Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Recounting The Good, Enduring The Bad (Psalm 13)

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I take counsel in my soul

and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;

light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,

lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”

lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;

my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the LORD,

because he has dealt bountifully with me.

[Psalm 13, ESV]

For some reason, Psalm 13 has been on my heart for the past few days. It is quite a short Psalm, but it means a lot to me, and I hope that, by the end of this essay, it means a lot to you too. 

We do not know the context of Psalm 13, but we know about a lot of David’s life. Before I began writing this essay, I prayed, read about the psalm, and took some time to ponder its meaning. While the exact situation that caused David to feel like he was helpless is not known, there are some theories. The theory that makes the most sense to me is that Psalm 13 was written when King Saul was trying to kill David. While David’s life had its fair share of ups and downs, I cannot think of something more frightening than knowing that the king is trying to kill you, and he is using everything at his disposal in order to find you. Saul’s plans to kill David become known in 1 Samuel 19, but there is nothing specific that we must read about in order to understand the meaning of Psalm 13. I like to imagine that Psalm 13 is about King Saul trying to kill David, but only because it helps me understand the way David must have felt as he wrote Psalm 13. Perhaps the aforementioned theory about the circumstances surrounding Psalm 13 is correct, or perhaps it is not. The meaning of Psalm 13 is self-contained, meaning that we do not need to understand what took place before it was written, we just need to understand the meaning of Psalm 13, itself.

Psalm 13 consists of three parts. David begins by crying out to the Lord, asking Him, “How long, O LORD?”. David is dealing with something that has brought him to such a low place that, in the second part, he fears that his sorrow will kill him. The third part of Psalm 13 is the part that tells us how we should respond when we find ourselves in a situation that makes us feel as David felt in parts one and two.

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I take counsel in my soul

and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

The first part of Psalm 13 consists of the first two verses, which tell us about the place David was in when he wrote this psalm. David has been enduring some form of hardship, and he has called out to God, but it seems as though God has not answered him. David makes his emotions clear, and his emotions are incredibly serious.

He asks God, “How long?”. David wants to know how long God will forget about him, how long God will hide His Face from David. We know that God does not forget about us, and we know that God is always with us, but sometimes it becomes very difficult to remember how much God loves us when we are dealing with so much pain. The devil knows very well how hard trials can be, and he will do whatever he can to make believers feel as if they have been forgotten by God, as if they are all alone, as if the whole world is out to get them. I am not saying that David was necessarily being attacked by the devil, but the way he describes his emotions remind me of the days where I felt like nobody cared about me, like God was not going to help me, and like I would never be free of the misery that I was experiencing at the time.

David asks God, “How long must I take counsel in my soul?”. The phrase, “take counsel in my soul” is not used (at least, not among the people I know), but its meaning is incredibly powerful. The NLT translates the phrase as “How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul”, the NIV translates it as, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts”, and the NASB, “How long am I to feel anxious in my soul”. When David says that he takes counsel in his soul, he is telling God how his soul is being weighed down by anxiety, by negative thoughts, and by pain. David is not having a bad day, he is dealing with a sorrow that is in his heart day after day. How long, God? How long will I have to deal with the sorrow that has been on my soul, and weighing on my heart, for so long now?

David concludes verse 2 with a statement that might not sound as important as it really is. David is asking God, “How long will my enemies be able to walk all over me?” How long will those who have wronged David be allowed to get away with their actions, how long will they be able to escape responsibility, how long will they be able to raise themselves up by tearing David down? They have been “exalted” over David, meaning that his enemies had been in a higher position of authority or status than David. David has been dealing with sorrow in his soul and in his heart, and he has seen his enemies being exalted above himself. He has endured this pain for a while, and he cries out, “How much longer, God?”

I have had my fair share of prayers that are very similar to Psalm 13. I have spent many days weeping, crying out to God, “When will I be free of this pain in my heart? When will You deliver me from this situation? What more do I have to do? Everybody else seems to be doing so well, yet I am still here, I am still suffering, and it feels like things will never change.”

