Wednesday, September 21, 2011


The tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). You may have experienced this power before in your own life. When someone says something negative to you, you can feel yourself wilt inside, as your spirit starts to die. On the other, when someone shares beautiful, encouraging words to you your spirit blossoms like a flower. Words are vehicles that take people places; toward life, or toward death.

A friend was telling me about how when he was a kid, his mom said in his presence, “I wish I had had an abortion.” That is a destructive statement that rings in his ears to this day. On the other hand, one person’s proclamation, positively, can have great influence too. This is where Jesus comes in. In John 1, when Jesus was calling out his disciples he found Simon. Simon was a "ready, fire, aim" sort of guy. But when Jesus called him out, He changed his name to Peter, which mean "rock." I wonder if anyone had ever believed in Peter like that, and said something that life-giving.

There are five ways we can take people toward life with our words:

1. Words of affirmation…about who they are (Antidote to: Insecurity). Insecurity is a big issue. There are a lot of negative messages out there, but none louder than the voices in our head. We need to find our identity in who we are in Christ. We also need to have that identity reinforced through the affirmations of others. When Kristyn and I were newly married and living in Tacoma. I was managing an apartment complex, working at a sporting goods store, going to seminary and serving in the church. Kristyn was in her first teaching assignment, fresh out of college. We were "out on our own" feeling very insecure, and a bit scared at times. But there was an older lady, Marie Robinson, who took a special interest in us. She always built us up, "You guys are doing so great! You are going to be just fine." She gave us a "warm fuzzy" every time we saw her. Years later, when our second daughter was born, we named her Jenna Marie.

2. Words of hope…about where they are going (Antidote to: Despair). On the fourth of July, 1952, Florence Chadwick, who was 34, set out to be the first woman to swim from Catalina Island to the mainland of California. She was the first woman to swim the English Channel. She set out with support boats on either side of her, with guns to protect her from sharks. She swam for nearly sixteen hours against rough water. About a half mile from shore she hit a solid wall of fog. Suddenly she wanted to stop. Her mother and trainer urged her not to quit, telling her how close she was. But she asked to be taken out of the water. Still thawing her chilled body several hours later, she told a reporter, "Look, I'm not excusing myself, but if I could have seen land I might have made it." It was not fatigue or cold or sharks that defeated her. It was the fog. She was unable to see her goal. One of the ways we can use our tongues in a life-giving way it to point out the end in mind.

3. Words of encouragement…that they can get there (Antidote to: Disappointment). People can know that God loves them and that he has a plan for them, and yet they can become disappointed in their progress. One day our son Daron came home from preschool with a handout, “Ways to make sure your child hates reading.” It was tongue in cheek, but it described how we as parents could point out his every mistake, become frustrated when he isn't "getting it," etc. On the other hand, we could celebrate every time he got a word right, and our child might like that better. In other words we have a part to play in how well they make it. One of the best lines from the cowboy song "Home on the Range" is "where seldom is heard a discouraging word." Don't you want your home to be like that? For Christians, and particularly for Christian leaders, there should seldom be a discouraging word (Ephesians 4:29).

4. Words of edification…that they will get there (Antidote to: Fear). People need built up. One of the reasons we don’t build up others as we should is that we don’t think about it. Our mouths are running, but our minds are disengaged. This section from an Al-Anon devotional is particularly salient: "There was a time when if a thought entered my mind, it would automatically come out of my mouth. Even if I wasn’t sure that what I was saying was true, the words poured out of me. I have learned to “Think” before I speak. When I’m tempted to respond to angry accusations with accusations of my own, I stop and “Think.” When I have an urge to betray a confidence, to gossip, or to tell something extremely personal to a total stranger, I stop and “Think.” And when my opinion about another person’s business has not been requested, I take the time to “Think” before I get involved. That way I make a conscious choice about how I will respond. Perhaps I will decide to say nothing, or choose a more tactful way to proceed, or question whether I really mean what I have been thinking. I may decide that this is not an appropriate place to discuss what is on my mind. Or I may choose to go right ahead and speak up in a very direct manner. Regardless of which option I select, today I am willing to accept the consequences of my actions because I have taken the time to make a choice."

5. Words of trust…that God wlll get them there (Antidote to: Doubt). God has called us to a life of faith. But sometimes we get shaky. So we need each other (Hebrews 10:25). Sometimes people need to borrow your faith. Sometimes you may need to borrow theirs. We need to band together so that we can be strong with each other, strong for others, and strong against our enemy….Satan.

I've been thinking about Satan lately, especially since the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. And it occurred to me that Satan is always a hijacker. He cannot create anything on his own. He can only take the beautiful things that have been created and try to use them for a destructive purpose. He wants to hijack sexuality. He wants to hijack your appetites. And he wants to hijack your life...your mind, your tongue. You have life-giving power, but only if you will keep your tongue under the command of the Holy Spirit.

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