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December 9

Monday, December 9th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Lasting vs Passing.

It is not unusual to hear or say-and I have-that Thanksgiving should be and is to be more than one day out of the year. Thanksgiving should be 24/7/365. The inference (although it is more than just inferred or implied) is that the spirit of Thanksgiving is so dominant in us that it weaves its way into every day of the year.

What would that mean if I said, “Christmas ought to be every day of the year? Does that mean we ought to have candy and cookies and eggnog and gifts and the other trappings of Christmas all year ’round? (I can say you will have a hard time with me saying no when it involves chocolate. But I digress… 🙂 )

In all seriousness, what does that mean? Seemingly endless shopping? No. Lights and decorations all year ’round? No. A tree in the foyer or living room? No on all counts. To say Christmas all year ’round is to have the attitude we find in Philippians 2: “Have this mind (attitude) among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Paul had just been talking about doing nothing out of selfishness or conceit. But instead, we are to look out for the interest of others.

THAT’S the spirit of Christmas! Humility. Selflessness. Who couldn’t benefit from an attitude like that displayed? Giving our lives away for the sake of the Gospel.

“Father, may my life exhibit the Christmas spirit of humility and selflessness all year ’round. May Christmas not be just a once a year event but a lifestyle of giving myself away on a daily basis.”

November 29

Friday, November 29th, 2019

My title for this devotion is God-speak vs Me-Speak.

Okay, so it is Friday, November 29, 2019.  Thanksgiving Day is over. Many spent the day enjoying family; laughing and joking; playing games; most importantly, speaking gratitude to God for His grace, goodness and provision. Words of good. Words of gratitude. Words of praise. And rightly so.

But those good words should not end-neither for God nor for others. But for many they will. It is like a switch is flipped the day after Thanksgiving which says, “Okay, that’s enough!” If only we could learn more completely that gratitude should be a part of us, something that flows from our heart, joints, ligaments and out of our mouth. Words.

That is why my Scripture reading hit me this morning with full force.

Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the wise man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.’  (Jer.9:23-24)

We have spent this past week hopefully in gratitude to a magnificent, awesome God. Why stop? Why suddenly be self-centered? Rude? Self-enamored? All about me?

“Father, may my heart and may my speech be filled with gratitude to You. May it continue on and not end just because Thanksgiving Day is over. May my speech be God-speak and not Me-speak.”

October 30

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

My title for this is Truth vs False.

When I was a kid I remember my parents watching a game show called Truth or Consequences. I don’t remember how it was played but the title itself sort of gives it away.  It gives away a life principle actually: tell the truth or there will be consequences. How well I remember being told, “Tell the truth. While there may be a punishment for your wrong, it will be worse if I find out later you lied.”

That is a great life principle. Period. Proverbs 30:7-9 are interesting verses. He asks 2 things: 1) Help me not to lie; and 2) give me what I need lest I take extreme measures to satisfy my need. It is the first one that I focused on this morning.

You see, I have to go to court today to testify on behalf of a friend. While I love and support my friend, my ideal plan is to stay out of the spotlight-even anonymous.  Not that I fear for me. I don’t.  But a subpoena is a subpoena and I am REQUIRED to be there. Jo and I have talked and she put it well: “This is (name of a past situation) all over again. Tell the truth. That’s all you can do.” She’s right. I have nothing to hide and any question asked of me will get one answer: the truth.  So the words of Proverbs 7 stay with me today.

“Father, not just today in a courtroom is truth to be told. All the time. All situations. Let me remember that while telling the truth at all times my hurt, the consequences of a lie are much greater.”

October 19/Weekend

Saturday, October 19th, 2019

My title for this is Listening First vs Speaking First.

It seem this past week has been the week to write and concentrate on speech, on what comes out of the mouth. I read Proverbs 18 & 19 together and chapter 18 goes with that flow.

There’s a saying when speaking about James 1:18 where it says we ought to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to be angry.”  They say, “God has given us two ears and one mouth. There’s a reason for that.” After reading Proverbs 18, I see that even more. LISTEN:

“A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.”  (6-7)

“The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.” (8)

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (13)

“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (15)

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (21)

“Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity, than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.” (19:1)

You get the point. I certainly do. It is time to listen better and speak less.

“Father, help me to heed my own words. Help to listen better, even listen twice as much as I speak. And when I speak, let them be words of life.”

October 17

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Telling the Truth vs Blowing Doors Off.

No matter what men may say; no matter how blustery they get; no matter how often a person might say, “Tell me the truth;” there are times hearing the truth is hard to take…especially when it is delivered by the wrong person or mean-spiritedly. I have met people who take pride in “telling it like it is” and I honestly don’t mind that. But sometimes that person just doesn’t know how to say it.

Receiving it is often not any easier to take. No matter how vocal the person is-“Tell me straight out”- important words are often accepted like fingernails on a chalkboard (you do remember what those are don’t you?).  Proverbs 17:10 says, “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.” Truth delivered in the right spirit to a person’s heart that is receptive to that truth is a good thing. The man of understanding- as Proverbs describes him- accepts the truth. It may be a bitter pill to swallow but the man of understanding grasps its intent. I’ve been on the receiving end of some much-needed reproof. Someone being honest with me, confronting me about something I’ve said or done. Hearing it is not fun, but essential.