While I could dismiss David’s emotions, while I could explain to him that God never forgets about us, what good would that do him? He is grieving, he is dealing with so much sorrow, and he feels like he is all alone. I have been in that position, and it is truly horrible. The pain that David describes is one that I would do anything to spare another person from experiencing, yet I do not know if I would have the strength to take it from them if I could. It is such a horrible feeling, and I have felt the way David felt. It is something that, even after God has delivered me, I feel my heart hurt at the memory of how I felt. I am no longer burdened by the pain that once held me down, but I remember the way I felt, and it still hurts my heart to imagine myself dealing with such pain ever again.

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;

light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,

lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”

lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

David explains his fears about the pain that he has been enduring. The second part of Psalm 13 is contained in verses 3 and 4, and David uses the two verses to expand upon what he wrote in the first two verses. David asks God to hear him, to answer his calls for mercy. He is begging God to deliver him from his sorrow, and he is begging God with all the strength that he has left. This type of prayer is one that I have made, and the words that David uses are similar to the words that I have used in my prayers. I have been at such a low point in my life that I have wept like a baby, without caring if people saw or heard me. I have sobbed, I have begged God, and I have asked Him to help me. I have told God how I felt so much pain in my heart that I thought it would kill me. I was not exaggerating, I was being totally honest. The way I felt was so hard on my heart, so hard on my mind, and so hard on my spirit, that I felt like it would drain whatever life was left in me. I begged God with every ounce of strength that I had left, and I meant every word that I prayed.

David begs God to restore the light to his eyes, so that he does not die. The Bible often uses euphemisms, and death is often referred to as a form of sleep. What purpose the euphemism may have served is thrown out with the words, “of death” that follow it. David is not in the position to speak with elegant phrases and poetic language, he is crying out to the Lord. David feels as if he could die from the sorrow he felt, and the way he called out to God demonstrates just how much sorrow David felt.

David asks God to give him strength, so that his enemies do not think that they have defeated him, and so that his enemies do not rejoice at his suffering. David’s mind must have been filled with thoughts of those who had persecuted him being overjoyed at the way David was suffering. David must have thought about the people who had caused him so much pain, and he must have imagined the way they might be encouraged at the news that David had died of the sorrow that they had caused him.

I have felt this way about people in my life. I have felt like I had been betrayed, like the people I trusted and loved the most had turned their backs on me, like they were celebrating as I was suffering. I imagined those people being happy and carefree, while I was suffering, while I was begging God to help me survive each day, and while I could not look at the next day without being overcome with sorrow at the thought of what might happen by then.

As I continued to pray, as I continued to ask God for help, I began to feel my heart being strengthened. I realized that, while it may have seemed like everybody had left me behind, like they were so much happier without me, like they could not care less about me, there was far more to my situation than I had known. God spoke to my heart, He comforted me, and He gave me little bits of information that encouraged me. God spoke to my heart about what He had planned for me, and He also told me things that really brought comfort to my heart. There is nothing more encouraging than hearing God speak to my heart and telling me that He is working, and that He is fighting on my behalf. There is nothing more beneficial to the soul than being able to forgive those who have caused such pain. God gave me the ability to know that there was more to things than what I could see and understand, that God was working, that He was still working, and that He will use my suffering to do something better than I could ever imagine.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;

my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the LORD,

because he has dealt bountifully with me.

David concludes Psalm 13 with something that encourages him. David describes how, when his soul was grieved to the point of death, he was strengthened when he recounted the good things that God had done, when he remembered God’s promises, and when He remembered God’s faithfulness. God always keeps His word, He loves us unconditionally, and He will deliver us from suffering when we trust in Him. When we seek God’s will, when we ask Him to lead us, and when we surrender ourselves to Him, He will deliver us. He might not deliver us immediately, but from the moment that we commit ourselves to God’s plan, we can rejoice in the knowledge that every moment of suffering will be used for our good.

The final two verses of Psalm 13 have been on my heart, and they have been repeated in my mind for a few days now. The phrase, “He has dealt bountifully with me” has made its way into my personal journal, and that phrase has found its way into my heart. At the time of writing this essay, I am watching God work powerfully in my life. I have seen God take my little ministry and grow it by a lot. I have seen more people reading what I have written, completing the plans that I have published, and telling me about how they have been enjoying them. Everything I do, I do for the Lord. There is nothing more encouraging than waking up to an email, a text message, or some other form of correspondence, telling me about how I wrote something that impacted them in a positive way. I do not write about the blessings that God has given to me because I am proud, I write about them because whenever I look at those blessings, I feel my soul being strengthened.

