Slashing or Soothing?

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At age 16, I knew that the Lord was inviting me to serve Him in pastoral ministry. My calling was clear but I was full of reasons why I shouldn’t, couldn’t take up that way of life. A veteran pastor who was visiting took time to listen to my heart, assuring me that nobody was good enough, smart enough to be “God’s man.”  He told me that God would guide, keep, and strengthen. I wonder if I would be a pastor today without that conversation?  16 years later, after a terrible year of failure that left me broken, another respected leader took time to sit with me and to remind me that God was not finished with me yet. What a blessed use of words to encourage and build up.

Yes, I have also experienced those conversations where words were used like a knife, cutting deep. Cruel and calculated to inflict maximum harm, those words bloodied my heart.  I stumbled onto an email a few days ago that was beyond honest, with words that slashed at my motives and character and even though it was an old one, it was hard to ‘hear’ those words.

To be authentic, I must acknowledge that my words are not always positive, loving, or encouraging – Help me, Lord!

James challenges us to remember the power of our words. He writes: “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! My friends, this can’t go on.” (James 3:5-10, The Message).

Our tongues are wild, untamed things. Changing what we say on our own is impossible. Why? Because our words flow out of the wells of our heart. Our deepest values and most private thoughts will eventually bubble to the surface if we babble on long enough. No one can make his heart new by his own efforts. If we are self-absorbed, insecure, mean, profane, or filthy-minded; it will always show up in our conversations.

That is why we need Jesus!

He is a heart specialist. When His grace and love full into us and when we cultivate a day to day intimacy with the Holy Spirit, we are changed- from the inside out! I love the down-home illustration that our Lord used to make this point. “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is idea identified by the kind of fruit it produces. Figs never grow on thornbushes or grapes on bramble bushes. A good person produces good deeds from a good heart, and an evil person produces evil deeds from an evil heart. Whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” (Luke 6:43-45, NLT) What fruit will others pick from your conversations today?

Listen to your words.
Do they deal death or bring life?
Do they encourage or take away hope?
If you need to be honest about another’s sin or failings, (and we must be truthful) are you careful to be gentle, correcting with the desire to restore; or does your harshness crush the soul?

Need to tame that tongue?
James says that YOU CAN’T but the Spirit can.  Any filter we try to put in place will fail. The source must be changed. So, get with Jesus and pray for a changed heart. Ask Him to wash out bitterness, envy, cynicism, unforgiveness, even hatred – replacing those evil fruits with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and good. Use that gift of speech to bless others and to cause those around you to thank God for His grace, expressed through YOU!

The word from the Word is a prayer … mine and I hope yours, too.  “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. … May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:12, 14, NLT)

______________

Ancient Words

Holy words long preserved
For our walk in this world
They resound with God’s own heart
O let the ancient words impart

Words of life words of hope
Give us strength help us cope
In this world where’er we roam
Ancient words will guide us home

Ancient words ever true
Changing me changing you
We have come with open hearts
O let the ancient words impart

Holy words of our faith
Handed down to this age
Came to us through sacrifice
O heed the faithful words of Christ

Martyr’s blood stains each page
They have died for this faith
Hear them cry through the years
Heed these words and hold them dear

We have come with open hearts
O let the ancient words impart
O let the ancient words impart

Lynn DeShazo © 2001 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music [DC Cook]))

CCLI License # 810055

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