Why Your Words Are Important

Posted in Choice, Criticism, Encouragement, Marriage, Relationships, Words by PCraig on August 24, 2017

Some of us are external processors, some of us are internal processors, but we all talk a lot. One-fifth of your life will be spent with your mouth open. Is that insane to consider? Even more, that’s a lot of opportunity to bless and that’s a lot of opportunity to curse, according to James chapter three. And some of us are really over achievers when it comes to spoken, text, tweet, post and emailed communication.

It’s not surprising that God has something to help us with this area that consumes a fifth of our lives. James tells us to be “quick to listen and slow to speak.” I wonder how many marriages would be better today or even together today, if they put that one principle into practice? Proverbs 18:21 goes so far as to say that the “power of life and death is in the tongue.” But, before you discount that as extreme, think of recent bullying that has resulted in suicides and depression.

You and I weld a lot more power in our mouths than we give credit. The challenge is to direct that force in a good, positive and beneficial way for others and us. When a spouse gets all puffed up and raises their voice to set the record straight, all that may have been accomplished is lowering the quality of their relationship and complicating things further. Being loudest, most boisterous or cutting may win an argument, but it can lose the relationship. You may get someone to walk away, wave a flag of surrender or cower down, but you didn’t build anything along the way.

How do we get control of our tongue? James says it isn’t easy. As a matter of fact, he says it’s easier to tame an animal, bird or fish than it is to tame the tongue. Ever been to Sea World?

Here’s what James says can help:

Be slow to speak. Don’t speak first and think later, that’s a recipe for regret.

Be wise. Ask yourself: Is this is wise to say? Will this be beneficial?

So peace. If you can’t something positive, don’t say anything at all. Mom said that too!

Your words will steer your life in one direction or another. The cause for some not having a better marriage is in their mouth. Some don’t have the job you would like because you sabotage your self by gossiping at work.

We need more peacemakers in the world, and that requires being more in control of what comes out of our mouths. Let’s all start today!

*If you liked this post, join us this weekend for part 4 of Functional Faith as we discuss James 3 in more detail. You can also catch the podcast from our website next week: www.crossroadsavon.com

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Is Being Offended A Choice?

Posted in Attitude, Choice, Forgiveness, Offense by PCraig on June 29, 2017

Are you a person who gets easily offended? You probably wouldn’t want to admit it if you are, so here’s a test to see:

  • Is there someone you having a hard time with right now?
  • Did someone say something to you that you didn’t like even though it was true?
  • Do you feel justified in taking offense?

There are two kinds of offended people:

  1. Those who have truly been treated unjustly or with cruelty.
  2. Those who believe they have been treated unjustly or with cruelty.

The second group have convinced themselves that they are justified in feeling like they do, even if the conclusion was drawn from inaccurate information. Some get offended because of gossip, “Well, I heard that…”, while others make assumptions, “I imagine they intended to do…”

How many of us have ever had a conversation with someone, and what you heard them say and what they really said was two different things? Often offenses, if allowed to stay in your heart will produce more sin. God is so faithful; He has the Holy Spirit within us to reveal to us our sin.

We can spend our whole life blaming others and being bitter or we can choose to trust God to work in and through us to bring about His plan and purpose. If you choose to stay offended, you will wander in the wilderness until you repent, forgive and let God put you back on path again.

Prison left Joseph with an opportunity to get bitter or better. He chose to get better and even used his prison experience as an opportunity. God is all knowing, He knew what Joseph’s brothers would do with him before they did it. When he had the opportunity to pay back, instead he chose to not take offense and offered forgiveness. (Read Genesis 45) I love Joseph’s story and attitude!

If you are offended and don’t take care of it, it will follow you and come up again and again. Many people float from church to church because their roots don’t go deep, leaving them so weak that they find themselves unable to endure any hardship or persecution.

God calls us to live in family, in unity, and to learn to work through our problems with each other, dealing not only with their flaws but our own. Part of being in a church family has greater expectations of spiritual growth than our earthly families require. Unfortunately, spiritual growth is not a matter of time or more learning, it comes through obedience.

