The Power of Words #4 March 27, 2018

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  Psalm 23:5

This week let’s talk about the power of words in relationships.  We know that the greatest commandment is to love the LORD our God with all our heart, soul and resources.  And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.

But what if your ‘neighbor’ is your ‘enemy’?  When we read in Matthew 5: ‘Love your enemies,’ the Lord assumes we will have some!

I’m using the word ‘enemy’ loosely; for example, a neighbor who is consistently annoying, a co-worker who appears to be jealous of you, someone who’s just a plain nuisance in your life.  It could even be a family member who is difficult to get along with.  Take the case of an argument between a husband and wife.  Temporarily you may consider your spouse the ‘enemy’. How we respond verbally in such situations is critical to the long term health of the marriage. In other words, anyone who rubs you the wrong way and tries your patience can be temporarily viewed as your ‘enemy’.

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Controlling our tongues with people like these is quite a test.  It is also great practice for tongue control in other areas of our lives.

Consider David. In I Samuel 18:14 we read that David succeeded in all he did for the Lord was with him. This verse follows soon after the young David had killed Goliath, an event in his life which created a relationship with him and King Saul.  We could say that killing Goliath was great for Israel but it also caused untold problems for David in the days afterward.  The anointing on David threatened Saul and when the maidens of Israel sang “Saul has slain his thousands and David his tens of thousands,” Saul’s jealousy took over.  In the ensuing years, King Saul spent more energy, time and resources hunting David down to kill him, than he did fighting the enemies of Israel.

Over the next twenty years, David had to learn the wisdom of self-discipline in his words. It was one of the most important lessons in his preparation to become king.

David knew Saul hated him; it was apparent. And in those years while he waited to ascend the throne of Israel, he learned the godly skills needed when someone is out to get you.  It would serve him well as king later.

David had two opportunities to kill the king who was pursuing him relentlessly.  Both times he turned down the opportunity because David understood that his future was in the Lord’s hands and so was Saul’s.  Therefore, in his integrity he said: “The Lord Himself will strike him; or either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish.  But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed.”  I Sam 26:10-11

Having an ‘enemy’ is not the worst thing in the world to happen to us.  Actually it’s good for us.  Our ‘enemy’ is in fact a gift, an opportunity for you and I to learn the kind of wisdom and forgiveness that only God can teach us; and an opportunity to do as the Lord taught us: “Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” Matthew 11:29

How we behave towards our ‘enemy’, especially with our words, is important to the development of godly character within us, AND it is equally important with relation to the example we set before others.

When we are put in a position to need to respond to an uncomfortable or confrontational situation, the Spirit of the Lord is well able – and willing – to give us the exact words we need IF we will let Him be in control of our tongues.  In fact Proverbs 16:1 says in part, ‘…from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue.’

A few years ago I was reading through a few of the psalms one morning and I was startled when I got to Psalm 65. Directly translated from the Hebrew, verse 1 says this:  “To You, silence is praise; and I will praise You in Zion.”  Metsudah Translation Immediately, I felt the Holy Spirit quicken the first part of that verse to me in the very context we are discussing this week.

Interestingly, the very same day, I read Proverbs 15 which begins with this verse: “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Application:

There are two ways to respond when dealing with an ‘enemy’.

There are times, to be sure, when silence is the best response to a criticism or rebuke that is given harshly and unkindly to us. Every impulse of our natural man is to ‘let them have it’ in no uncertain terms but we’ve just seen that the Scriptures give us two options: 1) to either keep silent as in Psalm 65:1 and by choosing to remain silent rather than lash out in anger, that silence becomes praise to the Lord who was ‘silent before His accusers’ or 2) if answering, to do so with a ‘gentle answer’ to avoid escalating the situation.

Doing either one of these as led by the Holy Spirit in each specific occasion gives evidence of integrity and maturity in the things of God.

Proverbs 29:11 A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.

Proverbs 12:18  There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

May the Lord help us to listen to His voice when we find ourselves dealing with an ‘enemy’ and may we take to heart the wisdom of King Solomon: ‘the tongue of the wise brings healing.’

The Power of Words #3 March 20, 2018

In the book of James, chapter 3, verse 2, we read these words: We all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. NASB

The Passion Translation renders this verse like this: We all fail in many areas, but especially with our words. Yet if we’re able to bridle the words we say we are powerful enough to control ourselves in every way, and that means our character is mature and fully developed. James 3:2 TPT

This verse from the book of James reminds me of Proverb 18:21: Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit.

