Impulsively React or Thoughtfully Respond?

I’m a person who has always struggled mightily with my mouth. I tended to impulsively react to events and say things before really taking the time to think them through. One reason I reacted this way was that I arrogantly believed that I was almost always on target with my words.

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Then I began to learn. I heard from my wife, my children, my good friends, and even from some who were not always so friendly. I learned from the Bible, and there heard from God.

Once I was schooled in this, here’s what I found out: Impulsive reactions are most frequently not a good thing. They are not a sign of great native intelligence. In fact, the Bible would call them unwise (or just plain dumb!), and more than once labels them sin.

Some seem to know this more “naturally.” It’s like it’s built into their personalities to respond more carefully. But others, like me, spend a lifetime learning the importance of responding thoughtfully, rather than reacting impulsively.

One of the greatest gifts of the Holy Spirit is the gift of inner peace, a calm-heartedness, and an ability to just slow down a bit in one’s thought-processes. Some decisions are best reached quickly. But many decisions are wisely arrived at after a few moments (or hours, or days, or even weeks) of thought.

One of the best places I learned this was in the book of Proverbs — the book of God’s wisdom. And here are a few things one can learn about the blessings (or, alternatively, the curses) of our choice to react or to respond:

  • When I talk with an evil intent toward someone (or behind their back), that’s going to end up being a harmful trap for me!
  • When I speak with an innocent heart, I don’t have to worry so much about traps.
  • Words that are thoughtful and well-crafted can really benefit me and those I speak about too.
  • Fools react in a headstrong fashion, impulsively thinking they are always right.
  • Wise people take some time to listen to others for advice before they announce a decision.
  • Fools have a short fuse and get annoyed quickly.
  • Wise people know how to overlook insults and let them run like water off a duck’s back.

“Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk, and so the innocent escape trouble. From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward. The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult” (Proverbs 12:13-16, NIV).

Lord, help me by your Spirit’s power to control my mouth and respond thoughtfully rather than react impulsively. By your Son Jesus’ blood, wash me clean and forgive me for all the sins that I have committed with my words. Thank you that you have spoken to me with thoughtful, loving words and promises. Help me to hold those in my heart at all times.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, May 16, is Ruth 1:1 – 2:23, John 9:1-34 and Proverbs 12:8-17.

Header image based on "Mouthing off" by Demi-Brooke, CC By 2.0

Stop and Listen. Go and Do.

Do you know how to be Jesus’ relative?

Hint. It’s not by blood.

Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.” He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” (Luke 8:19-21, NIV).

Jesus made this point several times during his ministry, most notably at the very end of the Sermon on the Mount. If you want a vibrant, lasting faith, one “built on a rock,” not one “built on sand,” then listen to God’s word AND put it into practice.

Luke records Jesus expressing the same thought on a different occasion. But the message is very, very similar: If you want a closer, stronger relationship with Jesus, listen to God’s word AND put it into practice in your life.

Even Jesus’ brother James (who was Jesus’ brother by blood!) says it. If you want to stop deceiving yourself and live a life in which you will be “blessed in what you do,” listen to God’s word AND do what it says.

Yes. It’s another one of those teachings in the Bible where there’s an important AND.

None of these verses is talking about salvation. Salvation is all by grace, through faith. And faith comes simply by “hearing the message,” says the apostle Paul in Romans 10.

But maturity? The deepening of the roots of your faith? The lifelong process of sanctification (becoming holy like Jesus)? The growth of your relationship with your Savior — and the resulting fruit such a growing relationship produces?

Jesus is straightforward about that. There’s an AND. Listen to God’s word AND — with the Holy Spirit’s help and power — put it into practice.

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, March 31, is Numbers 29:12 – 31:24, Luke 8:19-39 and Psalm 39:1-13.

Header image based on "Indecision" by Satish Krishnamurthy, CC By 2.0

How to Win Friends and Influence People

I’m not sure Dale Carnegie would endorse John the Baptist’s approach. John’s message was not at all designed to make him a popular man. And yet, somehow he was definitely attracting crowds — large groups of people fascinated with his message.

And this was not exactly the Ritz-Carlton they were following him to. They had to hike out into the wilderness near the Jordan River to hunt John down. They likely had to camp out there. That’s a lot of effort to hear a sermon.

Consider the way he addressed the crowds. To our modern ears it sounds mean-spirited and bordering on abusive language: “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” (Luke 3:7, NIV).

Then he calls the crowds to change. Not just to a regular, garden-variety, everyday kind of change. Radical change. If they wanted a relationship with God, they must change everything about their lives: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8, NIV).

And then he accuses them of a lack of integrity. “You call yourselves the children of Abraham,” he tells the crowds, “but you bear absolutely no resemblance to Abraham.” It’s as if he’s saying, if you claim to be the children of Abraham, then even rocks can be children of Abraham: And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham” (Luke 3:8, NIV).

Finally, he implores them to understand how close they are to absolute destruction: “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:9, NIV).

Now, is that the way to win friends? Or influence people?

Well, it is when you are being authentic and transparent, the way John the Baptist was. It is when your most important Friend is Jesus. And it is when what you really care most about is what that Friend thinks.

It is when you also care enough about the people you are addressing that you really want to see them in heaven with you one day, and right now you see them going in the entirely wrong direction.

Our Bible reading for Friday, March 20, is Numbers 9:15 – 11:3, Luke 3:1-22 and Psalm 35:19-28.

Lord, help me go in the right direction. Give me your Spirit so that I can be truly repentant of my sins, and produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Help me to live according to my identity as a child of Abraham, and through faith in Christ Jesus, a child of God. Thank you that I live in your grace and mercy every day, and that Jesus has won forgiveness of all my sins.

Header image based on "Wrong Way" by Elaine with Grey Cats, CC By-SA 2.0

3 Things To Do With the Bible

Maybe you have a Bible sitting somewhere around the house. But you’re not sure exactly what to do with it. Well, we can help with that.

Jesus tells us how to handle a Bible. And his instructions are relatively easy to follow:

1. We should listen to it.

In today’s world there are so many ways to accomplish this first one. You can go to church. You can listen to a message online. You can attend a growth group or Bible study. You could begin to subscribe to a daily devotional from biblegateway.com or Bible.com. You could sign up to this daily blog and read along with us.

2. We should accept it.

Jesus honors the faith of little children, because they are trusting and accept the claims of others at face value. We can do the same with the Bible. It’s easy to be skeptical in today’s world. But Jesus says that we can take the Bible at face value. It is what it says it is: the word of God. It has a lot of wisdom in it. It’s useful wisdom for this life. And it’s eternally-saving wisdom.

3. We should produce based on the Bible’s wisdom.

Faith will make us more productive people. Even better, it will make us productive in all the right ways. When we read the Bible and trust it’s words, we begin to produce “fruit” from the faith in Jesus that takes root in our hearts. Our words and our actions will be transformed by Jesus’ love and forgiveness. And when that occurs — who knows what might happen next?!

“Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown” (Mark 4:20, NIV).

Lord, when I open my Bible, help me to really listen to what I am reading and studying there. And then, give me trusting eyes and ears. Remove the scales of skepticism from my eyes. Finally, change me from a person who acts with a selfish heart into a person who acts with your selfless heart.

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, February 18, is Exodus 23:1 – 24:18, Mark 3:31 – 4:29 and Psalm 22:22-31.

Header image based on "The Bible" by Yarzab, CC By 2.0