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Archive for the ‘Speech’ Category

Bad Language

Paul enjoins the Ephesian Christians to Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving (Eph. 5:4). We need to be careful with our words. Particularly here I want to think about the need to avoid bad language.

A foul tongue reveals a foul heart. In Matthew 12:34 our Lord addresses the Pharisees and says: You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of  the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The state of our heart is revealed by the content of our speech.

There are certain words in the vocabulary of every language, it seems, that are categorised as swearing; they are understood to be such. There are some which fall into a grey area of acceptability; there are others which are clearly deemed to be swearing. Such words would not be used where decency is expected. The Christian should always be one who cultivates in his heart, and interacts with others, in that which is decent. Paul tells the Philippians Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Phil 4:8). It is just not good for Christians to be using language which does not conform to decency.

Enmeshed within this consideration of the use of language is the shunning of anything that speaks evil of God and can thereby be categorised as blasphemy. The command of the Lord stands that You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain (Ex. 20:7). We should not be rash in the use of the Name of our God and of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

So let us be careful in all our speakings. The content of our language matters. Let us glorify our God in all of our speech and let us pray Psalm 19:14

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    Lord, my rock and my redeemer. 

And remember that your mouth reveals your heart. Your speech ultimately reveals the real you.

Leadership and Communication

Our God is a communicating God. His revelation to us today is a sure word; it is the Bible. He is also a God of love who always acts to work good for His people. If you are a leader among God’s people you are called to represent this God to His people. In our lives as elders, people should see that we are people who communicate well and therein show our love for the people in the church.

So many churches degenerate into confusion as a result of bad communication. Often this takes the form of no communication; people refuse to interact. As a general rule we should be labouring as leaders so that people are interacting well in the church which we shepherd. We need to set an example with this.

We should respond to enquiries and requests for information promptly and courteously. We should seek to not confuse anyone or mess anyone around. If we have various communication platforms such as email, messenger etc., we should make sure that they are regularly checked so that we do not miss anything.

Failure to communicate in a healthy way leads to frustration among the people. They wonder why there has been no response. They are perhaps left to fester on an issue or wonder if they have done anything wrong. Through these means Satan can come in among the people of God and cause disruption.

With a little good organisation, care and attention we can make sure that we do allow the devil any inroads into the fellowship of God’s people.

In Ephesians 4:25-27 we read these words. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Here is a passage which most certainly has direct application to how we communicate together.

So fellow elders let us set a good example here. Let us be diligent in engaging with communicating with the people in our care whether that be personally or through the various electronic channels that we have nowadays.

Bark And Bite

So you tell me that their bark is worse than their bite. And I tell you that that may be all well and good, but I am just experiencing their bark and that is very loud. Them sinking their teeth into me is not my primary concern at the moment.

The Bible says that A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Prov. 15:1). And as for the servant of the Lord he must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness (2 Tim 2:24b-25a). We learn immediately from these scriptures that your bite matters. In fact many people will be long departed from you before the effects of any bite are experienced, whether that bite be flesh devouring or a mere graze. They will be long gone because your bite will have frightened them off. 

Your bite might actually have transpired to be beneficial to the recipient. However, your bark prevented any healing balm from coming from the bite

Whether our words are those of exhortation, correction , rebuke or encouragement they should be gentle. They should be heard and received as words coated in love. They might not be palatable because they deal with issues that go to the core of our being, but the words should come with kindness.

Moreover, gentleness is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22b). An unpleasant bark is not in accord with a Spirit emanating character. They are more like the works of the flesh.

Speech

THINK about what you say

T Is it true

H Is is helpful

I Is it Inspiring

N Is it Necessary

K Is it Kind

Our Lord Jesus said: But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken (Matt. 12:28).

Your Tongue

The following is based on James 3:1-12

  1. If you control your tongue then you control your life.
  2. Show me a man whose life is out of control and you will see a a man who cannot control his tongue.
  3. And yet no man can control his tongue; it is a powerful member of our body.
  4. We need help. We need One to take control of our tongues; we need One to take control of our lives. We need a new Master.
  5. So every day I must come to the Lord and ask for Him to control my tongue.
  6. So  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Col. 4:6).

Clarity and Words.

I was at the hospital recently seeing a specialist regarding the dental issues of one of my sons (not mine this time!). I asked the specialist what the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist was. She explained that a dentist was a something like a GP Doctor whilst an orthodontist was a specialist. All was helpful to that point. But then we went on to consider what an orthodontist did. At this point she lost me with statements about maxillofacial and orofacial things (or something along those lines) and I was left none the wiser. I think I smiled sweetly and we moved on.

This all led me to ponder upon how we use words to bring clarity and meaning. The lady was very pleasant and probably thought she had explained herself, but she had not explained herself at all. The terms were, no doubt, part of her everyday parlance, given the job that she did and the company that she kept. However, for me they meant little or nothing.

