Words Matter (A Lot!)

We all know intellectually that words matter, but we also forget – often. This was brought to my attention again this week when my words got me into trouble.

Sometimes we think that only certain kinds of words matter. The truth is that all kinds of words matter. It’s not just the negative words that matter – the positive ones matter even more.

Here are a few examples:

Angry words matter – they wound others.

Sad words matter – they are a cry for help.

Careless words matter – they indicate we a need to be more careful.

Unclear words matter – they can easily be taken in a way we didn’t mean them.

Negative words matter – they can crush someone’s spirit.

Positive words matter – they can build someone up.

Insensitive words matter – they show a thoughtless spirit.

Kind words matter – they will lift a person’s spirit.

Critical words matter – they will stop someone from trying.

Defiant words matter – they indicate a lack of respect.

Diplomatic words matter – they indicate a careful person.

Enthusiastic words matter – they move people to action.

The list goes on. I read a list of 180 different types of words that the author referred to as tone words. IE, words that indicate a certain tone in our voice that gives our words specific meanings and power.

The Bible warns us about the words that we use. Just in the book of Proverbs we read these statements about words.

Proverbs 12:18 – There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 13:3 – Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.

Proverbs 15:1 – A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 16:24 – Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Proverbs 18:21 – Death and life are in the power of the tongue.

Proverbs 21:23 – Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.

And then this one from the book of James.

James 3:5-6 – See how great a forest a little fire kindles!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.

Every so often we need to be reminded – I need to be reminded – just how much Words Matter.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

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What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?

Former presidents, current leaders and lawmakers and former political adversaries remembered George H.W. Bush as the president who guided America through the end of the Cold War, while dedicating his life to serving his country and doing so with remarkable kindness and class.

So read an article with the headline, Bush remembered by presidential peers, family. You can read the entire article here.

By all accounts, former president George H. W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, was a good and decent man. He is remembered that way by both his friends and political foes.

It’s a nice way to be remembered – as a man with remarkable kindness and class.

Far too few people in today’s world, especially in the line of work that he was in, will be remembered that way. Or even close to that.

So, how will you be remembered? What will they say about you when you are gone?

I can already hear some of you saying, I don’t care, I won’t be around to hear what they say.

That’s true enough. But your spouse will be; and your children will be; and your grandchildren will be; and people who love you will be. And they would like to hear good things about you.

If you can’t be a man or woman of remarkable kindness and class for yourself – do it for them.

And for Christians the reputation you leave behind is even more important. It will not only reflect on your family and friends, it will reflect on your church and more importantly on your Savior.

If you can’t be a man or woman of remarkable kindness and class for yourself – do it for Him.

The Apostle Peter put it this way: Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:11-12).

Have your conduct honorable. Other translations put it like this:

  • Always let others see you behaving properly (CEV)
  • Keep your behavior excellent (AMP)
  • Live such good lives (NIV)

The point is that of all people, Christians, when they die (and we all will), should be remembered as good, decent, kind people.

So, What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?

It’s not too late to change the perception.

Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 6:15).

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

The Important Things

There are important things in life and then there are those things that aren’t so important. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference.

I suspect that most of us spend the majority of our time on things that really aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things. We fight the brush fires – and there are many of them – which doesn’t leave us time to fight the forest fires.

So how do we determine what’s important and what’s not?

Everyone has their own way to measure the relative importance of a specific event, whether it’s shopping for a new dress (or tool!), spending time at work, watching television, reading your Bible, or praying. We always have a good reason for why we do what we do.

But many of our reasons don’t hold up under intense scrutiny. The truth is that we do what we do because we like to do it. Not because it’s the most important thing we could be doing, or even the most pressing thing we need to do. We just like to spend our time that way.

Is there a guide that will help us determine what’s important and what’s not?

I think there is.

Do you remember the bracelets people wore back in the 1990’s with the initials WWJD on them? What Would Jesus Do? It was a good question to ask, unfortunately I think it became more of a fad than a reality – it was just cool to wear them and we all thought we were spiritual giants. Wearing a bracelet never made anyone a spiritual giant.

Determining what’s important in life is similar to WWJD.  Only this time the question is, Is it important to God?