It is usually not the big things that shake us but the little things. The enemy tries to pervert our attitude about the real issue to deceive us. The real issue is not “have you BEEN offended?”   The real issue is, “did you choose to TAKE offense?” No one has the power to MAKE you offended. The ONLY way you can be offended is to TAKE offense.

Would you want God to forgive you in the same way you have forgiven others? According to the Scriptures, this is exactly how we will be forgiven. Our debt of sin was overwhelming, but God gave us salvation as a free gift. Many people cannot receive healing, comfort or deliverance all because they would not release others and forgive them.

Make no mistake: God is a just Judge and He will see to it that justice is done. God avenges us, it is unrighteousness for us as believers to seek to avenge ourselves. When we try to correct wrong done to us we become the judge, trying to take God’s place. Jesus likened the condition of our heart to soil. The ground can only produce what is planted. If unforgiveness, offense, and anger are planted, then instead of God’s love, another root comes up, the root of bitterness.

Some steps to healing and freedom from an offended spirit:

1) Admit you are offended and hurt.

2) Open your heart to the Lord’s correction or discipline for you.

3) Forgive and release the person from everything they have done.

4) Stay open and tender to the Holy Spirit’s voice and obedient to His Word.

5) Choose to not let negative thoughts reign in your spirit. Just like you can CHOOSE offense, you can choose to not be bound by it

Life’s too short to spend it all knotted up in a ball of offense. Get free today! Your wife wants you to, your husband, your friends and everyone around you. Let go of offense and let God be God!

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The Power of Unity

Posted in Attitude, Perspective, Unity, Worship by PCraig on June 15, 2017

Have you ever seen a car stalled and someone gets out to start pushing? The car is barely creeping, but then one or maybe two others run over from their cars and start pushing and the person steering has to eventually push on the brake to avoid hitting something. What happened? It’s a great picture of the power of unity. One person could only accomplish so much, but efforts were multiplied when others joined.

The Bible is filled with encouragement along those lines, such as in today’s reading of Psalms 133 of the One Year Bible. Why such a push for this coming together?  I think God knows our tendency of focusing way too much on ourselves. We think about ourselves all the time and so little on others.  All that changes when we come together though, especially in worship.

In worship, I begin to focus on God first of all. At least that’s what true worship does. I come before Him offering my life, my lips and my legacy (or future). When I do that, it becomes all about Him. What He wants me to do, how He wants me to act, where He wants me to go, instead of my thoughts, ways and agenda.

Also, when I get around God’s people and get busy serving, I don’t have as much time to think about my needs, wants and desires. In other words, I’m not near the selfish person that I woke up being this morning. Instead, I make my life about helping others, serving their needs, and ministering to their concerns.

True worship brings us to a place of unity where our desires are placed under His and others. The result is that the world sees that submission and the power of God flowing through it, and wants more of it. That’s just one of the reasons to be in the atmosphere of worship as often as possible; it brings us together.

 

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Who’s Your Person?

Recently, I’ve been encouraging my staff to seek out a mentor in their lives. Someone they can call, email, text or visit with during the month that can help them process thoughts, ideas and decisions.

This is a great idea for a young married couple as well. I think it would be great if each newlywed could have a seasoned couple in their lives to help them navigate this new adventure of marriage. How many couples could avoid collapse?

I know I have personally benefited from many different people in my life. One of those that has impacted me greatly, is my pastor, Tom Paino. I only had one pastor my whole life of growing up in the church! He dedicated me, baptized me, performed our wedding, ordained me, and dedicated our daughter. The most important thing he did was lead by example. His steady leadership taught me the value of perseverance, continuity, and strength. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked his opinion, sought his counsel and asked, “What would Pastor Tom do?”

Who do you have in your life that you can trust to have wise advice? What person can you reach out to that is further down the road and knows where the potholes are located? Let me encourage you to find that person. If you don’t have someone today, then get busy thinking through your contacts, acquaintances and friends. Get them in your life and you’ll be the better for it.

