B253 - Declare things into being
Jesus said in Mark 11:23,
‘I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, “May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea” and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.’
In Rom 4:17, it explains that God can ‘bring the dead back to life’ and can create ‘new things out of nothing.’
Two things are involved: Faith (and one that has no doubts) as well as Verbalization.
In Genesis 1:3, God created the various elements of the earth by speaking (calling them out into existence). Our speeches are powerful because they can create.
Hence, Christians are encouraged to declare into the atmosphere in order to call things into being.
B254 - Control what comes out of the mouth
James 1:26 explains,
‘If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.’
In James 3:5, James, the brother of Jesus, explained,
‘The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. 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 se on fire by hell.’
Jesus said in Matt 15:18,
‘But the words you speak come from the heart – that is what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.’
The tongue is indeed powerful. From our mouths, we can utter both blessings and cursing. There are many advice regarding the tongue in the Book of Proverbs, most of which suggest that we should keep the tongue in check.
If we can call things into existence through our speech, we can also place constraints on our lives based on what we say. Hence, while for some of us it is not easy, it is wise to control what comes out of our mouths.
B255 - Do not have evil speeches of other believers
‘Don’t speak evil against one another.’
If we have issues with another brother/ sister, Jesus had instituted a method to handle that. Slandering is a sin.
For more information, see
- S108, Slanderer, and
- B357 to B368, Handling Offences.
B256 - Do not grumble or complain
Phil 2:14 says,
‘Do all things without grumbling or disputing.’
In 1 Cor 10:10, Paul shared what the children of Israel did after they had crossed the Red Sea; they grumbled. As a result, they were destroyed by ‘the angel of death.’
The Apostle Paul was a model for withholding complaints. Despite his sufferings as detailed in 2 Cor 11:23-33, there was not a hint of complaining against God.
He explained in Phil 4:11-13 how he had learned to be content.
‘I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, i have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.’
Grumbling or complaining is a sure sign of showing a lack of faith in God. As believers, we must bridle our tongue from moaning.
For more information, see S112, Grumble, Murmur and Complain at God.
B257 - Do not carry on an unedifying (empty) conversation
Even discussions around myths and anything relating to controversial speculations should be discouraged.
Foolish talks and gossips are sins (See S107, Gossip).
Hence, do not carry on an unedifying, empty conversation.
B258 - Do not boast
2 Tim 3 calls out ‘difficult times’ when people will be ‘boastful and proud’ and Rom 1:30 reported those words. People who are ‘boastful and proud’ will show both by their actions and speeches. It is a sin to be boastful and arrogant (S114, Boast).
Hence, choose to remain humble. It is a counter culture to our current society where people are expected to boast – of their credentials, and of their connections. Even in social media like Facebook, people brat.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus said,
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth’ (Matt 5:3-5).
People of the kingdom of heaven are mindful of their own spiritual conditions.
The Apostle Paul, for example, chose to boast only in his infirmities in 2 Cor 11:30 when he said,
‘If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.’
The Greek word for ‘weakness’ is astheneia and it means want of strength/ weakness/ illness/ suffering/ calamity/ frailty.
It is, of course, an irony that we can boast in our infirmities. Indeed, Christianity is a study in ironies –
- That Christians can rejoice in the mist of tribulation (Acts 5:41; Col 1:24),
- That the Messiah must suffer in his first coming (Luke 17:25) before he can return as the Conquering King, and finally
- That those who are last will be the first and those who are first will be the last (Matt 20:16).
What do we choose to boast in?
B259 - Avoid disputes and quarrels (avoid unteachable people)
B260 - Engage in graceful conversation
Col 4:6 says,
‘Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.’
The word ‘gracious’ is charis and it means kindness and a freely given favor.
We are all gifted with different personalities; some of us are more forthright than others. Nevertheless, we have to learn to be gracious in our conversations and knowing how to be magnanimous in our actions.
In Phil 2:3, Paul reminded us not to do anything ‘from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.’
Be magnanimous and forgiving..
B261 - Be thankful in our conversations
Eph 5:4 says,
‘Let there be thankfulness to God.’
Thankfulness is a powerful ally. Phil 4:6 reiterated that even as believers pray, they must do so with ‘thanksgiving’ in their hearts.
The Book of Proverbs is full of the virtue of thankfulness.
Psalm 100:4 has the same thing,
‘Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name.’
Always be thankful to God and counting our blessings is one way to remind ourselves regarding what to be thankful for. There are always things to be thankful for even in the most dire of circumstances.
