Unbridled Power

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

Careless words. We’re all guilty of speaking them. We offer flippant answers, easily express thoughtless putdowns, and freely release angry outbursts without a second thought. When Christ returns, He will hold us accountable for all of them.

Words may seem an odd thing for Jesus to base His judgment on. We might expect righteous works to be listed there or sins of immorality, but careless words?

Scripture reveals at least 2 reasons why God would place such high importance on the words we speak. We find the first tucked right before our opening verse in Matthew 12.

You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. (verses 34-35)

What we say flows from what resides within our hearts. The words we speak will either reflect the oppressive chains of sin or the life-giving presence of Jesus.

2 Peter 1:3 assures us that once we put our faith in Jesus, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him . . .”

According to Scripture, we lack nothing necessary to live a godly life, but we often neglect to draw on His power to enable us to live differently. Instead of taking on Christ’s nature, we choose to look and sound like the world He died to overcome. He does not take that kind of misrepresentation lightly.

Ezekiel 36:26 reveals God’s desires to give us a new heart and a new Spirit. He plans to transform our hearts of stone into loving hearts of flesh that beat in communion with His. Our words indicate whether we’re cooperating to allow that change to take place. Instead of careless words, the mouth of the believer ought to build others up in keeping with Jesus’ character and presence.

That brings us to the second reason our words hold such importance. Consider the nature of God’s words.

  • And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:3
  • And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. Genesis 1:9
  • He [Jesus] got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. Mark 4:39

Do you notice anything significant about what happens when God speaks? In case you missed it, I’ll let God describe it for you.

“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

God’s words achieve whatever He speaks. Each word that God utters produces a result. His words never fall carelessly or without effect. When the Creator speaks, that which He spoke is called into being.

Dear one, you were created in the image of God.

Contemplate the implications of that statement. We were created in the image of a God who speaks things into being. No wonder Proverbs 18:21 teaches,

“The tongue has the power of life and death . . .”

Please don’t misunderstand me. We don’t share God’s power to call our desires into existence simply by speaking them forth. He alone is the almighty, omnipotent, Creator God. But as vessels made in His image, our words are also powerful and shouldn’t be tossed about without thought. They hold considerable potential to build up or destroy.

The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4

I can’t help but think of the times my own careless words have hurt the people I love. The times I chose to be right instead of silent. The times I’ve thoughtlessly undermined my husband’s leadership. The times I’ve watched my sons’ countenance crumble as a result of carelessly chosen words.

Then I consider the words of my Savior. I know firsthand how His encouraging whispers lift my soul, how they fill and never empty. They breathe life into my wounded places. They offer hope.

No wonder Jesus harbors concern over the words we speak. Our words reflect who governs our hearts. They reveal who’s really in charge.

As we speak the words that flood our thoughts, we have an opportunity. We can say whatever comes to mind and hope we don’t do too much damage, or we can deliberately choose to surrender our thoughts and words to Jesus.

With Jesus speaking through us, we may just get to participate in the miraculous.

What’s in a Name?

“To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” Revelation 2:17

I used to hate my name as a child. I’m not sure whether it was really the name or the fact that there wasn’t much I liked about myself in those days, but I always wanted to change it. I spent a lot of time pretending; in my imagination, I could be whomever I wanted. I could choose any name—something more popular or that I thought sounded prettier—anyone but who I really was.

Have you ever wanted to change your name? That happens to be one of God’s specialties.

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him,  “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.  No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. Genesis 17:3-5

God added one syllable to Abram’s name: ha. This is the equivalent to the Hebrew letter “h” which is also the word ruah. Its translation means breath or spirit. God demonstrated His ownership of Abraham by placing His Spirit within his name.

Abraham’s wife received the same privilege in Genesis 17:15-16.

God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.  I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

Their new names reflected both the presence of God with them and the roles that they would fulfill through Him. What a glorious God who “calls things that are not as though they were” (Romans 4:17), and that’s what they become!

Sarah and Abraham aren’t the only people in Scripture to receive the blessing of a new name. One particular Disciple experienced the transforming power of discovering his new name in Christ. At Peter’s very first encounter with Jesus, Jesus looked at him and said,

“You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). John 1:42

At their very first meeting, before they had any history together, Jesus told Simon he would be called Peter. Do you know what Peter means, dear one? Rock. Consider what that represents . . . strong . . . immovable . . . firm.

