November 20

Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 (NIV) 1Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. 2Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

When we gather together for corporate worship, we need to be especially conscious of what we are saying. Modern worship services often focus on one preacher. How important it is that his words be clear and to the point! If there is humor, it needs to be applicable and appropriate. Better a short sermon that is anointed, than a long winded one with many rabbit trails. We need to leave with the clear message ringing in our hearts. Anything that distracts from that should be avoided. C. S. Spurgeon once said that the ground behind the pulpit was holy ground, and that one should take their shoes off before standing there.

We can be easily moved by emotion and the appeal of the sermon to make a vow to God. This passage warns us not to be hasty in our hearts to utter anything before God. Be sure that it is at the direction of the Holy Spirit and that you have counted the cost before making commitments to God. To make a vow to the Almighty is a serious thing. When God promises something to you, you can count on it coming to pass. We are to be like Him, faithful to our word. Use caution not to fill the air with words just to avoid silence. God often speaks to us in the silence.

When you come together to worship, come to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart. Expect Him to meet you there. Take what He has said seriously. Take it with you through the week and determine how God would have you respond. Count the cost and then make the commitment.

Consider: What steps can I take to remember and cling to the Spirit's direction?

November 20

Hebrews 12:14-15 (NIV) 14Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

One of the great struggles of the flesh and spirit is over relationships. We expect a reciprocal kindness from those with whom we share our life. We often bare our soul to them and that makes us very vulnerable to them. So when a family or church member turns against us, whether through misunderstanding or difference of opinion, the conflict often becomes very personal and painful.

The author of Hebrews asked the flock to make every effort to live in peace with all men. It is easier to live at peace with a semi-hostile world than it is with those who are close to us. To give us some direction, the writer included holiness along with the effort to be at peace. Then, to put the screws on, he added that without holiness we wouldn't see the Lord. (Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.) Then, to give the flesh a final deathblow, he added that we are missing the grace of God if we let bitterness grow. Not only that, but our bitterness will end up defiling many. How can we let willful conflict continue when we see these consequences?

The way out of this downward destructive cycle is to be merciful. You have received mercy you did not deserve; pass it on! Be to others as God is to you. Make every effort! You may not be reconciled, but making every effort means that you will always desire reconciliation even if it means agreeing not to agree. Take the situation to God in prayer. Get inside the other person's shoes and try to understand them, rather than insisting on being understood. The peacemaker is blessed and will inherit the earth.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to make every effort to be at peace with all men. Keep me from a contentious spirit that insists on my way. Make me an instrument of peace.