That’s how you can determine what’s important in life and what isn’t.

If it’s important to God it should be important to us.

I read an online article with the title, Whatever’s Important to You Is Important to God. That’s only true in a very restricted sense. Sinful things may be important to you but they’re only important to God as far as He uses them to get your attention and change your behavior.

The title is misleading. Turn it around. Whatever’s Important to God is Important to You.

The prophet Isaiah wrote about the rebelliousness of God’s people, when they refused to listen to the prophets. It just wasn’t important to them. As a result of their dismissal of God’s messages, judgement awaited them.

But the prophet also wrote about another day when God would bring His people back and they would live in peace and in obedience to Him. In that time he said, Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk in it. (Isaiah 30:21).

In other words God will say to Israel, This is important to Me, do it.

That’s a good message for all of us, not just for Israel.  All that God wants is for you to do what is important to Him.

That’s why we’re here. Not for ourselves but for Him.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

How Thankful Are We?

It’s the week of Thanksgiving here in the United States. It’s a time that we stop and think about how thankful we are. At least that’s the idea. But with family, food and football it’s difficult to squeeze in much time to think about thankfulness.

The question that I have is: How do you gauge thankfulness?

Is it a warm feeling deep down inside? The warmer the feeling the greater the thankfulness? Sounds too mystical.

Is it an assertion that says I’m thankful? And the more confident your assertion the more it becomes a reality? In that case A type personalities will certainly be more thankful than the rest of us.

Is it an attitude, a way of thinking? I think therefore I am. Doesn’t sound right.

Is it something that we just say so it must be true? Sort of like, I’m the best basketball player in the world – so I automatically become the best basketball player in the world. That would send Lebron James into fits of laughter.

So how do you gauge thankfulness?

Is it even possible to gauge thankfulness?

There must be a way to determine, say on a scale of 1 – 100, how thankful you really are.

As it turns out, there are several ways that you can gauge your thankfulness.

You can gauge your thankfulness by how generous you are.

God loves generous people.

Psalm 112:5 says It is well with the man who deals [with other people] generously.

In other words, God wants us to be generous.

I seriously doubt that you can give generously without being thankful for what you have.

And I believe that when you are thankful for what you have – knowing that it all came from God (Psalm 24:1, James 1:16-17) you will in turn be generous.

You can gauge your thankfulness by how much your generosity costs you.

Do you remember the story of the widow in Luke 21? After the wealthy people had dumped their bags of money into the treasury in the Temple in Jerusalem, she put in her two coins. They gave out of their abundance – which is better than not giving at all, but it didn’t cost them anything. They had plenty more where that came from. There was really no generosity in what they did.

Then she put in her two coins. They were all she had. Her generosity costs her everything.

Jesus’ commentary on it was this: I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.

Giving generously is not the same as giving extravagantly. But when you give generously it will cost you something.

You can gauge your thankfulness by your satisfaction in the difficult times of life.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God.

Being thankful in the good times of life doesn’t tell you anything about yourself except that life is good.

It’s when you can be satisfied with what God is doing in your life as the sky falls in that you know you are a thankful person.

The difficult times in life reveal a lot about us.

Being thankful is more than just saying you’re thankful. Saying it doesn’t make it so.

Being thankful is about what you do. It’s about your actions.

Thursday is coming. It’s time to be thankful.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Or is It?

We’re entering the Holiday Season. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner. Time to celebrate!

This time of the year means family, food and football for a lot of people. It means the changing of seasons and the leaves turning the beautiful colors of fall. It means parades, parties and presents. And snow! At least for those of us who live in the northeastern part of the United States.

As the song says, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! Or is it?

Not for everyone.

In all of the festivities it’s easy to forget that we are blessed. It’s even easier to forget those who aren’t.

There are so many people around the world who won’t enjoy the holidays the way you do – and some of them are just outside your back door.

The Bible has a lot to say about how we as Christians are to relate to the poor, especially in the book of Proverbs.

He who has mercy on the poor, happy is he (Prov 14:21).

He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy (Prov 14:31).

He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished (Prov 17:5).

He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given (Prov 19:17).

Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard (Prov 21:13).