Which leads me on to ponder how we can so easily be guilty of that in teaching and preaching the Bible. It can also happen in general conversation with those who are not so familiar with biblical terminology. Words which are oh so familiar to us, can trot out of our mouths and we think we have brought clarity, but really we have only brought fog. And people smile sweetly and go away none the wiser. I am not saying my orthodontist lady was wrong to use the terms she did, I only needed some explanation.

So as Christians and, in particular as preacher’s and teachers, we need to work at making sure our words bring clarity. Yes we can, and in may ways must, use the big words of our faith such as propitiation, sanctification, redemption. etc. But we must give the meaning.

And by the way if you are out there and hear me speak in whatever context and you feel I have only brought fog through my words please tell me (gently) because with all my being I do not want to fog people with my words.

Keeping Your Word.

I wrote here about the importance of the words that come from our mouths.

As a further thought on this important subject, I remember hearing it related how in The City in the 1960’s if a deal was “shaken-on” then that was it. The meaning being that if you verbally agreed certain terms then they would be kept to. There was no withdrawing even if it proved to be disadvantageous, to either party  down the line.

Alas, it was observed that things were no longer so. Now if people discover down the line that it was a bad deal for them they are now happy to pull out regardless of the commitment they have made. Your word is no longer your bond.

Generalities are obviously being spoken of here. But it is indicative of a change of moral atmosphere. For the Christian though the pattern is set in Psalm 15b. He is one who keeps an oath even when it hurts,  and does not change their mind. We are people of our word. 

You’d Better Watch What You Say!

There are times when the Word of God explodes into your situation. That is fully to be expected because the Word of God is alive; these are the living oracles of God. The word of God is alive and active we read in Hebrews 4:12a. Have you ever felt the explosion which comes from reading Ephesians 4:29? Why not have a go now and see what impact it has on you? This Word from God says: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Let us then consider something of the meaning of this verse.

First of all, notice the zero-tolerance in the verse. It does not say, “Reduce as much as you can your unwholesome talk.” Rather it says that there should be no unwholesome talk coming out of our mouths. And that means zero unwholesome talk. But what is unwholesome talk? It is that which is essentially bad and corrupt. It is that which comes out of our mouths and harms and destroys others. Sometimes it is not just the words we say, it is how we say it. Essentially, good words can become unwholesome when they are uttered with a sarcastic snarl. We must be careful about what we say and how we say it.

Rather what we need to be doing is using our mouths for the building up of others. Before we say anything we should always be thinking whether or not it will be beneficial for those who hear it. Is what I am going to say essentially good? If we are speaking in a good and helpful way, then our words will be put to good use; they will be edifying words. Our speaking should be with the goal of bringing spiritual strengthening to those we speak to.

Let us stop here to think about the mindless chatter that so easily comes from our mouths. Should we not take time to examine our words to make sure they are beneficial to others. The words of our Lord Jesus strike us here when he says But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. (Matt. 12:36). This does not exclude everyday normal conversation which oils relationships. However, it must make us think about what actually is coming from our mouths. Let us be wary of speaking worthless words.

As we think about these good words which edify, we are prompted to think that our speech should be thoughtfully delivered. We have to realise that good words are not always beneficial words. This is so because we have not considered our words in the light of the condition and circumstances of the hearer. Accordingly, our verse exhorts us to think about edifying others according to their needs. There is a sense that good words can become the wrong words when they are said at the wrong time. So we need to consider who we are speaking to and what their present circumstances are.

If you look at the ministry of our Saviour then you see that, as he interacted with people, he was continually asking questions. Through questions we find out what situation those we are speaking to are in and we can discern their needs. Once this is done, we can seek to match our words to their situation. Behind such an approach is a self-sacrificing attitude which puts our tongues to use for the benefit of others and not our selfish indulgence.

We need to be careful, as well, about who is listening to our words. Paul tells the Ephesians to make sure that their speech may benefit those who listen (v29b). One thing to think about here is that of those who may be overhearing what we say. Our words may be fully appropriate for the person we are speaking to. However, they may be harmful for others who may hear. This may be particularly the case when children are involved. So whoever is hearing our words, whether they be directly or indirectly, we should be concerned that they are receiving things which will benefit them.

In making sure that our words are good, edifying and beneficial, this does not mean that we should never speak strong words. There are times when the needs of the people or person we are speaking to necessitate that we use strong words. Moreover, our words may not always be welcomed, but that does not take away from the fact that they were the proper words at that time. Remember as the Lord spoke his words to the Pharisees in Matthew 23, these were strong words which did not boost his popularity with them! However, they were good words intended to benefit the hearers by bringing them to repentance.

When we have felt the explosion of these words into our lives one response could be that we determine to reform the way we speak. However, we need to remember that it is, as our Saviour says, For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Matt. 12:34b). For our words to be of the right quality they have to come from a heart of the right quality. And our hearts are only in the best shape when we have the life of Jesus flowing through them. Let us make sure we are continually walking in fellowship with Him.

