Sunday, July 6, 2008

“Open Wide and Say Ahhh”

There were a number of visitors with us on this warm, sunny summer day. Pastor Brad welcomed all this Independence Day weekend, foreshadowing his message with comments about James 3 and its emphasis on taming the tongue.

In commenting on our freedoms which we share as Americans, Pastor Brad noted that there are more slaves today than at any time in history, and that we should not take our freedoms for granted.

Scripture reading today, by Ruth Anne:
Zechariah 9:9-12
Romans 7:15-25a

“Open Wide and Say Ahhh
Has anyone here ever said something they wish they could take back? After sharing a painful personal incident from his younger days, he noted that the Bible says many words about word. Proverb 18:21 states, “The tongue has the power of life and death.”

Words can help someone, or crush their spirit. Words can instruct, or discourage. Words have great power.

In another personal anecdote, Pastor Brad shared how one time years ago he was teaching a Bible study and someone shared something, but his glib reply showed that he was not really listening, and the person brought him up short by pointing this out. “You weren’t really listening to me,” the woman said. He dismissed it, until a week later another person said that he was not listening to them either. The reality is that we need to not only watch what we say, but also watch what we don’t say.

Jesus was the perfect model of how we are to be. He was both grace and truth. He could speak the truth, but with great gentleness and sensitivity. “A bruised reed He will not break,” writes Isaiah.

Pastor Brad then cited the verse, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as if it were the very words of God.”

Unfortunately, sin interferes. As a result, we have a pattern of connecting and disconnecting. From the beginning, when you look behind the fig leaf, Adam and Eve were both harboring shame and guilt.

5Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. ~ James 3:5-6

The evil one wants to divide and destroy what God has done, and uses our words to do it.

There are five areas where we mess up.

1. Name Calling
Even playful name calling can hurt. We’ve all done some of it when young. We don’t realize when we are doing it that we’re hitting a sore spot. People often hide that. But when we see we’ve said something that hurt, we need to apologize quickly. It is better to have verbal discipline and not hurt people.

2. Blaming
Many couples fall into this. “I am the way I am because of you.” Instead of owning their behavior, couples often blame the other. Proverbs 22:13 refers to the sluggard who does not assume responsibility. Rather, he hides himself to avoid pain. The blame game is unhealthy.

3. Generalizing
“You always do that…” or “You never do that…” Proverbs 10:21 says “The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment.” To generalize is to not show good judgment.

4. Critical Comments, Critical Spirit
Critical words stick and hurt for a long time.

5. Anger
Frequently, you will find that angry people grew up in a home with an angry person. Proverb 29:11 cautions, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”

Pastor Brad reminded us that, on the other hand, when someone comes to us & they’re angry, we should not minimize it by dismissing it or spiritualizing it. Nor should we speak too quickly. Jesus was not rattled by another’s anger. The Scriptures compel us to mourn with those who mourn.

12 Before his downfall a man's heart is proud,
but humility comes before honor.
13 He who answers before listening—
that is his folly and his shame. ~ Prov. 18:12-13

We need to be good listeners and take ownership of our words. Again Past Brad reminded us that we should speak as if our words were the very words of God.

After celebrating, sharing communion together, he reminded us in closing, “On the other side, we need to extend grace to those who have said hurtful things to us.”

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