words

Beautiful Feet

Photo credit: lightstock.com There is no difference between Jews and Greeks. They all have the same Lord, who gives his riches to everyone who calls on him. So then, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

But how can people call on him if they have not believed in him? How can they believe in him if they have not heard his message? How can they hear if no one tells ⌊the Good News⌋? How can people tell the Good News if no one sends them? As Scripture says, “How beautiful are the feet of the messengers who announce the Good News.”

But not everyone has believed the Good News. Isaiah asks, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from hearing the message, and the message that is heard is what Christ spoke. But I ask, “Didn’t they hear that message?” Certainly they did! “The voice of the messengers has gone out into the whole world and their words to the ends of the earth.”

Again I ask, “Didn’t Israel understand ⌊that message⌋?” Moses was the first to say, “I will make you jealous of people who are not a nation. I will make you angry about a nation that doesn’t understand.” Isaiah said very boldly, “I was found by those who weren’t looking for me. I was revealed to those who weren’t asking for me.”

Then Isaiah said about Israel, “All day long I have stretched out my hands to disobedient and rebellious people.” (‭Romans‬ ‭10:12-21‬ (GW)


You've probably heard the sentiment credited to Francis of Assisi—Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words. But the apostle Paul, who predates Francis, makes it clear that words are necessary for speaking the message of the gospel.

So, why is this saying so popular? Francis of Assisi is a beloved figure and a man with a humble heart. But this expression is only attributed to him, it is not certain that he said it. Perhaps more to the point, it's popular because it somehow relieves us from having to intentionally share the gospel message.

Yes, our example is important, and hopefully our life is a testimony to others. But these verses speak a lot about hearing not seeing, and of using words and a voice.

But how can people call on him if they have not believed in him? How can they believe in him if they have not heard his message? How can they hear if no one tells ⌊the Good News⌋?

God says the messengers who announce the Good News have beautiful feet. An illusion to their freedom and their intentional purpose.

Words are important for communicating the gospel clearly, and our life needs to match the message we share. ©Word-Strong_2016

Horses and Chariots

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Thoughts and words are powerful. They can have a strong positive influence and impact or a negative one. They are rarely neutral.

Countless book, blogs, and workshops tout the powerful force of thoughts and words. This was understood in ancient times long, long before the printed word.

Prayers and pronouncements of blessing are an important form of expression where this is true. The Scriptures are full of examples, especially the Psalms.

Scripture

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

May the Lord answer you in times of trouble. May the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from his Temple and support you from Mount Zion. May he remember all your offerings and accept all your sacrifices. Selah

May he give you what you want and make all your plans succeed, and we will shout for joy when you succeed, and we will raise a flag in the name of our God. May the Lord give you all that you ask for. [vss 1-5]

Now I know the Lord helps his appointed king. He answers him from his holy heaven and saves him with his strong right hand. Some trust in chariots, others in horses, but we trust the Lord our God. They are overwhelmed and defeated, but we march forward and win.

Lord, save the king! Answer us when we call for help. [vss 6-8]

(Psalm 20:1-8 NCV) [Context– Psalm 20]

Key phrase— Some trust in chariots, others in horses, but we trust the Lord our God

[bctt tweet="Some trust in chariots, others in horses, but we trust the Lord our God" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

How are thoughts and words expressed in the first half of this psalm? How would you describe the way they're expressed?

What are the six specific blessings spoken in this psalm? How are these blessings also a form of prayer?

What is the basis of confidence that this prayer of blessing will be answered?

Where do many people put their trust? How is trust in the Lord shown to be better?

Reflection...

Prayer is simply communication with God. A conversation of our soul and spirit to a personal, living God. How amazing is that!

This is the beauty of the Psalms. They capture various emotions of the heart and soul in an honest, open expression.

This psalm not only expresses blessings, but is an affirmation of faith. It's a confident confession of trust in God.

Other people put their trust in things with limited strength. King David—a mighty warrior—chose to trust in the Lord who is omnipotent. God's strength is unlimited.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

When you pray, how often do you speak from your heart with confidence?

Do you make a point to pray for the spiritual well-being of others?

How confident are you that God will answer when you pray?

Do you consciously choose to trust in God more than anything else?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Sweeter Than Honey

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"If God exists, why doesn't He make Himself known?" He has. The natural created world proclaims the existence of a Creator, especially the skies surrounding the earth.

All day, all night, God's voice reverberates to everyone on earth.

God's existence and voice are also made known within each person. First, our conscience—the inner sense of right and wrong. Second, the longing we all have for relationship.

Scripture

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies announce what his hands have made. Day after day they tell the story; night after night they tell it again. They have no speech or words; they have no voice to be heard. But their message goes out through all the world; their words go everywhere on earth. [vss 1-4]

The sky is like a home for the sun. The sun comes out like a bridegroom from his bedroom. It rejoices like an athlete eager to run a race. The sun rises at one end of the sky and follows its path to the other end. Nothing hides from its heat. [vss 5-6]

The teachings of the Lord are perfect; they give new strength. The rules of the Lord can be trusted; they make plain people wise. The orders of the Lord are right; they make people happy. The commands of the Lord are pure; they light up the way. [vss 7-8]

Respect for the Lord is good; it will last forever. The judgments of the Lord are true; they are completely right. They are worth more than gold, even the purest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even the finest honey. By them your servant is warned. Keeping them brings great reward. [vss 9-11]

People cannot see their own mistakes. Forgive me for my secret sins. Keep me from the sins of pride; don’t let them rule me. Then I can be pure and innocent of the greatest of sins. I hope my words and thoughts please you. Lord, you are my Rock, the one who saves me. [vss 12-14]

(Psalm 19:1-14 GW) [Context– Psalm 19]

Key phrase— Respect for the Lord is good; it will last forever

[bctt tweet="Respect for the Lord is good; it will last forever" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

How is God's voice heard and known to all humanity? In what way is it expressed?

What is one example of God's voice and existence made known that circles the earth?

What are we told about the teachings and commands of God? What are they likened to?

What are the benefits of keeping God's teachings?

Reflection...

If God can be known through the natural world and within, why doesn't everyone accept His existence? Built into every human being is a capacity to resist God. It's called a free will.

When the beautiful intricacy of creation is reduced to a set of accidental and coincidental events, it deafens those who hold to that belief.

Insistence upon our way, regardless of its impact on others, hardens our hearts along with our conscience.

