Anxious Hearts

Do you ever experience anxiety? Anxiety is a biological reaction to external and internal pressures and threats. It is the body’s way of alerting you to hunker down or flee a threatening situation. According to the National Institution of Health, this is the definition of anxiety:

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness. It might cause you to sweat, feel restless and tense, and have a rapid heartbeat. It can be a normal reaction to stress. For example, you might feel anxious when faced with a difficult problem at work, before taking a test, or before making an important decision. It can help you to cope. The anxiety may give you a boost of energy or help you focus. But for people with anxiety disorders, the fear is not temporary and can be overwhelming.

Our passage from Isaiah today speaks directly to those who have an anxious heart. It is a beautiful reminder that God is always with us in every situation, and we can count on him to come and save us:

Isaiah 35 (English Standard Version)

Say to those who have an anxious heart,
    “Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
    will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
    He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
    and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
    and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
    the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

The times we are living in right now are filled with anxiety. You can’t go through a day without experiencing some anxiety over the pandemic, driving in heavy traffic, the climate crisis, violence in our streets and across the world, worry over the economy and jobs, raising children, marriages falling apart…the list is endless.

A friend shared that after several life-challenging events, she is struggling so much with anxiety that she realizes she needs to find help. She said that this gave her a sense of shame and disappointment. I know that those feelings are real, but I countered that if she were experiencing symptoms of diabetes, she would see a specialist and possibly go on insulin. It is the same with anxiety…getting professional help puts no shame in that game. That is the smart move.

When anxious thoughts overwhelm you, close your eyes and imagine Isaiah’s vision of the waters breaking forth in the wilderness, streams flowing in the desert, and burning sand turning into a pool of cool water that brings life to the animals who drink there. Take a few deep breaths, pray and meditate, and go for a walk. And if anxiety is persistent and pervasive, a good therapist is in order, just as you would seek help for a heart condition. God can use ALL things for your good if you let him.

Behold, your God will come…he will come and save you.

The Burning Sand Shall Become a Pool by Amanda Williams

For the Called

I belong to a United Methodist Clergy Women’s Facebook page, and it is a revelation to hear from others what is happening in their churches. Most of it is uplifting and inspiring. Some of it makes me want to rise from my chair and throttle someone. Ministry is hard, folks. Be kind to your pastor…you have no idea what they are up against. Church is made up of many different individuals, all of whom have an opinion, and all who believe in their right to express it. This often results in the pastor taking the brunt of conflicting opinions while trying to maintain a fellowship of believers who have been called together to be the body of Christ for the world. Sometimes we all lose sight of that.

Any believer who actively practices and shares their faith can tell the same story. The truth is, we are ALL called through our baptisms to go and make disciples for the transformation of the world. This is everyone’s calling, whether you put on the robe or not. And many of you have taken the brunt of conversations with family and friends that did not go smoothly.

In our passage from Isaiah today, the great prophet describes his own process of being called by God to minister to God’s people. He lifts up the blessing of this calling, reveling in the fact that God “gave him an educated tongue to know how to respond to the weary.” YES! This is why we respond to our callings. But then again, he also mentions beard-plucking, which makes me glad I’m a girl:

Isaiah 50 (Common English Bible)

God’s faithful servant

The Lord God gave me an educated tongue
    to know how to respond to the weary
    with a word that will awaken them in the morning.
    God awakens my ear in the morning to listen,
    as educated people do.
The Lord God opened my ear; I didn’t rebel; I didn’t turn my back.

Instead, I gave my body to attackers,
    and my cheeks to beard pluckers.
I didn’t hide my face
    from insults and spitting.

The Lord God will help me;
    therefore, I haven’t been insulted.
Therefore, I set my face like flint,
    and knew I wouldn’t be ashamed.

The one who will declare me innocent is near.
    Who will argue with me?
Let’s stand up together.
    Who will bring judgment against me?
    Let him approach me.
Look! The Lord God will help me.
    Who will condemn me?
Look, they will wear out like clothing;
    the moth will eat them.