 There are things that I have prayed about for a long time, many of them have come to pass, but many have not. At least, they have not come to pass yet. It is easy to become discouraged about what has not happened when we forget what God has already done. We lose our hope for the future as we lose our memory of the past. The Lord has dealt bountifully with me, despite how I spent years disobeying Him, despite my flaws, despite my emotions, and despite my sin. No matter what, God is quick to forgive, quick to show mercy, and slow to anger. He will always use things for our good, as long as we love Him and seek His will for our lives, and I have seen Him do just that with my life. Every moment of my suffering has been used for good, and I will recount the good things that God has done, so that I do not become overwhelmed by the things that have not happened yet. God is good, and God does good.


Friday, January 20, 2023

Demonic Wisdom (James 3:14-16)


But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. [James 3:14-16, ESV]

In verse 13, we examined the way that we should demonstrate the wisdom that we have received from God. In this essay, we will examine not only how not to demonstrate wisdom, we will learn about the wisdom that is demonic.

Before we look at the passage, I would like to explain why I believe that there is such a thing as demonic wisdom. If we look up the definition of the word “wisdom”, we read about wisdom being the ability to discern between right and wrong, the ability to make good decisions, or the teachings of wise men and women. While those definitions are true (I am not interested in arguing against the dictionary), there are several reasons why I believe that wisdom can be demonic.

  1. Satan is a deceiver.

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world… [Revelation 12:9, ESV]

While deception includes lying, it also includes subtle manipulation of the truth. Instead of creating a claim that is completely false, the devil will often use something true, which he will twist into something that is false.

For example, let us imagine a situation in which I am walking down a street. You are walking down the same street, and you see me from a distance. You wave to me, but I do not wave back. The truth would be that I am not waving, and that I am not waving because I am distracted, or that I have not seen you (I am nearsighted). I really did not intend to ignore your friendly greeting, I simply did not realize that you were waving at me.

In this example, the devil might skew things so that your reaction to the situation is immediately hostile. “Daniel is ignoring me! Who does he think he is?” In reality, as I have previously stated, I genuinely did not realize that you had been waving at me, but the devil has deceived you into thinking that I am ignoring you, that I hold some form of resentment toward you, or that I am being intentionally rude.

The devil used something that you know to be true, but he has warped your thinking in a way that leads you to sin. You did wave at me, and I did not wave back at you. The deception is that I did see you, that I ignored you, and that I have ignored you out of some kind of pride, resentment, or both.

  1. Your mind is not your own.

It may seem like we have total control over what goes in our heads, but that is simply not the case. Allow me to provide you with an example. Take a moment to shut your eyes, think about something that you remember fondly from your childhood, ponder that memory for a moment, then open your eyes again. I do not know your life story, nor do I know all the people who will read this essay, but I know that if you took a moment to do what I asked you to do, you most likely remembered something from your childhood that you enjoyed.

It does not take much to put a thought in somebody’s mind, and the devil is very well aware of this. The devil is limited to what God has permitted him to work in, and the devil makes use of everything that he has access to. He will pay attention to your emotions, to your responses to things, to your personality, and to the things around you. The devil cannot read minds, he cannot be in more than one place at a time, and he does not know everything. However, the devil is patient, and he is relentless in his opposition to the work of God. It is for this reason that whenever I am doing something for God (especially when God is about to do something very important in my life), I expect that the devil will be there to try and discourage me. I have always made sure to inform other believers of the reality that the devil’s favorite thing is to oppose the work of God, so when we seek the Lord, we should expect the devil to resist us.

When the devil sees an opportunity to influence your thinking, he will take that opportunity. He might put doubt in your mind concerning something God spoke to you, he might seek to discourage you, he might put certain ideas in your mind that could confuse you or lead you to sin (or both), or he could attack the peace that you have received from the Lord.

The devil will use whatever means he can in order to oppose the work of God, and the best way for him to influence believers is to influence their thinking. It is for this reason that we must examine our thoughts, test them against the Word of God, and pray for wisdom to discern what is or is not from God.

  1. We have an inclination to sin, and that inclination can be exploited by the enemy.

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. [Galatians 5:17, ESV]

There are two sources of desire in our hearts: (1) the Holy Spirit, and (2) the flesh. The flesh refers to more than just sexual immorality or lust (though the two are certainly included), it refers to all the sinful desires that we have because of our fallen state. Our sinful desires are directly opposed to the desires of the Holy Spirit, so we must walk in the Spirit, so that we do not seek to gratify the desires of the flesh.