Rock is an interesting choice for the Disciple who would boldly pronounce Jesus to be the Christ and then turn around and deny Him.

Yet Jesus did not define Peter by his shortcomings or his failures. He spoke into his life what He desired him to be, and that’s what Peter eventually became.

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:18

Jesus called Peter a rock knowing full well he would soon deny Him. But after Jesus’ death on the cross and the subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Peter did become that rock. God’s presence within him empowered him to become the new creation Jesus saw He could be.

By what name does Jesus call you, beloved? Who has He ordained for you to be?

I recently discovered that my name means Mighty Warrior. The revelation brings a smile to my lips. I think of those early years, how I wanted to reject my name. I was anything but a warrior. Instead I cowered behind masks.

Then the Spirit of the living God came to dwell inside me when I gave my heart to Jesus, and everything changed. The desire to hide diminished as an urgency rose within me to proclaim my Lord’ s Truth. A boldness I had never known empowered me to stand for Him.

Last February, I had the privilege of speaking at a women’s conference in Florida. During a time of prayer, one of the other speakers placed her hand on me and began to pray for me, “We need you. You are a mighty warrior.”

I can’t recall what else she prayed. Her words collapsed me to my knees. I thought of my God who calls things that are not as though they are, and I wondered if that’s what I’d become. I do not see myself as a mighty warrior. I know my frailties, my weaknesses, every shortcoming. But I have to wonder, who does God see?

Long before she was ever ready to have a child, my mother selected my name. She was only a teen herself when she decided that one day if she had a daughter, she would call her Kelley. She couldn’t even really explain what drew her to that name; she just knew that’s who her daughter would be.

So when God gave her the daughter she had hoped for, she looked at the tiny baby she held and spoke the name that had been whispered into her heart.

It would be 26 years before I would begin to embrace my name, 26 years before I would receive the Spirit and begin my transformation. But all the while, mighty warrior was spoken over me each and every day.  

Have you allowed God to give you your kingdom name? Is your life a testament to His transforming power? Trust Him to lead you to who you’re meant to be. Become the overcomer. There’s a white stone in heaven waiting with your name on it.

Shelter in the Storm

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him . . .

1 Kings 19:11-13

Two all-too-familiar yet unwelcome guests had gripped my heart and sent me reeling. Fear and doubt scattered my thoughts, leaving me unsteady. My resolve to trust faded. I needed to find Jesus.

I rose early, breaking light just awakening creation to usher in the day. Only this particular morning, I did not rise to the peaceful stillness of a slumbering earth. A storm raged.

I took my place in my favorite chair under the shelter of my covered porch and watched the rain fall, wondering briefly if God had opened the skies to match my tears. Thunder shook the earth, literally rattling the chair beneath me. I felt each crack shudder through me, every pounding blow echoing the ache in my own fragile heart.

I clutched my Bible to my chest and lifted my face toward heaven, eyes closed. Could I have been wrong about your will for me, Lord? What am I supposed to do?

My thoughts settled on the news I received the night before, the email that had shattered the dream. Rejection. The amazing movement of God’s favor upon me had apparently been halted by a few brief words.

I thought of the journey that brought me here . . . the astounding clarity of God’s voice revealing His instruction . . . His power working through me to accomplish tasks beyond my ability . . . supernatural peace penetrating my being as the Spirit infused me with a gift of faith that enabled me to take a leap without fear.

Then I hit bottom. Rejection had derailed the vision and left me doubting all of it. I thought of the verse that had brought me to my knees, the moment God had revealed Himself personally to me by His covenant Name.

“I AM WHO I AM.” Exodus 3:14

The Lord had whispered into my soul. “Your journey has nothing to do with who you are. It has everything to do with who I AM.” And I believed Him.

Yet there I sat, broken and afraid, unsure of myself and needing reassurance. At that moment, the world seemed more powerful than my God.

Just a few days before, I had read about Elijah, hidden in the cleft of the mountain and longing to hear from the Lord. I remembered the howling wind and shattered rocks, the earthquake, and the fire. I remembered that God’s voice reached his ear through a gentle whisper while all the earth reeled in chaos around him.

I felt the earth shake and the wind blow. The storm raged, swirling rain cascading in angry torrents, yet I found myself safely under the protection of my covering, dry except for the slight sheen of moisture that hovered in the air and settled on my skin. I knew in my heart of hearts that Jesus was my Shelter in the storm. The words barely escaped my lips, my voice cracking through straining tears, “I need to hear your whisper on the wind.”

Immediately, I heard within my heart the gentle assurance of His voice. He didn’t explain, nor did He tell me what to do next. He simply whispered, “I love you.”

My heart responded, hopeful, questioning, lingering doubt causing me to falter . . . are you really here?  And my precious Jesus repeated Himself, “I love you.”

His presence embraced me, crowding out the doubt, Living Water infusing my spirit like morning dew on a leaf. Refreshing peace washed over me, leaving no room for the remnants of fear and doubt that sought to overtake me. The Prince of Peace had regained His claim upon my heart. I didn’t need to understand. I just needed to trust His love.

Blessed assurance. I hadn’t misheard His direction. He was still the same God who had been working His miracles, and He would continue to do so. His plans for me had not changed. He had simply altered my view of them. We were right on track.

Have uncertain circumstances caused you to doubt God’s plans for you? Are you reeling from a disappointment that’s making you question God’s power?

Don’t give the enemy a foothold, dear one. Run to Jesus. Allow His presence to strengthen you and renew your perspective. He hasn’t gone anywhere; the enemy’s just trying to convince you He has. Don’t let him win. Silence the roar by listening for the whisper. Embrace Jesus, and allow Him to carry you through to glory.

Lessons From My Dog

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Psalm 42:1

Annie at the Beach

My dog adores me. She longs to be wherever I am, so much so that she views separation from me as punishment. The moment she sees me slip on my shoes, she bounds to the door in hopeful expectation that she will accompany me in the car. Very often, she gets her wish and proudly takes her place in the front passenger seat.

But on those occasions when she must remain at the house, a different dog emerges. My joyful, wagging ball of fur deflates before my eyes, pathetically slinking away to a spot on the other side of the kitchen table where I can no longer make eye contact. I know she’s made it to her destination when I hear her collapse to the floor with a forlorn grunt.

I can’t blame her, really. She can’t understand my reasons for withholding permission. She doesn’t know that this particular destination would mean a long wait for her in the car, or that the heat might be too much for her to tolerate. She just knows she didn’t get what she wanted.

By the time I arrive home, however, her joy at my return erases any bad feelings over my departure. Her entire body wags with excitement as she strains to greet me with kisses. Then she resumes her vigil, attentively positioning herself wherever I am in the house.

She will immediately rouse herself from slumber to follow if I leave the room. And if she senses I’m not happy with her behavior, she instantly tries to remedy my displeasure.

She will tentatively approach me, laying her head down in humble submission, begging forgiveness. And of course I grant it, affectionately stroking her head to reassure her of my love. She is, after all, my treasured possession. How could a loving owner not be moved by such blatant devotion?

I often think of how God must respond when His children—each one His own treasured possession—react to His presence that way. How He must delight when we long to be with Him and eagerly rise to follow Him. How joy must fill Him when a wayward child offers Him a sincerely repentant heart. I imagine He smiles with compassionate understanding when we question why He withholds things from us but choose to offer our love anyway in affectionate trust.

“The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” Deuteronomy 7:6

Oh, how God delights when our actions reflect adoration. Unfortunately, I believe we more readily tend to imitate my dog’s other prominent behavior.

She loves to accompany me when I swim laps in the pool. Only she doesn’t join me in the water, keeping pace with me. She races along the edge with one clear objective: to beat me to my destination.

She will pause momentarily at one end of the pool, just long enough to gauge where I’m headed. Then she runs to the other side and waits there to greet me. The moment I reach the wall and push off for the next length, she’s off again. Occasionally, she moves so quickly she loses her footing and falls in. After swimming swiftly to the stairs, she climbs out to begin again. Eventually she collapses, exhausted.

Sometimes I wonder why she doesn’t just jump in and join me. She would certainly reach our destination at a far less frantic pace. She might even discover the joy of rest along the way.

Jesus offers the same suggestion to us.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29

Jesus desires that we draw near to Him so He can lead us into His Father’s will at a restful, steady pace. Yet He watches many of His dear ones hustle around the outskirts of His progress appearing to participate without ever actually getting their feet wet.

Still others are so eager to please Him that they continually run ahead of Him. They’re so busy trying to guess where He’s going that they miss joining Him where He is. Their frantic scurrying causes them to forfeit what He really desires most: companionship.

Which of my dog’s traits best reflect your relationship with God, dear one? Is your highest priority remaining in His presence? Or do you scurry about Him without ever actually joining Him where He is? Perhaps it’s time to choose the way of rest.

The Father’s Love

This week’s post comes from Juliet Sharrow, my dear friend and assistant in ministry. Her story reveals God's great power to redeem. I pray that it will bless you and help you to know that you are never alone, no matter how desparately isolated you feel. No matter your circumstance, your Heavenly Father rejoices over you, and He will never abandon you. Be blessed, dear one.


Guest Author Juliet Sharrow

I was 21 and my life had spiraled into such a deep pit, I saw no way out. I was in pain, pain that I could not bear. All I wanted was someone to love me for me, to accept me the way I was.

I never felt loved as a child. I was never told I was pretty. No one told me I was good at anything. I felt unloved and ugly, like a failure.  And because of this, I did what failures often do. I made one bad choice after another trying to earn love and acceptance. By the age of 21, I was finished. I decided to kill myself.

I knew in my heart that no one would miss me. I knew that I was doing everyone a favor. I had convinced myself that this was the answer.  This would make the pain go away. I was desperate to make the pain go away!

Have you ever been there, my friend?  Willing to do anything to make the pain go away?  Maybe you didn’t resort to suicide for your way out. Perhaps you turned to alcohol to dull the pain, or drugs to help you forget, or maybe the arms of a man to try to fill the emptiness inside.

I saw death as my only escape, so I made up my mind and took a whole mix of pills.  I went to sleep knowing it would soon be over; I would never be in pain again!

But God had other plans for me. He sent paramedics to break down my door and save me from myself.

As I lay there fading in and out of consciousness, I heard singing!  Just one voice—a man’s voice—so tender and sweet, singing, “I will always love you . . . I will always love you . . . I will always love you . . . yes, I will!”

 Zephaniah 3:17 teaches,

" . . . He will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

I should have died that day. The doctors did not understand how I made it. But I did.

You might think at this point I surrendered to God. No, not me!  Instead I knew I deserved to be punished, not just for trying to take my own life, but for all the bad choices I had made, for all the times I had turned from God and went my own way. And so I ran, right into the arms of an abusive man.

When he hit me that first time, I knew I deserved it. I deserved every beating, every broken bone—every humiliation! For almost 3 years I was beaten every day, and I would think, maybe today he'll kill me.

Then God sent me a precious gift, a life saving gift. He sent me a son.  And how I loved that child! I took many beatings to protect him. I cried out to God to save him from my fate. And one day the revelation came. I would do anything for this child, and he deserved a better life than this. I loved him so much I'd die to save him, and that's when God spoke into my heart, "Don't you see? That's how much I love you. I gave up MY son for you!" 

I thought of John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten son…” And I realized God was saying He so loved Juliet that He gave His only son to die for me!  He loved me enough to sacrifice His son for me!

I had never believed that God could love me unconditionally, because I did not understand unconditional love.  I had never known that kind of love.  I never knew my real father, and the man who raised me was strict and unloving, even cruel at times.  He was always condemning, punishing, and berating, never forgiving and loving. So I thought my heavenly father must be the same.

That day God revealed to me how much He loved me, and He showed me He’d always been there. He reminded me how He had sung over me as I tried to take my own life.  He reminded me that He would always love me, no matter how far away I ran, or how many times I turned my back on Him, or how many bad choices I made!  

Having my son showed me what unconditional love was for the first time. And so my love for my son saved my life in more ways than one. I found the strength to leave my abuser. I found new life and love in the arms of my heavenly Father, love no one on earth could give me.   And God showed me there was purpose in all my pain.

Do you know the Father’s love, my friend?  Have you allowed Him to sing over you?