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

Advertisements

Be Sure that What You Say is Worth Saying

I could stop this blog right there. If all of us (including me) would simply adopt this as our motto we’d all be better off. Fewer people would be hurt; fewer conversations would escalate into arguments; fewer outrageous things would be said – and repeated; there would be fewer headlines in the media (maybe they would actually have to find something newsworthy to report!); fewer unsubstantiated things would be repeated over social media – you get the idea.

Think how quiet it would be!

Words matter. That’s why God has so much to say about the way we talk in both the Old and New Testaments. Check out the term word in a concordance – you’ll find that it appears over 1100 times in the Bible, often in the context of how words are to be used and the importance of words.

A few examples:

Proverbs 15:1
A kind answer soothes angry feelings, but harsh words stir them up.

Proverbs 16:24
Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

Proverbs 25:11
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

James 3:2
For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.

It’s significant that Jesus is known as The Word (John 1:1, 14). It’s equally significant that God chose to communicate with us through the written word, the Bible. There are other forms of communication – we use them all of the time to communicate to other people: pictures, facial expressions, gestures, body language.

Even if these forms weren’t adequate to communicate the gospel message, God, being God could have come up with another form other than words (don’t ask me what, I’m not God).

But He chose words. Makes them really significant.

Every day you get to use a method of communication that God sanctified and used for the holiest of purposes.

The problem is that we have taken words/speech so for granted that we have devalued it to the lowest common denominator. We don’t value words the way God values words.

So we use words – the medium that He chose to describe His Son and to communicate the most important message you will ever receive – to lie, deceive, spread hate, devalue other people, cheat, exaggerate, misrepresent, argue and perhaps dozens of other things that are less than worthy.

As a young boy my parents taught us to pray Psalm 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight. It’s God’s way of saying Be Sure that What You Say is Worth Saying.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Sometimes You Might Need Some Duct Tape!

Some of the most valuable lessons in life are learned in the school of hard knocks. There are life-lessons that will never be picked up through formal education or in books. Many things are only learned through experience. I’ve (sometimes unfortunately) had to learn many lessons that way. I’ve also learned many great lessons through experience, such as, you can fix almost anything with WD-40 and duct tape!

Popular Mechanics online lists 15 useful things you can do with duct tape, including,

• waterproofing your shoes
• removing pet hair from your furniture
• as a make-shift pest strip
• covering power cords in a high traffic area
• repairing holes in a sleeping bag, beach ball or snow pants

My all time favorite use of duct tape was the pilot in Alaska whose small plane was ripped apart by a bear who smelled fresh bait left in the plane. After surveying the damage the pilot radioed for a plane to drop him three cases of duct tape which he used to wrap his plane and then he flew home!

Another creative use of duct tape happened this past weekend in the NBA playoffs. The coach of the Dallas Mavericks had previously been fined $25,000 for criticizing the refs. In the post game interview, rather than risking another hefty fine, he tapped his mouth shut. Not a bad idea! Words can get you in trouble.

The Bible talks a lot about the power of words. For example,

Proverbs 12:18
There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health

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

Matthew 12:35
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things

James 1:26
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless

One of the hardest things for any of us to do is to control our words. David, the Psalmist, recognized just how difficult it is and prayed; Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth (Psalm 141:3). If this is an area that you struggle with, maybe that’s how you should pray.

Asking God to guard your mouth, however, does not relieve you of responsibility. We are still accountable for our words. That means we have to stop make excuses for the way we talk to other people.

So here are six truthful statements to ponder:

• No, you don’t have the right to say anything you want to say

• Yes, you are responsible for every word you speak

• No, there’s no excuse that is acceptable for ungodly, unkind words

• Yes, your words have great power

• No, you are NOT a good person if your words are not good words

• Yes, your words tell everyone what is in your heart

One final thought – Sometimes you might need to use some duct tape.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Bless Your Heart!

It’s a Southern thing. If you’ve ever spent time in the southern states you’ve probably heard it. It’s said in that sugary sweet southern drawl that can only come from a true-born and bred southern belle: Bless your heart!

It sounds nice but it doesn’t always mean what you might think it means. As one southern belle explained; here in the South we believe in being polite, even if it kills us…so sometimes when we really want to say something nasty, we just say “Bless your heart” because it makes us feel better.

For the southern ladies the phrase has a wide range of meanings from can you believe she wore that dress (which would then be Bless her heart) to I wish I could make it better. Believe it or not there’s a real art in knowing how and when to use it. If you want more insight into the mind of a southern lady read this light-hearted article titled The Many Nuances of “Bless Your Heart” . . . written by a true southern belle. Check it out here.

On a more serious note we Christians have some of those less-than-helpful phrases. Things we say that on the surface can be taken to mean one thing but in reality mean something entirely different.

For example when someone catches you after church as you’re rushing out the door to take Billy to his Sunday afternoon soccer game – and they want to tell you all of their problems. And you throw them a I’ll pray for you. Which means if I ever remember whatever it was you said I’ll add it to the end of my next prayer – and then promptly forget about it.

Or – and here’s one from the book of James (James 2:14-17), someone shares their burdens with you and you give them one of those be warmed and be filled brother, only today we say God bless you! But we really don’t do anything to help them.