Today’s reading of the One Year Bible affirms this when it says, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.” This principle is not only true for a nation; it’s true for you.

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Whose Report Will You Believe?

Posted in Attitude, Counsel, Faith, Friendship, Perspective, Relationships by PCraig on March 9, 2017

It really matters who you take advice from and listen to most. You may think that the negative comments and poor advice doesn’t affect you, but it does.

One of my favorite stories to illustrate this in all of God’s Word is in today’s reading of the One Year Bible. It comes from Numbers 13 where Moses sends a delegation of 12 spies to scout the Promised Land and come back and report. The Scripture says that after 40 days of sampling its produce and examining the land, they returned with news. Ten of the spies scared the people by reporting briefly about the abundance and fruitfulness of the land, then sharing how powerful, invincible and fortified the cities and people were. They went so far as to say, “We can’t attack these people; they are stronger than we are.”

Can you imagine that the same people who have seen their God deliver them from Egypt, split a sea and dry up the land, feed them daily with manna and quail, now don’t have faith to conquer the land God has already promised? That’s exactly what was going on.

However, two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, believed that even though the enemy looked strong, that God is stronger. They said, “We can certainly do it.” Not, “We hope, might or it’s possible”, but we can do it. These two saw all the same things the other ten did, but they had a different outlook. I wonder how many of your friends have a different outlook on life? Do you have friends that tend to see things from God’s perspective over man? How many faith-filled, positive speaking, God-trusting friends do you have?

Are there people you need to spend less time with? Or, can you think of some you need to be around more often?

The sad thing in this story is that bad news travels fast. It seems to be easier to get people to go negative than it is to get them to step out in faith. That’s why you have to be very choosy about who’s reporting to you. When you get around people of faith, then your going to be impacted positively. Stop allowing negative reports to plague your life and keep you from the report God has for you.

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Sticks And Stones

Posted in Mind, Offense, Relationships, Words by PCraig on February 23, 2017

Like many of you, I grew up on the school playground saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Most of us learned really quickly in life, however, that it was a lie. As a matter of fact, some of us have gotten over broken legs, arms and ankles way faster than words spoken over us.

If that’s the case, then how careful should we be about what we say over another person, such as our spouses, children, family members, friends and colleagues? In today’s reading of the One Year Bible from Proverbs 10:11 it says, “The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain.”

I wonder, does that describe you? Do people think of you as a wellspring of refreshing words that bring them life?

Take some time today to evaluate what is coming out of your mouth. Even better, consider it before it comes out of your mouth. Because once it hits the airwaves, there’s no taking it back. And the damage it can bring to your relationships is far worse than any stick or stone could cause.

(Pray Psalm 19:14)

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Betrayed By Those Nearby

Posted in Choice, Forgiveness, Love, Offense, Pursuing Jesus by PCraig on February 9, 2017

We will soon be coming into the season of Lent on the church calendar. It begins on March 1, 2017 and celebrates the 40 days leading up to Easter, often with prayer and fasting.

As I was reading today’s daily portion of the One Year Bible, one portion was on the last supper, Jesus praying in the garden, betrayal and arrest. No matter who you are, each of us will be let down by those around us. Even one of Jesus’ closest companions betrayed Him for just 30 pieces of silver.

When we are betrayed by those closest to us, we have a choice to make. We can either get bitter or we can get better. We can get over it, or let it get all over us. The choice is up to us. Too often, we use other’s shortcomings and failures to be our excuse for bitterness, resentment and revenge.

Jesus shows us a more excellent way. Rather than allowing ourselves to be reactionary in our response toward how we have been treated, we can respond with forgiveness, kindness and love. I know you may say, “But, you don’t know how many times they’ve let me down!” That may be true, but Jesus was betrayed in as hurtful of a way as anyone before or since. But, He chose to forgive and set the example for us.