The devil knows that we all have the natural desire to sin, so he will often use those desires to distance us from the Lord. The devil does not need to create new desires in our hearts, he only needs to tempt us to indulge in the sinful desires that we already have.

Having examined why there can be such a thing as demonic wisdom, let us examine James 3:14-16, so that we can learn about the way demonic wisdom affects us, and how we can identify wisdom that is not of God.

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

Verses 14 and 15 describe the foundation of wisdom that does not come from God. Demonic wisdom, at its core, produces jealousy and selfish ambition. Godly wisdom produces humility, grace, love, kindness, longsuffering, and other godly things. Demonic wisdom reflects the same type of thinking that got the devil thrown out of Heaven in the first place. Remember that the devil does not want to look evil, he does not want to look like the devil, he wants to look like God. The devil knows that his chance of successfully deceiving people would decrease significantly if his approach gave away that he was the evil one, and that sin leads to death.

Understanding the way that the devil deceives people into believing that he is good, or that he is God, Paul describes the way the devil disguises himself as an “angel of light”.

And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. [2 Corinthians 11:12-15, ESV]

As Paul describes, the devil disguises himself as an angel of light, and that disguise is also given to the people who serve the devil. False apostles do not claim to be false apostles, they claim to be servants of Christ. Therefore, we must prepare our hearts and minds for the attacks that will surely come to those who seek the Lord. In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us how we are to equip the full armor of God, so that we “may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” [Ephesians 6:11, ESV]. We must understand the Word of God, we must walk by the Spirit, and we must remain vigilant as we guard our hearts from the work of the enemy.

As I mentioned before, it was selfish ambition and jealousy that led to the devil being cast out of Heaven.

“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. [Isaiah 14:12-15, ESV]

The devil wanted to make himself equal to God, he wanted to be above the other angels in Heaven, and he wanted to increase his power. It was this rebellion that led to the devil being cast out of Heaven, and it is the same spirit of envy and pride that the devil uses to influence the minds of men and women. Demonic wisdom is real, and it is clearly demonstrated by the jealousy and selfish ambition that it produces.

It is also worth pointing out that ambition is not the problem here, the problem is selfish ambition. It is not sinful to have ambition, to want to improve, to want to make the world a better place, or to want to do bigger and better things for God. I have been blessed with this ministry, and God has given me an audience that has grown with each passing day. I look toward the future, I am excited to see what God will do in and through me, and I have several ideas for projects that I want to work on later on in my life. My ambition is limited by the will of God, however. I do not seek to outdo other men and women of God, I do not think of myself as being more important than others in the Church, and I do not seek to glorify myself. I do all that I do out of my love for Christ, my devotion to Him, and out of the calling that He has for me. My ambition is not selfish, but that does not mean that the devil will not try to influence my thinking, nor does it mean that he has not already tried to do so. It is very difficult to see something I published do incredibly well and restrain myself from doing anything else until God tells me to. As we have previously discussed, human beings have inherent desires that are sinful, and are diametrically opposed to the desires of the Spirit. Just as the devil will use times of sadness and loneliness to try and deceive us, he will also use times of success. Why do some great men and women of God end up having affairs, being involved in crime, or preaching theology that is inconsistent with the Bible? There is an allure to all good things, and that should not be surprising to anybody. After all, we have already read about how all good things come from God.

God provides us with something good, and the devil will use our sinful desires to take what is good and turn it into something sinful. God created sex, but the devil created lust. God created money, but the devil created greed. God created food and drink, but the devil created gluttony and drunkenness. The devil cannot create anything, so he must make use of what has already been created.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. [John 1:1-3, ESV]

We read that all things were made by God. Therefore, we know that the devil cannot create new things. The only exception is that God did not create sin. John 8:44 describes the devil as “the father of lies”, and we know that God is sinless, so we know that God could not have created sin. Sin is born out of what was once good.

If our wisdom leads us to have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, we are told to refrain from boasting about our wisdom, as such wisdom is not from God. God only does good, so anything that is bad cannot be from God. Such wisdom is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. It is such wisdom is daimoniōdēs (δαιμονιώδης), “of the devil”, demonic.

