Sweet Words or Bitter Breath?

bluebonnets-793x526Even though I’m Kansas born and Kansas bred, I was a resident of the bluebonnet state of Texas for about ten years. Texans are proud of their state’s scenic beauty, its abundant natural resources, and the tasty Tex-Mex cuisine.

Texas is also a state that is rich in history. Long before cowboys herded their cattle across the vast expanse of West Texas, and the ancient trails became the thoroughfares of highway 84 and Interstate 20, the Kiowa Indians cherished an enclave for its water. Because the water at this oasis was much more refreshing than the bitter-tasting gypsum streams that surrounded it, the natives christened it Moabeetie—their word for sweet water.

Whenever I drive through Sweetwater, the city’s name reminds me of the words of James: Praising and cursing come out of the same mouth . . . these things should not be this way. Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening?

While the answer to this question is obvious, people live as though it’s dubious. In a matter of seconds, some people proclaim the sweet water of God’s goodness with one breath and profane His name with salty language with their next breath.

I encourage you to think about the words of James, and this companion verse in the Psalms” Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer (Ps 19:14).

Are the words of your mouth and the thoughts of your heart acceptable or detestable in the eyes of the Lord?

Fact Two for Today

 

fact2Yesterday I posted an article that gave you a fact a day to concentrate on for each of day of the week.  The Tuesday fact is Small sparks can start big fires, so mind your manners and tame your tongue. The following steps will help you accomplish this:

Step 1: Recognize the power of this mouthy muscle.  James says the tongue:

  • Boasts great things
  • Is as destructive as fire
  • Is a world of unrighteousness
  • Pollutes the whole body,

Step 2: Rely on God for the strength you need:

  • James said the simple fact is this: no man can tame the tongue (3:8).
  • Philippians 4:13: I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me

Step 3: Realize that God hears every word you say:

  • Speak as though you are in God’s presence and talking face to face with Him.
  • Make the words of Psalm 19:14, your prayer: Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

Step 4: Reevaluate your motives. Pause throughout the day to assess your conversations, and ask yourself:

  • Why did I say what I said (Proverbs 17:27)?
  • Have I used my words to build people up or to tear them down?
  • Have my words been healing or hurtful?
  • Has my conversation been more than just rank criticism and slander nitpicking and complaining (4:11; 5:9)?

Step 5: Retune your heart. The tongue is the index of the heart, and the words you speak reveal the true condition of your heart.  Your heart will never be pitch perfect until you begin to practice His principles:

  • Ask God to examine your heart and mind: Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts (Psalm 139:23).
  • Fill your mouth with praise for God, so there’s no room for profanity.

As you think about the five steps above, keep in mind that God’s desire is for you to put away lying. to speak the truth (Ephesians 4:25; Psalm 15:2), and to be a person of true Christian character.

A Fact A Day

facts-hands-holding-letters-1500_largeMy post today is a simple list for the complex world in which we live.  Instead of hurriedly glancing at the list and moving on with your agenda for the day, I hope you will keep it in mind and take the time to consider each one again on its assigned day for the week ahead.

Fact 1 for Monday: Life is full of obstacles.

You will encounter many detours in your life’s pursuit—be resolute. Don’t allow detours and distractions to become attractions; remain focused on your goals

  • Philippians 3:13-14: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Fact 2 for Tuesday: Small sparks can start big fires, so mind your manners and tame your tongue.

  • James 1:26; 3:5: If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile . . . though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites

Fact 3 for Wednesday: Whatever grips your attention, grabs you.

  • James 1:1:14-15: Each one is tempted when he is lured, enticed, and trapped by his own desires. Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death.

Fact 4 for Thursday: You may not be what you think you are, but what you think you are.

  • Colossians 3: 1-2: Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth

Fact 5 for Friday: The world may think you’re a zero, but God knows you’re a hero.

  • Judges 6:12: The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!

Fact 6 for Saturday: God has a plan and a purpose for you.

  • Genesis 50:15, 19-20: When Joseph’s brothers saw their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” But Joseph said to them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.”

Fact 7 for Sunday: It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

  • There are 86,400 seconds in a day and you can use them or abuse them.