Counting our blessings lift our own level of faith.
See also B183, Be thankful in our heart expressed outwardly in praises.
B262 - Make a promise, keep a promise (Let your yes be yes)
Matt 5:36-37 says,
‘And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.’
Jesus’ teaching is in fact more stringent. He asked us to keep all our promises, and it does not matter that they are not made under oath or simply spoken about.
Jesus taught us the importance of honoring our words even though it might appear to be unfair. Jesus spoke about a parable when the owner of the vineyard decided to hire a bunch of workers to work. The agreement was that they would be paid a denarius. He continued to hire workers all the way until the last hour. When it came to paying them their wages, the owner paid everyone as per agreement – one denarius – disregarding the number of hours’ worked.
Obviously, these workers grumbled but he replied, ‘Friend, I have not been unfair. Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go.’ (Matt 20:14).
In the Old Testament, we have the story of Joshua and the Gibeonites.
Joshua had just taken out two major cities as the Israelites advanced into Canaan to take down the occupants. The Israelites were relentless and their fame in conquest had gone before them. The Gibeonites knew it would be a matter of time before they would become one of their victims.
So, they craftily endeavored to make a treaty with Joshua and the children of Israel. They loaded ‘their donkeys with weathered saddlebags and old, patched wineskins. They put on worn-out, patched sandals and ragged clothes. And the bread they took with them was dry and moldy.’ (Josh 9:4-5).
They told the Israelites that they came from a far off place and offered themselves to be servants. As a result of the deception, ‘Joshua made a peace treaty with them and guaranteed their safety, and the leaders of the community ratified their agreement with a binding oath.’ (Josh 9:15).
Subsequently, Joshua discovered that the Gibeonites indeed lived nearby; the children of Israel had been tricked. But the leaders decided that they had to honor the treaty since they had made an oath with them.
The same can be seen when King Saul made a rash oath that prevented his soldiers from consuming any food even while they were in an intense battle with the Philistines; the soldiers did not dare to dishonor that oath even though they were exhausted (1 Sam 14:24-31).
In Titus 2:7, Paul reminded Titus to ‘show integrity’ in his teaching.
Believers are people of our words – we make a promise and we keep a promise, and that includes the marital vow of married people.
Why do we need to keep our words?
Consider these passages from the Old Testament relating to keeping one’s words. There are earthly consequences for not keeping a vow.
King Saul (1 Samuel 14) who was so frustrated with his battle against the Philistines that he sent out the order: “Cursed be the man who eats food before evening, and until I have avenged myself on my enemies.”
Besides giving a really foolish command, Saul didn’t realize that his son, Jonathan, and Jonathan’s armor-bearer had slipped away to attack the garrison on their own. Israel’s main army saw the commotion and joined the fight. Meanwhile, Jonathan was hungry. He found a bee hive on the battlefield and ate a little honey. GOD WITHDREW HIS COUNSEL FROM SAUL.
Again, in 2 Sam 21, we discovered how a famine came about because ‘Saul put the Gibeonites to death’. And seven sons of Saul had to be sacrificed as a result of their death (Please do not ask us why God allowed that to happen as we also struggle to understand that too).
We believe that failure to keep our promises in the New Testament is the equivalent of ‘grieving the Holy Spirit’ in Eph 4:30 and God’s presence is lost.
‘And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.’
We need God’s presence and direction all the time.
- S104, Fail to keep our word(s) and
- B79 to B82 relating to divorce and separation.
B263 - Have the courage to challenge and point out the wrong
If we follow the example of Jesus, we will recognize that Jesus loved to confront (shall we say, criticize) the Pharisees and Sadducees.
In Matt 15:12, he was told by his disciples that the Pharisees were offended by what he said. Yet, in Matt 23:1-36, he called them out in the harshest tone. He called them ‘blind guides’ (v18) and ‘whitewashed tombs’ (v27), not exactly complimentary although not profane. Again, in v33, he used the term, ‘serpents’, describing them as a ‘brood of vipers.’
NB: Remember, the Pharisees were the equivalent of local political leaders or religious elites of their days under the Roman Empire.
Most of us are reminded that as Christians, we have to be gracious. But when do we confront and get some fire in our belly to speak out? Eph 5:11 says, ‘Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness but instead expose them.’
Jesus exposed the Pharisees.
Prov 24:25 says,
‘Those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them.’
