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*Special thanks to Shila and Pragna for their encouragement and inspiration*

The Power Of Words

The staggering responsibility for that which comes out of our mouths is spiritually sobering to say the least. Jesus promised He would order our steps but left us with the command to order our conversation. Being a communicator of sorts, that divine edict does not rest lightly on my soul. You see I love to write . What was initially meant to be “one” book has now turned into a veritable library. When not banging at my keyboard, I tend to exercise my natural propensity to express myself by talking - A LOT!

So for me, the “caution flag” is perpetually flying at full mast. Even though I weigh in at a non-intimidating 133 pounds and stand a meager 5 foot 8 inches tall, I possess immense power to bless and equally to curse! I have the power to bury or resurrect. Simply with my words I can injure or heal in those very sacred places that transcend the external. It’s been verified by the testimonies of abused women that: The “emotional” abuse was far “worse” than the physical! That reality should warrant my undivided attention when articulating my thoughts to others! I must be constantly cognisant that my speech is to be representative of Christ not me.

I have a tongue that needs to be submitted and committed to the Lordship of Christ. I’m aware that this tiny little four inch part of what comprises my body is truly the most unruly member of my entire existence!

As a hopefully somewhat accurate reflection of my Savior, I must live out my waking hours with these serious words hovering over my “freedom of speech”: “Be very careful what you say Bill! What you sow you will reap. If you sow into thistles, think it not strange that the garden of your life is void of Roses”!

I wonder at times if the absence of a sweet non-toxic fragrance in our daily lives is self-inflicted by our own words. I call it the heavenly designed boomerang dynamic! “As you do unto others it will be done unto you”! I can’t hurt you without hurting me! God has made it to be so simply because it doesn’t emulate “my calling” in Christ nor does it reflect “His heart”! It’s very hard to debate our Heavenly Father’s fairness in the matter seeing as He loves us all equally!

Folks, our Lord isn’t comfortable nor does He participate in every conversation we have. I’m not totally sure we know that as true! Oh He hears them but that’s not the same as being intimately involved. If we, by choice ( it is a choice ), meditate on the negative of another, we do so alone! Why? Because negative speech, without exception, always denotes judgement. That’s a chilling prospect when we re-consider the “ Boomerang Dynamic! That’s why fault finding never leaves us feeling better. Oh our flesh has gleefully had its “say” but our spirits bear the weight of what was said in deep sadness! I’ve noticed that “judging and joy” don’t co-relate to each other very well at all. Could it be that they come from different worlds?

I believe according to scripture that grace denied and judgement applied equals grace removed from the denier! The good news? Repentance re-applies! Salvation aside, there is a cost/reward factor to our speech. It’s unavoidable by design! Another of those core challenging “Commands Of Christ” we would much sooner stubbornly ignore, while wondering why we feel so spiritually sick. The toxicity we taste on our tongues is from the very drink we have made! The poison that too often comes from our mouths must first pass over our own spiritual taste buds.

1 Peter 3 - 9 & 10: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech”.

When in doubt I try to remember: “If Jesus wouldn’t say it, I shouldn’t say it”! I’m not here to represent by pet peeves or biases. My tongue may not like that idea but perhaps that’s what denying one’s self “sounds” like?

Jesus Said!

The value of words can be confirmed by their contextual spirit. Their stamp of validity is found in the one Who speaks them. Jesus says a lot of things that often get unceremoniously brushed under the carpets of our lives as if being crumbs that have inconveniently landed in our laps.

Let’s be honest: Jesus speaks directives that often cramp our style! “Love our enemies and bless them”? “Don’t exchange evil for evil but rather evil for good”? “When being pushed, don’t push back, love back”? And what’s this “turn the other cheek” business? That seems a “painful idea”!

To be taken into consideration: Our Lord lived out His days on planet earth in the most viciously violent environment imaginable and yet, He preached non-violence to His followers! While the majorities of His day were going left, Jesus was always going right. Then He says to us without a hint of apology: “Do as I do. Follow Me”! To the road “less” travelled!

The Bible supplies for us a mountain of documented stories that reveal our Lord’s “conversation ordered” preferences. While on earth Jesus ordered His and by doing so, He left us His standard to follow. The gold standard! He taught us that every word has weight and should be dispensed with much caution and care.

As I hungrily devour each story I simply can’t help but love Him more. He never flows with the “status quo” of a chat. Our Lord is always found interrupting the ordinary with His magnificent extraordinary! He is radically different as we should be likewise!

It’s been said that it takes “five” positive comments to negate “one” of a negative nature. That confirms just how deep the negative pierces.

Words Of Law - Words Of Grace

The Pharisees of Jesus’s day talked incessantly regarding their rules and regulations but seemed to always miss the point of divine importance from heaven’s perspective. The truth is they were far more representative of themselves than God. They knew “their book” but totally missed the spirit of the book! They were the protectors and administrators of the law. Thinking themselves as righteous, they ruled over those under their authority with a compassionless iron fist. These were frighteningly powerful people who could condemn a life to death or a hellish existence on earth in a single “word”. GUILTY!

Let’s delve into the well-known story of the woman caught in adultery. As we lean in, be sure to listen carefully for the differing tones and content of “ordered conversation” from both sides of the debate regarding the exact same subject. One was ordered by the “law giver’s”. The other? By the “grace imparter”.

You see, when we order our daily conversations it is of paramount importance that we first and foremost establish who it is we are desiring to represent. The law or grace! The compassionless or the One who is full of compassion. The iron fist or the healing hand. The self-righteous or the truly-righteous. The crucifiers or the One who was crucified!

Like the woman in the story, people’s lives may very well depend on which side of the equation we stand. There’s no “third option” as some may think. It’s either one or the other. As is proven in our own lives they both eventually become habitual in nature. Which habit do to we want to wear? But let’s be sure of this before choosing: Word’s spoken from either side are powerfully impactful for good or for evil! Thus to be taken under serious consideration!

Out Of The Heart The Mouth Speaks!

The Pharisees had caught a woman in the act of adultery. There is a “lawful” punishment in play that applies to her behavior. She “must” be stoned to death! So, story over right? Not quite yet, as the plot thickens.

As a bonus, these men had fallen into the luckiest combo of their rule. Jesus could be trapped into a blasphemous statement by using their good fortune. They weren’t fans of our Lord and seen Him as a threat to their pompous existence.

You see Jesus was extremely popular with the “least of these” who were rapidly flourishing in numbers. Very uncomfortable amounts for the religious elite who could envision an eventual attempted “revolt” if led by such a charismatic one with a growing following. That would have gotten them in big trouble with the Roman authorities not to mention, their status in Judaism would have been seriously relegated. Jesus did say He was a King! So, at least in their minds, Jesus was their enemy in need of disposing.

I find it very interesting how when people are doing wrong but presenting it to their public as right, paranoia sets into their thinking? Deceitful folks tend to think everyone else is likewise deceitful! Like the joke states: “I wouldn’t be so paranoid if everyone wasn’t against me”.

Back to the story: These Pharisees self-righteously drag the woman before Jesus and with the utmost of disgust throw her face first at His feet in a heap of tears and fears. “This woman has been caught in the act of adultery, they proclaimed. The law says she “must” be stoned”. And here comes the hook: “What do you say”?

How ironic. If she “must” be stoned why are these gentleman asking the question? Haven’t they already answered it? Oh how our words trap us when declared from the roof tops with the tone of indignation accompanied with an arterial motive.

I say, says Jesus: “You who have no sin cast the first stone”. Spoken by Jesus, most assuredly aware there wasn’t one amongst them that fit the criteria for stone throwing status. Jesus also knows the same truth regarding us!

Notice how He didn’t argue the law, He simply applied grace to the story, as confirmed by His beautiful gesture of a helping hand to re-establish the woman’s rightful stature to vertical.

Then came the “WORD”. The one that sealed the deal of full restoration. Jesus re-labelled the woman from adulteress to “DAUGHTER”! With her dignity restored she went on her way now enabled to be gracious to others having received this “unmerited favor” from Jesus. With her accusers and abusers behind her, she could now freely love as she had been freely loved! Folks, the woman in the story although being real, is metaphorically speaking, US!

Those who have truly experienced God’s amazing grace mustn’t introvert it but rather become the thankfully empowered dispensers of this heavenly gifted substance that we by grace find in our possession. When we do so in WORD and deed, the overwhelming attractiveness of Christ’s love is revealed for all to ingest. A love that is neither common, ordinary, or selective. It is ours to enjoy, embody, and share as we sojourn with our Lord. We are the privileged image bearers of this amazing Jesus who calls people Daughter and Son! It only becomes a “challenge” to us if we miss the magnificent potential of its benefits for all, including US.

Speech laced with grace resurrects lives to their purposed potential. By comparison, the word of the law (judgement) desires to dispose of that very same potential. How dramatically and diametrically opposite in outcome can two modes of speech be? To confirm: They aren’t from the same world!

I find it so very interesting that the law enforcers “threw” the woman at the very feet of Grace! Strange choice of direction if death was their desired result!

He Associates With Sinners!

Jesus would say: “Guilty as charged”. He would add: “It’s the sick that need Me not those who think of themselves as perfectly well”. Jesus did have a way of sprinkling in a little holy sarcasm at times in His responses. You see those who thought themselves as well, were the most sick of all! Let’s take a moment and check out one more story that includes a second in its shadows to consider.

Matthew was a “dreg of society” tax collector. Tax collectors in our Lord’s day, were as low as a person could go. They were considered by all as “worse than sinners”! So sinners could console their consciences by saying: “At least I’m not a tax collector”.

And don’t you just know it, Jesus goes to Matthew’s home to eat. Even more preposterous, He suggested the idea and invited His disciples to come along. This behavior by a man claiming He was from God would have been considered by all, including our Lord’s disciples, as “flagrantly inappropriate on steroids”. So the Pharisaic claims against Jesus were actually understated. He ate with people who were worse than sinners! Our elder brother Peter took note and refused to enter Matthew’s home choosing instead to hang out by the doorway. To Peter’s benefit, He was just close enough to hear Jesus share a story, not only to Matthew, but all his tax collector friends who had filled the house. A beautiful grace-laced story about a Father who had lost his son. A son who had demanded his inheritance, then trivialized its entirety into oblivion in a far off town.

Starving and bankrupt the son missed home but highly doubted that home missed him. He had left in a pride filled huff but now his pride had been exhausted as irrelevant. “I wonder if I went home would my Father allow me to be a servant. I have certainly forfeited my status as son but he might allow me residence with the hired help”, he pondered. He remembered that his Dad was a gracious man so off he went retracing his steps that would lead him back home.

Each and every one was accompanied with the haunting reality that if his Father rejected him, he most certainly deserved it. After all, when demanding his inheritance he spoke as one who was agitated that his Father was taking too long for his liking to die! He regretfully reminisced his totally disrespectful tone in that conversation. A tone that he understandably assumed had severed him from his Father’s love forever. The pain he had imbedded on his Father’s heart, he now wore heavily in shame. But onward he sojourned hoping to be received as a servant on his arrival.

From a far off distance down the road the son noticed a man standing as if perched on the front porch of what was, “past tense” in the son’s mind, home. The man was staring intently through the darkness of night into nowhere in particular it seemed. His directed gaze was frozen as one who refused to blink for fear that he’d miss what he was looking for.

Then suddenly, exploding through the dark, the man came running down the road towards the son at break neck speed! For an old guy he ran like a deer in full gallop! It would be a matter of mere moments before the man was recognized by the son as his Father. It would be discovered during their long overdue embrace that Dad had been standing on the porch waiting, ever since his son had departed.

The robe, the ring, and the sandals, fitting of a son, was called for by the Father. As you would assume, the son’s idea that he humbly presented to his father as being allowed a servants role was summarily dismissed. No, it was time to celebrate as the fatted calf would be prepared for a feast. All were invited to join in including the neighbors. You see, they would have known of the Fathers plight. When returning from their visits to town he would asked if they had seen or heard any news about his son. They had invested themselves in his heart ache, thus it was only right that they should celebrate in his joy!

How easy it would have been for Jesus to conclude the story on that high note. But He didn’t because He had something to say to Peter. Jesus continued with the second story immerging from the shadows of the first:

The returning son had a brother who wasn’t at all happy about his sibling’s re-emergence. The welcome he was receiving made it even worse. So much so, he refused to join in the festivities. The finishing touch to the story so humbled Peter’s heart that the day ended with Matthew and Peter embracing as brothers in Christ!

