The Tongue -- A Tool To Motivate or Annihilate (A Repost)

My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. 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. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
— James 3

In this chapter, James has a lot to say about the tongue, but I think it can be summed up very simply. The tongue, though a small member of the body, can perform great works in our lives. It has the power to heal, help, and encourage, but it also has the power to hurt, anger, and destroy. The difference is in how we use our tongues and in how well we have the tongue under control.

As a child, one thing my parents drilled into me is "Think before you speak." Before we utter any sound from our mouths, we ought to stop and ask ourselves a few questions:

1. Does this need to be said?

2. Will these words help or hurt?

3. Are these thoughts pleasing to the Lord, and therefore, thoughts that should be voiced?

4. Can I rephrase this to make it an encouragement instead of an accusation?

It's so easy to allow our tongues to get the best of us. When frustrated or stressed, we tend to say things that we later regret. Let's strive today to be more careful about how we use our tongues. The tongue is a gift from the Lord and should be used for His glory. Let's uplift instead of tear down. Let's make a special effort to keep control of our "little member." After all, a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

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The Ones That Got Away

As you can see, I have not fallen off the face of the earth, and I do apologize that it has been so long since my last post.  Between getting our house ready to sell, finding a home for Barnabas (which we did), and traveling thousands of miles (yes, thousands!) over the past month, it’s been all I can do to keep straight where I am and what day it is.  But I can tell you this, I’ve missed sharing my heart with you, and I couldn’t let another day go by without writing to you.  So, from the comforts of the hotel room where I’m currently staying, I bring you today’s devotion.

And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
— Luke 5:1-8

I’ve written and taught from this passage so many times, I thought I knew it backward and forward.  I’ve discussed the empty nets, the hopeless fishermen, and the miraculous catch.  I’ve explored—I thought—every angle of this account, but this week, the Lord opened my eyes to something I’ve missed.  For as many times as I’ve read, studied, and quoted this passage, there was a glaring point I’ve overlooked.  Thanks to a sensational message by Dr. Caudill, the director of our mission board, I now understand this story in a whole new way.

I would like to draw your attention to Jesus’ command to the disciples.  Though they had fished all night and caught nothing, He commanded them to let down their nets for a draught.  Notice the plural form “nets,” as in, more than one.  I have no idea how many nets the disciples had, but we know they had more than one because the second verse of the passage tells us as much.  Besides that, being professional fishermen, it’s safe to assume there were multiple nets.  

So, Jesus tells them to let down the nets.  Pay close attention to Peter’s response.  On the surface, it seems good.  Obedient.  Of faith.  He tells Jesus that they had been out all night and caught nothing but because Jesus commanded, they would obey.  Then, Peter proceeded to let down “the net.”  Did you catch that?  Net, as in one.  Not nets—plural.  Just one.  One net.  Peter obeyed the Lord. . .sort of.  He acted but not in complete obedience.  For whatever reason, he failed to let down all the nets and settled for just one.

As a result of his incomplete obedience, notice what happened.  The net became so full, it broke.  Imagine how many fish the disciples could have caught that day if they had let down all the nets.  But instead, they didn’t even get a complete net full because when the net broke, some of the fish got away.  Yes, they brought in a great load, but they could have had so much more if they had only obeyed completely.  They could have had God’s best, but they settled for good enough.

I don’t know why Peter didn’t throw out all the nets.  Maybe he didn’t really believe it was worth the trouble.  After all, they had fished all night.  They were tired, weary, and frustrated.  Maybe Peter—even though he partially obeyed—didn’t truly believe they would catch anything.  If that were the case, why bother with more than one net?  Yes, maybe it was a lack of faith that kept him from complete obedience.

Or perhaps it was the inconvenience of it all that caused him to hold back.  The beginning verses tell us the disciples had already cleaned their nets.  If Peter were to cast them back into the sea, they’d have to clean them again.  Who wants to do all that work twice?  

Or, it could be that Peter thought he knew better.  Yes, Jesus said cast out the nets, but surely one would be sufficient.  I mean, it’s not like it really matters, right?

But it did matter.  It mattered a lot.  And Peter realized it, but by then, it was too late.  The net had already broken, and the fish had already gotten away.  And Peter was sorry.  Sorry he hadn’t gone all in.  Sorry he hadn’t obeyed Jesus to the letter.  Sorry he hadn’t received God’s best.  And perhaps even sorry that he had cost others a portion of their livelihood because of his lack of faith.  Peter held back, and it cost him dearly.  Even though he experienced a miracle, he couldn’t rejoice in it because he realized he missed out on so much more.

What’s holding you back today?  What’s keeping you from casting out all your nets?  What is it that’s preventing you from obeying God completely?  Whatever it is, I urge you to learn from Peter’s mistake.  Don’t miss out on God’s best and settle for good enough.  It’s not worth it.  God has so much in store for each of us, but sadly we never get to see the extent of it because we haven’t fully surrendered to God.  He’s urging us to cast out our nets today.  All the nets, so not one single blessing gets away.  Will you obey completely, or will you hold back?  The choice is yours, but remember, that choice may affect others as well.  Don’t be responsible for the ones that got away!

Another Song in the Night

This is a difficult week for us. In addition to preparing for a LONG stretch of travel to various mission conferences, we are in the midst of a local mission conference, striving to finish fixing up the house and looking for a home for Barnabas. If the house isn’t finished before we leave (which is very likely to be the case), we’ll simply have to deal with the last minute details when we can; however, we must find a home for Barnabas before we leave on Saturday, and we’ve had no leads. We’re both tired and feeling the stress of all that must be done. But through it all, we are clinging to the truth of this song, and I wanted to share it with you today for all of you who—like us—are weary in well-doing.

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