Say What Now?

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Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.
— Psalm 15

In the above passage, the psalmist begins by asking a single question worded in a couple of different ways: who can abide in the Lord’s presence? Then, he continues the passage by answering his query. I think we can all agree, based on the rest of the chapter, the one who can dwell in God’s presence is one who is upright, good, and seeking to do God’s will, right? It’s pretty straightforward.

Still, as I read through chapter 15, a single phrase jumped out and practically slapped me in the face. It’s a simple group of words, easily overlooked, but God used it to remind me of a powerful truth—truth itself. “Speaketh truth in his heart.” Notice, it doesn’t say this man (or woman) speaks truth from the heart. It plainly states in the heart. Upon recognizing that, I was forced to examine what things I was speaking in my heart, and I was shocked to discover more lies than truth.

“I’ll never get better. No matter what I do, my health will continue to get worse until I waste away.”

“I’m such a loser. Look at what everyone else is accomplishing and look where I am.”

“We’ll never make it to the mission field. People don’t care enough to give to missions anymore.”

“I might as well quit while I can. This road is obviously far too difficult for me.”

“I’m supposed to be a helpmeet to my husband, but I guess that’s just one more thing I’m failing at.”

I wish I could tell you the list ends there, but it doesn’t. And the saddest part is these vicious lies spin about in my heart and mind day after day. . .and night. Is it any wonder then I often feel so far from God even though I’m spending time with Him daily? I read my Bible. I spend time in prayer. I also spend quiet time just resting in Him, trying to dwell in His presence.  Of course, that time is often interrupted with a flurry of lies that threaten to drown me with their constant outpouring. So, I go about my day, hoping and praying to find some peace and joy in the midst of what feels like a defeated life.

On the one hand, I’m doing the right things to live a life in step with my Savior, but in this area, I’m missing the mark. I’m not speaking the truth in my heart, especially in what I have to say about myself. I’m a harsh and cruel critic, and the enemy tries to convince me I’m only being honest with myself, but he’s a liar and cannot be trusted.

There are many verses in the Bible I can claim to replace those lies with truth. One of the most powerful and far-reaching ones is Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. That means I can get better. I can accomplish what God has called me to do. We can make it to Wales. I can continue to travel this road. And I can be the helpmeet God desires me to be. I can do these things and much more through Christ working in and through me. That’s the truth, straight from the mouth of God.

Dear one, perhaps like me, you’ve been speaking lies in your heart. If so, I urge you to replace those lies with the truth. No matter what you’re facing, God is big enough to handle it. And no matter how worthless you feel, God assures us, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. If we want to spend more time in God’s presence and less time in the dumps of despair, we would do well to guard our hearts against the lies we say and believe. It makes all the difference in the world!

No One Can Tame the Tongue

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As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I regretted them. I knew better than to allow such nastiness and negativity to take over, yet I seemed powerless to stop it. The hurtful words flew like an arrow, straight and true, piercing the person I love most in this world. And in that instant, a battle broke out as we hurled both blame and insults like sworn enemies instead of treating one another as husband and wife.

When two people—no matter how much they love one another—are tired and stressed, there are bound to be arguments. With both of us working full-time and doing deputation, “tired and stressed” wouldn’t be a stretch. Still, the disagreement wouldn’t have erupted like it did if I had kept my mouth shut. I should have. I had just finished writing a beautiful devotion about love and how I planned to incorporate it into my life this year. As the negativity rolled about in my head, I tried to replace it with the truth: Love is kind. It isn’t easily provoked. But despite my attempts to hold my tongue, I spewed my cruel words like a dragon breathes fire. What is wrong with me?

According to the Bible, the answer to that question is this: the same thing that’s wrong with everyone else. In continuing our series on the Negatives in the Bible, I want to move on to the phrase “no one.” Let’s begin with this:

But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
— James 3:8

Wow! That’s quite a statement, isn’t it? No one can tame the tongue. Not you. Not me. Not the “saintliest” of saints or the sweetest old lady at church. No one! Why? Because the tongue is unruly. It doesn’t take instruction. It does what it wants and says what it feels like saying. Or does it?  Yes and no.

As I read this morning’s verse, I was heartbroken. “Great! So you’re telling me no matter how hard I try to watch my words, it’s impossible. Good to know! (Insert sarcasm.)” Seriously, though, I found this news discouraging. Over the past decade as a writer, speaker, and Bible teacher, I’ve instructed many to guard their tongue and pay attention to their words. Could it be I’ve been teaching it wrong all along? Again, the answer is, yes and no.

The tongue cannot be tamed. The Bible makes that clear. However, the heart can, and what’s in the heart comes flowing out of the mouth.

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
— Luke 6:45

Rewind to the, ahem, discussion I had with Jason a few days ago. The thoughts were rolling around in my head long before I said them, which means the bitterness and resentment had already poisoned my heart. It was only a matter of time before they spewed from my lips. The problem, then, wasn’t my tongue. It was my heart. I had allowed past hurts and perceived injustices to eat away at me until I was harboring “evil treasure.” And once my heart was full to overflowing, all that evil treasure came pouring out, and it was ugly!

So, how do we keep this from happening? How do ensure our heart is full of good treasure? The first thing we must do is spend time with God. Read and meditate on His Word. Allow it to become a part of our lives, not just a few words we read in the morning before starting our day. No, we must allow it to sink in, all the way to the heart. Only then will it change us.

We also need to stay in constant communication with God. It’s challenging to think evil thoughts and nurse our hurts when we’re talking with the Lord. I know we’re all busy, and it seems like it’s too time-consuming to stop and pray, but I’m not talking about ceasing from our daily tasks. We can pray while we work. Use the drive time or the time waiting in the grocery line. Steal away the minutes we use in frivolous activities like social media. We can always find time to pray, and it will do us a world of good.

While we’re at it, let’s praise and worship God. Again, it’s nearly impossible for negativity to find a hold when our hearts are focused on how good God is and how much we’ve been blessed. Praise focuses our hearts on the positive in life and even has a way of making the bad look good.

Lastly, we need to pay attention to what comes in through our eyes and ears. The music we listen to, shows we watch, and people we hang around with impact our hearts. We must guard against allowing garbage into our lives because when garbage goes in, garbage comes out, and its favorite exit is the tongue!

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
— Proverbs 4:23

What Are You Saying?

How would our lives change if we regularly spoke positive truths into our hearts and minds instead of allowing ourselves to meditate on and talk about all that’s wrong with the world?.png

I have a confession to make—I talk to myself. Yes, it’s true. I regularly carry on conversations with myself. Most of the time, the discussions take place inside my head, but occasionally, the words spill out of my mouth. I guess it’s a good thing the only one to witness my crazy behavior is Barnabas.

I have a feeling, though, I’m not the only one talking to herself. Am I right? We all tend to run ideas around in our head and talk them through with ourselves. And that’s not a bad thing as long as the self-talk is positive.

Unfortunately, most of what I have to say to myself and about myself is negative. I complain about things. I berate myself for making a mistake or forgetting an important task. I bemoan my lack of discipline and criticize my valiant efforts.  I am my own worst enemy, and I often forget the power of words.

In Joel 3, the Scriptures describe a battle and a day of judgment. God is calling out all of those who have stood against Israel down through the ages and is issuing a challenge to them. He urges them to prepare for war, and notice what He says in verse 10:

Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.
— Joel 3:10

The first half of the verse seems logical. If you’re preparing for war, one of the most important things you need to do is ready your weapons. That’s just common sense. But note the latter half of the verse: “Let the weak say, I am strong.” That, my friends, is positive self-talk, and God Himself recommended the armies use this tactic before going to war. For them, it would do little good because they were acting against God instead of with Him, but for us, this tactic could change our lives.

I’m not talking about being vain or arrogant. No, I’m suggesting we speak the truth as God sees it rather than our warped perception of life. Most days, I do well to get by physically, and I don’t praise myself for my strength because I don’t see strength. I see weakness. I feel pain. And I comment on these things. But I have forgotten that Philippians 4:13 tells me, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. With Christ working in and through me, I am strong.

Let the weak say, “I am strong.”

Let the ugly say, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Let the confused say, “The Lord directs my steps.”

Let the weary say, “The Lord is my refuge and my strength.”

Let the anxious say, “My times are in God’s hands.”

How would our lives change if we regularly spoke positive truths into our hearts and minds instead of allowing ourselves to meditate on and talk about all that’s wrong with the world? I dare say we would be happier, healthier, and more peaceful.

God’s battle plan for these soldiers involved preparing their weapons and preparing their hearts and minds for battle by strengthening their resolve with words. I wonder if that’s why military commanders often give motivational speeches before setting off to war. It makes sense. Friends, every day for the Christian is a battle. We are in a war against Satan, the powers of this world, and our flesh. God has provided us with our armor and weapons (Ephesians 6), and He’s even given us the guidebook for our positive self-talk. The Bible holds all the truth we will ever need.

I must stop putting myself down. I’m defeating myself in the battle before the enemy even has the chance to take a swing at me. With my negative thoughts and conversations, I’m setting myself up for failure and defeat. It’s time for me to remember that I hold the power of life and death, and that power resides in my tongue. May I use it wisely!

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
— Proverbs 18:21