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As I ponder these verses, I find myself deeply grateful for the promise in Lamentations: The Lord’s kindnesses indeed never cease for His compassions are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness! Lam. 3:22-23

I need His grace every day for life, for health, for patience, for perseverance, for every thing I will encounter during each day and most certainly, I need His grace every day to to keep my words pure and right in His eyes.  The tongue is something we must use every day.  How we use it has a great deal to do with the course of our life. One day at a time, as disciples of the Lord Jesus, we are called to have dominion over the words of our mouths.  Therefore, success in controlling our tongues is something we need to pray for daily.

It is the Holy Spirit, who dwells within each born again disciple of the Lord, who can teach us and train us what to say and what not to say, when to speak and when to keep silent. Jesus said in Matthew 12:36 that we would give an account of ‘every careless word’.  We need the daily cleansing of the blood of Jesus every day, don’t we?  I John 1:7

It is in our everyday conversations that we succeed or we fail to live up to the standard Jesus set before us.  Not only should we show some self-control in how much we say – lest we wear people out with our non-stop talking – but also in the words we choose to use with family, friends, co-workers and people we run into from time to time.

Can you bridle your tongue when your heart is under pressure? That’s how you show you are wise. An understanding heart keeps you cool, calm and collected, no matter what you’re facing.  Proverbs 17:27-28 TPT

For example, think about the prophet Samuel. He went to the house of Jesse at God’s bidding in order to anoint the next king of Israel.  In ancient Israel, the firstborn always received double the inheritance so it should come as no surprise that when Samuel saw Eliab, Jesse’s oldest son, he assumed that Eliab was the likely candidate.

He looked on Eliab and said, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before me.’  I Sam. 16:6  Imagine how Eliab and Jesse must have felt to hear the prophet of the Lord make that statement.

But Samuel was wrong in what he said. God quickly stepped in to correct him. ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. I Sam. 16:7

The respected prophet of Israel had just made a big mistake.  His tongue had gotten him in big trouble!  Samuel had to walk back his comments, admit he had been wrong and go through all of Jesse’s sons until he saw David, the youngest and heard the Lord say, ‘This is the one. Anoint him.’

It is not easy to admit that you’ve been wrong. Nothing challenges our big egos like being smacked in the face with evidence that says very plainly you blew it. You misread a situation or misjudged a person and SPOKE IT aloud.  We die a thousand deaths when that happens, don’t we?

Yet, my dear friends, though it hurts our pride and may even cause others to question our judgment in the future, the inner peace that comes from the Holy Spirit when we are honest about our failures more than compensates for the humiliation of ‘walking back’ what we have wrongly said.  When a prophet of God of the stature of Samuel is willing to humble himself and repent of his failure, he sets an example for all of us.

Perhaps David remembered this scene later in life after he had sinned with Bathsheba and was confronted by the prophet Nathan.  If you will read the account in 2 Samuel 12 David sets the same example that Samuel did.  When made to stare squarely at what he had done, David makes no excuses, he offers no rationalization.  When Nathan declares, ‘You are the man.’ David repents immediately, does not deny his guilt and accepts the humiliation.

We generally find it very difficult to recognize our own self-righteousness.  We are quick to judge others but very slow to see the same sin in ourselves.  As in David’s case, our own sins have a way of blinding us to our own truth, and we fail to see obvious shortcomings within ourselves.  That was David. And it’s all of us.

The only man in all of the Bible who is called ‘a man after God’s own heart’ (I Sam. 13:14) committed one of the most shameful sins a man can commit. Yet, as soon as he saw what he had done from God’s perspective, he said – out loud – ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ 2 Samuel 12:13  We cannot lightly dismiss this confession for we’re talking about the king of a nation.  His admission had huge repercussions for his reputation.  A cloud of shame hung over him for a long time in the eyes of the people.

But God wasn’t finished with David and it was this David who wrote Psalm 51, the most amazing declaration of sin, guilt, forgiveness and restoration.

Application:

Perhaps we have repented for words we should never have said. Perhaps we’ve forgotten some for which we have never repented.  The cleansing power of the Blood of Jesus is available to us right now.  He is willing to cleanse us from every sin, including every word we’ve spoken that was displeasing in His sight.  Let us repent from our hearts for every word that was out of character and/or opposed to the standard of integrity Jesus set before us.

He’s a forgiving God to those who repent but He also adds, ‘Go and sin no more.’

