Monday, February 27, 2012

Loose lips...

Week 9:
Proverbs 13:3 He who guards his lips guards his soul, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.
“Loose lips sink ships.”  This phrase originated during World War II.  It was a slogan to guard against the possibility that unguarded talk may give useful information to the enemy.  There was a fear of enemy spies amongst the workers in the war effort.  In order to avoid inadvertently giving out vital information, the U.S. office of war information came up with the slogan, “Loose lips might sink ships.”  Another one was, “Careless talk costs lives.” 

The damage from careless talk can cut deep.  This Proverb lays out how severe careless talk can be.  Notice how guarded lips are tied to the soul.  Also notice that rash talk will lead to ruin.  How many times in today’s mass media society have we seen one phrase, one sound byte, one line taken out of context and that person is crucified in the news.  A public official who has one poor choice of words can have his character destroyed. 
James spends several verses on the tongue.  He talks about how powerful such a small body part can be.  The tongue is hard to tame and is likened to the starting of fires.  In fact, he mentions the fires of hell.  Wow!
Beyond rash speaking leading to ruin is the idea of protecting the soul.  Many can bounce back from ruin caused by careless talk.  But, if careless talk becomes excessive, it can damage the soul.  For me, that is the real concern and fear.  If I do not guard my talk, I am not guarding my soul.  Does this mean we do not speak truth in situations where truth can be hurtful?  I don’t think so.  However, notice that it says, “Guard”, not “shut up”.  And the opposite of that in this verse is to speak rashly or without thinking.  This tells me to monitor what I am saying.  I need to consider what my words will do, how they will be received, to think before I speak. 
Furthermore, I cannot look at this passage without thinking about, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34b).  This would be a topic for another article but I will say this here:  To guard my lips, I must first guard my heart.  Heart and soul are tied very closely together.  Unguarded speech tells me where my heart is and that I may need to do heart work.  I must work on my heart in order to better guard my speech, ultimately guarding my soul. 
“He who guards his lips guards his soul, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.”
1.       Can you describe a situation where your words got you into trouble?
2.       Can you describe a situation where someone else’s words brought them ruin?
3.       What did you learn form that?
4.       What heart work do you need to do in order to better guard your speech?
5.       Ask Jesus to come along side you this week and point out to you where you need heart work and what to guard in your speech.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Spirit and understanding...

Week 8:
I Corinthians 2:14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
In week 6 we talked about how the people of the world cannot know us because they do not know God.  The above passage and its context allows us see that the world cannot know God because they do not know the Spirit of God.   The Spirit of God reveals things to those who seek to know God.  For those of us who seek God and seek to know the truth through the Bible, the Spirit reveals to us the nature and commands of God.

As the passage states, this does not make sense to the world.  Oh how I have seen this to be true.  Many times in dealing with those who do not have the Spirit of God, even a simple Bible story that has a related moral message to their situation makes no sense at all.  However, there are many non-Christians who have a good moral compass and know right from wrong.  So, did the Spirit of God reveal this to them.  I believe so.  The Bible is clear that all good things come from the Father.  I believe where the moral non-Christian gets hung up on this passage is when one explains to them that there is only one way to the father…Jesus.  To them, that is foolishness.
Furthermore, God reveals himself to the world through His Spirit.  Otherwise, how would we come to know Him? For many, His Spirit works through people in their lives and those people draw their friends and loved ones to God.  The Spirit of God is at work continually through people, through circumstances, in nature, etc.
One thing that is very important to note about this passage is what is not said.  Looking at the context around this passage, we see what the Spirit does for us.  For us, the Spirit is what guides us through scripture.  The Spirit is what allows us to know the nature of God (what little we gain insight to).  The Spirit is how we are able to discern what is true, what is right and wrong, where God is leading, etc.  As foolish as the things of God are to those who do not accept the Spirit of God, the Spirit is our pathway into understanding God’s purpose for us. 
Just remember, that when dealing with a non-Christian, determine if the Spirit is working before having a Biblical conversation.  Otherwise, you may be talking in circles.  Bathe that situation in prayer.
1.       Describe a time when you were having a biblical conversation with an individual who did not understand the Spirit of God.
2.      Have you at times felt that the Spirit had not allowed you to understand a passage?  Describe that situation.
3.      Imagine you are having a conversation with Jesus.  What would he be telling you about this passage?  How would he handle those who are not touched by the Spirit?