Too often we fail to see that the person being hurt most by our unforgiving heart is us. So, if there’s someone you need to forgive, let go of and quit harboring resentment toward – today would be a great day to do it. No better way to get ready for Lent season, than following Jesus’ example of forgiving those nearby.

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Lessons From A Lame Man

Posted in Evangelism, Friendship, Relationships, Salvation, witnessing by PCraig on January 12, 2017

One day some men brought a paralyzed man to Jesus lying on a mat. The Bible (Matthew 9:2) says something interesting, that “when Jesus saw THEIR faith…” He did something. There are several things that speak to me out of this passage from the One Year Bible. One thing is that it’s important to have good friends. You need some friends that will carry you to Jesus if they have to.

Another thing is that Jesus is moved by the faith of people around you and not just you. That means you better how some people of faith around you. Who knows how many of us have been impacted by the prayers of a grandparent, parent or friend?

Then, I see that Jesus is more concerned about the man’s spiritual need than his physical need. Keep in mind that it was the physical need that drew him there, but Jesus wanted to remedy the paralysis in this man’s heart. His greatest need wasn’t his legs, it was his life.

Some lessons for us:

  • Be the kind of person that brings others to Jesus.
  • Listen for the pain in others that leads to an opportunity to invite them to Jesus.
  • Don’t be too busy to carry others burdens in prayer or personally.

The fact that these men got involved in this paralytics life, enabled him to walk away physically and spiritually healed. Who could you get involved with and bring closer to Jesus this week?

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Running On Empty

Posted in Margin, Prayer, Purpose, Rest & Refreshing, Solitude, Stress, Victorious Living by PCraig on September 8, 2016

All kinds of information exists on breathing techniques for reducing stress. It seems most of us tend to breathe shallow and live pressurized lives. By breathing deeply through our nose, holding it for several seconds, then slowly releasing it out our mouths, heart rate and stress levels come down. So, you might try it and see what happens.

This got me thinking about how important it is to breathe in the experiences of life. How many of us just getting going in the morning and don’t stop until we hit the bed? God didn’t even do this. In creation, God set aside one day of the week to be a day of rest. In a culture that carries a device that is linked to the world in it’s hand, that is difficult for us to achieve.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Unplug for 15 minutes each morning to connect only with God. Read, pray, sing, meditate and establish connection. How your day begins has a lot to do with how it goes.
  • Set aside a few moments before you pull into the driveway and pray, “God, I’m about to go inside to people who need me to be present and a positive influence, help me to put all else aside to be what they need.”
  • Weekly orchestrate your schedule to attend a church service where you can recalibrate in worship, fellowship and discipleship.
  • Schedule monthly appointments with yourself that include getting away from the normal routine for a number of hours to ponder, pray and rest.
  • Annually take a day, or more if possible, to evaluate your life and the direction you are headed. Ask yourself, “Am I going toward my purpose?” If not, ask God to help you get in alignment with His purpose and create action steps for doing so.

What are some steps you currently take to reduce stress and realign your life to God’s purposes? If you can’t think of any, maybe try some of those I’ve suggested, or seek God to create your own. You can’t live a fully charged life while running on empty.

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Choose Your Story

Posted in Attitude, Change, Choice, Marriage, Relationships by PCraig on September 1, 2016

Each of us is telling a story every day of our lives. There’s the story we are portraying to everyone else, such as, “look at me the hard-worker.” Then, there is the story we tell to ourselves, “I am so tired of working harder than anyone else around here and being unappreciated for it.”

Couples who tell a positive story about their spouse are far and away more likely to make it through life’s challenges. How about your story? Are you saying things like, “My husband never…” or “She always prioritizes everything else”? If so, then your story needs to be adjusted. You can’t tell a negative story and expect positive results.

In addition, the Bible has a ton to say about our attitude in life. In Philippians 4:8 we are told, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

So, realize today that you might just be part of the problem with your relationships. Make an attitude decision and adjustment. Tell the story you want to be reality in your mind first, and then as you focus on the good, I believe more good things will happen.

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