As the world progresses toward evilness as we are seeing in our days, we will require a heavy dose of prayer and wisdom to know when to ‘expose’ and when to be ‘gracious’. The last thing we need is to play the role of being a self-righteous Pharisee or the other extreme of remaining a coward.
As Christians, we must have the courage to confront, challenge and judge while pointing out the rights and wrongs. It is never an easy task because every confrontation will also have an impact on the people associated with us, for example if a pastor confronts the powers that be, then there might be implications on his/ her congregation and ministry. Every confrontation could also impact on one’s own family and of course the person concerned.
Of course, there are also internal struggles of self-righteousness that a person has to overcome before any confrontation.
In a ‘true’ democracy, peaceful confrontation might change the views of a government or, in some cases, change the government completely especially if it is one that is veering toward evilness.
It might be a calling for some Christians to get into politics or government or just be an activist. What we do know is that in a democracy, the squeaky wheel always gets the grease (attention). If we choose to sit back and be apathetic about our surroundings, we will be ignored and may even be discounted.
Who are the Pharisees of our days? Government leaders? Community leaders? Church leaders?
How can we respond gracefully but yet rightfully instead of through a spirit of self-righteousness? Will it be misinterpreted as being unloving?
We do not have a yes/ no solution here. Just that we suggest the believer soaks in loads of prayer alongside with consulting other godly Christians so as to check one’s own motives.
And if we are confident that is what the Lord wants (Did you hear from the Holy Spirit?), we must be prepared to ignore the negative noises that are around us (including from other well meaning believers). We might be misunderstood but so was Jesus.
Having said that, any protest should never be violent. Jesus was never violent.
Some interesting articles relating to confrontation with governments:
The Hongkong extradition law protest in June 2019 seemed to show that it can be done responsibly. Despite a march involving two million people and the place was occupied all night, the protesters returned in the middle of the night and cleaned up the streets. Someone even said, ‘There isn’t a scrap of rubbish on the road.’. Read here.
However, subsequent protests seemed to degenerate into violence. We do not think that our Lord would have endorsed violence.
For more information, please also see B107 to B116, Relationship with Government.
B264 - Answer a threatening and sensitive question indirectly
There is much we can learn from Jesus.
On a whole, when responding to questions from his enemies, Jesus favored answering a question with a question; like when he was asked whether he should pay taxes. Jesus simply requested for a coin and said, ‘Whose image and inscription are on it?’ Using that, he continued, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’ (Luke 20:25).
Or when he was asked whether the adulteress caught in the very act had committed a sin worthy of being stoned (John 8:1-11). He did not answer their question but used his subsequent ‘passive’ action to defuse the tense situation.
And who could forget the time when the leading priests demanded to know by what authority Jesus was doing all these teachings and miracles. Jesus once again answered the question with another of his own, ‘Let me ask you a question first. Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven or was it merely human?’ (Luke 20:3-4).
It was as if Jesus was asking, ‘Answer me this, did the chicken come first or was it the egg?’ When the priests failed to answer him, Jesus responded, ‘Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things’ (Luke 20:8).
In a changing hostile world, where being a Christian is becoming more challenging, how can Christians respond to those very sensitive questions thrown to trap us?
Here is one that we found quite useful in a democracy when the interviewer becomes aggressive in labeling a Christian as a bigot:
‘Do we live in a nation where we can agree to disagree with people and still be civil about it?’
That statement was made by a Christian politician and it silenced an incessant provocative interviewer from persisting in getting the former to recant his conservative views.
Let us know if there are other possible responses and we will publish them.
Here are other possible answers to questions relating to LGBTQ if you are caught on a spot to respond:
- Do bulls ask to be cows or hens to be roosters? – It goes to show that sex change is possible with us because we are not animals. It shows that we have the privilege of being created beings with intelligence.
- Do you think that we have a gender unequal pay disparity? (For people who believe that we have several genders) – If you answer ‘yes’, then you’re agreeing to the fact that there are only two genders. If you answer ‘no’, then you are going against all those gender rights advocates who claim that there is in fact gender inequality.
- How many genders are there in dogs and cats? If they said two, then ask them why it is not consistent for humans to also be two. If they say ‘multiple’, then ask them whether they have seen owners doing sex change for their pets?
May we learn from Jesus to answer these questions with wisdom from above. Prov 26:5 says, ‘Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.’
Share with us your gems so that we can include here. Believers have to be wise especially now when traps are being set up to catch us in a bad light.