Sometimes the truth is hard to hear and even harder to accept. But if it is from God, then I need to hear it. I can be obstinate and stubborn (the rest of 17:10 call that being a fool), or accepting and grateful someone loved me enough to tell the truth.

“Father, this all depends on the state of my heart also. Will I accept the reproof/rebuke or reject it? Help me not to be obstinate or too proud to hear what you are saying to me.”

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Today is Braden’s 13th birthday. Jo and I wouldn’t miss that for anything in the world. Interesting I should read this today from Proverbs 17: “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.” (v.6a).  Not too thrilled about the aged part, 🙂 but absolutely excited and thrilled by the grandson/grandfather part. “Lord, you know the prayer I began praying the moment I heard Janna was pregnant. Please hear my heart and bring it to fruit.”

The being said, I will not be posting tomorrow morning as we will be spending the night in Ohio; I will not have a computer; and we are bringing him back for the weekend so Tami can see him. Prayers for safe travel are appreciated.

October 15

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

I’m less than a day removed from cataract surgery in one eye (the other comes next Monday). I go back today for an exam and they will pop out the right lens of my glasses. I’m guessing that will help with the blurred vision.  So, that’s my excuse for errors in my typing today.  🙂

My  title for today’s devotion is Encouragement vs Discouragement.

“And seldom is heard and discouraging word/And the skies are not cloudy all day.” That’s a refrain from a cowboy song of yesteryear: Home, Home on the Range. It is, of course, sort of a Pollyanna song and view of life. It’s simply not possible to go through life without some discouragement.

But…I can go a long way toward not being part of that discouragement simply by watching what I say. Today’s devotion is a bit of a piggyback of yesterday’s on speaking too quickly (losing our temper) vs allowing time between what happens and our words. Today’s has more to do with what I say. Are the words I say encouraging someone or discouraging someone?

Proverbs 15:26b says, “…but gracious words are pure.”  Verse 30 adds, “The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the bones.”  Those verses tell me my reaction to others and events and their response, is largely determined by the way it is presented. That also reminds me that what I say is important but the way  I say it is equally important. Some questions flood my mind. Do I pass along good words? Kind words? Gracious words? Or do I pass along words that sting and hurt and are like barbs to a person’s soul? Are my words encouraging or discouraging someone? Do they rejoice someone’s heart and refresh someone’s bones?

Some people seem to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Do my words ease that burden or do they add to it and make it heavier? There is no doubt in my mind what and which words the Father would have me use and share.

“Father, may my words be those which lift other’s up. May they be words which echo Proverbs 15:30 and lift a heart and refresh the bones. Let my words today be words of encouragement and not discouragement. To put it another way: let them be words of life.”

October 14

Monday, October 14th, 2019

My title for this devotion is InstaPot vs Slow Cooker.

One of Jo’s favorite kitchen gadgets is her InstaPot. I’m not a kitchen aficionado by any stretch, but she has explained it to me as a gadget that speeds up the cooking process so that what would take multiple hours to cook can actually be cooked in a fraction of the time. That’s the dumbed-down version for me.  🙂

Now, that is in contrast to the slow cooker or what is called a crock pot. A slow cooker is designed to do just that: to slow cook food. This is one of Tami’s favorite ways to cook. Put something in the slow cooker before you leave for school/work; put it on a timer or on low; and when you come home at the end of the day it is hot and done. Tender. Moist. Same result as the InstaPot but it takes much longer.

That came to mind as I read Proverbs 14:17 this morning: “A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and man of evil devices is hated.” It is that first part that stuck out to me. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have seen people “lose it” and cause all kinds of havoc when, as they say, cooler heads would have prevailed. Battles have been fought; wars have been waged; churches have been split; relationships have been ruined all because someone could not keep their temper in check.

I once had a lady tell me, when I questioned her about her temper, that “people know where I stand and so I say what I got to say and then its over.”  I’d seen the devastation she left behind so I told her, “Yeah. Just like a bomb. You explode and leave all kinds of destruction in your wake.” Yeah…she wasn’t very happy with me. But least she didn’t blow up all over me.

Quick tempers; letting people know how you feel; indiscriminately blowing up; that’ s not good. Proverbs 14 says it is acting foolishly. And who likes to be called a fool? Stay under control. Guard that temper.

“Father, there are different reasons why people lose their temper. Help me not to be one of those people. Help me to keep my emotions and my reactions under control. Your control!”

October 10-11/Weekend Extra

Saturday, October 12th, 2019

I was in Ohio the past couple of days and didn’t take my computer so I am using my journal entry from Thursday morning to be my entry for this weekend.

My title for this devotion is Holy Speech vs Vulgar Speech.