Or how about the phrase, Just trust God, which gets us off the hook like we don’t need to do anything else because God will take care of it and we don’t help them carry their burden (check out Galatians 6:2).

The Apostle Paul reminds us let your speech always be with grace (Colossians 4:6). Words of grace are words that are authentic. They are words that help and heal and strengthen the one to whom they are spoken. They are words of genuine comfort and blessing to the hearer. They aren’t words spoken one way but with a hidden meaning. They are true, straightforward and clear.

Hey, it’s OK to say Bless your heart, or I’ll pray for you, or God bless you, or Just trust God, as long as you mean what you say and in saying it impart grace to the hearer.

So I want to say to you, Bless your heart! – and I say it with all sincerity. I want God to bless you in great and wonderful ways. I want God to bless you like you’ve never known blessing before. I want God to literally overwhelm you with His blessing. So again let me say, Bless your heart!

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Truth Matters or Does it Really Make a Difference How We Talk?

Several weeks ago I wrote a column on the tongue and how we speak. And how what we say affects people. I want to approach the same subject but from a slightly different perspective. If there is anything that Christians should value it is truth. After all, our faith is premised on truth. Jesus himself claimed to be the embodiment of truth (John 14:6), taught the truth (John 8:40), and encouraged His followers to know the truth (John 8:32). There is nothing more fundamental to our faith than this: Truth matters.

The Apostle Paul picked up that theme in the book of Ephesians where he encouraged us to practice speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). There are two elements to Paul’s statement and both of them are important. We are to be people who speak the truth; but we are to speak the truth in love. Speaking the truth without love will become judgmental. Ignoring the truth in favor of love will become weak and ineffective. It takes a balance of speaking truth in a spirit and attitude of love to avoid either extreme.

When we talk about truth as Christians our primary emphasis is the truth of the gospel, i.e. that Jesus, the eternal God, came to earth to die for sin and that anyone who seeks forgiveness can find it through His death and resurrection. Now that may be an extremely brief presentation of the gospel but my point is not to lay out all of the nuances of the gospel message. It is simply to communicate that the gospel is the ultimate truth. However, the principle of speaking the truth in love does not end with the gospel; it goes beyond the presentation of the gospel and encompasses everything we say. Whenever we speak we are to speak truth and we are to do it in love. The importance of truth is why God hates lying (Proverbs 6:16-17, 12:12) and regards our words as the most dangerous part of our lives (James 3:2-6). You may not think that what you say is that important but the Psalmist compares words to sharp swords and dangerous arrows that can pierce the body (Psalm 64:3). The New Testament writer James is equally descriptive when he says that the person who does not speak in love has a mouth that is set on fire by hell itself (James 3:6).

But I want to return to the idea of speaking truth. It is so important for us as Christians to measure what we say by the standard of truth. If we did, it would eliminate a lot of problems for us. We wouldn’t gossip as much since we’re not always sure that what we pass on is true. We wouldn’t lie. We wouldn’t repeat “half truths”. We wouldn’t say mean things. We wouldn’t argue as much (since arguments are not concerned with truth but with “winning”). If we really started speaking truth it would radically transform our lives and probably the lives of those around us.

When we stop to think about speaking the truth we have to admit that if we practice it, it will change a lot of what we say. Especially if we speak it in love.

Words Can Kill – or Heal

It seems like so much of life is linked to the idea of power. To some extent all of the following are influenced by power: economics, politics, employment, family and sports (I’m sure I’ve missed a few). Power is a scary thing. When abused it becomes dictatorial, when neglected it leads to chaos. We are all under power and we all exercise power over others.

 

You may not agree with that last statement, yet each of us have within our grasp an immense power. You may not possess the physical, intellectual or political power that other people have, but you do have at your disposal a power that is as potent as any power on earth. It’s the power of words. Never doubt the power that your words possess. The phrase the pen is mightier than the sword is true. Proverbs 18:31 says it a little differently but it has the same meaning: Death and life are in the power of the tongue. The New Testament writer James put it this way: Indeed we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder, wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things (James 3:3-5).

 

The Bible refers repeatedly to the tongue or how we use words. It warns us that our words can be used to destroy people.

 

Psalm 52:2 – Your tongue devises destruction, like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.

 

Psalm 64:3 – Who sharpen their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows – bitter words.

 

Psalm 140:3 – They sharpen their tongues like a serpent; the poison of asps is under their lips.

 

The good news is that we can also use words in positive and healing ways.

 

Psalm 35:28 – And their tongue shall speak of Your (God’s) righteousness.

 

Proverbs 12:18 – The tongue of the wise promotes health (or healing).

 

Proverbs 15:4 – A wholesome tongue is like a tree of life.

 

The choice is up to each of us. You can use words like a sword to cut and destroy others or you can use words to praise God and bring spiritual, emotional and even physical healing to others.

  

Two other passages that relate to how we use words are:

 

Psalm 139:23-24 – Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me (including how I use my tongue).

 

Proverbs 12:19 – The truthful lip shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.

 

Why only a moment? Because God will ultimately deal with a lying tongue and in God’s timing it will only last for a moment.

 

Be careful of the words that you use this week. They are powerful. They hold the power of life and death.

 

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve