Careless Words

broken-eggs-basket-diversifyI tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:36-37)

Careless words get us into trouble.

What exactly qualifies a word as careless? Anything we speak without giving sufficient attention or thought to avoiding harm or errors. It’s the words we speak without enough concern. And that concern involves so many aspects. Concern for truth. Concern for impact. Concern for motivation.

Motivation matters.

Just a few verses before, we find, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” (Matthew 12:33-34)

Careless describes our words and our motivations. It also describes us.

The Words Weren’t True, But They Had Power

“Everything that goes wrong in this church seems to have your name attached to it.”

The words stung. I knew they weren’t true. I knew they were being spoken from a place of hurt during a rough season in this person’s life, including challenging situations at church.

I knew the words weren’t true, but they still entered my ears, my mind, and my heart.

Even though I knew the context in which the words were spoken, and I was able to let go of every other word-dart thrown at me during that conversation, that one sentence stuck with me. I caught myself second-guessing my leadership decisions, filtering and re-filtering my words before speaking, carefully choosing which ideas to share and what discussions to emphasize, especially when this particular person was involved in any way. I didn’t want to give her any more ammunition.

But I already had. I had given her some power in my life that I didn’t need to relent. I knew what she said was untrue, but I went on the defensive, avoiding words and situations instead of living offensively. I don’t mean offensively as in aggressively attacking. I mean simply moving forward. I didn’t want to offend her, but I didn’t need to avoid her and her allegations either.

To be honest, those words were said in such a heated moment that she probably doesn’t even remember them. It wasn’t as if it was characteristic of her. Why would I isolate something in her life? In fact, isn’t that what she had done with me in some way?

Perhaps I should thank her. After all, the second-guessing, filtering, and carefully choosing that I consequently did wasn’t all bad. It was good exercise in discernment and patience. It probably helped some relationships and interactions, not to mention my patience and humility.

No matter what, there is always something to learn in every situation. I’m thanking God for His reminder…and I’m moving on.

What Do We Do With What People Say?

Can you believe she said that?

How dare he say that to me!

She didn’t have to say it; I know what she meant.

screen doorEvery time we communicate with someone, there’s a lot of processing, and a lot of opportunity for misunderstanding, assumption, and frustration. It’s as if we each carry around a screen door right in front of us. None of us have completely clean screen doors. Our experiences, preferences, and assumptions clog some of the holes. When we stand face-to-face with someone, we speak, and our words have to go through our screen door, which means not everything makes it through. Then, our words have to go through the other person’s screen, which is also not pristine. They speak back to us, and their words have to go through both screens, too. Add in the nonverbal communication we’re sending every moment, and the opportunities for disaster exponentially escalate.

We can’t hear what people say to us with a undeniable purity. Many times, our reaction isn’t just about what they say but how they say it, or even, what they intend by it. We certainly seem to be confident in our ability to know a lot of things about another person’s communication.

Are we as vigilant, discerning, and confident in the way we respond?

It’s not so much about what people say as what we do with what they say. After all, we have absolutely no control over what someone says or how she says it. We choose how to respond. Many times, we waste that choice, because we aren’t intentional about our respond. We give a knee-jerk response, either to the person’s face or behind her back, either right away or after we’ve fumed or pouted about it for awhile. Instead, we can use that same time to take a deep breath and ask God how He wants us to respond. What would honor and reflect Him to other people? What would draw us closer to Him as we trust Him, even in situations and relationships we don’t understand?

We don’t have to take offense. We don’t have to get angry. We don’t have to retaliate. We don’t have to coddle. We don’t have to enable. But we do have to take responsibility…for our response, whether it’s our attitude, words, or actions.

What are you doing with what people say?

Are you listening to what God says above all other words?

My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.(James 1:19-20)

Tell Me What You Think

whichway“Tell me what you think.”

Jesus wants to know.

“Tell me what you think about this: A man had two sons. He went to the first son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ The son answered, ‘I will not go.’ But later the son changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ The son answered, ‘Yes, sir, I will go and work,’ but he did not go. Which of the two sons obeyed his father?”

The priests and leaders answered, “The first son.”

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before you do. John came to show you the right way to live. You did not believe him, but the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. Even after seeing this, you still refused to change your ways and believe him. (Matthew 21:28-32)

God does not want us to refuse to change.

We can create a false line of reasoning when we conclude that since Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and we’re created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), we’re not supposed to ever change. Really? Take a look in the mirror. Consider what you know now that you didn’t know when you were 5 years old, 15 years old, 25 years old, and so on. You change. It’s part of life. It’s how God created you.

God doesn’t change, but he changes us. That’s what being in a thriving personal relationship with him is about. Consider what God says about growth.

You were taught to leave your old self—to stop living the evil way you lived before. That old self becomes worse, because people are fooled by the evil things they want to do. But you were taught to be made new in your hearts,to become a new person. That new person is made to be like God—made to be truly good and holy. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure he will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again. (Philippians 1:6)

Brothers and sisters, in the past I could not talk to you as I talk to spiritual people. I had to talk to you as I would to people without the Spirit—babies in Christ. The teaching I gave you was like milk, not solid food, because you were not able to take solid food. And even now you are not ready. You are still not spiritual, because there is jealousy and quarreling among you, and this shows that you are not spiritual. You are acting like people of the world. (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I stopped those childish ways. It is the same with us. Now we see a dim reflection, as if we were looking into a mirror, but then we shall see clearly. Now I know only a part, but then I will know fully, as God has known me. (1 Corinthians 13:11-12)

If you’re not changing, you’re not growing. Sometimes we fail to grow because we’re stubborn. Sometimes we’re lazy. Sometimes we’re proud. Whatever the reason, set it aside. God wants you to change, and he wants to do the changing for you, but you have to seek and yield to him.

Are you ready to grow up today?

A House of Prayer

houseofprayer

Jesus said to all the people there, “It is written in the Scriptures, ‘My Temple will be called a house for prayer. But you are changing it into a ‘hideout for robbers.’” (Matthew 21:13)

Jesus cleared the temple of everything that was going on in it that never should have been going on in a holy place. Even if your holy place hasn’t become a marketplace as in Matthew 21, consider how “set apart” as a house of prayer it is.

What is God-honoring about the place in which you worship?

What isn’t God-honoring about the place in which you worship?

Are you personally honoring God in what you say and do, in your attitudes and in your relationships?

Being a house of prayer isn’t just about having a time of prayer. Opening and closing a worship service (or your day) with prayer doesn’t keep everything in between focused on God. Yielding to God every step of the way is the only way to remain focused on God.

Who do you run to when you have a question or problem?

Who gets the glory and thanks when something goes well?

Who sets your to-do list and modifies it as situations change?

Who determines the use of time, energy, and resources?

Who is central to all decisions, actions, and thoughts…not just in theory but in everyday practice?

The holy place isn’t just where you worship with others. You are personally a holy place.

Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

What is robbing you of being a fully-committed house of prayer? How have you replaced God’s will with anything contrary to it? Who are you allowing to occupy time, space, and effort in your life that is reserved for God and God alone?

Jesus does a great job of clearing the junk out of the temple. Invite him to do the same within you.

Group Think

groupoIt’s easy to go along with the group.

Many people spread their coats on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The people were walking ahead of Jesus and behind him, shouting, “Praise to the Son of David! God bless the One who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise to God in heaven!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, all the city was filled with excitement. The people asked, “Who is this man?”

The crowd said, “This man is Jesus, the prophet from the town of Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:8-11)

It wasn’t long before the crowd’s sentiment had shifted…

Pilate wanted to let Jesus go free and told this to the crowd. But they shouted again, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

A third time Pilate said to them, “Why? What wrong has he done? I can find no reason to kill him. So I will have him punished and set him free.”

But they continued to shout, demanding that Jesus be crucified. Their yelling became so loud that Pilate decided to give them what they wanted. (Luke 23:20-24)

A joyous celebration can turn into a destructive riot fairly quickly. Of course, some of the people in the crowd were not at both events. And not everyone in the first crowd was happy to welcome Jesus into the city, just as everyone in the second crowd wasn’t shouting for his crucifixion. However, it’s no surprise that we can quite easily be swayed by the crowd we join, whether it’s for long-term relationship or a temporary event.

Groups can have positive or negative influence on us, but in either case, we need to individually know where we stand, filter the information coming in from all directions, and determine what our individual responses will be. A group is simply made up of individuals, and each individual is capable of making a decision.

When we’re connected to God through an intimate, personal relationship, we don’t need to worry about shifting standards; however, we can’t get lazy and believe what everyone around us is saying – even in the church – without personally engaging in active learning and understanding of God’s Word as well as yielding to the wisdom and conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Knowing whether you’re supposed to yell “Hosanna” or “Crucify” is a simple decision. But you’re faced with many decisions each day that require careful scrutiny. If you don’t take the time and effort to establish a firm, trusting relationship with God, you will more easily become prey to the easy path of yielding to the whims of the crowds around you.

How engaged in the thought process will you be?

Jesus Is The Way (but what if we don’t like his way?)

wayYou’ve heard (and likely had) the skeptic questions:

Why would a loving God allow evil?

Why would a loving God allow just one way?

Since God says he’ll give me what I want, why can’t I just go on living the way I want? Why do I have to live by someone else’s rules?

Taking the step of faith to believe God is who he says he is so that you can trust what he says about himself, you, the world in which you live, and the will and purpose he has for you is a biggie. It’s tempting to list the pros and cons of a life of faith, and since, prior to a choice to accept Jesus is the Son of God and your personal Lord and Savior, you are more familiar with what you know and live, and even if you’re uncomfortable where you are, the familiarity is a big, highlighted “pro” among your lists. You’re not the only one.

A man came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to have life forever?”

 

Jesus answered, “Why do you ask me about what is good? Only God is good. But if you want to have life forever, obey the commands.”

 

The man asked, “Which commands?”

 

Jesus answered, “‘You must not murder anyone; you must not be guilty of adultery; you must not steal; you must not tell lies about your neighbor;honor your father and mother; and love your neighbor as you love yourself.’”

 

The young man said, “I have obeyed all these things. What else do I need to do?”

 

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, then go and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor. If you do this, you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.”

 

But when the young man heard this, he left sorrowfully, because he was rich. (Matthew 19:16-22)

This man was seeking answers. More specifically, he was seeking Jesus’ answers. He wanted to know! Yet when faced with the truth, he decided he didn’t want to know that badly. He found a “con” in his pro/con list that he just couldn’t live with. He found his tipping point.

If you’ve already accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you’ve reached the tipping point, but don’t think that’s the end of all spiritual decisions for your life. Sure, you can be certain of where you’ll be spending eternity, but God never intended for you to stop thinking, learning, asking, and responding. He created you for a relationship with you, and he wants you to know him consistently more deeply. He will reveal himself to you, but you have to choice in how to respond.

When you read a command in Scripture that goes against how you’re living or what you prefer, how do you respond?

 

When you want to find out if something is in Scripture, do you search for what will confirm your assumptions, or do you search more thoroughly to get the big picture even if it means rearranging your assumptions?

 

Do you believe what other people say God says and wants, or do you widen the opportunities for learning by personally knowing God’s Word and yielding to the Holy Spirit for cautions, prompts, and convictions?

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Even if we don’t like his ways, we don’t change his ways; we simply do or do not respond in ways consistent with who he is and what he wills. A relationship with Jesus is a constant journey. It’s not a list of pros and cons, and it’s not a popularity contest of what you like best.

Seek a relationship of truth.

Seek a relationship of life.