Creation reminds us daily of God's ever-present sovereign existence, and the truth of His word guides our consciences and helps soften our hearts towards God's Spirit.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

How does God's creation speak to you? What speaks the loudest to you?

What things have you learned about God from the natural world?

How has God's Spirit and the Scriptures brought conviction, correction, and restoration in your life?

In what ways does the truth of God help you have a healthy relationship with God?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

The Apple of His Eye

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A life of faith is a life of trust. Trust becomes real when it becomes necessary. I can say, "I trust God," but those are mere words until I choose to show it by my actions.

David was slandered and persecuted before he was a king by King Saul, and while he was king by his son Absalom. Yet, he continued to trust God rather than take matters into his own hands.

Prayer is an act of faith. It's not mere words spoken into air, it's a commitment of the soul.

Scripture

A prayer by David.

Hear my plea for justice, O Lord. Pay attention to my cry. Open your ears to my prayer, ⌊which comes⌋ from lips free from deceit. Let the verdict of my innocence come directly from you. Let your eyes observe what is fair. [vss 1-2]

You have probed my heart. You have confronted me at night. You have tested me like silver, but you found nothing wrong. I have determined that my mouth will not sin. I have avoided cruelty because of your word. In spite of what others have done, my steps have remained firmly in your paths. My feet have not slipped. [vss 3-5]

I have called on you because you answer me, O God. Turn your ear toward me. Hear what I have to say. Reveal your miraculous deeds of mercy, O Savior of those who find refuge by your side from those who attack them. Guard me as if I were the pupil in your eye. Hide me in the shadow of your wings. Hide me from wicked people who violently attack me, from my deadly enemies who surround me. [vss 6-9]

They have shut out all feeling. Their mouths have spoken arrogantly. They have tracked me down. They have surrounded me. They have focused their attention on throwing me to the ground. Each one of them is like a lion eager to tear ⌊its prey⌋ apart and like a young lion crouching in hiding places. [vss 10-12]

Arise, O Lord; confront them! Bring them to their knees! With your sword rescue my life from wicked people. With your power rescue me from mortals, O Lord, from mortals who enjoy their inheritance only in this life. You fill their bellies with your treasure. Their children are satisfied ⌊with it⌋, and they leave what remains to their children.

I will see your face when I am declared innocent. When I wake up, I will be satisfied ⌊with seeing⌋ you. [vss 13-15]

(Psalm 17:1-15 GW) [Context– Psalm 17]

Key phrase— I have called on you because you answer me, O God

[bctt tweet="I have called on you because you answer me, O God" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

How does King David begin his appeal to the Lord? Why does he say he's confident in prayer?

In what way does he speak of his relationship with the Lord? Do you think this is boasting?

What and from who is David asking to be protected from? Why?

What is King David's final declaration of confidence? When will this happen?

Reflection...

Corrie Ten Boom, made famous by her book (and movie) The Hiding Place, knew Hitler's Germany would face God's judgment. Why? Because of their genocide upon the Jews, the apple of God's eye.

She knew Israel was the nation God raised up and chose as His people. King David appealed to God for His protection when he said, "Guard me as if I were the pupil [apple] in your eye."

The pupil [apple] is the center of our eye. This speaks of an acknowledgment of need and vulnerability. King David understood that no matter who his enemy was, God was greater.

He even had this assurance beyond life on this earth. As he says, "I will see your face... when I wake up." This shows His trust in God—a genuine faith. Even when surrounded by enemies and the possibility of death, he still trusted God.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Do you trust in God more than your self or others?

Have you learned to trust God in a deeper way through times of trials and testing?

How has God answered prayer for you? How has this increased your faith?

Are you confident in God's care and protection over you and the lives of your family?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Everyone Lies

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Have you noticed the similarity between promoters, sales people, and politicians? It's not coincidence. There's a whole psychology to persuasion.

Most of this promotional persuasion flirts with the truth. An element of the truth is buried somewhere in what's said.

It doesn't matter whether it's a product, a used car, some promise, or promotion of a person, much of the sales pitch is exaggeration, or in some cases, an outright lie.

The crazy thing is, we're prone to believe it. We want to believe these lies, because they appeal to our wants, desires, fears, or they hook something else inside us.

Scripture

For the director of music. Upon the sheminith. A psalm of David.

Save me, Lord, because the good people are all gone; no true believers are left on earth. Everyone lies to his neighbors; they say one thing and mean another. The Lord will stop those flattering lips and cut off those bragging tongues. [vss 1-3]

They say, “Our tongues will help us win. We can say what we wish; no one is our master.” But the Lord says, “I will now rise up, because the poor are being hurt. Because of the moans of the helpless, I will give them the help they want.” [vss 4-5]

The Lord’s words are pure, like silver purified by fire, like silver purified seven times over. Lord, you will keep us safe; you will always protect us from such people. But the wicked are all around us; everyone loves what is wrong. [vss 6-8]

(Psalm 12:1-8 NCV) [Context– Psalm 12]

Key phrase— The Lord’s words are pure, like silver purified by fire

[bctt tweet="The Lord’s words are pure, like silver purified by fire"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What is the request of the psalmist? What is his reason for asking this?

What are four things King David says that show "no true believers" are left?

What moves the Lord to "rise up"? Who is He concerned about and why is this so?

How are the words of the Lord described in contrast to everyone else?

Reflection...

It's easy to get caught up in lies and deceit when that's what surrounds you. Emotions and imaginations are stirred easily, and it doesn't take long for cynicism and arrogance to develop.

The only counter for a lie is the truth. Deception is only broken with honesty. The first humans were deceived by a lie, because they wanted to believe something that seemed better than what they knew (Gen 3:1-7).

Without a plumb line of truth, we are easily hooked by a lie. Especially when it appeals to some want or desire buried deep within us. This is the value of the Scriptures. It's our plumb line of truth. It's how we can test everything we hear or are told.

The Lord's words are pure, like silver purified with fire.

If what you read or hear from the world around you doesn't measure up to God's truth, then reject it. Ignore it. God honors and watches over those who hold to the truth and trust in Him.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

What are some of the persistent lies you encounter day-to-day?

How do you determine what is true and what is a lie?

How do you handle flattery, deception, and bragging by others?

How do you guard your own heart from speaking lies, flattery, and deceit?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Rescue Me

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Fear can paralyze us. It can also panic us. You've no doubt heard of the fight or flight response.

In short, it's a quick burst of hormones that spurs the nervous system into action, flooding us with extra strength, energy, and emotions to respond to a perceived threat.

Males tend to move towards fighting, while females favor fleeing. But that's a generalization. How do you handle fear?

Scripture

For the choir director; with stringed instruments, on the sheminith [uncertain musical term]; a psalm by David.

O Lord, do not punish me in your anger or discipline me in your rage. Have pity on me, O Lord, because I am weak. Heal me, O Lord, because my bones shake with terror. My soul has been deeply shaken with terror. But you, O Lord, how long. . .? [vss 1-3]

Come back, O Lord. Rescue me. Save me because of your mercy! In death, no one remembers you. In the grave, who praises you? I am worn out from my groaning. My eyes flood my bed every night. I soak my couch with tears. My eyes blur from grief. They fail because of my enemies. [vss 4-7]

Get away from me, all you troublemakers, because the Lord has heard the sound of my crying. The Lord has heard my plea for mercy. The Lord accepts my prayer. All my enemies will be put to shame and deeply shaken with terror. In a moment they will retreat and be put to shame. [vss 8-10]

(Psalm 6:1-10 GW) [Context– Psalm 6]

Key phrase— Rescue me. Save me because of your mercy!

[bctt tweet="Rescue me. Save me because of your mercy!"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

How does this psalm begin? How would you describe the feelings expressed?

What is the tone and plea of the second group of verses? Who do you think David is speaking to?

How would you characterize the last group of verses? Who is being spoken to or about?

Do you see how this prayer resolves from its beginning?

Do you see how David speaks to himself, his enemies, and to God?

Reflection...

Reading of King David's conquest over Goliath, and in many battles as a soldier under King Saul, you wouldn't expect him to react in fear. But his psalms reveal the deep fears and concerns he often had. But his psalms also reveal his "go to" response to fear.

Nelson Mandela, a man acquainted with fear and imprisonment, said, "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

David learned early on in life to call out to God with an open and honest heart. He didn't hide his fear, nor his shame. He knew God would hear him, and he felt free to vent his feelings in prayer. He trusted God with his heart and his life.

God was faithful to King David, even when David struggled and stumbled in his life. His "go to" was God, first and foremost.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

How do you typically start your prayers to God? Are you able to be honest with Him?

Are there times when it seems God is not listening to your prayers?

Do you continue to pray until you're confident God hears you, as you lay your concerns before Him?

Have you learned to pray in faith and confident trust based on how God previously answered your prayers?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

More Than Promises

Photo credit: unsplash_SWijers Commitment. Is it a forgotten value? Many express commitments, but how many follow through? Companies, politicians, the media, people making New Year's resolutions, all talk commitment, but are they only empty promises?

Promises, promises. Talk is cheap. Words are many, actions are few. However you express it, rhetoric and rants fill the air, but not resolve.

Resolve is the root word for resolution, "I resolve to...." Resolve, resolution, commitment, whichever term is used, is a promise requiring action. But what's the basis for making such promises? This is important.

The "C" word

The "C" word, that's what I called it. At the beginning of each new year, I'd craft a message on commitment. Each message was framed within the current need of the church in view.

Throughout most of the 80's, I challenged those I pastored towards some commitment. It became something we joked about, "oh no, the 'C' word again!"

It was joked about, but understood. Each of us in the church, including me, knew we needed to be challenged, reminded of our commitment to follow Jesus.

When I moved overseas, my challenge was directed towards pastors and leaders to study, preach, and teach the truth of God's Word. Later, I challenged my staff and students in the Bible college. I also challenged myself.

Over the years, many of these messages and challenges focused on the importance of God's Word, the Bible.

[bctt tweet="Resolutions are promises that require a commitment to action"]

A spiritual famine

When I returned from the mission field in 2005, I saw a great need in the church. I didn't have the same opportunities to address this need, as I had while pastoring and as a missionary. So I addressed it within a much smaller circle of influence.

Still, the need grew. It continues to grow. We are moving ever closer to what the prophet Amos spoke hundreds of years ago—

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.
They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it." (Amos 8:11-12)

How would this be possible with so many biblical resources available today? We (Americans) are awash in study Bibles, devotionals, study guides, conferences and workshops, small groups, and mega and home churches.

[bctt tweet="We are rich in resources and Bible knowledge, but poor in commitment"]

We are rich in resources and Bible knowledge, but poor in commitment. We lack commitment to walk in the truth of God's Word. Let's face it, we're more talk than follow through.

Take responsibility

We don't need to be more articulate and erudite in Bible knowledge. We need to live the truth of the Scriptures out in daily life.

  • Live out the truth whether people notice it or not.
  • Live it out so it transforms our life from the inside out.
  • Live it out even when it doesn't meet the expectations of others.
  • Live it out even when it costs us something to do so.

[bctt tweet="We don't need more articulate and erudite Bible knowledge, but to live it out"]

How? Each believer needs to take personal responsibility for their own life.

Don't blame the church, the culture, pastors, anyone, or anything else. Each of us need to commit to seek the Lord, understanding His Word, and living out our faith each day.

Back to basics

What do you think is needed to make this kind of commitment? What does real commitment need to be based on?

In sports, when a team is making careless mistakes or playing without focus or passion, it's said that the players need to get back to the basics. Practice of simple, but essential fundamentals.

I believe this is true for Christian believers, pastors, leaders, and the church as a whole. But what are our basics? What are the essentials we need to put into practice?

[bctt tweet="What are the essentials Christian believers need to put into practice?"]


Over the next few weeks, I hope to explore some of these essential basics. I gave a hint above for the essential I'll focus on first. But what do you think?

What do you see as essential to live out the Christian faith?

Reflection of the Heart

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People use the word heart in many clichés and figures of speech. Here are some familiar ones— Let's get to the heart of the matter. Home is where the heart is. He wears his heart on his sleeve. We need to have a heart to heart talk.

But what are these expressions speaking of? What is meant by using the word heart?

It is not referring to the physical organ in our chest that pumps blood throughout the body. It refers to the intangible, internal nature of a person. Some people keep it hidden more than others, but it is revealed in various ways.