I’ve been hit two ways this morning. First, in my Scripture reading from Proverbs 10: 11 & 19- “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life…When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”

Then as I sat waiting for Jo while she was taking care of some things, I was listening to my Spotify playlist and “Only a Holy God” by CityAlight came on.

I know I’m from the older generation (you know how it pains me to say that?  🙂 ), especially as a pastor, so what I’m thinking comes from that perspective. I have noticed some common characteristics of the younger generation of pastors. They seem to be a generation (and I am making a general statement here) that loves their beer (especially); loves their cigars or pipes; and loves to use salty language. Not all but many. There was some of that in my generation, to be sure, but it seems more acceptable and widespread today. I’m not judging someone who wants to down a beer or two or smoke a cigar or pipe (I have done neither), but I’m more concerned about the words that flow from the mouth, sometimes indiscriminately. I  keep thinking of James’ words in chapter 3: “Can blessing and cursing come from the same mouth? My brothers these things should not be.” I’m not young and Many younger pastors seem to be taking the freedom in Christ and His grace a little too lightly. In my mind and heart, vulgarity has no place in the pulpit or even in everyday language. And even though it is not considered vulgar or blasphemous, I cringe every  time I hear the word “sucks” or “screwed” in conversation, let alone from the pulpit. Call me old-fashioned, but I do believe godly speech is or ought to be one of the hallmarks of a man of God. I reiterate: I’m referring to a pastor or someone who feels God’s calling on his life.

And lest it be perceived I’m only shouting at those who cuss or swear, how about those of us who gossip? Or belittle? Or those who shade our words with sexual innuendo? Or criticize? Or (fill in the blank)? And so yes, I’m including myself. My speech in total reflects my heart and who controls it.

“Father, may my speech be that which builds up and encourages rather than tear down. May it glorify You in all ways and in all things. As the song says and Ecclesiastes 5:2 repeats: “Let my words be few.” All for You and for Your glory.”

Here is the CityAlight song that got to me.

October 1

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

My title for this devotion is Meaningful Words vs Blowhard, Empty Words.

I need to make a confession. I’ve been reading through Job in my morning Quiet Time and I’ve had trouble concentrating. I know the basic backdrop of Job.  He has it all. All but his life is taken away.  He has three “friends” who become very accusatory of him. He must have some hidden sin. He’s really not the righteous person he pretends to be. He is in rebellion against God. Blah. Blah. Blah. I’d say sarcastically “some friends they are” or “with friends like that who needs enemies” but I digress. You see…that’s not the whole story. They pretend in their blowhard, empty words to pretend to speak for God. They pretend to know God’s thoughts.

They don’t. If I was Job I’d say, “Take a hike!” In chapter 22, Eliphaz accuses Job of being wicked. In the margin of my Bible I highlighted verses 21-30 and noted it as Accusation of Job’s rebellion. Well, it appears Job has questions of his own. But they are not accusatory questions like I might raise. No. Just the opposite. He raises the fact that He cannot understand God because of the “bigness” of God. (23: 8-17).

Why is this important to me? Because I feel the same way at times. Wondering what I did to “deserve” the treatment I’m getting. I question my commitment. My walk. Am I holy? But it doesn’t come down to what I think or who I am. It comes down to what God thinks and who He is. Take a moment and read Job 23: 8-17 and see if doesn’t give you that perspective. It did me. “He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”

“Father, may my commitment to you only grow stronger through the daily struggles-be they big or small-I face. May I see the words of others- if they do not reflect You and Your Word- as blowhard, empty words which cannot affect or change Your view of me.”

August 19

Monday, August 19th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Open Mouth vs Closed Mouth.

I woke up this morning to the sound of a cricket that seemed to be right in my ear. I don’t mind hearing them when they are outside and I am inside. Or if I’m outside with them. I’m not too fond (translated: I can’t stand it) when I am inside and they are too. I finally pin-pointed where it was coming from, but that thing was so loud it fooled me. It was actually outside the kitchen window. Okay, so I let it go. But the guy wouldn’t shut up! He wouldn’t take a break from rubbing his legs together. He had to continually let me know he was there. After almost 45 minutes I finally said, “Enough” and turned the outside light on and went outside. He is no more. Silence. Sweet silence!

I know he was only acting according to his nature. Just like a bullfrog bulls. A skunk skunks (badly). A bird chirps. A cricket cricks. It is his nature to announce his presence by rubbing his legs together. Unless…someone comes around. Then he actually stops. He had actually stopped letting me know he was there when I went outside but I found him hiding.

Proverbs 17:28 says, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Like the old adage attributed to Abe Lincoln: “It is better to keep your mouth shut and thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Why do I feel like I always have to say something? Why can I not just keep my mouth shut? Sometimes when I speak, I speak words of good, words that might be considered wise. But sometimes I “open mouth and insert foot.” I need to be more selective when I speak and what I speak. I don’t always have to be heard. Those people sometimes get squashed.

“Father, may I choose wisely when to open my mouth and when to close it. The cricket who kept chirping is no more. May it not be that people long for me to be no more in their presence because of my mouth.”