Watch your mouth

WatchYourMouth“Na-na na-na Na-Na!” one of us siblings sing-songed to the other, laughing, skipping, sticking out his tongue.

Get the message? I won and you didn’t! Or, I got it and you didn’t! Or, I’m better than you are!

If my mama heard that, “Watch your mouth!” would be coming next. She didn’t put up with that kind of rude, disrespectful noise out of our mouths.

“Now say you’re sorry,” she would insist.

“Sorry” would be mumbled, head down, eyes looking up. Really sorry? No, not really, just sorry we got caught.

What difference did it make, we’d be thinking, if what we said was rude or ugly? Hurt his feelings? Made him feel bad? So what, he’d get over it. Wouldn’t he?

“We were just having fun,” we’d excuse ourselves. “Didn’t mean anything.”

“I don’t care,” Mama would emphasize, “don’t let me hear that kind of stuff come out of your mouth again.” And we wouldn’t – let her hear it, that is.

As my brother and I grew up, we started minding our manners a bit better. We were more careful how we expressed our selfish, holier-than-thou attitudes.

Then, we were both born again. Our attitudes began to change from the inside out; we began to learn that words really can help or hurt, create or destroy. But we also found that it takes work. It takes practice.

Nowadays I read multiple blogs and news stories on a regular basis. Like many of my friends, I use social media to keep in touch. I attend events like church services and prayer meetings. And I’ve noticed a troubling truth:

We Christians need to watch our mouth.

Just like the world, believers are apt to say “My back is killing me.” Or hearing a joke, to say, “That just kills me.” A young dad might tell one of his own kids, “You can’t do anything right.” Or commiserate to a friend, “I just can’t seem to get ahead.”

Describing the same problem over and over, they would beg God to fix it, then say in frustration “I don’t think my prayers are getting through.”

It’s disturbing to see so many believers criticize and find fault with their own church leadership, even the body of Christ at large. How is that helpful? Creative? I am more determined than ever to speak life, speak God’s word, offer real-time solutions, and not keep rehashing the problems.

Even more disturbing is hearing a Christian friend pray in doubt wishing, not knowing for sure what he’s asking is God’s will. Not knowing how to actually find God’s will in the first place. Not knowing the power in everyday words, not knowing what words really are:

  • Information. Facts, truth, ideas, solutions, answers – all conveyed by words, thought, spoken, or written. As time goes by, knowledge about everything under the sun is increasing. Wisdom in how to use that information needs to increase, too.
  • Weapons. Proverbs 18:21 says that death and life are in the power of the tongue. Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword…” James 3 tells us that the tongue can be a bridle, a rudder, or a spark, and is humanly untameable. (The Holy Spirit can tame it, and he will if we let him.)
  • Containers of life. Jesus said in John 6:63, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” Jesus raised the dead to life again with his word.
  • Conveyors of authority.

Mark 1:22 – The religious leaders recognized that Jesus’s words contained God’s authority and were astonished.

Mark 1:25-27 – The unclean spirit (demon) recognized it also, obeyed him and came out of the man.

Matt. 12:13 – The sick man recognized it, obeyed Jesus and his paralyzed hand was healed.

Matt. 8:5-13 – The Centurion recognized it, acknowledged that Jesus only needed to speak the word of authority – Jesus spoke and the servant was healed.

Acts 3:1-8 – Peter spoke words of authority, the crippled man obeyed and was healed.

Acts 27 – Paul spoke words of authority to those onboard the troubled ship, they obeyed and their lives were saved.

Here’s the thing – We have been given the same authority Jesus has, as his co-workers filled with the Holy Spirit and assigned to be his mouthpiece. See Matthew 28:18-20.

Ephesians 4:29-30 admonishes us, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you are sealed unto the day of redemption.”

Edifying? Building up, like constructing a house. Corrupt communication? Words that wreck faith, health, confidence – including your own. When you talk, the first person to hear what you say is you, yourself.

Matthew 12:34 says that what comes out of your mouth is what was in your heart. We all need to be sure that what is in our heart is life, not death. Filled with faith, not fear or doubt or confusion. It’s critically important how we talk (and what we write).

Life and faith don’t get into our hearts automatically, just because we become a Christian. We have to do something about that. “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2)

“Faith comes by hearing…” (Romans 10:17) Hearing what? Hearing God’s word. Read it to yourself, read it out loud, write it down, re-read it often. Get it into your spiritual memory banks, your mind, your heart.

II Peter 1:2-10 would be a good passage to learn by heart! So would Philippians 4:8-9.

“Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)

“… receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:21-22)

“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

My prayer is that our words – our hearts, our prayers, our ordinary conversations – will be used by the Holy Spirit to help solve problems, not create more.

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Don’t eat the seed corn

seed-cornSeed corn: don’t eat it, plant it.

Back when most people grew their own food, that didn’t have to be explained.

When I was a little girl spending my summers on my grandparents’ farm, I learned that you didn’t eat the seed corn. I helped my grandmother pick over a big basket of seed corn that was being put aside for the next year, cleaning the trash and dead bugs out of it.

A seed has life built in, no matter whether it’s corn, or butterbeans, or sunflowers. It doesn’t have to wonder what to do, it “knows” to grow. The faith for growing is entertwined in the life…

But there is something else about seeds. They need stuff. Like soil, food, water, fertilizer, and protection from pests. Today, vegetable and flower seeds are sold in stores with a coating of plant food and/or bug killer surrounding them, so you have a head start on getting a good crop. Smart idea.

Jesus told his disciples, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you can tell this mountain to be removed and be cast into the sea, and it would obey you. (See Matt. 17:20)

Now, a mustard seed is really small. And Jesus was saying they didn’t have even that miniscule amount of faith.

They could have, though. It was offered to them as a gift when Jesus said, “Have the faith of God.” It took Jesus making a gift of it to get it back then, and it still does. That’s how we get saved, born again, in the first place (Eph. 2:8).

And that seed of faith Jesus gives us contains life, just as seed corn contains life.

But some people leave it like that, tiny, encapsulated and dormant, and then they wonder why no mountain ever moves for them.

Mark 4:14-20 explains part of it. Seeds have to be nurtured and cultivated. No self-respecting farmer would plant corn in an uncultivated field full of rocks and briars.

Seeds have to be planted in good soil, soil deep enough to allow for roots to get a good start. And weeds need to be weeded, rocks removed, and critters prevented from getting in.

When my children were small we lived on a mini-farm outside of town, and one summer we planted lots of field peas and corn at a distance from the house. When it was time to pick them, we discovered the raccoons had taken a bite – just one bite – out of every ear of corn. And the deer had made a good meal out of the field peas! The critters won that round and we learned a good lesson. Electric fencing solved that problem the next year.

II Peter 1:5-8 continues the explanation. Faith seeds also need to be fed, watered, and fertilized with virtue, knowledge, self-control, patience, godliness, kindness and love.

Well, all that takes work. And you have to deal with “critters” like fear and doubt, fatigue or depression, and ordinary every-day distractions from a lot of different sources.

Faith has all the life it needs built right in, just like a seed of corn or field peas. And the nature of life is to grow, mature, and eventually replicate itself.

It takes work to get to that place, but the one who gave us the faith in the first place is still present to instruct us and help us grow it, if we’re willing to do the work.

The Apostle Paul commended the church of the Thessalonians, because “your faith groweth exceedingly…” (II Thess. 1:3)

I would love to receive that compliment some day, wouldn’t you?