I love Isaiah’s attitude, and wish I had a gallon of it for times when I need it. These words apply to everyone. Anytime we have to defend our beliefs and articulate our faith to someone who is insulting and resisting our message, we need to set our faces like flint. What a great visual!

Who will argue with the Lord’s servants? Who will condemn us when we speak God’s truth? The Lord our God will help us, so let’s stand up together.

So the next time you are dealing with someone who condemns you, remember Isaiah’s words of wisdom: “Look! They will wear out like clothing; and the moth will eat them.” We need to remember that when we speak, we need only be concerned with the reactions of the Audience of One. If God is pleased, nothing else matters.

I guess that means I can stop wanting to throttle people, and let the moths take care of it. Thanks be to God!

Stay the Course by Michelle Robertson

A Good Reputation

Do you know someone with an excellent reputation? What qualities do they have that lend to that? I have a friend whose reputation is well known in our community. When I mention his name to someone, their immediate response is, “Oh, John. He is a great guy!”

John is kind. John is fair. John is thoughtful in his speech. John is dedicated to helping people. John is faithful in his marriage. Because of his excellent reputation, John is a very successful lawyer. He is known to be honest, trustworthy, and smart. These qualities help him rise above the rest, and his success is based largely on his reputation.

The Book of Proverbs is filled with pithy little sayings about life in general. If you had to create fortune cookies based on Bible quotes, you would have more than you need in just this one book. Proverbs was written by King Solomon in an attempt to bring wisdom to the people. We are inundated with information in our culture today, but very little wisdom. These are life lessons that we need to not only follow, but to teach our children as well. Proverbs teaches us about God’s expectations of appropriate behavior for those who claim to be his children.

Proverbs 1 beautifully outlines the purpose of the book:

Purpose of Proverbs

1 The proverbs of Solomon, King David’s son, from Israel:
Their purpose is to teach wisdom and discipline,
    to help one understand wise sayings.
They provide insightful instruction,
    which is righteous, just, and full of integrity.
They make the naive mature,
    the young knowledgeable and discreet.
The wise hear them and grow in wisdom;
    those with understanding gain guidance.
They help one understand proverbs and difficult sayings,
    the words of the wise, and their puzzles.
Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord,
    but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Today’s lectionary takes us to the 22nd chapter:

Proverbs 22 (Common English Bible)

The Value of a Good Reputation

22 A good reputation and respect
    are worth much more
    than silver and gold.
The rich and the poor
are all created
    by the Lord.

Troublemakers get in trouble,
    and their terrible anger
    will get them nowhere.

The Lord blesses everyone
    who freely gives food
    to the poor.

22 Don’t take advantage
of the poor
    or cheat them in court.
23 The Lord is their defender,
    and what you do to them,
    he will do to you.

When it comes to having a good reputation, terrible anger gets you nowhere. People should give freely to the poor, and not cheat people in court. God created everyone to be equal, rich and poor alike…so act like it.

Take a look again at the 23rd verse. It is a pretty challenging statement. God is the defender of the poor…whatever you do to harm them, God will do to you.

Do you think people would live differently if they took that to heart? More importantly for us, what change is God calling you to make today?

May we gain wisdom as we seek God’s truth in his scriptures every day, and may we learn from a king how to act like wisemen.

Wise Ones Still Seek Him by Michelle Robertson

Ida

Here on the Outer Banks, hurricanes, nor’Easters, flooding, and high winds are no strangers to us. We spend a good amount of the hurricane season getting ready to bring in all of the potential “flying objects” from our decks, stocking up on food staples and batteries, and making general preparations when the forecasters announce that an oncoming storm is approaching. We know what it is like to be inconvenienced by a passing storm, and we know what it is like to be hit with a CAT 4 or 5 hurricane with its devastation and loss of lives and property.

So when a storm hits another part of our country, we grieve, knowing exactly what that feels like. Our hearts are heavy for our brothers and sisters in Louisiana and Mississippi. You have been in our prayers these last few days.

Jesus was no stranger to storms. In so many ways, his entire ministry was a matter of moving from one storm to another. The storm of disapproval, the storm of persecution, the storm of disbelief, (even from his own disciples!) all the way up to the final storm of crucifixion.

But it is safe to say that Jesus overcame EVERY storm.

Matthew 14 (Common English Version)

22 Right then, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. 23 When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone. 24 Meanwhile, the boat, fighting a strong headwind, was being battered by the waves and was already far away from land. 25 Very early in the morning he came to his disciples, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” They were so frightened they screamed.

27 Just then Jesus spoke to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

28 Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.”

29 And Jesus said, “Come.”

And Jesus says, “Come.” Come to me in the middle of your personal storm…the one that is keeping you awake at night and making the daytime miserable. Come to me in the fallout of your financial storm, and I will provide in ways you haven’t considered yet. Come to me in your pandemic storm, and I will show you how to stay safe. Just come to me.

Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!”

All YOU have to do is keep your eyes on Jesus in the storm. Don’t take your eyes off him for one second. Strong winds assaulting you? Keep looking at Jesus. Crashing waves threatening you? Keep your eyes on him. Starting to sink? Look up!

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind settled down.

33 Then those in the boat worshipped Jesus and said, “You must be God’s Son!”

The Son of God is reaching out to grab your life and save you. It is only when you reach back that the wind will settle down.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus!

Look full in his wonderful face.

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of his glory and grace.

And Jesus Said, “Come.” By Michelle Robertson

Wash Up

Today’s passage is an interesting read in the midst of a pandemic. I don’t know about you, but hand-washing has become almost an obsession with me since this whole thing began. In a ‘Romans 8:28 way’, where God can use ALL things for our good, our nation’s practice of being more fastidious about washing our hands has been a small positive coming out of a plethora of negatives.

It is also interesting to think about some of the modifications we have made along the way in this world-wide health crisis. Remember back in the beginning when we shopped for groceries in sweaty gloves and came home and bleached our purchases before putting them away? I was grateful when science discovered that this horrific virus is airborne and we could relax just a tiny bit about contacting the germs by touching objects.

So as you read the following, try to dismiss your pandemic-cautions and go back to a time when hand-washing wasn’t as life or death as it feels right now. It is also very important to notice how
The Message emphasizes “ritual hand-washing.” We are meant to understand that the practice of the Pharisees had nothing to do with hygiene, and everything to do with keeping up appearances:

Mark 7 (The Message)

1-4 The Pharisees, along with some religion scholars who had come from Jerusalem, gathered around him. They noticed that some of his disciples weren’t being careful with ritual washings before meals. The Pharisees—Jews in general, in fact—would never eat a meal without going through the motions of a ritual hand-washing, with an especially vigorous scrubbing if they had just come from the market (to say nothing of the scourings they’d give jugs and pots and pans).

Friends, this may be the first and only time in my life that I could relate to the practices of the Pharisees! Scour away, my brothers!

The Pharisees and religion scholars asked, “Why do your disciples brush off the rules, showing up at meals without washing their hands?”

6-8 Jesus answered, “Isaiah was right about frauds like you, hit the bull’s-eye in fact:

These people make a big show of saying the right thing,
    but their heart isn’t in it.
They act like they are worshiping me,
    but they don’t mean it.
They just use me as a cover
    for teaching whatever suits their fancy,
Ditching God’s command
    and taking up the latest fads.”

Jesus, as was his way, immediately gets to the heart of the matter. He calls out the Pharisees for making a big show of maintaining the appearance of cleanliness when their hearts were rotten to the core. Their rituals were empty and meaningless, and worse yet, they were hiding behind their pious facades whilst undermining the very word of God. They taught whatever they wanted, ignored the commandments, and catered to the whims of what caught people’s attention in the moment.

This teaching stings. We need to critically evaluate our own rituals against this scripture and see if we as individuals, and we as the church, aren’t guilty of doing exactly the same thing. It is easy for me to see where the Creflo Dollars and the Joel Olsteens don’t measure up to Jesus’ teachings, with their multi-million dollar estates and private jets. But how about our local churches? How about you? How about me?

If we are “doing Christianity” just to get a check in the box and impress the members of the PTO with our piety, we are no better than the Pharisees. If church becomes just another country club to join for the status and the chance to rub elbows with the community big wigs, we, too, are guilty of making a big show of saying the right thing when our hearts aren’t in it.

Following Jesus is an active choice we make every day. It is a choice we make with our hearts, not our appearance. What’s in your heart?

Tranquil Waters by Steve Hanf

Prayers for Afghanistan

The scenes and pictures coming from Afghanistan are horrific. The violence, the deaths, the frantic people trying to escape, the fear, the devastation…Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers. When something this shocking happens, it is time to pray. When something this heartbreaking is continuing for days on end, it is time to go to the Lord and immerse ourselves in his presence.

As I have been thinking and praying about these events over the last few days, my mind keeps returning to Jesus’ words to the crowds of people who gathered on a hillside to hear him teach. We know this as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus acknowledged the people that nobody ever sees, and spoke directly to them in the Beatitudes. The poor in spirit, the ones who were grieving, the meek, the persecuted…all of the broken people who were the ones that he loved and cared about, even unto death:


Matthew 5 (New International Version)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are the Afghan people, who are poor in spirit.

Blessed are the U.S. Military families who mourn.

Blessed are the meek women and children, oppressed by a system that gives them no status or protection.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness as they flee.

Blessed are the merciful, who lend aid at their own peril.

Blessed are the pure in heart, who see God all too soon.

Blessed are the peacemakers, attempting diplomacy in a system of terrorism.

Blessed are those who are persecuted. May they find freedom.

Pray with me:

Loving and Gracious God, we lift up the people in Afghanistan and pray for their safety and well being as the forces against them move with a strong and mighty arm. We pray that you would shield them from evil and protect them from harm. Watch over our military, who have placed themselves in harms way as they fight for the cause of freedom. Lord, help those who have fled and now find themselves to be refugees in foreign lands. We pray that the world would acknowledge the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding and rush to their aid. We pray for the women and children. And we pray for our government leaders, that they would be strengthened and emboldened to act swiftly and securely to bring this situation to an end. AMEN

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. “All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. (Isaiah 41:10-12)

Do Not Be Dismayed by Victor Miles

Dress the Part

Back in the day, airline employees and their families were required to wear “first-class appropriate” attire in order to fly free on an empty seat on the plane. This was an attempt to have non-revenue passengers blend in with those who paid thousands of dollars for their seats, especially in the event that first class seats were open. It made sense for a while….right up until the point that revenue first class passengers began to wear pajama pants with oversized sweatshirts on the plane. It took awhile, but the airlines eventually relaxed their non-rev travel dress requirements. Until that happened, you could instantly spot the airline families…we were the ones who were blatantly over-dressed for the trip.

This policy was taken very seriously when it was in place. Women had to wear panty hose with skirts and dresses, or wear dress pants. Denim of any kind was verboten, and wearing it was a quick way to be denied boarding.

I remember a trip where I had carefully selected a belted shirt-waist dress in a light blue chambray, and wore the required panty hose and dress shoes. The gate agent came over and told me that there was a first class seat open, but he could not seat me there because of my denim dress. I held out my sleeve as proof and explained that chambray was a men’s dress shirt fabric and not denim, but he would not budge. I can promise you that I never traveled in that dress again.

When the standards are high, you need to pay attention and follow the rules.

Psalm 15 is a writing that pulls no punches when it describes the rules and standards for those who will be allowed to live in God’s tent on the holy mountain, or risk being denied boarding. Take a look, but I’ll warn you….it’s a little scary:

Psalm 15 (Common English Bible)

Who can live in your tent, Lord?
    Who can dwell on your holy mountain?
The person who
    lives free of blame,
    does what is right,
        and speaks the truth sincerely;
    who does no damage with their talk,
    does no harm to a friend,
    doesn’t insult a neighbor;

This list of appropriate behaviors is admirable, worthy, and very daunting. It is a reminder to us every day to strive to do better in our actions. We, who are the people of God, should be known in our community as those who adhere to a certain way of life that includes speaking truth sincerely and never hurting our friends and neighbors with our talk. God expects us to do what it right.