I’ve only just a minute; 0nly sixty seconds in it.

Forced upon me, can’t refuse it; didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it,

But it’s up to me to use it.

I must suffer if I lose it; give an account if I abuse it,

Just a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it.

~Dr. Benjamin E. Mays

I think this quote is a good conclusion to my list, so I’ll end with it: “Let us take things as we find them: let us not attempt to distort them into what they are not. We cannot make facts. All our wishing cannot change them. We must use them.” ~John Henry Cardinal Newman

Motor Mouths and Idle Chatter

 

ConfidentialWhen I purchased a new computer several years ago, Best Buy packaged it with a copy of a virus protection program called Kaspersky.  I liked the program and would have renewed my subscription except for the fact that it was a Russian company.

I was a bit puzzled by my reluctance to re-subscribe and wondered if it was due to living through the Cold War era. It just didn’t make sense to purchase a virus and spyware program from a country noted for its spying and corruption.

Kaspersky is making news again this week, and guess why—it’s for spying.  The company has developed a program that allows a government or an employer to eavesdrop on your mobile calls. InfoWatch, a subsidiary of Kaspersky, is using technology originally developed for the Soviet KGB, and, they’re trying to market it to businesses and government agencies around the world.

The Russian software company isn’t the only one who has been listening to confidential conversations.  God has been doing it for quite some time, and Jesus issued a warning to motor mouths and their idle chatter: I say to you that for every idle (careless or irreverent) word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment (Matthew 12:36).

In his classic work, Matthew Henry offers an interesting commentary on the words of Jesus: The heart is the fountain, words are the streams. A troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring, must send forth muddy and unpleasant streams. Nothing but the salt of grace, cast into the spring, will heal the waters, season the speech, and purify the corrupt communication. An evil man has an evil treasure in his heart, and out of it brings forth evil things. Lusts and corruptions, dwelling and reigning in the heart, are an evil treasure, out of which the sinner brings forth bad words and actions, to dishonour God, and hurt others. Let us keep constant watch over ourselves, that we may speak words agreeable to the Christian character.

Which is more unsettling to you: the eavesdropping of Big Brother Kaspersky, or the thought that God hears every word you say?  As you think about this, I’ll leave you with two other statements for your consideration:

  • 2 Timothy 2:16: Avoid irreverent, empty speech, for this will produce an even greater measure of godlessness.
  • Proverbs 14:13: Idle chatter leads only to poverty.

State of Emergency Declared: Heart of America Aflame

fdireSeveral years ago, Barber County, Kansas was home to me.  I lived in a spot in the road called Hazelton, and I was a frequent visitor of Anthony, Kiowa, and Medicine Lodge.  When I needed to stock up on groceries, I would drive to Alva, Oklahoma. Alva also had a tasty hamburger served at a café on the town square.

As I watched the news yesterday, I followed the raging prairie fire as it devoured rain-starved pastures and some 72,000 acres. I thought of my old friends in this rural pocket of Kansas, and I prayed for their safety and well-being.

The voracious appetite of a fire is a graphic illustration of some scripture found in James 3:6-10:

 A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!  It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.  This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!         ~The Message

The words you speak are ripe with the potential to be either healing or harmful. 

Think about the way you have spoken to people this week:  Have your words beaten them down and left them battered and bruised, or have you use the gift of language to encourage, instruct, and build them up?

If your tongue is in need of taming, it might help to ponder the principles below:

  • Foolish words cut like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18)
  • Pleasing words are like honey. They are sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24)
  • A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth causes ruin (Proverbs 26:28)
  • Don’t let even one rotten word seep out of your mouths. Instead, offer only fresh words that build others up when they need it most. That way your good words will communicate grace to those who hear them (Ephesians 4:29 ~The Voice).

Give some thought to the brute strength of your words: They can be as devastating as they are delightful, and even though they may be forgiven, they’re rarely forgotten.

Will people remember you for your soothing words that helped them to heal, or for language that was so heated it left them scorched and scarred…like the fires that have swept across the Kansas prairies?