Check out James 2:2-9 for a longer New Testament perspective on how we are to treat poor people.

There is a special place in the heart of God for poor people and there should be a special place in our hearts as well.

This holiday season find a way to bless someone who is less fortunate than you. Take a holiday meal to a poor family. Buy some presents for some children who won’t get any presents otherwise. Serve a meal at your local rescue mission.

There are many ways that you can help someone celebrate the holidays who is dreading this time of the year.

It’s not a matter of time – we all have the same 24 hours in the day. It’s not a matter of money (maybe it is for some) – we all have enough. It’s simply a matter of priority.

Make helping someone a priority this holiday season.

The rich and the poor have this in common, The Lord is the maker of them all (Prov 22:2).

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

Evil Will Be No More

There are certain place names that have been seared into our collective consciousness. Names we will never forget. Names that provoke instant, dark images in our minds.

Auschwitz, The Gulag, Chernobyl, Sandy Hook, Shanksville.

Add one more name: Tree of Life Synagogue.

You don’t have to be Jewish to be nauseated by what happened this past Saturday at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh, PA. Innocent people killed simply because of their nationality and faith.

We forget how strong hate is.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, writing against the backdrop of the Civil War reminds us of the power of hate in his poem Christmas Bells, later made into the song, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. (I especially like this dramatized version of the song that you can listen to here.)

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

If we stop to only look at the evil in our world this will be the verse we sing – over and over again.

But there’s more than just the power of evil in this world. And that’s the story of Christmas. Jesus came to defeat the powers of evil and in a strange twist of events did just that – not at Bethlehem but at Calvary (Colossians 2:13-15).

Longfellow seemed to understand that. He concluded his poem with these words:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

No God is not asleep. He knows what is going on in our world. He knows the evil. He knows the hurting. And someday, in His time, The Right will prevail.

We have that to look forward to. Not because Longfellow said it, but because the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob said it.

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days . . .

They shall beat their swords into plowshares,

And their spears into pruning hooks;

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

Neither shall they learn war anymore.

(Isaiah 2:2, 4)

Someday the Messiah will come and The Righteous One will sit on the Throne of David and there will be peace (Isaiah 9:7).

And that Righteous One will make sure that Evil will be no more.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Don’t be Like the Saudis

The Saudis are in a world of trouble over the Khashoggi affair. Call me Captain Obvious. I don’t bring this up to step into the world of politics, but to use it as an illustration.

Think about how the Saudi government has handled, or should I say mishandled this entire affair. There’s a good summary in the New York Times that you can read here. They have:

  1. Claimed that Khashoggi had left the consulate the same day.
  2. Denied that he was detained or killed in the consulate.
  3. Denied any involvement in his disappearance.
  4. Denied any knowledge of the affair until days later.
  5. Denied that their leaders ordered the operation to take place.

Is anyone really buying this?

So far they have done everything except admit the truth (that seems to be the opinion of many people). Slowly their explanations are unraveling.

In a kingdom as tightly controlled as Saudi Arabia their denials ring hollow. This is a sin that will reach to the highest levels of the Saudi government. Sooner or later the truth will come out.

But this blog is not about the Saudis. It’s about us. And OUR sins.

As Christians, when we sin we are tempted to act like the Saudis. We issue denials (even when no one else knows about our sin). We make excuses. We attempt to justify our actions. We offer alternative scenarios. We do everything except admit the truth.

While it’s easy to criticize the Saudis for their sin, we give ourselves a pass for our sin.

For us it’s not a matter of when the truth will come out. The Truth is already out – at least to the one who counts the most.

And that’s the insane part of this – God already knows so why do we try to hide our sin, or worse yet, act like it never happened?

It’s because we are more like the Saudis than we would like to admit.

We try to save face. We try to put the best spin on it. We try to come out of it smelling like a rose. Meanwhile the whole world (or at least the people who know about our sin) knows the truth. When we try to convince ourselves that our sin really doesn’t matter – it’s not that bad, we are kidding no one but ourselves. Just like the Saudis.

King David had the right perspective when he wrote, I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me (Psalm 51:3).

When it comes to sin, be like David. Don’t be like the Saudis.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve