Monday, September 22, 2008

The Words We Speak

I'm so excited to be hosting At the Well today! Thanks for joining in. This is a meme born out of the heart of Chelsey at Joyfully Living for His Glory. It has had a special place in my heart from the moment she shared it with us. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the topics we've discussed. I've grown so much and learned so much At the Well. The topic I chose to discuss this week is The Words We Speak.

This subject has special meaning to me because of the result of a commitment I made last year to God to read His Word completely. I had tried and failed before, but the Holy Spirit impressed upon my heart that as an avid reader and self-proclaimed bookworm, I had not taken the time to read, really read, the Bible the way I should.

Oh, I knew passages and stories and some memory verses, but I had never read the Bible from start to finish. I committed to honor God in reading the Word so abundantly available to me, and in doing so, I found that throughout the Bible there is much to be said about the words we speak.

From the Genesis to Revelation, my heart was convicted periodically through God's Word. I've never been much for using profanity, so it wasn't that.

What then? Let's begin by revisiting Titus 2:3-5.

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." ~ Titus 2:3-5 (Emphasis, mine)

Whether we realize it or not, the world is watching. It's been said that we are the only Bible some people will ever read. As Christian women, it is our responsibility not only to proclaim the gospel of Christ, but to carry out Paul's admonition, prompted as given to him by God, to "teach what is good".

With that in mind, I ask the questions...

Do the words you speak reflect your reverence for Christ?

"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." ~ Exodus 20:7

The Hebrew word for vain is Shav', which means emptiness, vanity, falsehood, emptiness, nothingness, vanity, emptiness of speech, lying worthlessness (of conduct)

I know we are not to take the name of God in vain, but I admit that I found myself using abbreviations when I typed like OMG. As my bonus daughter used to say, "No big diff." No difference. I was just abbreviating it, even if I didn't really "mean" it. We need to be aware that each time we speak God's name, we need to be speaking seriously and reverently about Him or to Him. In fact, we should be offended for God when someone does misuse His name. I have a friend who says, "Jeezum". I know what she's saying, and I understand that she's trying to substitute a different word so she doesn't say His name in vain, but isn't she doing so anyway?

What then, should we say? I would never presume to know! I would recommend, "Wow!" or my personal favorite, "Get out!" Whatever works, as long as it's not impure and irreverent. I believe with all my heart that when we need to be hyper-aware of how we use God's name and His endearing qualities associated with His name.

There is another way of misusing His name, other than uttering it directly. Any time we make commitments regarding Him and break them we misuse and misrepresent God's precious name. When we speak words like, "Praying for you..." spontaneously without following through, we're being irreverent toward our God. It's pretty much a dishonor to His name to use anything about God's name or His character when we don't follow through.

God's name is beautiful, and should be revered. We need to honor it and use it wisely; even the characteristics of His name should be honored in my opinion.

And to answer my own question...I am by no means perfect. I have gotten better, though. I think reading God's Word has brought me closer to Him and wanting to protect and revere His glorious Name. It's made me more sensitive to misuses of His name and speaking hollow words. When I say, "I'll pray for you," you better believe that I will, if not that moment, soon!

Would you consider your speech to be self-controlled and pure?

"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

I have found this area of speech to be a matter of the heart. I believe when that when we begin to work on speech that is self-controlled and pure, we need to look our hearts. When our hearts are dark with unconfessed sin, we are more apt to let the ugly come out in our speech.

"If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless” James 1:26

As we seek to set an example to others around us, we need to carefully guard the words we speak. If we have someone watching us, so impressed with the way we walk so closely with God, we can blow that testimony in a New York minute by one unbridled word that just "comes out." I'm speaking mostly of profanity here, but purity in speech also extends to more than the normal four letter words. A while back, I got in a habit of saying, "Key-rap!", which basically means crap, which basically means *$%! Not a good thing to be saying.

My motto with speech is: "Try not to say anything you wouldn't have heard Jesus say when He was here on earth." I cannot imagine hearing Jesus utter, "Key-rap, Peter, the fish *did* have a coin in it's mouth!" No, He would have excercised restraint. Why? Because not only because He was perfect, but also because He knew others were watching. He had quite a following of people who traveled with Him, not only listening to His preaching but attending to His needs and the needs of those who traveled in the group.

Preparing our hearts for the words we speak begins with following the example Christ gave us.

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." ~ Mark 1:35

When we begin our day by talking to God (purely, of course!), it helps us set the tone for the rest of our day. I encourage you to pray for self-control and purity of speech. God will help us in that area. While we won't always be perfect, we can aim high.

If you're around someone who lacks the quality of self-controlled and pure speech, consider whether you need to cut back your time with them. I did. I don't respond to emails where impure speech is written, and for a time I tempered my time with a friend who cussed often. Very often. She noticed and asked why, and I told her that her speech offended me. She graciously cleaned it up quickly and now only stumbles once in a while. She respects my wishes not be around people who cuss.