Big Daddy Bad Day

02There’s no failsafe vaccine for it, and everyone who has ever lived has felt the crushing power of the vice-like grip of Big Daddy Bad Day.  The physical symptoms are nothing like the chills, sweats, and fever that typify malaria, nor the feigned symptoms of malingering. When Big Daddy slaps you down, you feel a nauseating surge of melancholy with its brooding sadness and boiling madness.

The moment you hear Big Daddy whisper in your ear, you need to tune him out, and shake him off before he shakes you down.  If you listen to these mendacious musings, you will succumb to feelings of worthlessness, and you’ll hear him as a voice within that accuses you of being dirty, a failure, a quitter, and unlovable.

These fits of unjustified self-accusing are akin to a-cussing that’s detrimental to your mental well-being.  If you let Big Daddy beat you up and get you on the ropes, he’ll chuckle as you buckle under the weight of his lies.

To beat him, you need to learn to bob and weave, and to counter punch.  When Big Daddy throws a jab that says you are unlovable, give him a stiff uppercut to the jaw with Jeremiah 31:3: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”

If he tells you that you’re a worthless failure and quitter, hit with a heavy cross.  Your worth, value, and victory is found in Jesus, who is, “the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).”

By now Big Daddy is weak-kneed, so you can finish him off with a massive 4-1-3 hook found in the book of Philippians:  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (4:13).

The next time you hear the whispers of Big Daddy, stop him in his tracks by demolishing his arguments and false ideas, and his worrisome philosophy by taking every thought captive in obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Today I Will

tattly_jen_mussari_today_is_the_day_web_design_01_grandeAs I was thumbing through one of my files, I found a quote from Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.  In September of 1999 Talk Magazine listed him as one of the 50 best speakers in the United States.

During a lecture on the power and often negative impact of words, Rabbi Telushkin said:  “If you cannot go for 24 hours without drinking liquor, you are addicted to alcohol.  If you cannot go 24 hours without smoking, you are addicted to nicotine.  Similarly, if you cannot go for 24 hours without saying unkind words about others, then you’ve lost control of your tongue.”

Have you lost control of your tongue?  Compare your verbal interactions with others to the verses below:

  • James 3:10 “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”
  • Proverbs 8:7-8”For my mouth will speak truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are with righteousness; nothing crooked or perverse is in them.”
  • Psalm 10:7 “His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue is trouble and iniquity.”
  • Psalm 71:8 “Let my mouth be filled with Your praise And with Your glory all the day.”
  • Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

As you think about what the good Rabbi said, and as you consider the Scripture above, I hope you’ll say:  “Today I will . . .

  • Slow down enough to consider how I speak to my precious family.  I will remember to thank God for each one of them. I will not curse them.  I will bless them.
  • Reflect the goodness of God and determine to be a conduit of His grace and love.
  • See the needs of others, and help bear the burden of those who are overloaded with grief, sorrow, or some trial.

Let me suggest that you use the words of the following Psalm as a prayer for today:  “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).”

Are You Barely Bearable?

imagesAm I a BEAR or a BEARER?  This is one of the questions I asked myself when I had finished reading Galatians 6.  The practical and profound principles that Paul states in this section of Scripture provide a good checklist for anyone who desires to live a life that is pleasing to God.  What answer can you give to this list of questions?

  • 6:1: When someone stumbles and falls, do I restore him in a spirit of gentleness or do I kick him while he is down?
  • 6:2: Do I lend a hand to a fellow Christian and “bear one another’s burdens” or do I find fault in him and savage him with hurtful gossip?
  • 6:3: Do I deceive myself with a false sense of self-importance?
  • 6:7: Do I realize that I am going to reap what I have sown?
  • 6:9: Am I keeping my eye on the goal of the harvest, so I don’t grow weary in doing what is good and right?
  • 6:10: Do I look for opportunities to be a blessing to others?
  • 6:11: Do I remind myself that the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” is constantly with my spirit?

There are seven items on this checklist.  To unleash the power of each them, I suggest that you read them for the next 7 days at 7 AM and 7 PM.

As a list, this is just a potential principle; but, you can make it an exponential essential by reviewing it today whenever it is 7 minutes past the hour (7:07. 8:07, 9:07. 10:7, etc.).

The practical application of these principles will develop a tactical expression of your faith.