s passage says that we should obey and submit to our leaders so they can faithfully do their job as shepherds with joy instead of groaning. Paul said elders who rule well and work hard at preaching and teaching should be given double honor (1 Timothy 5:17).
When was the last time you expressed appreciation to your pastor? This week, look for ways to demonstrate your love to him. And above all, pray for him. Don’t assume that he needs no intercession; the opposite is true. Every pastor needs to know that his congregation values him.