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

James 3:16 gives us an excellent explanation of the “fruit” of demonic wisdom. We know that any wisdom that causes jealousy and selfish ambition is demonic, and James tells us now how that demonic wisdom will create “disorder and every vile practice”.

Just as anything that is not good is not of God, disorder is not of God.

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. [1 Corinthians 14:33, ESV]

God is not the author of confusion, nor is He a God of disorder, but a God of peace. If our wisdom leads to disorder, to jealousy, to selfish ambition, and to pursuit of fleshly desires, then we know that our wisdom is not from God, but from the devil.

The Meekness of Wisdom (James 3:13)


Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. [James 3:13, ESV]

The Bible is replete with passages that tell us of the value that wisdom holds, and how we must seek the Lord in order to receive wisdom. In James 1, we read about how we are to ask the Lord for wisdom, how He will give wisdom to those who ask for it, and how He provides wisdom to us “without reproach”. We also read about how we must ask God in faith when we seek His wisdom. James tells us how we should not expect to receive anything from the Lord if we do not ask Him with faith.

Based on what we know about wisdom, let us examine James 3:13 as if we have asked God for wisdom, we have asked Him in faith, and the Lord has given us the wisdom that we have sought from Him. We received the wisdom that we asked God for, and now we are to exercise that wisdom in the way that James lays out for us here.

He begins verse 13 with a question: “Who is wise and understanding among you?” Anybody who would reply to James’ question by saying, “It is I, James!” would immediately prove that he is unwise, or that his wisdom has not come from the Lord (the difference between demonic wisdom and God’s wisdom will be described in the next two essays, respectively).

If we have received wisdom, if we have understanding, then we are to demonstrate our wisdom and understanding by way of our works. Just as James described to us the way our faith should produce works, here he describes the way that wisdom should produce works that demonstrate wisdom.

What kind of works must one produce when he has received wisdom? Following his question, James tells us that we should demonstrate our wisdom through a life that reflects the wisdom that we have received. If God has given me wisdom, I should live a life that glorifies Him, that is filled with acts that demonstrate the wisdom that God has given to me, and that shares wisdom with others.

The final portion of verse 13 that we will examine is the part where James describes the “meekness of wisdom”. What does James mean by this? When God gives us wisdom, that wisdom will produce in each of us a humble spirit. When we do good works, when we live lives that glorify God, and when we do everything with the humility that comes with godly wisdom, we can demonstrate that we are wise and understanding.

In general, it seems like those who need to remind others of their strengths are often the weakest among us. A strong man does not need to convince others that he is strong, by his works he will demonstrate his strength. A kind man does not need to convince others that he is kind, he needs only to demonstrate his kindness in what he says and does. A wise man does not need to convince others of his wisdom, he only needs to demonstrate his wisdom by way of humility and good works.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Poison or Praise (James 3:5b-12)


How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the whole course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. [James 3:5:b-12, ESV]

In the previous passage, we looked at how the ability to control the tongue is a sign of Christian maturity, and how we can only control our tongues when we allow God to work in our heart. As we have discussed previously, Jesus tells us how it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks, so if our hearts are full of restless evil, that restless evil will come out of our mouths. Therefore, in order to have a mouth that speaks life, we must receive the gift of eternal life, and we must allow the Lord to give us new hearts. When we examined James 2:12-13, we touched on how we must live according to the most important commandment. The most important commandment consists of two equally important parts: (1) we must love the Lord with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds, and (2) we must love our neighbors as ourselves. When we looked at the way Jesus explained the most important commandment, we made note of how we were told that we must love God with all our hearts, and all our souls, and all our minds. One cannot love God with his soul, but not his heart, nor can he love God with his heart, but not his mind. We must love our Lord with every part of us. Only then will we be able to experience the full extent of God’s grace and love for us.

Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. [1 John 2:9-11, ESV]

If we do not love each other, then we walk in darkness. Those who have been born again have love for each other, and it is out of that love for each other that we can speak life to each other. The passage that we are going to read in this essay will tell us of the great power that each tongue has, and the potential that the tongue has for doing good, or for doing evil. We cannot choose to speak good things one day and speak bad things the next. We can either speak with love, out of the love that we have received from the Lord, or we can speak death, out of the death that comes to each of us as a penalty for our sins.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.

