Covid’s Speech Lesson

Covid descended upon me in December, and our home became very quiet. Due to potentially coughing every time I wanted to speak, words were few and my wife lived in “Silent Night.”

During those days, this thought came to mind: Most of us talk too much, and too often about things that don’t matter; many of us do not talk enough about what’s really important.

Then the following arrested my attention one morning while reading the latter chapters of Job in his response to God, Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. (Job 40:4). Having told his friends to put their hand over their mouths (21:5), now Job knows he must do the same lest he speak out of turn with God.

Perhaps it would do each of us good to take a cue from Job.

David prayed something along the same lines, Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! (Psalm 141:3)

Please, honestly ask yourself the following questions. Do some personal inventory as I have.

  1. Do I need to put my hand over my mouth?
  2. Do I need to share “that information” with everyone, and is it completely true?
  3. Do I gossip, participate in gossip or listen to gossip?
  4. Do I need to give my opinion on everything?
  5. Do I speak of other’s sins but seldom speak of my own?
  6. Do I talk about others more than I talk to God about others?
  7. Do I complain and whine and criticize rather than rejoice, encourage and praise?
  8. Do I talk more about myself and what’s on my mind than talking about my Savior, my Lord, my Friend, my King and what He has done?

Solomon put it this way, A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent (Proverbs 17:27-28).

Don’t let Covid have to teach you this important lesson of life. Lay your hand to your mouth (Job 40:4).

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

Preachers, His Name Is Holy!!

For those of us who make a living by communicating the Words of Life, may I offer a strong, loving encouragement from my heart?

Please be careful how you use the names of God and the Lord Jesus Christ in your preaching and everyday speech.

Against the backdrop of Jesus’s words on Pharisaical hypocrisy in prayer, He said, Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name (Matthew 6:9). To “hallow” something is to recognize it as holy, great, and set-part from all other.

So, to hallow God’s name, we are exhorted to speak and/or use His name in such a way that sets His name preeminently and transcendently above every name in the universe! His name is to be revered, protected, adored, and magnified with humility and utmost respect.

Exodus 20:7 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Ezekiel 20:14 – But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out.

Acts 4:12 – And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

So, may I ask, how do we reverence and magnify the holy name of God when His name is used so flippantly in the pulpit or in everyday conversation? Here are some examples:

  • A joke is told or a funny line is used when preaching and then tagged with, “Well, praise God!” or “Well, bless God!” Example of one I heard recently – “How many of you remember filling the Christmas tree the last time I was here with Starbucks gift cards? One? Oh, there’s another, two. God bless you sister!”
  • In the moment of a highly emotional declaration in preaching there is the follow-up of, “Great God Almighty!”
  • In the south, we are notorious for saying such things as, “Lord, have mercy!” Or, in sounding like a cry for assistance we say, “Jesus, help me!” Or, even, “Oh my God!”
  • Using the Lord’s name repeatedly in prayer. Can you imagine using another person’s name in conversation as many times as we use the Lord’s name in prayer? Sometimes it sounds like Baal-worshippers on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18; Matthew 6:7).
  • Although I am speaking to preachers, I must include so-called Christian comedians who throw the name of Jesus around like its any other common name and all for the goal of gaining some laughter or applause.

Isaiah 42:8 – I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

Leviticus 19:12 – You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.

Isaiah 9:6 – For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

So, preachers, myself included, let’s honor and cherish God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, by protecting and reverently proclaiming the name that is above every name!

Philippians 2:9-11 – Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Take a Breath!

As I entered the hair shop where my wife and I have gone for almost 20 years, two ladies were engaged in a gleeful “1,000 words-a-minute” conversation! With my loud voice, I interrupted this exchange and said, “Ladies! Take a breath!!” The room was filled with laughter, and I have since gained a friend in her 80’s who has not forgotten that moment. She’s a hoot anyway!

For most of us, we love to talk. We have something to say.

Question: Are you talking to the right people?

  1. You have a complaint. Do you talk to the person who is part of the problem or who is a solution to the problem? Or do you talk everyone else, filling your listener’s ears with your criticism?
  2. You have an issue/problem/misunderstanding with someone in your family. Do you discuss your “concern” with other family members rather than the family member with whom you have an issue/problem/misunderstanding?
  3. You disagree with church leadership on a decision. Do you talk to someone in leadership to get clarification and have your questions answered or do you speak to others in the church family to get their “viewpoint” and “prayer” on that decision?
  4. You have been offended/wronged/sinned against. Do you hold a grudge which develops into defiling bitterness and discuss this with anyone who will listen or do you forgive and not talk about that person? (Colossians 3:13; Hebrews 12:14-15)

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)

Recently while chatting with someone in the store, they shared their negative thoughts, in passing, about someone that I have never met. Quite frankly, their comment soured our conservation in my mind. What do you suppose will come to my mind if I ever meet this person? Yes, those negative words.

Words are a gift from God and need to be stewarded faithfully. Take a breath, and let’s redirect our words to that which would minister grace to the hearer (Ephesian 4:29) and would be acceptable to God (Psalm 19:14).

(Photo from widjiitiwin.ca)

An Epidemic in the Church

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There is a plague that has been and continues to sweep through the body of Christ around the world! This scourge has the power to hurt, ruin, maim, tarnish, destroy and kill. It is an epidemic!

What is it? GOSSIP!

The Apostle Paul in his concern for the Corinthian Church said, For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder (2 Cor. 12:20). Gossip here is defined as “whispering, secret slander; of the magical murmuring of a charmer of snakes.”

Romans 1:29-31 describes the sinful, rebellious actions of the unrighteous as being filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanders, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,  foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Here gossip is “a whisperer, secret slanderer, detractor.”

“Sinful gossip is bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart” (Pastor Matt Mitchell). This “bad news” may be the truth, but it becomes “bad news” when brought up out of the well of a deceitful, selfish, proud heart.

Within the church, it is much easier to talk to other people about someone with whom you have issue than to talk to that person directly with the desire to humbly understand, listen, and biblically correct the situation (Matthew 5:23-24; James 4:11)

It is also easier to talk to other people about someone than to talk to God about it in humble prayer. A gossiper does not believe in the power of a sovereign God to perfectly handle any situation or issue.

You see, if you slander, gossip, speak evil of another to someone, that thought is hard to be removed the next time the one gossiped about is seen again by the “informed.”

How many pastors, deacons, Sunday School teachers, laymen, brothers and sisters in Christ have been maligned by an evil tongue?

How many churches have been split or damaged because of one tongue hinged to an evil heart?

For now, I leave you with God’s viewpoint on this issue. Instead of destroying others with our tongue, lets destroy gossip!

Proverbs 18:21 – Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Proverbs 26:20 – For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.

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.

Ephesians 4:29 – Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Shhhhh!

Sometimes, it’s best to say a few words or nothing at all.

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble (Prov. 21:23).

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few (Ecclesiastes 5:2).

He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive (Proverbs 17:27-28).

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent (Proverbs 10:19).

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

My prayer today: Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips (Psalm 141:3).