The Power of Words

The Power of Words Scrabble letters, words are powerful

Words are powerful.  Words can build up or tear down.  There is an expression that goes like this: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”  That isn’t true.  Words can hurt.  But words can also heal.  The Bible declares that “the tongue has the power of life or death” (Proverbs 18:21).  If we want to experience greater joy in our lives and become a source of joy in the lives of others, we should pay close attention to our words.  Listen to the March 11 sermon, “What Do You Say?”

Here are two helpful habits to cultivate:

  1. Replace words of criticism with words of encouragement.  Complaining and criticizing are easy to do, and those kinds of words tend to come naturally to us.  To experience more joy, we need to become encouragers.  Encouraging words are not intended to butter someone up or lie about their deficiencies in order to spare their feelings.  Encouraging words are designed to speak truth in love so that a person can recognize his or her potential and be motivated to work towards that potential.  Encouraging words see the up-side rather than the down-side of situations and circumstances.  Encouragers build up and bless, even when the conversation is difficult.
  2. Replace words of fear with words of faith.  Fear usually manifests itself as worry.  Worry is not the same as having a concern.  Having a concern is normal and useful because a concern is meant to motivate us toward positive action.  If I have a concern about my finances, I am motivated to read a book on money management, create a budget, discipline my spending habits and live within my means.  But worry is different.  Rather than motivating us toward action, worry paralyzes us with fear and dread.  The English word “worry” derives from the Germanic word “Worgen” which literally means “to strangle” or “to choke.”  This is what worry does.  It chokes the joy out of us.  We get so focused on fear that we don’t see God’s possibilities in the midst of difficulties.  Replacing fear with faith allows us to speak God’s truth into our challenges and struggles.  Sometimes we have to say it before we see it, but choosing to speak words of faith rather than fear, can help us discover God’s grace and strength, and we begin to grow in new and important ways.

This is why the Church is so important.  The Church is God’s anointed instrument for helping people speak words of encouragement and faith in the midst of a world that is gripped by criticism and fear.  We serve a loving and powerful Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who conquered sin and death and offers us a new life and a new identity.  With that comes a new vocabulary.  So let’s use words that cultivate greater joy in our lives, and bring joy into the lives of others.

Pastor Mark Miller

2 Easy Ways to Find More Joy

We live busy, noisy lives.  Sometimes our thoughts, attitudes, and habits (joy stealers) can distract us from the joy that our Lord has for us, and we can miss out on the joy that is promised to us through our faith in Jesus Christ.   But there are a couple of strategies that can help us keep our focus and experience greater joy. Listen to the “Joy Stealers” sermon from March 4.

  1. Be discerning about the people we hang around.  It’s not that we need to be a “holy clique” and avoid people who are different from us, but we do need to be thoughtful and intentional about our relationships.  If we hang around negative people who complain, criticize, gossip and pursue selfish desires, we will tend to adopt those attitudes and behaviors for ourselves as well. As the Bible reminds us, “bad company corrupts good character”(1 Cor 15:33).  A good question to ask is this: “who am I hanging around and what are they doing to me?”   Building Christian community requires us to intentionally enter into relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, relationships where we focus our attention on encouraging, supporting, and challenging each other to pursue the kind of life that honors the Lord and allows more joy to flow into us and through us.
  2.  Be discerning about the kind of things we allow into our minds.  We not only have a relationship with people, we have a relationship with our television, the movie screen, our smart phones, books, magazines and the internet. These various forms of media are bombarding us every day with messages, philosophies, value statements, and truth claims that can influence us in subtle (and not so subtle ways).  A good question to ask is this:  what am I watching these days, and what is it doing to me?  What books am I reading?  What movies am I watching, what songs am I listening to, what websites am I visiting?  What video games am I playing? How are these and other forms of media impacting my life and my character? 

Ultimately, joy is not primarily an emotional response to pleasant circumstances, joy is a character quality we cultivate.  Few things impact our character as much as the people we hang out with and the media we consume.  Let us be discerning and careful, because we don’t want the joy stealers to distract us from the joy that comes from a good and honorable character!

Pastor Mark Miller

Give Thanks, Always and Everywhere 

 

Gratitude never goes out of style. Often, the most joyful people are also the most grateful. They find a way to be grateful, regardless of their circumstances. Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk who has lived through a world war and the fascist takeover of his country, has found that gratefulness is essential to joyfulness. Gratitude is woven into the witness of Scripture, even in the unlikeliest of places. Thanksgiving makes countless appearances in the words of the prophets, the psalms and the witness of the early church. We may not be able to give thanks for everything that life hands us, but we can be grateful in every circumstance. Listen to the Feb 25 sermon, “Practice Gratitude.” 