We continue:

    someone who despises
        those who act wickedly,
        but who honors those
        who honor the Lord;
    someone who keeps their promise even when it hurts;
    someone who doesn’t lend money with interest,
    who won’t accept a bribe against any innocent person.

Keeping this list in the forefront of our minds as we begin each day is helpful in remembering what is pleasing to the Lord. If we are faithful to his call to be upright and free from blame, our feet will not stray from his path.

Whoever does these things will never stumble.

It bears mentioning that this psalm is not a prescription for “works righteousness,” where people mistakenly believe that you can earn your way into heaven. No indeed, we can only approach the holy mountain because of the unmerited love of God and the shed blood of the atonement by Jesus. It is only by grace that we are saved, and not by any actions we might do.

So why the list?

To keep you on the straight and narrow so that you remember both God’s standards and God’s promises, and more importantly, so that you won’t stumble on your way up the holy mountain and cause others who are watching you to stumble in their faith as well.

So keep on climbing. Keep on bearing witness to the Good News. Make the changes in your attitudes or actions that this Psalm has brought to your attention. Make sure you are dressing the part of a follower of Christ. Your first-class seat is open….welcome aboard!

Ready to Board by Katie Bartoo

A Scepter of Equity

Weddings these days are full of “adaptations.” It is not unusual for those of us who officiate weddings to be surprised with the addition of a reading, poem, or speech that is not part of our normal written liturgy. Sometimes these inclusions enhance the moment….sometimes they don’t. The best of these for me was when a sister read a beautiful poem called These are the Hands about the meaning and beauty of marriage. The worst was a time when I was told that the best man would do a “reading,” and instead he spent about ten drunken minutes talking about the groom’s bawdy behavior in college. He did acknowledge that the bride outshone all those previous girlfriends, however. Yes, this happened during the ceremony, not the reception. I just stood there with my mouth open. After that, I have been careful to ask to see the “readings” before we start. Lord, have mercy!

Our unusual Psalm today is thought to be written as a wedding reading. The king is getting married, and a poem has been written to mark the event:

Psalm 45 (New Revised Standard Version)

My heart overflows with a goodly theme;
    I address my verses to the king;
    my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.

You are the most handsome of men;
    grace is poured upon your lips;
    therefore God has blessed you forever.

The psalmist then waxes eloquently about the king being a god, yet anointed by God with the oil of gladness. The writer of Hebrews later connects these verses with Jesus as the messiah, and many commentators see a foretelling of the coming Jewish messiah in these words:

Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.
    Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity;
    you love righteousness and hate wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;
    your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.
From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;
    daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor;
    at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.

If we connect the dots from this writing to Jesus, one of the things that stand out the most is the phrase “scepter of equity.” The king’s scepter is a visual representation of his power. He points it, and people respond by doing his bidding. So what does it mean to have a scepter of equity?

Merriam-Webster defines equity as justice according to natural law or right: specifically, freedom from bias or favoritism.

That sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it? He, who invited a prostitute, working class men, immigrants, women, non-Jews, and even a lowly TAX COLLECTOR to follow him surely is the king of equity.

As people who live under the rule of his scepter, do we offer equity in his name? Are our churches, synagogues, temples, and cathedrals places of inclusion or exclusion? Would Jesus feel welcome in our homes?

These are important considerations for us as we collectively wait for Jesus to return. As we pray “Come, Lord Jesus, come,” we need to be sure our places of worship and our homes are ones that would actually welcome him in.

May we be preparing our hearts and homes for Jesus, and all whom Jesus loves. Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Come, Lord Jesus! By Kathy Schumacher

Of Figs and Other Sweet Things

The fig trees on the Outer Banks are exploding with goodness right now. I know this because my friends are making strawberry and fig jam like it’s the second coming, and my dog is enjoying a tasty treat every time we walk by our neighbor’s tree. Georgia roots around on the ground looking for just the right one and then helps herself. She is part of the Fallen Fig Cleanup Team for the street.