James 3:5b-6 tells us of the great power that our tongues have. James compares the power of the tongue to the power of a fire. A small fire has the power to burn an entire forest to the ground. In recent years, there have been several large forest fires that have broken out in different parts of the world, and for weeks, people watched as firefighters struggled to get the fires under control. Those fires eventually came to an end, but only after a long battle against the firefighters, or when the fire ran out of fuel. The forest can only burn for so long. Either that fire is put out, or the fire consumes everything, leaving behind death, suffering, and ash. A spark has the potential to ruin many lives, and our tongues have a similar level of power.

The tongue is a fire, and the tongue is a world of unrighteousness. An evil tongue will taint the rest of the body. The stain of an evil tongue will set on fire the entire course of life. The evil tongue is set ablaze by the fire of Hell, empowered to spread evil and sin wherever it speaks. My understanding of James 3:6 is that, just as God empowers us to do good things, the devil can empower us to do evil things. After all, we have just read of the great power to do evil that each tongue has, and that power is certainly beyond the ability of any man or woman. Does God give us the power to speak such evil to those around us? Certainly not! The Bible tells us that all good comes from God, and that God is love, so we know that God cannot empower us to speak evil.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. [1 John 4:7-8, ESV]

Knowing that the power that the tongue wields to speak evil does not come from man or woman, nor does it come from God, where else could such power come from?

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

James 3:7-8 confirms what we have previously discussed about how we can only control our tongues when God empowers us to do so. The tongue is far too powerful for any man or woman to control, but we know that the devil is more powerful than we are, and the Lord is infinitely more powerful than he. We lack the power necessary to take control of our tongue. The only One who can give us the ability to overcome the evil that is held in the tongue is the Lord. God has ultimate authority, and the devil has no power over Him. Only God can free us from the bondage of sin, and only God can free us from the evil that comes from our tongues.

With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

The end of this passage ties together the ideas that James has previously explained to us. We know that the tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison, and is unable to be controlled by any man or woman. We know that the fire that engulfs the tongue has come from the fire of Hell, and we know that the fire of the tongue has the ability to set forests ablaze. In James 3:9-10, we read about how the tongue is used to bless and to curse, which tells us that our tongues can set forests ablaze, or our tongues can plant trees of life. We can speak life, or we can speak death. We can speak wisdom, or we can speak foolishness. We can speak love, or we can speak hate. We cannot, however, speak of both love and hate. We cannot speak life and death, just as we cannot love God with our hearts, but not with our souls. A spring cannot have saltwater and fresh water, nor can a grapevine grow figs. The way we use our tongues is a binary decision, and we must choose to speak life.

I have always struggled to filter out some of the things that I say. I am told that I am very nice, and that I am very sweet to others. I will not praise myself, but I will say that I never seek to harm others. I do not seek to make people unhappy, nor do I seek to create conflict. That being said, I still struggle to control my tongue, but I really should not be struggling at all. I should not be struggling to control my tongue, not because controlling my tongue would be bad, but because the Bible tells me that I cannot control my tongue. None of us can control our tongues, but God can. God can control my tongue by giving me a new heart, and filling me with the desire to spread love and joy to those I interact with. I do not always succeed in encouraging others, but I have been able to control my speech far more often since I put God first in my life. I used to speak of horrible things, and I have said many things that have made me feel ashamed. I have said things to people that I love, and I have hurt those people more than I could describe in writing. It breaks my heart to think that I broke anybody else’s, and one of the things that the Holy Spirit has been working on in my life is the way I speak. I used to be very pessimistic, and I used to look at things with an attitude that was rooted in cynicism, sarcasm, and sin. To those I have hurt in the past, I am deeply sorry, and I pray that you forgive me. I felt like a failure, and I always thought that I would fail at whatever I tried to do. In my defense, I failed a lot. In fact, when I turned my life around, when I put God first, and when I began to do what God had called me to do, I realized that the majority of my shortcomings were due to my refusal to seek God’s help.

When I began to seek God’s will for my life, I began to feel the Lord putting desires on my heart. If I could go back and show the person I am today to the person I was a few years ago, the old version of myself would probably make fun of the current version of myself. I was always a Christian, but I did not always live like one. I wanted to control my life, I wanted to control my future, and I wanted to do things that I now realize I should not have done. I said that I loved God, and I believe that I did. No matter how many times I said that I wanted to do what God wanted me to do, the reality is that I was not interested in pursuing the calling that God had for my life.