Amazing don’t you think! Jesus had ministered to all who were in attendance without a single word or even tone of condemnation but rather, by imparting His gracious dialog of invitation! He didn’t lecture His audience regarding the evils of tax collecting as a profession. He didn’t take Peter aside with a “tongue lashing” attack on the wrong of being selective with his love.

He just told a story of an amazingly gracious Father who very much missed that which was lost and rejoiced exceedingly when it was found! He passed on judgement rhetoric and ordered His conversation to highlight just how good God is, not how bad they were.

Gracious Speech Works!

Well, I’d say that approach worked well. Matthew ended up writing his own gospel. He stopped collecting taxes by his own volition. In fact Matthew paid back everything and more than he had stolen from people.

As it turned out, Peter would experience being humbled on a few more occasions but he would also be the one who preached the very first sermon at the original Pentecost. Peter became the most influential voice of the early church until Paul came along later to share the honors.

Both of these greatly appreciated patriarchs of our faith would tell us this: It’s unlikely in your humanness that you will get this right all of the time but if you don’t or won’t “pre-order your conversation” through the filter of Christ’s heart of love as your preference, you can defiantly get it wrong all of the time! Defiantly isn’t a misprint for definitely although both apply!

Is Speech Really Free For Us?

When “Freedom Of Speech” is abused it shows by its fruit. It always downgrades others while upgrading one’s self. It sounds somewhat Pharisaic in its content. “Thanks be to God I’m not like “them”, is the overriding tone of distain for “them” whoever they might be. It says: “She must be stoned” while Jesus says: “She must be loved”.

I guess the question for our consideration is this: What side of that conversation do we find our spiritual habitation. There’s no doubt we are “free” but only to bless. Is that an annoying thorn in the flesh to us or a wonderfully available lifestyle choice to immerse ourselves in with joy?

New life must come complete with new speech habits. Otherwise nothing is actually new, is it? That would translate to being in the world and of the world, wouldn’t it?

I repeat: “Out of the heart the mouth speaks”. According to Jesus we’ve been given new hearts. The ones of stone have been replaced with ones of flesh. Sensitive hearts that care what is said to and about others whom Christ loves and died for. Let’s not spend our precious time on earth guilty of a lack of care when weighing our words. It’s honestly not for us as disciples of Christ to critique our Lord’s creation but rather embrace it! What’s really challenging is when we peruse scripture to discover we weren’t given alternative options. It kind of makes you think doesn’t it? Well, it should make us think seeing as, if we are walking in an alternative, where did we get it?

1 Peter 2 - 22: Speaking of Jesus: “Who did no sin neither was guile found in His mouth”. Wow, what a standard! I’m guessing that didn’t happen by accident or happenstance. It was ordered!

Challenging? Yes! But only to the extent that we find the concept distasteful to our palates of preference!

My Ministry - Our Ministry

Mark 6 - 38 & 41: “How many loaves do you have He asked?” “Go and see”. When they found out they said, “Five and two fish”. Taking the five loaves and two fish and looking up to heaven He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to His disciples to DISTRIBUTE to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all”. ( Five thousand plus, were fed that day! )

In the biblical story of the “fishes and loaves”, I so clearly see three dynamics in play to achieve the desired completion of the heavenly orchestrated equation. The young boy GAVE what little he had, our Lord then MULTIPLIED it, and the disciples then DISTRIBUTED it.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus, after the multiplying didn’t say, “Come and get it”. What He did say was, “Everyone find a place to sit on the grass and I’ll bring it to you, through my own”. Folks, He loves to involve us. He loves to make us matter! We are blessed beyond measure to be written into, His stories! Just imagine: Invited by Him to participate in His plans for others!

From the inception of the idea of writing books to be made available to “all freely”, there has never been a moment when I haven’t been aware of its ministry context. I could easily be seen as the “young boy” in the story. Jesus has most certainly multiplied my meager offering to Him.

So may I invite and encourage you to be a distributor of that which He has multiplied, thereby elevating “My Ministry” into “Our Ministry”, thus completing “His Ministry”. There’s something about that idea that sounds “perfect” to my heart!

We all have friends, family, work mates, school mates, etc. I’ve included a simple directional on “how to find” the “fishes and loaves”. Please feel free to share “what you eat” with others. You have no idea where it could lead to! That young boy’s mother could never have dreamed, what that little lunch she had prepared for her son on that fateful morning, would produce!

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