Our passage today talks about figs and a lot of other sweet things. The sweetness of young love. The sweetness of spending time with your beloved. The sweetness of an invitation to go away and spend some time just appreciating the beauty of God’s earth. The sweetness of doing nothing but noticing the flowers and the voice of the turtle dove.

It occurs to me that the flowers and the birds are there all the time. Maybe this is an invitation to stop what you are doing so that you can notice them as well.

Song of Solomon 2 (New Revised Standard Version)

The voice of my beloved!
    Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
    bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
    or a young stag.
Look, there he stands
    behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
    looking through the lattice.
10 My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my fair one,
    and come away;
11 for now the winter is past,
    the rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth;
    the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
    is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree puts forth its figs,
    and the vines are in blossom;
    they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
    and come away.

We are invited today to hear God calling us to arise and come away. He loves us with an everlasting love and comes to us with the passion and the intention of a beloved. He longs to soothe us with the smell of fragrant blossoms and the sight of beautiful vistas. If only we would look up.

Our time and attention for the last fourteen months have been focused on the traumatic events around us. The daily events we experience on the news leaves a sour taste in our souls. We are filled with bitterness, and long for something sweet. Isn’t it time to take a break? When we are surrounded with people and events we can’t control, that is the time to give over our anxiety to the One who controls everything.

Come away! Smell the sweetness God has prepared for you this day. God beckons you to arise…will you come away from your troubles for just a moment?

Come Away by Michelle Robertson

Doers Vs. Hearers

A clergy friend shared a screen shot of her church’s FaceBook post announcing a free breakfast at her church. It was a picture of a fried egg sitting on a piece of toast. The invitation to join was prominent in the graphic. Did I mention that this was an invitation to a free breakfast?

The screenshot included the first comment someone made. They offered their version of constructive criticism (I suppose). The comment read, “I do not like that egg.”

Did I mention that this was for a free breakfast?

Why people need to spit in someone’s cornflakes is beyond me. We have all forgotten the advice of our grandmothers, who taught us that if we don’t have something nice to say, perhaps we should simply be quiet.

The world feels entitled to express every kind of opinion right now, and yes, I am aware that what I just wrote is my opinion. So let’s talk about God’s opinion, okay?

Our passage from James this morning pretty much says it all:

James 1 (Common English Bible)

Welcoming and doing the word

19 Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry.20 This is because an angry person doesn’t produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore, with humility, set aside all moral filth and the growth of wickedness, and welcome the word planted deep inside you—the very word that is able to save you.

Quick to listen.

Slow to speak.

Slow to grow angry.

We would do well to heed these words, friends. God has planted his word deep inside us. If our speech goes against that word, perhaps we should just keep our opinions to ourselves and hold our tongues.

22 You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves. 23 Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. 24 They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like. 25 But there are those who study the perfect law, the law of freedom, and continue to do it. They don’t listen and then forget, but they put it into practice in their lives. They will be blessed in whatever they do.

That’s quite the assignment, isn’t it? If you have learned that God is love, then you must love ALL his people. If you have learned from his word that everyone has sinned and fallen short of his glory, then you must be patient with others who sin….just as God is patient with your sin. If God’s word instructs us to not judge others, then perhaps we should let God be the judge and leave the condemning words to Jesus.

26 If those who claim devotion to God don’t control what they say, they mislead themselves. Their devotion is worthless.27 True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.

This is great food for thought for us today. If we claim devotion to God, we MUST control what we say. We need to be doers of the incredible and radical word of God, not just readers/hearers of it. True devotion is proved when we care for the marginalized. True devotion is pure and faultless. True devotion practices what it preaches.True devotion is the alignment of our spoken (and posted) words to the will and purpose of God.

Where is God calling you to do his word today?

Welcome the Word by Michelle Robertson