Scripture

Don’t brag about tomorrow, since you don’t know what the day will bring. Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth—a stranger, not your own lips. A stone is heavy and sand is weighty, but the resentment caused by a fool is even heavier. [vss 1-3]

Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous. An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. [vss 4-6]

A person who is full refuses honey, but even bitter food tastes sweet to the hungry. A person who strays from home is like a bird that strays from its nest. The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Never abandon a friend—either yours or your father’s. When disaster strikes, you won’t have to ask your brother for assistance. It’s better to go to a neighbor than to a brother who lives far away. [vss 7-10]

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. As workers who tend a fig tree are allowed to eat the fruit, so workers who protect their employer’s interests will be rewarded. As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person. [vss 17-19]

Just as Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied. Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised. You cannot separate fools from their foolishness, even though you grind them like grain with mortar and pestle. [vss 20-22]

(Proverbs 27:1-10; 17-22 NLT) [Context– Proverbs 27]

Key phrase— As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.

[bctt tweet="As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person"]

Digging Deeper...

What are the various relationships referred to in this chapter of Proverbs?

What are the emotions and actions connected to the wisdom expressed about these relationships?

What descriptive and contrasting observations, wisdom, and advice are given in these verses?

In what ways is the nature (heart) of a person revealed through relationships and life events?

Reflection...

How a person handles both praise and criticism reveals a lot about them. Insight into a person's heart is also gained by observing their friendships and interactions with others. Even a person's view of themself, and how they live their life day-to-day, reveals their inner nature.

Life is full of ups and downs. People don't always see eye to eye on things. We all say and do things we wish we didn't. But we need other people in our lives, and they need us in theirs. So, what we need is wisdom that penetrates and settles in our hearts, and is clear in our minds. Then we will value those who are honest and genuine, and have the capacity to be likewise.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

How do you handle praise and compliments? Do they go to your head and puff you up?

Are you able to receive correction and constructive criticism, or do you resent it?

How do you handle disappointment, jealousy, and resentment from others?

Do you have an honest, realistic view of yourself and life in general?

Do you have trustworthy friends and mentors to help you a healthy perspective in life? If not, will you pursue such relationships?

Picturesque Words

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You've heard the expression, "One picture is worth a thousand words." But some words are so descriptive they paint a picture of their own.

They are picturesque words. It's also called figurative language. These are words that trigger an image in our minds, and are also referred to as picture language.

But some wording is so descriptive, it's picturesque. When we read or hear picturesque prose or poetry, we know an artist was at work.

Scripture

The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl. A wise warning to someone who will listen is as valuable as gold earrings or fine gold jewelry. Trustworthy messengers refresh those who send them, like the coolness of snow in the summertime. People who brag about gifts they never give are like clouds and wind that give no rain. With patience you can convince a ruler, and a gentle word can get through to the hard-headed. [vss 11-15]

If you find honey, don’t eat too much, or it will make you throw up. Don’t go to your neighbor’s house too often; too much of you will make him hate you. When you lie about your neighbors, it hurts them as much as a club, a sword, or a sharp arrow. Trusting unfaithful people when you are in trouble is like eating with a broken tooth or walking with a crippled foot. Singing songs to someone who is sad is like taking away his coat on a cold day or pouring vinegar on soda. If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink. Doing this will be like pouring burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. [vss 16-22]

As the north wind brings rain, telling gossip brings angry looks. It is better to live in a corner on the roof than inside the house with a quarreling wife. Good news from a faraway place is like a cool drink when you are tired. A good person who gives in to evil is like a muddy spring or a dirty well. It is not good to eat too much honey, nor does it bring you honor to brag about yourself. Those who do not control themselves are like a city whose walls are broken down. [vss 23-28]

(Proverbs 25:11-28 NCV) [Context– Proverbs 25]

Key phrase— The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl.

[bctt tweet="The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl"]

Digging Deeper...

What do the picturesque words describe in the first group of verses (11-15)?

What are the values and consequences of speech expressed throughout all these verses?

How do the second group of verses (16-22) express the consequences of excess?

What are the good and not so good outcomes described in this third group of verses (23-28) for both those who speak and listen to what's said?

Reflection...

Some sayings don't express the whole picture, they only convey a single dimension. "Talk is cheap," is one of those sayings. It expresses the idea that mere talk doesn't accomplish anything. But words of wisdom are talk that is valuable.

The value of the wisdom given throughout the book of Proverbs sees more than one side of things. This wisdom is often expressed through comparisons, contrasts, and extended thoughts.

Some wisdom is given in such picturesque wording that we see it in our mind's eye. These pictures are so thought provoking it makes us stop to ponder them, and that is exactly what they are designed to do.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Have you experienced someone speaking the right word at the right time in your life?

Have you been hurt by what others have said about you or to you?

How often have you spoken hurtful things to someone or about them?

When you've been on both ends of hurtful or destructive speech, does it cause you to be more careful with your words?

Who around you—in your daily life—need encouraging or comforting words? Go ahead and share them with those people!

Impulse Control and Motivations

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Most of us don't like being told what to do nor how to do it. Especially nowadays, when you can learn how to do most anything via the internet or on YouTube.

On the other hand, we can be appalled at the lack of restraint and viciousness of others—in verbal and physical ways—from bullying to terrorism. We are shocked by the actions of ISIS or Boko Haram, or the indiscriminate violence of school shootings.

Yet, when we lack restraint, we create fertile ground in ourselves for destructive, unrestrained behaviors.

Scripture

Wine [makes people] mock, liquor [makes them] noisy, and everyone under their influence is unwise. The rage of a king is like the roar of a lion. Whoever makes him angry forfeits his life. Avoiding a quarrel is honorable. After all, any stubborn fool can start a fight. A lazy person does not plow in the fall. He looks for something in the harvest but finds nothing. [vss 1-4]

A motive in the human heart is like deep water, and a person who has understanding draws it out. Many people declare themselves loyal, but who can find someone who is [really] trustworthy? A righteous person lives on the basis of his integrity. Blessed are his children after he is gone. A king who sits on his throne to judge sifts out every evil with his eyes. Who can say, “I’ve made my heart pure. I’m cleansed from my sin”? A double standard of weights and measures—both are disgusting to the Lord. Even a child makes himself known by his actions, whether his deeds are pure or right. [vss 5-11]

The ear that hears, the eye that sees—the Lord made them both. Do not love sleep or you will end up poor. Keep your eyes open, and you will have plenty to eat. “Bad! Bad!” says the buyer. Then, as he goes away, he brags [about his bargain]. There are gold and plenty of jewels, but the lips of knowledge are precious gems. Hold on to the garment of one who guarantees a stranger’s loan, and hold responsible the person who makes a loan on behalf of a foreigner. Food gained dishonestly tastes sweet to a person, but afterwards his mouth will be filled with gravel. [vss 12-17]

(Proverbs 20:1-17 GW) [Context– Proverbs 20]

Key phrase— A motive in the human heart is like deep water

[bctt tweet="A motive in the human heart is like deep water"]

Digging Deeper...

Which of these admonitions have to do with impulse control? Which ones deal with motivations of the heart?

What assurances or benefits do you see in these verses, and which ones speak of consequences?

Which of these admonitions stands out or surprises you? Which one is your favorite?

How have you seen any of these admonitions played out in your life or in the lives of others around you?

Reflection...

Why do we do some of the things we do? It may be hard to understand at times, but often there are patterns of thought and behavior in our life. One leads to the other. This is one of many reasons we need other people in our life—those who are reliable friends and mentors, even our spouse.

Many times I thought I had a brilliant idea until I shared it with my wife or someone else I trust. Then they begin to ask questions I can't easily answer, or point out flaws in my "brilliant idea" that I haven't considered. There's always a motive buried within us that impacts our behavior, even though it may seem hidden to us at the time.

Getting a handle on our impulse control—those immediate reactions we tend to have—requires an inner discipline. This inner discipline requires a foundation of truth in our hearts and minds. This is the wisdom so often spoken of in the book of Proverbs. Wisdom—godly wisdom—will help us develop healthy and godly motives, which answer the question of why we do what we do.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Have there been times in your life where you've wondered why you reacted or acted a certain way?

Are there certain patterns or habits that have developed in your life that you don't seem to have much control over?

Who are trustworthy people in your life, who will be honest with you and have your best interest in mind?

What are you doing on a daily basis to develop a foundation of truth and wisdom in your heart and mind?

Life, Death, and Deep Waters

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Words can be powerful. They can encourage, scar, empower, and even confuse a person. They are more than the letters and sounds used to express them.

Words embody meaning, but not just in themselves. The meaning of words depends on how the words are spoken—their context, the tone of voice, and even who spoke them.

Some people love to talk, and may be careless with their words. Others use words sparingly, but might have a lot to say. What a person says and how they say things reveals a lot about who they are.

Scripture

A loner is out to get what he wants for himself. He opposes all sound reasoning. A fool does not find joy in understanding but only in expressing his own opinion. When wickedness comes, contempt also comes, and insult comes along with disgrace. The words of a person’s mouth are like deep waters. The fountain of wisdom is an overflowing stream. [vss 1-4]

It is not good to be partial toward a wicked person, thereby depriving an innocent person of justice. By talking, a fool gets into an argument, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin. His lips are a trap to his soul. The words of a gossip are swallowed greedily, and they go down into a person’s innermost being. [vss 5-8]

Before destruction a person’s heart is arrogant, but humility comes before honor. Whoever gives an answer before he listens is stupid and shameful. [vss 12-13]

The first to state his case seems right [until] his neighbor comes to cross-examine him. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love to talk will have to eat their own words. [vss 17, 21]

(‭Proverbs‬ ‭18‬:‭1-8, 12-13, 17, 21‬ GW) [Context– Proverbs 18]

Key phrase— The words of a person’s mouth are like deep waters.

[bctt tweet="The words of a person’s mouth are like deep waters"]

Digging Deeper...

What are the harsh, stronger things spoken of in these verses?

In what ways do you see persons and their words described?

How are wisdom and humility beneficial in respect to words, attitudes, and timing?

What do you think it means about a person's words being like "deep waters"?

Reflection...

The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about words, wisdom, and foolishness. Often times foolishness is known for carelessness in speech and attitude. Wisdom, on the other hand, is noted for being the opposite.

Gossip is destructive in many ways. It affects the person on the wrong end of it, and the person who takes it to heart. It's also destructive for the person who starts and passes on the gossip. This is where the "deep waters" of a person's words can take on different meanings.

For a person with ulterior or malicious motives, their words can be a trap for those who believe them. This is why we need to be careful of what (and who) we listen to, and being too quick to believe or act upon what we hear.

Wisdom may be an overflowing stream, but not because of the volume of words it speaks. It's good to be careful with the words we speak and listen to, especially when we react to them. If we're not careful, we may have to eat some bitter words and humble pie.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Are there times when you feel you've spoken out of turn or spoken too much?

Why do you think gossip is so destructive? Why is it so easy to listen to it?

Do you tend to react too quickly, or do you carefully weigh what people say before responding?

What exhortations or encouragements in these verses do you see as most helpful?

The Good, Bad, and Ugly Use of Words

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I wonder if encouragement and civility are becoming lost virtues. Encouragement and kind words are recommended if you want success in business or some other venture.

 A well-managed establishment will insist their personnel are careful how they address customers and clients. But what about day-to-day transactions at the store, bank, restaurant, or other place of business or entertainment for those of us on the receiving end?

When you are engaged in some transaction, how do you respond? How about while driving or parking? What about at home? We may expect encouragement and courtesy from others, but do we extend it to others?

Scripture

A gentle answer will calm a person’s anger, but an unkind answer will cause more anger. As a tree gives fruit, healing words give life, but dishonest words crush the spirit. Wise people use their words to spread knowledge, but there is no knowledge in the thoughts of fools. [vss 1, 4, 7]

Those who make fun of wisdom don’t like to be corrected; they will not ask the wise for advice. People with understanding want more knowledge, but fools just want more foolishness. People with quick tempers cause trouble, but those who control their tempers stop a quarrel.  [vss 12, 14, 18]

Plans fail without good advice, but they succeed with the advice of many others. People enjoy giving good advice. Saying the right word at the right time is so pleasing. The LORD hates evil thoughts but is pleased with kind words. Good people think before they answer, but the wicked simply pour out evil. [vss 22-23, 26, 28]

Good news makes you feel better. Your happiness will show in your eyes. If you listen to correction to improve your life, you will live among the wise. Those who refuse correction hate themselves, but those who accept correction gain understanding. Respect for the LORD will teach you wisdom. If you want to be honored, you must be humble.  [vss 30-33]

(‭Proverbs‬ ‭15‬:‭1, 4, 7, 12, 14, 18, 22-23, 26, 28, 30-33‬ NCV) [Context– Proverbs 15]

Key phrase— As a tree gives fruit, healing words give life

[bctt tweet="As a tree gives fruit, healing words give life"]

Digging Deeper...

