January 2023 Bible Study: Flourishing in the Stillness

By Captain Jan Pemberton
Divisional Women’s Ministries Secretary – Cascade Division

When we have periods of stillness in our lives, we can get complacent. This is when we need the Lord the most. This Bible Study will discuss how to remain connected to our Savior in times of stillness and peacefulness. We all know it is easier to stay connected with the Lord when times are tough, but in peaceful times, we can sometimes become lazy and disconnected.

This is a four-week Bible Study on Being Still. It is designed to be done in a small group. Group studies are essential to our church mission, to grow saints, and have a better understanding of the Bible.

Why Small group Bible Studies? Why is it important to be in a group setting?

How to Have Discussions on Flourishing During the Stillness of Life

Discussion Guidelines:

Have easy questions that everyone in the group can answer. We will dig deeper throughout the study, but this is a good starting point. Have fun with it, and laughter is encouraged.

Read the passages of scripture together. Have the group discuss the passage read and give feedback. Encourage several members of the group to share.

Relate the passage of scripture to what is happening in the world today. Unpack it to see how it affects those worldwide and our communities. What do others, both believers and non-believers, think or believe?

What is going on in your world and the world around you? How can the group apply the scripture to their current lives? Be honest and be real. Give examples if our group feels comfortable enough.

Prayer is the best way to end a conversation during our study together. Also, give praise reports as well.

Small-Group Guidelines:

How to stay connected to God during the still periods of our lives. Connect, grow closer to the Lord, and learn more about the Bible. These are essential to grow spiritually and transform lives.

Regularly attend meetings to increase trust within the group.

Safe Environment to share:
It provides a safe place to share deep feelings and ask questions a person may not feel they can invite others. It provides a safe space to avoid judgment.

Like providing a safe space, no judgments, do not share the struggles or worries with others outside the group.

Spiritual Health:
We are encouraging one another to live a God-honoring life.

Participation and Encouragement:
Find the value for everyone’s unique contribution. Help one another by encouraging everyone to find a way to participate.

Build Relationships:
Find ways to pray, serve the Lord, and enjoy each other’s company.

Week 1: Keeping our Souls Recharged

We do not do well when we run on empty. This week is about keeping the flame of our faith going in the quiet periods of our life.

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation; I will be honored throughout the world.” Psalm 46:10 NLT

  1. Take a turn to answer: What are the top 3 things we need to keep our momentum going?
  2. Read aloud Exodus 14:14, Psalm 37:7, and Isaiah 32:17. What theme is present in all of these verses?
  3. What do people in the world do in their peaceful times or stillness? Is this any different than what we as Christians do? If so, why?
  4. What one thing could we change in our life this week to help us keep our souls at peace? Please explain.
  5. How do you flourish in the still times of your life?
  6. How do we pray for each person this week?

Week 2: Relying on Others to Help Sustain our Flourishing Life in this Still Period.

How can we help others in our Corps stay grounded and dedicated to relying on God?

Let all I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. Psalm 62:5

  1. Share about a time when you were going through a peaceful period of your life, and someone came alongside you to offer guidance?
  2. Read aloud 1 Thessalonians 4:1; Psalm 5:3; Psalm 62:1; Psalm 62:5; Zephaniah 3:17. Why is being still and hearing the Lord’s voice so important?
  3. 1 Samuel 12:7 Now, stand still that I may plead with you before the LORD concerning all the righteous deeds of the LORD that he performed for you and your fathers. How can we help others flourish in their lives? How can we flourish while being still?
  4. How do friendships help our Corps flourish?
  5. Is there anyone you would like to reach out to and thank for their support and encouragement?
  6. Does anyone have any answered prayers since our last meeting? How do we pray for each person this week?

Week 3: Retaining Balance When Faced With Adversity. How to Remain Still.

We need to help the people in our Corps focus on the things that matter most. Those who are stressed and overwhelmed may feel that all is lost, and their peacefulness could be jeopardized.

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

  1. If we had extra time this week, what would we do with it?
  2. Read aloud Isaiah 26:3; John 14:27; and John 16:33. What is the way you kept your peacefulness this past week?
  3. Why is it important for Christians to obey the 3rd Commandment?
  4. Out of all the things we have on our plates daily—work, family, health, friends, and spirit— which one is the most likely to intrude on our peace? Why?
  5. Which one is most likely to be dropped by us if we are in turmoil and not at peace?
  6. Have you ever reached your limit of any of the following: physical, emotional, mental, space, or time? Why is it essential to examine the priorities in your life?
  7. How can practice one of the tools of your faith– prayer, journaling, worship, reading and studying the Bible, participating in a Bible study discussion group—help us with the limits and juggling?
  8. What are 1 or 2 things you can do this week to maintain the stillness or peacefulness in your life?
  9. How do we pray for each person this week?

Week 4: Holding on to our Peacefulness

When discouragement enters, we may feel our peace is lost. This session is designed to help everyone in your Corps let go of the things causing the loss of peace.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and his mighty power. Put on God’s full armor so you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6:10-11

  1. What things, when they enter our lives, cause us to lose focus on peaceful living?
  2. Read Psalm 37:7; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 11:28; and 1 Peter 5:7. How do these verses tie together? Which one speaks the most to you?
  3. Reviewing this four-week study. What was each individual’s favorite week, and why? Can it be put into practice?
  4. What prayer does each of us want to be lifted by the group for our future?

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December 2022 Bible Study: Flourishing in the Busy Season

By Captain Angela Morrow
Vancouver, WA Corps – Northwest Division

Take a moment to stop all your activity for a few minutes. Pause and imagine you are sitting beneath a cool and refreshing flow of water on a hot day. During the Christmas winter months, when we are cold, busy and tired, let us imagine the relaxation of basking in the cool-refreshing springs and drinking fresh-cold-water to quench our thirst.

Let’s come to Christ and allow the Spirit to breathe life through the scripture.

Read John 7:37-44

Engage the Scripture:
As you read the passage, reflect on the words and phrases within the text.

Engage the background:
The feast that is being referenced in this passage refers to the Feast of Tabernacles. During this feast, there was a ceremony. A priest would draw water from the Pool Siloam and lead a processional to the Temple. The priests would pour out the waters at the altar. The symbolic significance behind this ceremony was twofold:

  • To remind God’s people of their wilderness wanderings and how God quenched their thirst and sustained them with life.
  • It was significant to remember that the scriptures would be fulfilled. There is the promise that living water would flow from the Temple as promised in Zechariah 14 and Ezekiel 47 (Walton, John. Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, 2016, pg 1825).

In this passage, Christ is conveying that He is the source of the living water. All refreshment comes from Him, and as we drink from the well of Christ, out of God’s people will flow rivers of living water. Living water doesn’t remain stagnant, it is constantly receiving so that it can continue to pour out. Living water cleanses and quenches our deepest thirst. The water saturates the driest ground and satisfies our deepest longing.

The text conveys that the Spirit will be poured out and will become the source of the living water from Christ. It is the Temple of God’s people in Christ, (Walton 1825), and from Christ flows life, refreshment, and healing.

Ponder the Text:

As God’s people, we are in a continual state of dependency on the Spirit of the Living God. The symbolic imagery of water reminds us of God’s Spirit. The Spirit of God flows through those who have come to Christ as the source and is water to the thirsty. It brings refreshment to the weary and healing for those in need of the hope.

In verses 40—43, we read that those who witnessed this were confused. Many are seeking to understand Christ. Many are searching for hope and refreshment. Some ponder Christ and wonder who Christ is and what is His purpose. This text reminds us that Christ, not only saves us but brings refreshment and life. What a blessing that we can thrive in this and flourish as we bring life to others.

Applying the Text:

  1. Remain in a state of dependency
    As God’s people wandered the wilderness in need of refreshing streams of water, they were thirsty. During the busy season of Christmas, the source of our service is to be channels from whom flows rivers of refreshment, rivers of healing and rivers of hope. The only way to thrive in the busy season is to stay connected to the source of our healing and refreshment. We remain in a place of receiving so that we can give.
  2. Givers of Life
    God’s people are called to pour out streams of living water to the world. As we remember our calling. We are called to be a place of refreshment for others.
  3. Fruit of Transformation.
    Finally remember, where the Spirit is, through Christ, there is life. Where there is life, there is fruit and change. Do not grow weary. Remember that as you thrive and allow the Spirit to work through you, there will be transformation. There will be fruit and there will be seeds that will produce fruit.

    Remember this: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Summary: If we are to thrive this season, let’s remember our source and the “why” as we do what we do. We serve during this season to be the receivers and givers of the refreshing waters to a world in need of hope.

We will thrive as we remain in the source.

You who are thirsty, come! Come and receive from Christ, for you need Christ to fulfill your calling to bring refreshing springs of living waters to other, so that there might be life.

Closing Prayer: Christ, our Lord, I pray that all who are reading this today might find refreshment from you during this season. I pray you might bring life this Christmas season so that we can rest in the knowledge of fruit and change from the waters of your Spirit. Amen.

Spirit of the Living God
Fall afresh on me
Spirit of the living God
Fall afresh on me
Break me; melt me; mold me; Fill me.
Spirit of the Living God
Fall afresh on me

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November 2022 Bible Study: Flourishing with Contentment Right Now

By Lt. Jen Liggett
Administrator of San Francisco & Oakland, CA Adult Rehabilitation Centers

Every single one of us goes through seasons…seasons where everything seems to flow and radiate goodness, and seasons where we feel like we can’t catch a break. Seasons that feel like sweater weather and seasons where we can feel the warmth of God’s love on our face like the summer sun. As God’s beloved daughters, we will experience them all. In order to develop the strength of character that God desires to produce in us, we must learn to be content and flourish through them all. Paul gives us an example of contentment in all circumstances in Philippians 4:11-13 when he proclaims:

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (NIV)

Paul is actually penning these words to the Philippians while he is in prison. He is in the middle of a season that has left him broken, beaten and weary, wondering if each day is going to be his last. So, what is Paul’s secret? It’s actually no secret at all. He reveals his source of contentment, when he writes, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13). Paul flourishes in this dark, damp season because of his faith and hope in Christ.

  1. Have you been a season, or are you in one now, that has you feeling broken and weary? Are you able to find contentment and flourish in this season? How has your faith in Christ carried you through?

There are times in our lives when we are in the middle of the fire and the only thing to do is remember that everything has to pass through the hand of God. In other words, we can flourish and find contentment in all circumstances, because we know that God only allows things to happen to us that He can use for His glory and our good. In James 1:12 we are assured that:

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (NIV)

When we press in and press on through our most difficult seasons, our heart and spirit are being refined and prepared for our eternal destination. The knowledge that we are citizens of Heaven enables us to flourish during seasons of trial.

  1. Are you in a season of trial and testing of your faith? Do you find strength in the promises of God? How does the knowledge that God wants to refine you help you to find contentment during these times? Are you able to flourish under fire?

There will also be seasons when we feel like we are walking on sunshine. Almost as if we can hear the roar of the ocean waves and feel the warm sand slipping through our toes. These are the times when we might have less difficulty flourishing and finding contentment. The psalmist expresses the beauty of flourishing when he proclaims in Psalm 1:1-3:

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” (NLT)

These are the times when all of God’s promises seem to be materializing and coming to fruition right before our eyes. It is imperative to remember that all good things come directly from God, and we are flourishing as a result of His good pleasure. Our contentment should begin and end with deepening our relationship and creating a space of intimacy with our God and King.

  1. Are you in a season of beauty and harvest right now? What kind of fruit is being produced in your life? How are you cultivating that intimacy with God?

