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?

The Insanity of Profanity

watch your languageLearning a new skill can be difficult, but it might be even harder to break a bad habit. Learning how to tame your tongue might be a new skill that also manages a bad habit.

James addressed untidy tongues when he said:  “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body (3:2).”

When James used “word” in the verse above, he chose “logos.” In classical Greek “logos” was more than just the spoken word; it also included the inner thought that gave birth to the spoken word.

We live in a time when too much of our language is mono-syllabic, four letters, and laced with profanity.  James said the tongue is “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”  He went on to say that it’s not logical to think that you can bless God in one breath and spit out a steamy tirade of cussing that belittles your fellow man in your next breath:

No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.  Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?  Can a fig tree, bear olives? Can a grapevine bear a fig? No, and no spring yields both salt water and fresh (3:8-12).”

The first 6 words in the verses above hold the key to taming the tongue.  You can’t do it by focusing on what you say.  You need to concentrate on the thought that precedes the talk.

If you fail to focus on the thought your talk will continue to conform to the profanity of the world.  It’s when you begin to manage the mental component  of communication that you can begin to experience a transformation of your tongue.

When you read this section of James, the insanity of profanity includes more than just cussing.  The discussion also centers on any communication that’s vulgar, uncouth, and unrefined, and it includes gossip and lies.

Since “logos” takes into consideration both the spoken word and the thought behind the word, you can change your talk by changing your thought.  Here are some tongue-taming thoughts for your consideration:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. . . and the God of peace will be with you. ~Philippians 4:8

The words that spring out of your mouth will be less salty and more pristine if the thoughts that precede them are noble, just, and pure.  Take some time today to meditate on these things.

Gentle Answers and Harsh Words

confused-by-creditThere was a time in my life when I suffered from a severe speech impediment, but I slowly overcame it when I quit sticking my foot in my mouth.

Foot-in-your-mouth-itis must have been a common affliction in New Testament times because it was a large focus of the book of James:

We all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who is also able to control his whole body. ~James 3:2

Other than the book of Proverbs, you’ll find more about the tongue and communication in James than anywhere else in the Bible.  James is full of practical principles for life.  Here’s two of them:

  • The tongue is the index of the heart. What you say reveals what is hidden deep down inside of your heart.
  • Your emotions act as a barometer and reveal your level of maturity. When people get angry, they stumble in many ways and often say things they later regret.

Thanks to James, I’ve noticed three patterns of communication that are characteristic of most people:

  • Some people implode. When they get angry, they say very little, withdraw, and hold everything in.
  • Other people explode with salty language, and they let everything out. These people can be as volatile as the Iran nuclear deal..
  • There’s a third pattern in which a person reloads and wises up. James describes this person in the words below:

Who is wise and has understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness . . . the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.  ~James 3:13-18

Which pattern defines you.  Do you implode, explode, or reload?   You may see your pattern in these wise words from Solomon?

A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive, but the mouth of fools blurts out foolishness.

~Proverbs 15:1-2

Tidy Tongues

tongue-4I’ve heard it said more than once that the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body. While it’s true that the tongue is a muscle, it isn’t a single muscle. Instead, it consists of a group of muscles that help us taste our food, swallow, and talk.

According to WebMD, “a healthy tongue is pink and covered with small nodules called papillae.” If, however, your tongue is discolored or painful, it may signal problems with your health. WebMD linked tongue problems to possible conditions like “vitamin deficiencies, AIDS, or oral cancer. For this reason, it is important to seek medical advice if you have any ongoing problems with your tongue.”

The last sentence above reminds me of something written in the book of James: “ If someone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect individual, able to control the entire body as well . . . the tongue is a small part of the body, yet it has great pretensions. Think how small a flame sets a huge forest ablaze. And the tongue is a fire! The tongue represents the world of wrongdoing among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the entire body and sets fire to the course of human existence—and is set on fire by hell.”

James tells us that the tongue has the power to:
• Direct (3:3-4)
• Destroy (3:5-8)
• Delight (3:9-12)

When you think of your tongue, think of it as the index to your heart. With this in mind, what does you tongue say about the health of your heart?

Here’s a thought to keep you thinking: Are you tongue tied or do you have a tidy tongue?