Yet if we’re able to bridle the words we say we are powerful enough to control ourselves in every way, and that means our character is mature and fully developed. James 3:2 TPT

The Power of Words #2 March 13, 2018

Last week we opened with these scriptures:

Proverbs 21:23 tells us: He who guards his mouth and his tongue guards his soul from troubles. (NASB)

And the same verse in the Passion Translation: Watch your words and be careful what you say, and you’ll be surprised how few troubles you will have. (TPT)

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There’s not a one of us who haven’t said things we regretted later.  We’ve all had to repent, far more than just once.  So why do we say some of the things we later have to repent for?  This week let’s look at some of the reasons that prompt ungodly speech.

SELF-PITY – when we feel that we are being unfairly treated or have to fulfill responsibilities that others don’t understand or appreciate, we can so easily feel sorry for ourselves. If you’ve been lied about, rejected or discriminated against or when you thought you had a chance at something special and then were derailed by someone else, self-pity tells you that life is passing you by and you’ll never see your dreams come true.

We’ve all been guilty of it but self-pity is not acceptable for a Christian.  When we utter words of self-pity, we expose our lack of confidence in God and His perfect plan for our life.  You see, God’s more interested in your holiness than in your happiness!  Ouch!  But it’s true.  When Jesus paid the highest price in the universe to make you a child of God, He had in mind that you would grow into His image and likeness.  And Jesus never uttered one word of self-pity!

Stuff happens.  It sure does. The issue is how we view it.  Any situation that would incline you toward self-pity is actually a TEST.  The Lord is looking to see if your faith in Him will triumph or whether you’ll fall into fleshly patterns. Every test is for advancement. Remember that.  Words we speak out of self-pity betray a lack of faith and trust in God’s plan for our lives.

SELF – DEFENSE:  A great man of God, Peter Cantrell, often says, ‘The greatest freedom is having nothing to prove.‘  How true that is.  The person who is compelled to prove that they are right and others are wrong is not free; neither are they humble.  They spend their energies struggling to make others think they know better or are smarter or wiser. They have a ready answer before the other person finishes the question.

The truth is that working so hard to prove your superiority actually exposes your weakness. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.  Luke 16:15

The most compelling feeling in the world is to defend yourself, to explain yourself, to vindicate yourself.  We all know what it feels like to want to be vindicated. Trying to be justified or exonerated before people is a crippling and counterproductive exercise. It is stressful and exhausting.  However, we can enjoy peace IF we learn and live by the principle: GOD does the best job of vindicating his servants.  If we try to do it for ourselves, He backs off. If we trust His word: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay.” Romans 12:19,  He’ll do it brilliantly!

FEAR – Speaking out of fear always leads to trouble – always!  Most lies are told because of fear: fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, fear of what other people think, fear of negative consequences if we tell the truth, fear of failure, fear of being hurt, fear of being controlled.  To say it another way, dishonesty is the system of controlling what scares us.

My dear friends, God loves you with an incomparable love; Jesus gave everything to make you His own.  You are utterly secure in His love if you have given your all to Him.

Proverbs 29:25 says: ‘The fear of man is a trap but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.’ Fear is a killer. Truth is life-giving. Words spoken from fear hinder our relationship with God and with others. We all have to repent for words spoken in fear, don’t we?

ANGER –  Angry words. Nasty words. Mean words.

Again we turn to the Proverbs. The man who controls his temper is greater than a powerful warrior who conquers a city.  Prov. 16:32  A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.  Prov. 29:11

What about ‘righteous’ anger?  There is a thin line between righteous anger and losing your temper.  Righteous anger is not about you; losing your temper is.

What the Bible calls righteous anger refers to attitudes about blatant sinfulness in a city or nation, corruption in government or business, desecrating the Name of God and the Word of God. Yes, there can be a holy, righteous anger about those things.

Losing your temper is entirely different.  That’s when something or someone sends you over the edge because what they did or said, or what happened, doesn’t fit your personal agenda for that time and place. You’re impatient, quick-tempered and in that state of mind, say and do things that do not in any way reflect the Christ in you.

Undisciplined anger can lead to serious sin.  Cain killed his brother, Abel, because he was angry. Anger explodes in cruel words, in harsh words and sometimes in expletives that should never cross the lips of anyone professing to be a follower of Christ.