In all seasons we can flourish and find contentment when we put our hope in the One who created us. He has seen fit to call us His daughters. He stands at the beginning and the end of the road. There is nothing that we will experience that is a surprise to Him. When we put all of our faith and trust in Him, we can flourish in any kind of weather. Psalm 92:12-15 reminds and reassures us that:

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.” (NIV)

We can flourish in the season we are in when we trust in “the Rock”. As we close this Bible Study time together, let’s say a prayer to remind ourselves to focus on God’s goodness during every season.

Father, help us to remember that your love is unconditional during every season of our lives. That no matter what our circumstances are You are with us, You are for us, and You will never leave us or forsake us. Please help us to flourish and find contentment in every season, as we trust in You and Your plan and purpose for our lives. May we remember that rough times produce strength of character and smooth times remind us of Your goodness. Father, may we always remember that there is nothing that can separate us from Your love and that You only allow us to experience things that You can use for our good and Your glory. We claim contentment and victory through every season in our lives in the might matchless name, the name above all names, the name of Jesus. Amen.

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October 2022 Bible Study: What Are You Wearing?

By Captain Jessica Stevens
Family Care Director – College For Officer Training

Small talk about wardrobe, what to wear, etc.

  • How many of us have been going out with a group of friends, and called or texted first to see what everyone was wearing? What’s the wardrobe going to be for the evening?
  • Casual? Business casual or California casual?
  • If I’m going to a conference, I want to know about the dress code: Fatigue uniform? Civvies? Full tunic required?
  • Salvation Army corps retreat: Are we making corps T-shirts? Do we need hiking boots?
  • Fancy date with your spouse? Are they wearing a dress jacket? Is it a maxi dress and sandals kind of thing, or a heels and little black dress kind of thing?
  • What’s your favorite type of clothes to wear? What makes you feel most comfortable and most at home? Are you a jeans and screen printed t-shirt kind of girl, or a bit more formal?
  • What kind of clothing makes you most uncomfortable? Where do you feel ill at ease?

In our Scripture today, Paul talks to the Colossians about qualities that need to be “taken off,” and then gives them a new wardrobe, one that needs to consciously be “put on.”

Read Colossians 3:12-17 out loud together.

Questions for reflection and discussion:

  • What is one quality of your personality you wish you could change? Why?
  • Which of these qualities listed in verses 12 and 13 are areas of growth for you?
  • Which feel more natural?
  • Has there been a time in your life when you needed to be treated with “tenderhearted mercy” and instead you were met with rigidity or judgment? If you feel comfortable, describe the situation to the group. How could the outcome have changed if mercy reigned?
  • Think through the last week, when could you have worn different clothing? (When could you have been kinder, gentler, or more patient).
  • What personality types are hardest for you to deal with? What can you learn about these personalities? How can you ask the Spirit to reign in the interactions you have with these people?

Wrap Up:
One thing we hear in The Salvation Army, as officers, is the phrase “tunic is always appropriate;” meaning that, if you don’t know what form of uniform to wear, or even what to wear, you can’t go wrong wearing a tunic. In Southern California or Seattle, some might say Birkenstocks are always appropriate. 12 We might go back and forth when choosing an outfit for a date or a afternoon out with friends; but we have no need to do so when it comes to putting on the qualities of Christ. Our lives in Jesus must include the qualities we read about today. These verses tell us that love binds all the others together, in essence, love is the perfect accessory. As 1 Corinthians reminds us: our accomplishments or actions are without depth or significance if we are unloving. Love is always appropriate, regardless of the weather, or what others are wearing. We can wear the love of Jesus in every situation.

Closing Options:

  • Have each woman choose an attribute from verses 12-14, and pray specifically for more of it in their lives. “Jesus, I need your tenderhearted mercy in my life. Help me see others the way you see them.”
  • Anagrams: Provide notecards and make anagrams out of the attributes. Use sticky notes to stick on the attributes onto one another. For instance, if you see gentleness in someone, you put a sticky note on them that says “Gentle” or with a note of affirmation included.

Scriptures for Further Study:

  • Galatians 5:22-26
  • Ephesians 4:17-24

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September 2022 Bible Study: Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Sunday School

By Major Cathi Boyd
Las Vegas, NV Adult Rehabilitation Center

“Share your crayons,” “Don’t take cuts in line,” “If you make a mess, clean it up.”
These are the simple rules we learned in Kindergarten, and according to Robert Fulgrum in his book, Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, these rules that served us well as youngsters will serve us just as well as adults. The secret of the book’s back to basics appeal is in a return to a kinder, gentler time when right was right and wrong was wrong; and even if you disagreed with your neighbor, cookies and milk would make everything better.

What rules do you remember from your kindergarten days? Do you agree or disagree that living by these kinds of principles would make life better today? Why or why not?

Life today can be very confusing. What once was right is now called wrong and vice versa. I recently saw a cartoon where a man complained to his neighbor, “The trouble with kids today is that they don’t play by the rules.” The neighbor replied, “How can they when we grownups keep changing the rules!”

As Christians living in a complicated world, we look to God’s Word for rules to live by. The book of Micah shares some of these back-to-basics principles. Micah was a prophet living in the country of Judah, a country that appeared strong economically, but had fallen to the depths of spiritual depravity. The rich grew richer and lived the lush lifestyle seemingly unaware or uncaring of the impoverished people living around them. People went to the Temple to be seen worshipping God, but practiced all sorts of idolatry and lived their lives doing whatever pleased them. A nation that once proudly called itself the people of God had in fact turned its back on the One who has founded it.

Do you see any parallels between Judah at the time, and America today? What sorts of things do people idolize (put in the place of God) today? What things in your life might be called an idol?

When bad things happened to the people of Judah they began crying out about injustice. They asked questions like: “How could a loving God allows children to die of hunger?” “Where is God when brother is killing brother in the streets?” “Why did God allow my wife to suffer with cancer?” “I’m a good person, I’ve worked hard all my life, why won’t God cut me a break?” Questions that people are still asking today. “What does God want from me?” The prophet Micah had an answer for the people then and for us today. He shared three principles that are so simple that even the kindergarten Sunday School class could understand them:

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humble with your God.” Micah 6:8

Micah tells us plainly that God requires three things of us: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. Let’s look at each of these three.

To Act Justly. To do the right thing regardless of circumstances or situations. To do the right thing when no one is looking. (Actually, that’s not true, because God is always looking. I almost stole a candy bar when I was a little kid, but our Sunday School memory verse came to mind: “But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him.” (Psalm 33:18) I didn’t understand that to fear God meant to revere Him, but I sure was afraid of Him seeing me take the candy and telling my mom. She was the one whose wrath I feared!).

To act justly is putting into practice the Golden Rule all the time, towards everyone, even when it doesn’t seem fair. It’s seeking to be pure in thought as well as deed; pure of motive as well as action. No white lies, no sneaking things from the office, no saying one thing to a person and stabbing them in the back to the another. It means speaking truthfully, keeping our word, and standing up for what is right even when it is unpopular. It’s treating all people with dignity due them as fellow creations made in the image of God. Acting justly is what sent Jesus to the cross.

Can you think of a time when Scripture helped you make the right choice?
Justice is a hot topic. Here are some other verses from God’s Word that talks about justice. Which one speaks to your heart today? Why? Isaiah 1:17, Amos 5:24, Romans 12:19, Isaiah 30:18, Jeremiah 23:5.

To Love Mercy. The story is told of a mother who sought from Napoleon the pardon of her son. Napoleon said it was the man’s second offense and justice demanded his death. “I don’t ask for justice,” said the mother, “I please for mercy.” “But” the emperor said, “he does not deserve mercy.” “Sir,” cried the mother, “It would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask.” “Well then,” Napoleon replied, “I will show mercy.”

What a clever mother. Mercy is not something any one of us deserves. God, however, is full of mercy towards us. Another translation of the word mercy is loving kindness and the Bible speaks often of God’s loving kindness towards us. (see Psalm 63:3, Psalm 117:2, Isaiah 54:8, Nehemiah 9:17). Eternal salvation is ours only through the mercy of God and this underserved, unearned gift is given freely to all who ask (see Titus 3:3-5).

We in turn are to show mercy, loving kindness to others from the overflow of gratitude we have for what God has done for us. We love because He first loved us. Yet this idea of mercy is more than feeling. Loving kindness is a verb, an action word.

Read Mark 12:29-31. How do the word of Jesus fulfill the words of Micah? How can we live these words – how do we love mercy with our actions? What can you do this week?

Loving justly and loving mercy go hand in hand. Without mercy, justice becomes intolerant, harsh or self-righteous. Without justice, even handedness, and the ever-present sense of who we would be if God had not forgiven us, mercy becomes self-serving smug do-gooding. But neither of these has nay lasting meaning with the third thing God requires.

To Walk Humbly with Our God. Walking with God is the driving force behind all we do. To walk humbly literally means walking with attentiveness, thoughtfulness, and watchfulness. We need to follow closely in our Father’s footsteps. It is, like Jesus said, loving the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. It is also growing to know God so that you can know how He wants you to live each day.

My husband is 11 inches taller than me. After 41 years of walking together we have learned to compromise. He shortens his stride and I walk a little faster. When we hike, he takes the lead to warn me of hidden roots or slippery places, and he stops and lends a hand when I need it. When we went cross country skiing, he broke the trail through the snow because I was the weaker skier. Can you see the connection to walking with God? Sometimes He will seem to be ahead of us, showing the way, breaking the trail, and warning us of dangers in the road. We can listen and avoid trouble, or we can be stubborn and face the consequences. He will always be there to pick us up if we fall. As we grow to know Him, we begin to match strides with Him. We begin to know instinctively the way He would have us go. And as the popular poem Footprints suggests, when we look behind us and see only one set of footprints it will be because God was carrying us during a difficult time. We know we are never alone when we are walking humbly with God.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Isaiah 30:21

Have you ever sensed God was telling you what you should do, or which way you should turn in a particular situation? Did you pay attention, or did you go your own way? What happened? Was there any lasting change from this experience?

So, everything I needed to know I learned in Sunday School. What does God require of us? To act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. And yes, milk and cookies are still a good way to smooth things over with someone with whom you’ve had a disagreement.

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August 2022 Bible Study: To Be Seen By God

By Jacqui Larsson, Territorial Social Justice Ministries Director
Territorial Social Justice Department

Hagar might not be someone who stands out to you from scriptures, but her story has always stuck with me. She was a slave who was held in a situation she hadn’t asked for or wanted with no other options or choices available to her, and after being forced to become a surrogate for Abraham and Sarah, Hagar finally got to the point that she was so tired of being treated badly by her mistress, Sarah, that she fled. She soon found herself alone and desperate, without food or shelter… and pregnant! It would be an understatement to say that she felt scared, alone, and unloved – wondering, in her despair, if anyone cared about her or her unborn baby.

You can read Hagar’s story in Genesis 16:1-13.

Maybe we can relate to Hagar in our own lives, and we can certainly relate her story to trafficking victims who are forced into situations against their will every day! But we’ve all experienced feelings of fear, loneliness, and feeling unloved – maybe you have been abandoned by people you love, betrayed by a friend, been laid off or furloughed from a job, neglected or abused as a child, or just overlooked for the hard work you have completed or the time you have put into a project. Maybe you’ve wondered the same as Hagar when she found herself alone at a desert well: “Does anyone actually see me? Does anyone really understand what I’m going through?” Perhaps you’ve even wondered if God sees you.

But praise God! Just as Hagar cried out to God, we can cry out today too and know that, as with Hagar: God sees us!

God Sees You
Have you ever wondered whether, out of approximately 7.7 billion people in this world, does God really know that you exist? Could he single you out as an individual, or are we all just seen as a mass of humanity? Scripture tells us that God knows the number of hairs on our head (Matt 10:30), and if he cares for the sparrows, how much more will he care for us? (Luke 12:7). We were formed in our Mother’s womb and each of us are “fearfully and wonderfully made – all of His “works [that’s you & me!] are wonderful” (Psalm 139:13-14).

He loves you so much, that He sent His only son, Jesus Christ, to die a horrific death for you and your sins, so that you could be forgiven and reconciled back to God, because He wants a relationship with you (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). You are his “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10), and he can use your past, your present and your future to do his work here on earth. He knows your strengths and weaknesses…he knows your name!

God Knows Your Name
Did you notice that in this short passage every time Sarah or Abraham mentioned Hagar in their conversations, she was simply referred to as “my slave” or “your slave” (Genesis 16:2, 5, 6)? She was seen as an object, a means to an end, with no value other than what she could “do” for them. I’m sure we can all think of times when we have only been appreciated for what we have done rather than who we are, and just like those being trafficked are simply used as commodities and objects to be bought and sold, Hagar knew that she had no value in their eyes other than someone to be used for their Masters’ selfish gain: to provide an heir. Can you imagine how demoralizing that must have been for Hagar?

But God did not see her as a commodity or a means to get things done in his grand plan, when God found Hagar at the well, the first word out of His mouth was, “Hagar” (Genesis 16:8). When no one else cared enough to show Hagar any decency, God saw her, made himself known, and called her by name.
People being held in trafficking situations are often “branded” with tattoos to demonstrate to the world that they are owned, that they are an object that belongs to someone else. I recently read of a twelve-year-old girl who had been tattooed with the name of her trafficker… on her eyelids! This meant that every time she looked in the mirror or was with someone else, they would know she was a “claimed possession”. But scripture tells us that, not only is our name known to God, our name is engraved into the palm of his hand (Isaiah 49:16). Being engraved carries a deeper implication than being written with ink or even a sharpie – our names are there forever and will never fade or be washed away as if God is “washing his hands of us” but will remain permanently in his hand!

In trafficking situations, the victim/survivor will often be given a new name or come up with a “street name” in order to create an alternate persona, mentally escape and remove themselves from their tragic reality, but God does not call us by this name, or the names others give us based on how they perceive us – God calls us by our own name and we are his beloved child. If you are in Christ—if you’ve believed in his name, having accepted the free gift of grace through faith – then your name is immortalized forever, because it is written in The Book of Life.

Later in the story, Hagar is so thankful to know that she is seen in this circumstance that she gives God a name: El Roi, the God Who Sees (Genesis 16:13).

God Sees Your Situation
God, or El Roi, does not turn his face away from your painful situation and although sometimes we behave in ways that we wish God would not see – he sees our hurts, our disappointments and knows exactly what is happening to you every second of the day – good and bad. We have all taken turns in our life that we are not proud of, and just like us, it is very common for survivors of trafficking to struggle with the concept of forgiveness and grace – they will often blame themselves for their experiences and question how can God see the situations I have been in and still really love me? They have often been let down by life’s circumstances, hurt by others who should have loved them, and abused by those who claim to rescue them – so the concept of the Creator of the Universe actually caring about them is almost impossible to grasp, but God knows, sees and still unconditionally loves.

“When Hagar is removed physically from those who control every aspect of her life, a personal identity and relationship materializes. As a socially marginalized woman, her most intimate relationship, it turns out, is with God.”

God Sees Your Need
I love the fact that God, or El Roi appeared to Hagar in her time of need. He saw her struggling and at that time reassured her that things would be alright! Hagar was seen, loved, and not forgotten. She was comforted and reassured that her unborn son (Ishmael meaning “God hears”, whom God named personally) would be cared for. God did not only see Hagar and appear to her, he comforted her and guided her in her next steps. God didn’t show up, wave a magic wand and fix the situation, he took the time to be present and reassure her in her time of despair. It is during your greatest times of need that El Roi pours out His grace and mercy upon you (Hebrews 4:14-16).

God sees you! He sees exactly what you’re going through, because, to quote Hagar, “You are [El Roi] a God of seeing. Truly, here I have seen Him who looks after me” (Genesis 16:13).

Jesus was the perfect example of how we should go out into the world to see those around us who are hurting. May we be God’s hands and feet in our communities as we intentionally look out for those who are in need – some of those needs may be in plain sight, but I pray that God will open our eyes to see the needs of those who are hidden in the darkness, for those who are sold in the night, for those who toil for endless hours, days, years because they have no escape.

Lord, we thank you that you see us today and everyday – that you not only see us, but you are present, you shower your love over us, comfort us and show us your plan for our lives. Open our eyes Lord so that we may see the vulnerable people around us who may be at risk from dangers, such as trafficking, and help us to shine your light into the darkness where men, women and children are being forced into slavery and sold within our own communities. Help us to see the signs and share your love!

Note: Check out this month’s devotional, Eyes Wide Open, and this month’s craft, Lights Shining in the Darkness, that coordinates with this devotional. Also check out the resource Red Flags and Responses.

July 2022 Bible Study: Shine Like a Star

By Major Beth Desplancke
Territorial Women’s Ministries Program Secretary

A Bible Study on the Book of Esther

Summer is here and the sun is shining. What about the sunshine do you enjoy (or perhaps don’t enjoy)?
Jesus is the light of the world, and He tasks His followers, believers, to shine His light to others (Matthew 5:14-16). What does it mean to shine?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines shine as: 1. To emit rays of light; 2. To be bright by reflection of light; 3. To be eminent, conspicuous, or distinguished; to perform extremely well; 4. To have a bright glowing appearance; 5. To be conspicuously evident or clear.

When Jesus calls us to shine it is because He wants us to be world changers. A beautiful example of someone who shone brightly and changed the world is Esther.

We probably know the story of Esther, but basically, King Xerxes banished his wife, Vashti, and he needed a new queen (Esther chapter 1). A beauty pageant was held to find the next queen.

Read Esther 2:2-4.
After 12 months of beauty treatments, Esther was able to go before the king and ultimately, she was chosen to be the queen of Persia. Yes, she was beautiful on the outside, but that is not what made her shine.

Haddasseh was her Jewish name; Esther is her Persian name. Esther’s name means “star,” and she shines brightly in dark circumstances; God used her dramatically to save the Jews. Let’s look at four “star” qualities that Esther had, that we too should have in our Christians lives, as we shine brightly for the Lord.

Her Faith.

Read Esther 2:5-7.
⦁ What do we learn about Esther and Mordecai in these verses?

In these verses we see the first ray of light in a pagan, godless land. In chapter 1 we see scenes of wealth, pride, drunkenness and gluttony, betrayal, rage and conniving politicians. Then suddenly we meet the cousins Esther and Mordecai. They are Jews; they are God’s chosen people. We too, live in a dark, sin-filled, world, and today our world, our communities need the light of Christ.

⦁ What does Ephesians 5:8 challenges us to do?

Esther demonstrated faith in her God, no matter what she experienced. She was taken from her home, to live in the palace. Despite not being surrounded by other believers, and being surrounded by the life of the palace, nowhere do we see Esther compromise in her lifestyle. We don’t see her acting like the others

Read Esther 2:8-10, 15, 17.

⦁ What did Esther not do?

⦁ Two times in these verses what does it say about how people responded to Esther (v. 9, 17)?

She won their favor; it wasn’t because of who she was, it was who she had shining in her and through her – the Lord. She is remaining distinct, and without revealing her Jewish identity, people see something different in her. She never panics when taken from her home, or when difficulty arises. She trusts in God and that is all she needs. Her faith in the Lord carries her through, and it is her faith in the Lord that helps with her next star quality.

Her Courage.

⦁ How would you define courage?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. Bethany Hamilton, the professional surfer who lost an arm to a shark attack said, “Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you.”
Esther was such a woman. In chapter 3 we discover an evil plot – Haman wants to destroy all the Jews. In chapter 4 we see that Mordecai hears of this plot and is mourning. Esther hears of Mordecai’s distress, and she too becomes upset, and wants to know why Mordecai is so distraught.

Read Esther 4:5-16.

⦁ What does Esther learn from Mordecai?

⦁ Why was Esther hesitant to act at first?

⦁ What was Mordecai’s wise words to Esther?

⦁ How did Esther act courageously?

This is a dark world, and bad things will happen, but we don’t need to be afraid. We have the Lord who journeys with us, and He has already defeated our enemy.

⦁ What does 1 John 4:4 tell us?

⦁ What does Peter tell us in 1 Peter 3:14-16 about facing difficulties?

⦁ What words of comfort does Jesus offer us in Matthew 10:26-31?

I have read that there are 365 “fear nots” in the Bible – one for each day of the year. We need not fear anything or anyone, if we have God on our side. And the best way to shine the light of Christ, is not to be fearful when the world around us seems like it is spinning out of control. In her faith, Esther trusted God and knew that God was in control. Because of her faith, she had courage to act. Part of our shining as lights is having the wisdom to know when to act.

Her Wisdom.

Esther demonstrates wisdom over and over again, by listening to Mordecai’s advice and guidance

⦁ What does the book of Proverbs tell us about listening to wise advice? Read Proverbs 12:15 and 13:20.

Esther’s wisdom comes through prayer. Esther didn’t panic in face of danger, and she didn’t rush ahead without thinking. She showed wisdom by waiting to act.

Read Esther 5:1-4.

⦁ How long did Esther wait to act?

⦁ What had she been doing according to chapter 4 before she approached the king?

Prayer should always be our first response; not worrying. We can shine the spotlight on the Lord if we are people of prayer rather than people of panic.

⦁ What does Philippians 4:6 tell us to not do and to do?

So, this wise woman invites the King and Haman to a banquet, and then the king asks her what she wants.

⦁ How does Esther respond to the king’s question (Esther 5:7-8)?

In chapter 7 we see Esther holding the second banquet, and this time she acts and speaks up and tells the king what Haman is plotting.

Read Esther 7:1-8.

⦁ This time when the King asks what Esther wants, how does Esther respond?

The king issues a second decree in Esther 8, allowing the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves. Through Esther’s wisdom, the Jews were spared, and God’s light was shone to a dark world.

Her Speech.

Nowhere in 10 chapters of Esther’s story will you find anger or agitation, violence or panic, rashness or reaction. Esther knew that out-of-control emotions wouldn’t help her avert disaster. She chose gentle, persistent, persuasive and sweet speech.

⦁ What does Proverbs 13:3 say about our words?

Notice what words are not recorded about Esther; not once is she recorded as moaning and groaning or complaining about her situation.

⦁ What does Paul advise us to do as believers in Philippians 2:14-15?

God needs bright lights shining for Him in this dark world. Things aren’t any brighter than in Esther’s days. And God calls all of us to shine, to be a star – not a star that says “Look how great I am,” but a star that points others to God.

Jill Briscoe writes, “Have you ever looked at your particular situation and realized that God wants to use you on the stage of history in a way similar to the way He used Esther? People are dying in the darkness, and He wants to hang us up like stars at night to bring attention to the Light of the world – Jesus! What a sense of worth it brings us, to realize that like Esther we are center stage in God’s thinking… for just “such a time as this!’”

Questions to Ponder
⦁ How can you shine your faith this week so others will see God?
⦁ What courageous task is God calling you to this week, where you can shine Him?
⦁ How will you shine God through wise decisions this week?
⦁ How will you shine God and His love through the words you speak or the words you choose not to speak this week?

In closing pray this prayer of joyful surrender by Mother Teresa of Calcutta:
Dear Jesus, help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that my life may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with
may feel your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus. Amen.

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More Than Conquerors – IHQ Bible Studies

More than Conquerors is a collection of 23 Bible studies developed by women from different parts of our Salvation Army world. Unlike previous collections, Let Justice Roll and Time to be Holy, the 2022 studies are written exclusively by women under 40-years-old, providing an intentional platform for younger voices.

Commissioner Rosalie Peddle, World President of Women’s Ministries, writes:

Being ‘more than conquerors’ is not about pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and trying harder, neither is it about coming up with the right plan to make something happen. It is not about us at all! Paul declares in Romans 8:37 that we are ‘more than conquerors through him who loved us’. Being ‘more than conquerors’ is recognizing Jesus is with us even in the grit of the battle and that it is only with his help that we pull through and keep pressing on. Jesus is true to his promises as he lifts our heads and helps us see beyond the giants, the obstacles and the trials that loom before us.

Go to https://salvationarmy.org/ihq/more-than-conquerors For the Bible Studies in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Swedish. Tamil and Swahili.

Also check out previous IHQ Bible studies: Let Justice Roll (2021) and Take Time to Be Holy (2020)

June 2022 Bible Study: Transformed Treasures

By Major Nancy Helms
Spiritual Care Director – College for Officer Training

Transformation in the life of the believer is an ongoing process, which takes intentionality and willingness to submit one’s life to the will of the Father. In the New Testament, the Greek word for transformation is metamorphosis. It means “a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means.” Spiritual formation is the process of Christ being formed in us or transforming us – for God’s glory, for our benefit and for the sake of others. The gospel message drives this truth home. As children of God, we are redeemed and made new by the power of the cross, through the death and resurrection of Christ. “The old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). As Christians, we have a role in the ongoing process of transformation.

A beautiful story of transformation in the Bible took place in the life of Saul, who was once a radical persecutor of Christians. Read about his transformation in Acts 9: 1-19. Christ got ahold of Saul, and he became a new and transformed creature. The man who was once a passionate and radical persecutor of Christians, became a passionate and radical defender of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This same transformation is possible in the life of anyone who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior to humankind. For Paul, who was once Saul, this transformation was immediate; yet, it took the rest of his life to wrestle with and work out his salvation.

Our lives are not that different than Paul’s. We are initially saved through the grace and love of God, through His Son, Jesus, and we continue to work out our salvation as He works in us. Like sea glass being tossed in the ocean, we are constantly being refined and restored. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Restoration requires action. I have a cabinet in my garage I intend to restore; however, if I never touch it, it will never change. If we don’t nurture our spiritual well-being, we will never change. In fact, we will eventually return to the old self. Consider three biblical reminders from Paul, which help us become the transformed treasures God created us to be.

Transformed through Prayer

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6,7).

Richard Foster, in his book, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, says, “Prayer catapults us onto the frontier of the spiritual life. Of all the Spiritual Disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father…Real prayer is life creating and life changing” (transforming). So often, prayer is put on the back burner of our lives and replaced with meaningless pursuits. Transformation is not possible without persistent and consistent prayer. Paul speaks often on the importance of a life devoted to prayer. Reflect on the following questions as you consider your personal prayer journey.

  • Do I have a specific and regular time set aside to meet with and commune with God?
  • Do my prayers offer sincere praise and thanksgiving?
  • Do my prayers include a time confession, creating a space for cleansing and purity?
  • Do my prayers include petitions and intercession for myself and others?
  • Do I stop to listen to God when I pray?
  • Do my prayers draw me closer to God?
  • How can I create more space in my life for communing with God?
  • What does Paul mean when he says, “Pray in every situation”?

“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” – Max Lucado
“Pray without ceasing.” ~ Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Transformed through Scripture

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”
(2 Timothy 3:16,17).

The word of God equips us for the mission of God. His word is a powerful source of transformation, as individuals and as a body of believers growing together. It’s one thing to know the Scripture cerebrally. It’s a completely different thing to live in the Scriptures and ponder it in our hearts. We can memorize the Bible from front to back without being transformed. Reading for information is much different than ingesting and digesting for transformation. Scripture is a place where, when approached with the right heart-set and mindset, can become a source for sacred encounters with our holy God, where transformation can be deep and rich.

Ruth Haley Barton, in her book, Sacred Rhythms, Arranging Our lives for Spiritual Transformation, wrote, “Many of us approach the Scriptures more like a textbook than a love letter. In Western culture in particular, we are predisposed to a certain kind of reading. We have been schooled in an information reading process that establishes the reader as the master of the text…The information-gathering mindset is very appropriate and helpful for a student in an academic or a learning environment. But when applied to Scripture, this approach does not serve the deeper longing of our heart – the longing to hear a word from God that is personal and intimate and takes us deeper into the love that our soul craves. The study of Scripture is important, but if we stop there, we will eventually hit a wall spiritually.” When we read Scripture for transformation, we engage our minds as well as our hearts. Examine the following Scripture and ruminate on the questions below:

The author of Hebrews says that “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12)

  • When has the word of God felt most alive to you?
  • Do you have moments in each day where you ponder God’s word in your heart and consider how it is speaking to you personally?
  • Can you describe a time where God’s word has changed you from the inside out?
  • Consider reading a passage of Scripture and placing yourself in the narrative. Choose your own passage or try Luke 2: 1-21. Imagine yourself in this story as one of the characters. How did God meet your in this narrative? Can you relate to the shepherds, angels, Mary or Joseph?

Transformed through Fellowship

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you have a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 1:26).

Christian community is isn’t just gathering on a Sunday morning for worship. It’s a continual fellowship, in which the love of Christ binds us together in unity. The early Church met together daily, opening the Scriptures, praying, serving and living their lives in common. Acts 4: 32 says, “All the believers were one in heart and mind.” This meant they loved with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. They carried each other’s burdens. What a beautiful picture of fellowship. In our hurried world, this type of fellowship is rare in the 21st century. Too often, we barely have time to meet our own critical needs, let alone the needs of our neighbor.

Adele Calhoun, in the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us, writes, “We belong together, not apart. God is not a bachelor who lives alone. The Almighty One is a holy community of three. And we express this divine nature best when we are in a community committed to growing and being transformed into Christlikeness.” When we belong to Christian community, we become stronger together and part of a living organism. We need one another to be complete and to experience transformation to the fullest. Think about the following questions as you reflect on your life in community with the body of Christ.

  • When has the body of Christ encouraged your walk with God?
  • How have you been an encourager within the body of Christ?
  • What gifts do you use to edify the body of Christ?
  • Are you a part of a small group, that meets together on a regular basis for fellowship, breaking open the word of God and prayer?
  • What thoughts do you have when you think about the following words? 1) dependent 2) independent 3) interdependent
  • What kind of connection do you think God wants you to have with other believers that might be lacking now?

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1).

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Note: Check out this month’s craft, Sea Glass Ideas, and this month’s devotional, Sea Glass and Souls, that coordinates with this Bible study.

May 2022 Bible Study: Tame That Spark! (It only takes a little one!)

By Major Noelle Nelson
Divisional Women’s Ministries Secretary – Golden State Division

By any chance, do you have a sibling? Multiple siblings? All boys? All girls? A mix of both? Whether it’s one or many, siblings can be wonderful! Or not…

My sister (and only sibling) and I recently revealed to our Mom just how mean we were to each other as kids. This came as a surprise to her, since she’ll tell anyone that we were “such good girls!” That’s probably because our behavior consisted of:
⦁ No hitting
⦁ No throwing things at each other
⦁ No breaking each others’ belongings
⦁ No sabotaging of dates
⦁ No nasty pranks

Little wonder my Mom thought we were just wonderful! But here’s what we DID do, and it’s a short list:

⦁ Making intense facial expressions at each other when Mom’s back was turned
⦁ Using our words to hurt each other’s feelings… the deeper the better

We would say the most hurtful things to each other, sometimes whispered, sometimes in passing, occasionally in the bathroom while the other was in the shower. (Because you’ve got a captive audience when your target is trapped in the shower!) Through our teen years we continued to use our words to hurt each other, embarrass each other, criticize, and make each other feel low and sad. Thank God we were able to make amends, albeit not until our adult years, and become the best of friends, because our words almost destroyed us.

Read James 3:2-12

“We all make many mistakes, but those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way. We can make a large horse turn around and go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a tiny rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot wants it to go, even though the winds are strong. So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals and birds and reptiles and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brother and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Can you pick olives from a fig tree or figs from a grapevine? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty pool.”

At any given time of the year certain areas of the country tend to be at risk for forest fires. Maybe you can recall the infamous wildfire of 2020 in El Dorado, CA. It became known as the ‘Gender Reveal Fire’ because it was caused by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device that was meant to explode with either blue or pink smoke. At this point, I’m not sure anyone even remembers what color the smoke was! What we do remember, however, is that tens of thousands of acres were burned, because of a single spark. That same spark that can create warmth and light can also blaze out of control and destroy acres, homes, and even claim lives.

Question: How does the Bible describe the tongue in James 3:6a?
(The tongue is a flame of fire)

Yes, the same tongue that can bring words like a soothing balm, can also lash out with words that could destroy another person. Our words hold a lot of weight! What we choose to say says a lot about us as a person. What comes out of our mouths has the power to heal or destroy. That’s pretty heavy. It’s not all bad news, though! We have a choice, and a way to make it happen!

  1. First, Make good choices about what you fill your time with.

Read Luke 6:45

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart… for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Question: What are your favorite hobbies? Do you have a favorite movie or book?

What we spend our time thinking about, reading, watching, the activities we participate in… that’s what we are filling our minds with. All these things that we place into our minds will eventually take root in our hearts, and then manifest either through our words or actions. So, go ahead and read the books, watch the movies, chat with your friends! But always ask, would Jesus be doing this, too? Determine that you will not fill your mind and heart with things God would not be pleased with, because this WILL affect the words that come out of your mouth.

Philippians 4:8 tells us, “I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly, things to praise, not things to curse.” (The Message)

  1. Second, work hard at controlling what you say!

Once we have filled our minds and hearts with good things, we still need to work at controlling what we say. We are human. We will always have days of feeling grouchy, irritated, or mad. But these are never good reasons to let our words recklessly fly out.

Question: Do you find it easy or difficult to control what you say? When do you find it most difficult to ‘tame your tongue’? When do you find it easiest?

Read Proverbs 16:24

“Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

My Dad is a life-long member of Rotary International. The Rotarians have something called “The Four-Way Test of Rotary International.” The test says:
Of the things we think, say or do

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Question: How do you feel about these four questions? What would it feel like to have a person think these through before speaking to you (especially when they’re irritated or cranky!)? How would others feel if you did the same? Would your relationships be a bit, somewhat, or a lot better if you did?

If our words don’t match up to ALL FOUR of these, then we should probably re-think the words we speak! Perhaps make it a special goal this week to speak to your family in the same way you would speak to your friends: with love and grace. (We did say that we need to work hard at controlling what we say! Yes, that means sometimes it is hard!)

  1. Finally, allow God to transform you into a new person.

James 3:12 says, “Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Can you pick olives from a fig tree or figs from a grapevine? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty pool.” In other words, you can’t live one way but expect the results to be different. Wouldn’t it be great if people always flocked to you for your words of kindness and encouragement, rather than being one whose words are too frequently salty or bitter? It’s a huge task to transform our way of thinking and speaking! (Again, we did say that we need to work hard at controlling what we say!) But, with God’s help, it can be done.

Read Romans 12:2

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Question: What customs and behaviors of the world do you need to walk away from? How will the people around you know that you have been transformed?

Let God take control and do the hard work! He is there to help you to make good choices about what you fill your time with, help you be successful in controlling what you say, and give you the courage to let Him transform you! Let’s not let our tongues spew hot sparks that can cause disastrous emotional wildfires. Let’s use our tongues to produce words that bring warmth and light, bringing others closer to the Lord.

Prayer time: God, open my eyes to the specific ways I need to change the way I think and speak. I want to be a flame of warmth and hope, not a dangerous spark that can cause harm. Teach me to fix my thoughts on what is true and honorable and right; things that are pure and lovely and admirable; things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Make me more like You. Amen.

Suggested prayer choruses:
⦁ Change My Heart, Oh God
⦁ Spirit of the Living God

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