To answer my own question, again, I am by no means perfect. I have gotten better, though. I'm not given to profanity, but I struggle with the self-control part. I am very quick to answer without thinking. "Can you help me with this?" "Sure!" When I really don't have time or don't want to. "Can you watch the baby for me?" "Absolutely!" Then I find out Steve has unloaded 10 pallets of paper that day in 100* heat and the last thing he may want is a little one to keep his eye on that night. I have to reign in the impulsive speech and even the speech that talks just for the sake of talking.

In our speech, we need to keep the main thing the main thing. We don't need to just pop off and speak without considering the sparks we set off (see James 3) with our tongues. We need to guard our hearts so our speech will be pure. Monitoring what goes into our hearts will help, as will spending time with God each day.

"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

Do you find gossip and slander hard or easy to avoid?

In the Bible (NIV), the word gossip is used 10 times throughout the old and new testament. Slander is used 46 times. Obviously gossip and slander are of great importance to God. Simply put, we are not to do them.

Gossip means to murmur, whisper, murmurers, backbite, slander, talebearer, backbiter, slanderer, tale bearer, informer

"A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret." ~ Proverbs 11:13

"A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much." ~ Proverbs 20:19

Solomon was a very wise man. He penned these words, and as I believe all Scripture to be God-breathed, I believe we are to adhere to the wisdom and commandments we glean from the reading of His Word.

Simply put, gossip hurts. It hurts not only the one we're murmuring, whispering, or telling something about, but it hurts our hearts! It's sin. It damages our testimony to speak it and to hear it. How can we lead by example if we just have to share what someone asked us not to with just one person, because we just *know* they will keep our secret? If we didn't keep the secret to begin with, how can we expect them to?

Gossip is not only repeating something shared in confidence, it's speculation about things, and even talking about others. Confidentiality is becoming a thing of the past in so many areas of our lives. Do I really need to share that Sabrina told me that Joe said that he may have to get a second job? Whether she told me not to tell it or not, why do I feel that I have to share that information? What if I preface it with, "Ya'll, we have got to pray for Sabrina, bless her heart! She said Joe...." Nope. That's gossip, too. If Sabrina asks for prayer, yes, I will share it. If she is very open about it and we share a friend in common and that friend already knows, we may talk about them, but not in a negative way. With compassion. With love. With hope for a positive outcome. Not how in the world they got themselves into that position. "Joe drinks too much, don't you know, and Sabrina can't keep herself out of the mall long enough to..." Nope! Don't go there.

We must be as trustworthy as we can in our speech! Certainly there are times we need to vent and share, but I would encourage you to take it to the Lord or either your spouse. If I can't talk to my spouse about something, I can't talk to anyone. I try my hardest to make it a rule not to say anything about anyone that I wouldn't say to their face.

Regarding gossip, what I'm working on is my motive for sharing. There are things that I do need to share and I run it through the self-control and purity checkpoint first, to see if it's just an utterance or something I really need to talk about and get feedback on.

To answer my own question....I'm not perfect. I confess, repent and try hard not to whisper, murmur or over-share.

Slander....oooh. That's a biggie. What is slander? Slander can go hand in hand with gossip. Some of it's meanings are whispering, defamation, evil report, defamation, defaming, unfavourable saying.

We read in Titus 2 that we are "...not to be slanderers...." Some other good verses on slander are found below.

"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." ~ Matthew 15:19

"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." ~ Ephesians 4:30-31

Slander is also a heart issue. And the words we speak come from the heart. Slander can come in even the subtlest of forms. If we feel justified saying something bad about someone, it doesn't make what we say right. Even if it's true. Even if it's said behind closed doors. Even if it's said to their face or in print.

What about me? Slander is something I try not to practice, but again, I'm not perfect. I stumble, I confess, I repent and try again. I try to see people as God sees them, as people that He loves, and it helps.

In closing, we have some pretty good guidelines to follow on our speech. I'm sure we have to be careful not to become so rigid in our speech that we are like Pharisees, but I do believe it's important for us to be aware of the power of the tongue. That said, again, I believe we should aim high.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

"But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;" ~ 1 Peter 1:15

I hope I've not bored you to death with such a long post, but I had so much to write on this topic. Like I said, it's something God dealt with me on when I read through His Word completely for the first time ever, and I'm learning that the words we speak matter to Him, to us, to others, and most of all, that the words we speak really show what's in our hearts.

"...For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips."~ Proverbs 4:23-24

"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." ~ Ephesians 4:29

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." ~ Ephesians 4:32

S - self-control is so important in guarding the words we speak

P - pray about the words you say, do they honor God, do they honor others

E - expect fallbacks - we are not perfect, but we can be forgiven

A - always count to 10 before you share something or respond to something "questionable"

K - kindness goes such a long way in setting an example for others to follow

I - invite God to be your mouthpiece before you begin your day

N - notice the speech of those around you - it can rub off on you

G - grumbling mouths are a sign of grumbling hearts

Please join us in sharing At the Well today. What do you have to say about the questions asked above? What are your thoughts on The Words We Speak? I look forward to hearing from you and reading what you share on your blog. Sign up with Mr. Linky below and let's draw our water buckets full...


Amydeanne said...

lots of great questions we need to ask ourselves!

re: the everyday addictions and religion.. yes, it's about how we can get caught up in religion opposed to really what God wants from us!

God Bless!

JesusRulzMe said...

Sister, I LOVE all the Scripture you've laid out here for us to feast on!

Bless you for hosting the "Well" today and bringing us this wonderful topic to discuss that we may edify one another and bring glory to God with our words (Psalm 19:14)

Bless you!

LAURIE said...

Laurie Ann,
What a wonderful post and great words of encouragement as we ALL deal with this issue of the words we speak. Thanks for leading us AT THE WELL today. -Blessings, Laurie

lori said...

I thought I had a lot to "say" about WORDS!:)
This may be an all day affair at the Well today!:)
Your words this morning are wise and what we all need to be reminded of...our words reflect...

I'm going back for a SLOWER re-read...thanks for the blessing!

Joyfull said...

Thank you for hosting At the Well today and bringing a very important topic for us to share about. This is a passion for me to speech pleasing to the Lord always, but is not always done! Your post was beautiful and full of encouragement for us to use our words wisely, I love the thought of uttering words only Jesus would approve is He were right here with us. Looking forward to a day At the Well.

LauraLee Shaw said...

SO MUCH wisdom in this post. I love that you brought out the reverence for God topic. It DRIVES ME CRAZY to hear words with God's name or the things of God flying loosely in the air. I told my daughter the other day that sometimes words can be like stray bullets. When they shoot out of your mouth with no thought, they may land in an open field, but more than likely they're going to do damage. It's a huge risk. I love the Scriptures you chose to highlight, cuz there are so many of them about words. What an incredible subject. Thank YOU!

DarcyLee said...

What a great topic to open our week with! Our tongue and the words we speak are something we have to constantly guard and, praise God, He makes it possible through the power of His Word and might. God bless.

a woman found said...

like you said, Our speech is really a heart issue isn't it! Sometimes when words come out of my mouth I'm disgusted with myself and think, "That's still in my heart!?" And I pray Lord, cleanse my heart!

It really comes down to that and that's where I keep praying and seeking God's cleansing and my heart and then my speech will reflect His work!

GReat post Laurie Ann!

JesusRulzMe said...

Hello there again Laurie Ann,

I had to quickly read your post this a.m., but came back to really be able to meditate on it...and boy am I glad I did!

Thank you so much for God's Word you shared with and your insight particularly on gossip and slander.

Very wise, my dear sister, very wise! I'm grateful to the Lord for impressing this upon your heart, so much so that He's poured out His goodness through you today!

Bless you dear sister,

Dawn said...

Wow girl that was POWERFUL and made me think about so many of my actions! Great post!

Denise said...

Words to live by! Made me stop and give thought to the words I speak...... OUCH.... there are so many areas that I need to watch my mouth!

have a blessed week........

Rebecca said...

Boring? Not at all! Convicting, encouraging, teaching... This was packed full of good Scriptures that I will be thinking on for some time to come.

What a great reminder of all the practical opportunities we have in a day to honor God with our mouths. Loved this!

Anonymous said...

I wrote on some of the same stuff about gossip. I think most of us will find this issue a good one to talk about and that we probably make many of the same mistakes. It will be great to see how we can all avoid those pitfalls in the future. I look forward to seeing what scriptures people find in God's word and hearing how God is speaking through each of us on this topic too.

S P E A K I N G, another great acronym I'm going to have to write down and remember! You have created or found so many of these that are so helpful. Thanks for the great post :)

Penny Raine said...

Amen and Amen, wonderful post!

blessings, Penny Raine

Heather Paulsen said...

Great post!

Daniel's Mom said...

This was so wonderful! Thank you! God really spoke to me through you. God Bless you!

Susan said...

Hey Laurie Ann,

Wow, what an incredible study on words.

I'll print this one out and save.

Thanks for this excellent teaching, I was truly challenged, and encouraged.

You are such a woman of the word my friend!!

Cheryl said...

Laurie Ann,

That is great and by no means boring! There is a lot to think about in all this!


~~Devita~~ said...

i really love the way you define SPEAKING:D

thank you, and i want to use it on my blog too to share it to my readers:D