Paul and Timothy, pastors and prisoners, write back to a church that they have founded and give thanks to God for their work and witness. They write that they are grateful for the gift that the church has sent, but they are even more grateful that the gospel message continues to spread by their imprisonment. Paul and Timothy identify as slaves of Christ Jesus and partners in ministry with the church in Philippi. Far from being ashamed of his chains, Paul writes that he is a slave of a slave, that he humbles himself because Jesus humbled himself, “taking the form of a slave” (Philippians 2:7). Paul gives thanks because he has found perfect freedom, which is service to God. Gratitude and joyfulness allow us to share in the mind of Christ by focusing not on ourselves but on others.

If Paul and Timothy can sing hymns of praise to God and write letters of encouragement from the inside of a prison cell, then we can learn to be grateful in all circumstances. Paul models grateful and constant prayer for the church in the hopes that they can discern what really matters through love, knowledge and insight. Paul continues to instruct us in filling our prayers with gratitude. When you saturate your life with prayer, your every word and action will overflow with love. So what are you grateful for right here, right now? In happiness and heartache, we can always give thanks. Gratitude is a constant companion. And joy always follows close behind!

Pastor Matt Potter

Train Your Brain

Train Your Brain 

The human brain is an amazing instrument. Weighing less than 3 pounds, containing more than 100 billion neurons, it represents only about 2% of our body weight but uses 20% of the oxygen pumping through our bloodstream. At any given moment, our brains are receiving and processing more than 100 million pieces of information. What we call “thoughts,” are electrically charged chemical reactions traveling through neurological pathways in our brains at a rate of more than 200 miles per hour. An individual brain generates more electrical impulses in a single day than all of the world’s telephones combined. Listen to the Feb 18 sermon, “Train Your Brain.”

But our brain needs training. The Bible tells us that we should take control of our thoughts and train our brain to focus on those things which are good, noble, right, pure, lovely, excellent and admirable (Philippians 4:8). To train our brain, we must develop personal disciplines that help us focus our thoughts so that we can experience the life God intends for us. Many people think that joy is simply an emotional response to our external circumstances. When I experience pleasant circumstances, I will experience the emotion of joy. Without those pleasant circumstances, I will not experience joy. But Christians discover that joy is a disposition of the heart that we cultivate through our thoughts, not through our circumstances.

One way to help cultivate a life of joy by focusing our thoughts is to train ourselves to continually ask two questions, regardless of our circumstances. The first question is, “What’s good about this?” The second question is, “What am I thankful for right now?” These two questions don’t necessarily change our circumstances, but they do change how we think in the midst of our circumstances, which in turn cultivates joy and empowers us to persevere and thrive in the midst of challenge and adversity. Asking these two questions is not meant to create a false reality where we ignore pain and problems, but rather to focus our brains on the presence and promise of God, so that we can see the pain and problems from a new and better perspective. Joy begins with our thoughts, not our circumstances. And if we want to experience the joy that God has for us, we need to train our brain!

Pastor Mark Miller

Two Questions

Two Questions to Consider 

I love good questions, they help us think clearly and grow wise.  Questions can inspire discovery and innovation.  Whenever I study a passage of scripture, I try to ask questions of the text because I believe those questions help me understand God’s wisdom, and apply that wisdom to my life.  Recently, I was studying Colossians 2:6-7, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, so continue to grow in Him, rooted and built up in the faith as you are taught, and overflowing with thanksgiving.”  Reflecting on this passage allowed me to consider two very important questions. Listen to the Feb 4 sermon, “Two Questions to Consider.”

  1. First question: Have I truly received Jesus Christ as Lord?  There is a difference between having an opinion about Jesus and making a commitment to Jesus.  Receiving Christ Jesus as Lord means more than just believing that He is the Son of God who died on the cross and rose from the dead.  It also means making a commitment to receive Jesus as my Savior and Lord, and to commit my life to Him by seeking to live as He would have me live.  This is what people mean when they talk about having a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”  It is more than an opinion, it is a relationship that requires an intentional decision to be committed.  In the same way that I committed myself to be in a personal relationship with my wife on our wedding day, I need to make sure that I have committed to be in a relationship with Jesus, and that I have made that decision clearly and earnestly.
  2. Second question: Am I continuing to grow in Him?  In other words, am I living out the implications of my commitment to Jesus.  A commitment to receive him as Lord implies a commitment to continue growing mature as a follower of Jesus Christ.  There is a difference between “trying” to become spiritually mature and “training” to become spiritually mature.  Christians are called to “train” themselves to become mature (1 Timothy 4:7).  This requires intentional effort and consistent discipline, so I must make sure that I make time in my daily and weekly schedule to invest myself in Bible study, worship, fellowship and service so that I can continue to grow.

These two questions really summarize the basic steps of the Christian life: making a commitment to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and then continuing the spiritual growth process implied by that commitment. In this way, we become the people we were meant to be, and make the best of our life for the rest of our life.

Pastor Mark Miller