  1. What are we told about how we answer and speak to others, in the first few verses?
  2. What is the difference between those who have and love wisdom, and those who don't?
  3. Why is giving and getting good advice beneficial, and what is needed to get and give it?
  4. What are the benefits of good words, self-control, and humility?

Reflection...

We all like to hear good news and encouragement, but are we dispensers of the same to others? Living in a self-absorbed culture, as ours is, it's easy to get jaded with one-way expectations. But if we're all waiting for the other to speak kind words, well... will probably not get many.

I've often seen simple words of appreciation and kindness change whole conversations, or the way a transaction is going. Most of the time, servers in a restaurant or representatives of any business respond more positively when I'm positive towards them. The reverse is true also. Many times my attitude changes when a person treats me with courtesy and pleasantness.

How about trying to be the bearer of good news, kind words, and encouragement to others, even when it's unexpected? Make a point of trying to do this for at least one person each day this week. If you do, let me know how that goes!

Make it personal...

When was the last time you encouraged someone you didn't know?

How often do you encourage those you know well, especially in your household?

Who has spoken encouraging and kind words to you recently?

How often do you make a point of saying something kind and encouraging to someone?

The Perils of Pretentiousness

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We live exaggerated lives. If you live in a wealthy western nation, the chances are great that you live beyond your means. That's one way we live exaggerated lives.

Many of us have homes much larger than we need, which are filled with more things than we can manage. So, we fill up our garages with stuff, then rent storage units for everything else.

We have more knowledge at our fingertips than we can learn in a lifetime. That's not an exaggeration! But how much does all this benefit us? Are we wiser than previous generations? Are we happy and content?

It doesn't appear we are wiser, happier or vaguely content, though we consume vast amounts of... just about everything.

Scripture

Wise children take their parents’ advice, but whoever makes fun of wisdom won’t listen to correction. Those who are careful about what they say protect their lives, but whoever speaks without thinking will be ruined.  [vss 1, 3]

Some people pretend to be rich but really have nothing. Others pretend to be poor but really are wealthy. The rich may have to pay a ransom for their lives, but the poor will face no such danger. [vss 7-8]

Pride only leads to arguments, but those who take advice are wise. Money that comes easily disappears quickly, but money that is gathered little by little will grow. It is sad not to get what you hoped for. But wishes that come true are like eating fruit from the tree of life. [vss 10-12]

The teaching of a wise person gives life. It is like a fountain that can save people from death. People with good understanding will be well liked, but the lives of those who are not trustworthy are hard. Every wise person acts with good sense, but fools show how foolish they are. Spend time with the wise and you will become wise, but the friends of fools will suffer. [vss 14-16, 20]

(Proverbs 13:1, 3, 7-8, 10-12, 14-16, 20 NCV) [Context– Proverbs 13]

Key phrase

Spend time with the wise and you will become wise

Digging Deeper...

  1. What are the benefits of listening to sound advice and being careful with our words?
  2. What are the perils and problems of unchecked pride and pretending to be more than we are?
  3. What are the challenges of having wealth, and the benefits of good stewardship?
  4. What are the benefits of being wise, gaining wisdom, and living wisely?

Reflection...

Increased wealth and wisdom carries with it greater responsibilities. Life gets more complicated when we have more, of anything. I hear people marvel at the happiness seen in the faces of those we call the working-poor in other countries.

How can they be happy with so little? Because their lives, their expectations, are more simple. Hard, yes. But simple and less distracted in many ways.

Many of us in the west have a lifestyle only millionaires knew decades ago. We don't want to wait or be denied what we want. But it costs us more than we can afford. It costs us in ways that can't be quantified.

Make it personal...

How is your life better or different from your parents? If better, how do you measure this?

Is it difficult for you to wait to buy the latest gadget or style of clothing? Do you often find yourself looking for more?

When have you found yourself most content? When have you experienced deep peace or joy?

Are things or people most important to you? If people, how is this seen in your life?

Words, Wills, and Wounds

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Most of us are familiar with the children's rhyme— "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." And most of us realize this is more wishful thinking than reality. Words can hurt, cutting deep into our psyche and burrowing into our heart.

Sometimes we say things we don't mean to say—at least out loud. At other times, we can't seem to find the right words to say. We don't need to find a balance between the two, we need to find a better way.

Scripture

A stubborn fool considers his own way the right one, but a person who listens to advice is wise. When a stubborn fool is irritated, he shows it immediately, but a sensible person hides the insult. [vss 15-16]

A truthful witness speaks honestly, but a lying witness speaks deceitfully. Careless words stab like a sword, but the words of wise people bring healing. The word of truth lasts forever, but lies last only a moment. Deceit is in the heart of those who plan evil, but joy belongs to those who advise peace. [vss 17-20]

No [lasting] harm comes to a righteous person, but wicked people have lots of trouble. Lips that lie are disgusting to the Lordbut honest people are his delight. A sensible person [discreetly] hides knowledge, but foolish minds preach stupidity. [vss 21-23]

(Proverbs 12:15-23 GW) [Context– Proverbs 12]

Key phrase

Careless words stab like a sword, but the words of wise people bring healing.

Digging Deeper...

  1. What is the difference between the stubborn and sensible persons in how they handle their opinions and emotions?
  2. How is the effect of spoken words contrasted? How can words be used in a good way? How do they become damaging?
  3. What character traits are associated with lies and deceit? What are honest and sensible people known for with their words?

Reflection...

I've been wounded by the words of others, but more often than not, I'm the one who wounds. It's easy to see how others are at fault with their words, but we don't always see it in ourselves. How is it possible for this to change?

Listening has become a lost virtue. It's easier to talk than to listen. Easier to insist on our view or version of something, than consider the other person's point of view. When truth becomes relative, and self rules, ruin is not far away.

Make it personal...

Do you find it hard to listen without interrupting someone?

Are there times when it seems more convenient or expedient to withhold the truth or suppress it, than hold to it?

Are you willing to trust God to guard your heart and character rather than defend yourself?

What are some ways you could speak encouraging and kind things to people you know?

Want a Prosperous New Year?

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It's the beginning of a new year, and many people are looking for a new start, new goals, and some New Year's resolutions. What are your expectations for the coming new year?

Do you want to be prosperous? First of all, it depends on what you define as prosperity? Perhaps you're hoping for a new job, wealth, new opportunities, or something else for a better life.

What if prosperity was not so measurable? What if it has more to do with values and quality of life? Is that the kind of improvement you're seeking this year?

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.

But they delight in the law [teachings] of the lordmeditating on it day and night.

They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. (Psalm 1:1-3)

A picture is worth a 1000 words

Can you see picture these words paint? There's a contrast between those who get bad advice and guidance, and those who meditate on the truth of God.

In Old Testament times, the Law was the primary base for teaching. Now, we have the teaching of Jesus, God's only Son, and His followers (epistles).

Those who read and think on God's Word, throughout the day and night, are like trees planted by a river. They have a constant source of nourishment, bear fruit, and never wither. Not only that, but they prosper in all they do.

Why? Because their guidance and source of wisdom is the eternal One—the Living God.

Would you like to prosper and be blessed?

A simple way of tapping into the continual flow of wisdom God gives to whoever asks for it (James 1:5), is reading and meditating on His Word. Either by reading through it, or listening through it.

Have you ever read through the whole Bible? It takes commitment, but is worth the investment.

Here are some plans you can try—

Bible in One Year

M'Cheyne One Year Reading Plan

The One Year Bible

The Bible in a Year

ESV Study Bible

Prof Horner's 10 list plan

I'm committed to reading through the Bible this year using The Bible in a Year plan.

Choose a plan, stick with it, and see how God prospers you this coming year!


This week I've focused on reading, sharing and understanding God's Word. If you haven't seen my earlier posts this week, check them out—

 Getting Beyond "John 3:16"

Re-framing John 3:16—a follow up

As always, thanks for reading and sharing these posts!

May your New Year be blessed—as you trust in the One who alone knows the future! 

Proverbs Study– Wisdom Calls Out

Scripture

WS-devo_PMSWisdom is like a woman shouting in the street; she raises her voice in the city squares.

She cries out in the noisy street and shouts at the city gates: “You fools, how long will you be foolish? How long will you make fun of wisdom and hate knowledge?

If only you had listened when I corrected you, I would have told you what’s in my heart; I would have told you what I am thinking. I called, but you refused to listen; I held out my hand, but you paid no attention.

You did not follow my advice and did not listen when I corrected you.

Fools will die because they refuse to listen; they will be destroyed because they do not care.

But those who listen to me will live in safety and be at peace, without fear of injury.” (Proverbs 1:20-25; 32-33 NCV)

Key phrase — You did not follow my advice and did not listen when I corrected you.

Digging Deeper...

  1. How is Wisdom personified? What is Wisdom doing? What does Wisdom say?
  2. What seems to be a disappointment to her? Why is she disappointed?
  3. What will happen to those who are foolish and don't listen? Who is responsible for this?
  4. What encouragement is there for those who listen to Wisdom?

Make it personal...

When in your life have you realized that it cost you because you didn't listen to or seek wisdom?

When have you sought and listened to wisdom and benefitted from doing so?

Do you know where King Solomon sought wisdom? Where or from whom do you seek wisdom?

Reflection

In Proverbs, wisdom is personified as a woman as a means of illustration. Throughout the Bible, God is shown to be the origin of wisdom. If we think of wisdom coming in words, we can gain wisdom from Jesus—the Word made human (John 1:1, 14).

Known by Him

WS-devo_PMSO Lord, you have examined me, and you know me. You alone know when I sit down and when I get up. You read my thoughts from far away. You watch me when I travel and when I rest. You are familiar with all my ways. Even before there is a ⌊single⌋ word on my tongue, you know all about it, Lord. You are all around me—in front of me and in back of me. You lay your hand on me. Such knowledge is beyond my grasp. It is so high I cannot reach it. (Psalms 139:1-6 GWT) How gracious is God! Knowing us as He does, yet loving us. His greatness is beyond our comprehension because He is God. This is why we can trust him with all our heart, mind and soul--all our life. ©Word-Strong_2013

The Art and Value of Encouragement

Photo credit: www.Music2theWorld Gentle words can be powerful An ancient proverb says, "A person's anxiety will weigh him down, but an encouraging word makes him joyful." (Proverbs 12:25 GW) This is so true.

I'm not saying severe, clinical depression can be cured with a few encouraging words, but encouragement has an amazing effect.

Encouragement is like shining a light into a dark place.

Encouraging people

Although I'm not prone to long bouts of depression, I've certainly had periods of sadness and discouragement. We all have to some extent, some of us more than others.

My wife is a great encourager. I've seen her encourage our children, friends, staff, and other family including me over the years. It seems to be natural for her. I've learned from her example and that of a couple of friends just how valuable encouragement can be. I've also found it is somewhat of an art. It's not just saying nice words to someone.

[bctt tweet="Encouragement needs to be genuine and personal" username="tkbeyond"]

Gentle words can be powerful

This past week I had the opportunity to encourage a fellow pastor discouraged about ministry. It is not uncommon for pastors and church leaders to go through periods of discouragement. I've been there plenty of times. In fact, that same day another chaplain spoke words of encouragement to me.

Funny how that works. And this may be the simple key to the art of encouragement, pass on encouragement to others just as you've received it.

[bctt tweet="Pass on encouragement to others just as you've received it" username="tkbeyond"]

While encouraging my pastor friend, a flood of memories filled my mind of many times I felt like quitting the ministry. I didn't, but I thought about it. Here is where my wife and a couple other close friends helped me. Because they knew me and I trusted them, I could be encouraged by them.

[bctt tweet="Gentle words can be powerful" username="tkbeyond"]

Encouragement isn't a chore

There's an old joke of a man complaining to his wife one Sunday, "I don't want to go to church." His wife responded, "You need to go to church, you have to go." The man continued, "But the people don't like me and I don't like them! Give me one good reason why I have to go."

His wife responded with, "You're a grown man and you're the pastor! And there are people who need to be encouraged and trust you to do that this morning."

A few variations of this joke exist, but the point is simple.

[bctt tweet=" Encouraging others has value and has its own benefit" username="tkbeyond"]

Son of encouragement

When my oldest son was quite young, soon after our third child was born, he came to his mom and me saying, "I don't feel loved." We are a very close-knit and affectionate family so this shocked us.