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Hard work...

Week 7:

Proverbs 14:23 All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

I remember when this verse first jumped out at me.  We were listening to a former pro basketball player as he did a demonstration and gave a talk for the High School kids at the school where I work.  He talked about the time he started playing college basketball and how he was not getting much court time.  In that situation he was whining and griping about his playing time.  His coach knew it, so he got even less playing time.  He eventually ran across this passage and it stuck with him.  He began to change his attitude and work harder in practice.  He stayed after for extra drills and shooting.  Low and behold, his playing time increased.  God spoke to him through that verse and it came to life for him.

I have seen this time and again in my life as well.  When I sit on the “sidelines” of life and complain, nothing much gets done.  When I put my effort into what I am doing…amazing, my attitude is better and things get moving.  I have watched it happen with athletes I have coached as well.   I have watched or listened to the complainers while the hard workers played more.  Some of the complainers stayed complaining.  They never got it.  And, they played very little and blamed me for it. 

That leads me to a side note.  I have noticed that those who continue to blame others for their circumstance are never satisfied and never “get ahead”.  They change jobs frequently blaming the boss, the company, the co-workers, etc.  Or they hop churches citing poor worship, poor preaching, poor ministries, etc.   However, these people never look into the mirror and see that if they would just change their attitude, things might just get better.  Know anyone like that?  I have to watch myself and check to see if that is what I am doing…blaming others for my circumstance instead of looking at my own attitude.  When we act like this, we may not be in financial poverty, but we are in emotional and attitudinal poverty for sure.

I do want to note that the profit talked about here may not be merely monetary either.  The profit may be peace of mind, compassion, a new attitude, a new opportunity, etc.  The next time you catch yourself feeling you are getting the raw end of a deal or you feel yourself blaming others for your circumstances remember this verse:   “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”

  1. What is the first thought that came to mind for you when you read this passage?
  2. How do you relate to this passage?
  3. Describe a situation where others are being blamed for an individual’s circumstance.
  4. Where are you blaming others for your circumstance(s)?
  5. Ask God this week to point out to you where this verse can apply.
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Monday, February 6, 2012

Children of God...

Week 6:
I John 3:1  How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
It is so awesome that we would be considered children of God.  No matter what we have done, he is still our father.  Think of our earthly parents.  In most cases, no matter what we have done, they have never ceased their love for us or have never quit being our parent.  I know there are exceptions in the cases of abuse, neglect, and abandonment.  Those cases make this passage even more powerful for those who have experienced that type of life.  God is the parent of the down-trodden. 

So, what does it mean to be someone’s child?  It means that there is a commitment on the part of the parent.  The parent has taken responsibility for the proper raising of the child.  The parent is to care for and nourish the child.  The parent is to teach the child and lead the child.  The parent is to discipline the child in order to keep him/her on the right path.  That is what God is doing with us.  He is raising us.  Who better to raise us than the one who formed us?
Many in this world believe there is a God but he is far off or distant.  They believe that he created us and then backed away.  I don’t buy that.  If this passage is true, and we are his children, he does not ignore us.  He may back away at times in order for us to grow and be transformed, but he has not abandoned us.  In times where I think that God is not there, I realize that maybe I have walked away from Him.  The reason I do not hear the father’s voice is because I’m not listening for His voice. 
This leads me to the world.  They do not know us because they do not know him.  They do not understand our walk with God.  God makes himself known in so many ways.  Think about it.   How many people do you know that profess to be Christians?  In our current society, even as misguided as it is, people hear about God and encounter Christians on a regular basis.  Yet, even with all this exposure, the “general public” truly does not know God.  Therefore, you being a child of God is a concept they do not understand.  They do not truly know you because they do not know Him.
I take great comfort in knowing I have a Father in heaven that cares for me and my well being.  And, despite my life, He still loves me and accepts me.  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”
1.       Have you felt fatherless at times when it has come to your relationship with God?
2.       In what ways?
3.       Could it be that you have pulled away?  In what way(s)?
4.       Have you ever had a conversation with non-Christians who just did not understand your walk with God?  Where did they get “stuck”?
5.       Spend time this week meditating on this passage and see what God is speaking to you through it.

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