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FATIGUE – This may surprise you but the truth is, we are easily prone to say things we will later regret when we are exhausted, tired out, worn out.  We get snippy, short with others, careless with our words and sometimes sarcastic.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed.  If we know – and we should all take this to heart – if we know that when we’re tired, we’re more likely to spew out something we’ll regret later, let’s have the good sense to bridle our tongues.  Let’s recognize that we’re not at our best when we’re exhausted, ask the Lord to help us and bite our tongues!

There are probably other reasons why we misuse words and find ourselves needing to repent for what we’ve said, but I pray that these few thoughts will be of help to all of us in our ongoing effort to make our speech pleasing and honoring to the Lord.

Some years ago it was quite popular to wear a bracelet with the letters, WWJD. Those initials stood for ‘What Would Jesus Do?’

I think of it from time to time and in the context of today’s lesson, perhaps we should train ourselves to ask, ‘What would Jesus say?’

Change your words – Change your world.

 

The Power of Words #1 March 6, 2018

Welcome to a new study series.  Instead of choosing a specific book of the Bible this time, I felt compelled by the Spirit of God to focus on a topic instead, the importance and power of our words.  Proverbs 21:23 tells us: He who guards his mouth and his tongue guards his soul from troubles. (NASB)  I especially like the way this verse is translated in the Passion Translation: Watch your words and be careful what you say, and you’ll be surprised how few troubles you will have. (TPT)

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To be sure, I lay no claim to mastering the art of guarding my tongue and have repented more times than I can count for words I regretted.  But one thing I do know: having reached the age when more of my life is behind me than what is ahead of me, I want to make every day count and every word I speak pleasing to my God.  How about you?

Let’s begin with a verse that grips my attention every time I read it.  It’s found in the New Testament in the book of Matthew.  “I tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”  Matt. 12:36  These words were spoken by Jesus and reflect precisely what is written in the Torah and the Prophets, the very scriptures that were familiar to the people of His day.

King Solomon wrote in the Proverbs: When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise. Proverbs 10:19

And in Proverbs 17:27 we read this words: He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.

And again, Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.  Proverbs 29:20

And perhaps the most significant verse regarding our speech in all of the Proverbs: Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21

‘He who restrains his lips is wise…’ we read above.  Wisdom is knowing what to say and when to say it, as well as what NOT to say and when NOT to say it.  Whether or not we have acquired wisdom will be manifest in how we talk.

The Bible does not sugarcoat the lives of the men and women in its pages.  We read of their triumphs and we also read of their failures and what some of them did and what some of them said at times were at times exceedingly wrong.  From the best of God’s servants we learn what not to do, as much as we learn what we should do.  And when it comes to our tongues, the imperfections and failings recorded are almost always traced back to their words.

Consider Adam: The very first conversation he has with God after eating from the forbidden tree finds Adam blaming his wife, not himself.  But look a little closer.  Actually he was accusing God!  ‘The woman You gave me…’ he says to God.  Since Adam mankind is so prone to blame others and not ourselves.  An irrefutable proof of our fallen human condition is our eagerness to defend ourselves, to shift the blame to someone else, to avoid admitting our guilt – all of which we do with words.  Pointing the finger at someone else for our failure exposes the fact that we have lost control of our tongue.

You may say, ‘Well I was thinking that so I might as well say it.’ Wrong! Look again at the scripture we started with: “I tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”   What we say is what gets us in trouble. Perhaps we need to pray more often: ‘May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.’ Psalm 19:14

Consider Sarah:  It was at her suggestion that Abraham slept with Hagar yet afterwards, Sarah gives Abraham a tongue-lashing. ‘You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering.’ Gen. 16:5  It’s a proven principle: those who carry within them the greatest sense of guilt are the ones who excel at inflicting guilt trips on others.  Abraham and Sarah survived the crisis but her criticism put a strain on their marriage.  The blame game always does that.

Application:

The words we say have more power than we realize. Our God created the entire universe with words.  ‘Let there be…’  We are made in His image and likeness; is it any wonder that our words also have power?

Of all of creation, we are the ones with the power of speech….like God.  It was bestowed on us that we might praise and worship our Creator, not for the purpose of cutting other people down.  We live in a world polluted by coarse, haughty and wicked speech.  As God’s people we are called to be different and a major evidence that you and I belong to the Lord is expressed by the way we talk.

Let’s each of us take responsibility for our tongues, repent for words we’ve spoken that have not reflected the Lord Who called us, and ask Him for grace to bring our tongues under His control.

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