I have always been a writer, and I have wanted to write a book since I was a little boy. One of the nicest gifts that I have ever received is a hardcover copy of a book that I wrote when I was in third grade (if I am not mistaken). I was very young, but I knew somebody that my mother and father would go to for any help with designing websites (I spent the latter half of my childhood as a missionary), producing videos to use in ministry, and things like that. I asked my mother if I could call that friend, and she said that I could. I do not remember what I said, but I do remember that I asked him if he knew how I could get my book published. I remember that he said something other than “uh, no”, since I was excited after the call ended.

A while later (months, or years, I cannot remember), I received a gift. It was from the same friend that I had asked about how to get a book published. The gift was the book that I had written, its formatting had been improved a bit, but the writing (and the illustrations) were exactly as they were in the copy that I had written in school. Currently, that book is the only book that I have authored, but I do not think that it will be my last. That friend has continued to be close to my family, and I love him very much. In fact, he was the person who helped me design the artwork for Wasting Faith, which was (in my opinion) the most professional aspect of that plan. If you are reading this, I love you, Uncle Brian!

I wanted to write, and I had been able to write at a level that was far better than the people I went to school with. Even in elementary school, I was always one of the best in my class when it came to spelling, and I remember writing a report that was far longer than anything that my classmates had written. In highschool, I was far better at writing than I was as a young child (which is not very impressive, but I will not remove this from my essay), and I remember getting perfect scores on several big writing assignments. My final paper that I turned in, during my senior year of highschool, was over forty pages long, and I remember my classmates being shocked at how much I had written. I cannot say that the tome that I submitted was very good, but it received a good grade, so I guess I wrote well.

I spent my years as a teenager, speaking about things that did not glorify God, in a way that was not in keeping with the grace of God, and my speech was made even worse by the sheer abundance of it. I would talk, and talk, and talk, then talk some more, and I would talk until people could not bear to listen to my incessant babbling any longer, or until I lost my voice. I spoke a lot, and I spoke a lot of evil things. Those evil things reflected the sin that had taken control of my heart, and that sin wore away at my mind, at my relationships, at my hopes, and at my faith.

When I rededicated my life to Christ, I had nothing else to give me hope. I had lost everything, and I had no desire to live. As I walked with Christ, I began to notice the way my heart changed. I began to feel uncomfortable around certain topics that had previously been interesting to me, music that I had enjoyed as a teenager began to make me feel disturbed in my spirit, and I became aware of the sin that I had allowed to take control of my life. I prayed for the strength to do what I knew that I had to do, then I began to take back my life from the sin that had once enslaved me. By the power of God, I was able to clean up my life, clean up the way I speak, and come to understand what it is that God has called me to do. I began to write, and I found that ideas came to my mind all day, every day. I would lie awake at night, thinking about all the things that I wanted to write about, and I would dream about them as well. I started taking notes, reading a lot of books, listening to hour after hour of people teaching through the Bible, and I found that I was able to memorize far more than I thought. I asked God to lead me, and He has led me. All that I have accomplished has been accomplished by the power of God, and I will never forget all the things that God has done for me.

God took the skills that I had, such as my ability to write, my love of speaking, and my willingness to say things that many would not be willing to say, and He put them all to use. Instead of speaking about evil things, I found myself speaking about the Bible. Instead of writing occasionally, I found myself writing every day, and writing about the Bible. I found that my willingness to speak bluntly with people has been used to correct others (not often), but in love.

The point of me sharing so much about my life is not to brag, nor is it to add length to my essay, it is to share what God has done in my life, and to share how God helped me control my tongue. That does not mean that I am perfect, nor does it mean that I always have control of my speech. I have had an issue with saying inappropriate things, making offensive jokes, and asking stupid questions for as long as I can remember. That issue is part of my character, but it does not need to be used to sin. Just as God took my ability to write and used it to start this ministry, He took my love of talking and used it to create a man who never shuts up about the Word of God.

If you are struggling to control what you say, I would encourage you to give up trying to control it on your own, to ask God for help, and to remain committed to following God’s will for your life. God bless you all.

Introduction (Philemon)

It may seem strange that I would bother writing about Philemon, considering its brevity, as well as its apparent lack of meaning. I have r...