Let us then conclude with the words of the Psalmist: May the words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14). Amen

Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of October 2012

 

Dealing With Authorities.

Over the last five hundred years the moral framework of the United Kingdom has been determined by biblical values. At the heart of society therefore there has been a desire to uphold truth. Connected with the determination to uphold truth has been the commitment to reliability. Hence we have the phrase: an Englishman’s word is his bond. As a result of this there was always an expectation that when dealing with authorities there would be a straightforwardness about their approach.

Further, the historic Christianised development of our society has meant that people were inclined to be helpful. The essence of love in Christianity percolated into society so that those in authority had a tendency to give assistance to those in need..

Alas things have shifted. Two particular influences increasingly dominate in our society. They stem from Humanism and Islam. My postulation is that these two ideologies have led to the following developments:-

  • Humanism inevitably puts self-interest before truth. Accordingly we see increasingly when dealing with authorities a tendency to “cover-my-own-back”. Rather than being concerned with a desire to uphold and convey truth, people now want to make sure that there is no come-back upon them. Accordingly, people will deviously operate whether that be in verbal or written communication. People no longer are driven by truth and helpfulness. Just as long as the file looks good for them then all is well. It does not matter how many people have suffered and been messed around along the way.
  • Islam. An essential aspect of Islam is that of maintaining honour. Islamic families, for example, are driven by a desire to uphold family honour. Aa a result, we hear of “honour killings” which are undertaken when someone is seen to have brought shame to their family. The murder is seen as removing the shame and being the means through which honour is maintained. Accordingly, when this thinking manifests in a society there is not a priority to uphold truth and helpfulness. The driving motive is that “I must maintain my honour and so there must be no shame on me and upon my family.”

All of this means, I suggest, that dealing with authorities will be become more and more difficult; Frustration will increase through people not returning calls and people failing to keep their word. Bullying will be experienced as the authorities, who want to cover their own back or maintain honour, will want to get their way rather than be helpful.

Accordingly, I feel our whole expectations need to change. Historically, we have expected the authorities to be on our side, helping us to resolve issues. More and more i suspect that we can expect  them seeking to do that which is their own interests.

 

Tongue

Doctors in making an initial assessment of the health of a patient have, throughout history, looked at the tongue. The state of the tongue indicates the overall state of the patient. How true this is in the spiritual realm as well. The tongue reveals the spiritual calibre of a person. The words that we speak reveal the content of our hearts.

James therefore says that If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check (James 3:2b). Analyze the tongue and you have the analysis of the man. James is setting before us the standard of perfection only achieved by our LORD Jesus. However, the statement clearly establishes the principle that the more someone has their tongue under control then the more they have the whole being under control to the glory of God. The activity does not lead to a control of the body, but the control of the tongue indicates that the whole being is under control.

So how is it with ourselves? Surely here is realm in which we all struggle. In fact, soberingly, James goes on to say that no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison (Jam. 3:8). Human initiatives totally fail here; we cannot even conquer our own tongues. But God can do it. Herein lies our only hope. We need to seek God that He would take control of our words. The tongue is, in a sense, an enemy within through which we can destroy ourselves (see James 3:6). When we start to think that we can conquer this enemy ourselves we are set for failure; it is impossible. We need God. So the non-Christian is on a loser straight-away because they essentially want to be in control of their lives and reject God as the ultimate ruler. For the Christian the challenge is to continually yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God (Romans 6:13b).

When the citadel of the heart is taken control of by God then the outpost of the tongue will move to the glory of God. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). Let us look then at some of these good things:

Edification. The Christian is concerned to build others up. 1 Cor 14 is a difficult chapter in many ways, but there is one thing that we must learn from this chapter and that is that God has a great concern for edification in His church. And when we are following in God’s way we especially will want to see others built up. Are we speaking words that will strengthen others in their walk for God?

 Fruit of the Spirit. When the citadel of the heart is controlled by God then the Spirit of God has full control of our lives and the fruit of the Spirit will be seen in our lives. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 6:22-23a). Do our words reflect these characteristics?

Reliability. We live in a world where words are cheap. How many times have you phoned an organization and have been promised that someone will call back later and heard nothing more. For the Christian we should be people who are known to keep our words. David could say concerning the man who dwells in the sanctuary of God that he keeps his oath even when it hurts (Psalm 15: 4b).

Honesty. Closely related to reliability is honesty. We are NOT “economical with the truth” as Sir Robert Armstrong infamously said. Rather we speak truth and remember that God hates lies. One of the things the LORD is said to hate in Proverbs is “a lying tongue” (Prov. 6: 17b).

Speak of the LORD. It is from the LORD that we have received so many good things. It is in the Word of God that we are told so much about these good things. So do we speak of these good things and above all of the GOD Lord Himself. The sons of Korah were surely doing this when they say: My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer (Ps 45:1). Do we speak so little of the LORD because we His noble themes are so little in our minds. If so let us rectify this by diligently studying His Word to learn of those noble themes.

And so let us pray May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14).

(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of February 2008)

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