After a couple of moments God gave me wisdom. I said, "Maybe if you show love to others you'll feel love." This seemed to satisfy him. He put it into practice and hasn't stopped doing it.

One of my favorite people in the Bible is a man named Barnabas. His name means "Son of Encouragement." (Acts 4:36, 37) I've always liked that. Several places in the Bible make it clear how he received this name, but I'll speak of that another day... maybe next week.

The world around us needs more people like Barnabas. We need to become like him whatever our role in life. This is true within the church as well. It's not just the job of a pastor for the church, but each of us are called to encourage one another.

We all need encouragement

Random question— Why do you go to church? If you don't go at all, or did before but don't anymore, why not? What do you expect from going to church? Or, if this is the case, why did you give up on the church?

Speaking of random, I've always liked the bumper sticker, "Practice random acts of kindness." Seems like a good habit to develop.

Here's a simple challenge— practice intentional acts of encouragement.

Look for  opportunities to give encouragement to others, especially if you're in need of some encouragement yourself.

The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl. (Proverbs 25:11 NCV)

[bctt tweet="Here's a simple challenge— practice intentional acts of encouragement" username="tkbeyond"]

Let me know how the challenge goes for you... and please feel free to share this post along with some encouragement to others.

Does Anybody Really Understand?

Photo credit: Bing search We live in a specialized world. We are way beyond information overload. It's now over the top.

YouTube videos show you how to do, well... almost anything. News media parade experts on top of experts with conflicting and opposing views, and the amount of websites, blogs, and email traffic number in the billions.

Are you worried about the rising oceans from global warming? Forget about it! We're flooded with a tidal wave of information inundating our lives every day, enshrouded in terminology and acronyms that require an interpreter.

Does anybody really understand what's going on?

It's the language

It would be easy to jump off from here into a discussion on the end of the age, and signs of the Lord's return. Especially with all that's going on in the Mid-East.

But I want to talk about the importance of language. Not the need for becoming bilingual or multi-lingual, although that would be valuable and advisable in our current times.

The language we use in everyday life is what I'm interested in.

Over the past several months, I've had the pleasure of interacting with many people of different backgrounds from mine, in various work environments. I've gained insight into the inner workings of street gangs, and gained some perspective on the current worldview of twenty-somethings.

Working three part-time jobs has given me this opportunity. Each work and social environment has its own collection of terms and catch-phrases. Thankfully, when I ask for explanations and clarification, people are happy to help me. Some also admit their own ignorance of these things at one time.

But there is one field that uses specialized terms and catch-phrases, and over used clichés, where ignorance seems to be bliss. I'm referring to Christianity.

An Illusion

A typical American Christian uses obscure, even archaic, language with the expectation everyone knows what is being said. But this is an illusion.

It may be a self-imposed, although I suspect for most it is unintentional. As a general rule, Christian believers are oblivious to this illusion. Because I'm in contact with non-believers and nominal believers in God, I'm keenly aware of this.

Photo credit: www.briancromer.com

When talking to non-believers I find it necessary to use simple, non-Christian wording to explain spiritual truths and concepts. When I answer a question about why the Bible says this or that, I'm intentional to explain things without the usual Bible terms, common clichés, and phrases Christians often use.

Does it matter? Yes it does...a lot!

An obscure language

I read somewhere this week that an obscure language in a far away land will become extinct soon. Why? Because only a few people know and speak it, and they will die soon.

In a way, this is my hope for Christianese—the general term for all those Bible words and Christian catch-phrases and clichés. I would like to see Christianese become a dead language of sorts.

It's already dead in one sense—only those who speak it know what it means. Even many of those who speak it don't understand it well. It's self-limiting in that way.

Why? Because it closes off understanding for those who don't know anything about God, and confuses those who have a limited knowledge of God.

Is there a solution? Yes!

Christian believers need to use simple and clear words when they share about their faith in Jesus. Even the simplest of words, like faith for instance, need to be explained without quoting Bible verses and or using theological terminology. It's ok to use those terms and biblical wording, just make sure to explain what they mean with simpler words.

So "stay tuned to this station," I'll be coming back to this topic from time to time as I mentioned in a previous post.

In the meantime...

What is your experience with confusing Christian lingo?

I'd love to have you share it in the comments, and maybe I'll write on one of your experiences. ;-)

Thanks for reading and feel free to share this post!

Acronym-ically Speaking

Image credit: blinkblink1 / 123RF Stock Photo Acronyms. Gotta love 'em… lol (laughing out loud)! Whether it's government agencies or texting lingo, they've become an integral part of everyday life, at least for most of us. Like them or hate them, they are part of our information-overload culture.

But acronyms, as a rule, are context dependent. Unless you know the context they're used in you won't understand what they mean.

I know a group of believers and a ministry that goes by CIA—Christians In Action. Of course, when most people see these initials the Central Intelligence Agency comes to mind. BTW (by the way), that reminds me of a great line from the movie, Red October— Capt. Bart Mancuso: "Central Intelligence Agency... Now, there's a contradiction in terms."

Acronyms

Terminology and phrases used over and over often get shortened into acronyms.

When I did some work in the chemical dependency field we wrote reports for intake and assessment interviews. Comments were made about a client's social history (Hx) and recommended treatment (Tx). These abbreviations are common within social services and helping professions.

Acronyms are shorthand abbreviations for terms. It saves time and energy. But if you're not familiar with the context they're used in, it can cause confusion.

Christian lingo

Herein lies one of my pet peeves—the use of Christianese. It is a generic, catch-all phrase for Christian lingo and terms. I also call it Bible-talk. For the uninitiated (non-believers or new Christian believers) it is unintelligible talk. It doesn't make sense because there's no frame of reference to understand these terms and phrases.

As with most things I learn, I stumbled into a way of dealing with the overuse and abuse of Christianese. It wasn't discovered through research and study, but a desperate attempt to help my students understand the Bible and theological terms.

In 1995, I established a Bible school in the Philippines with a curriculum based on the Inductive Bible Study (IBS) approach. Working with students for whom English was a second language (ESL), I needed to find a way to help them learn beyond the typical transfer of knowledge—copying and repeating.

How could I get them to understand well-known Bible verses beyond a surface familiarity? How could I help them understand what it means to be born again or what redemption is?

IYOW

I developed the expression IYOW, for In Your Own Words. I asked the students to define words and express Bible verses in their own words. It proved to be a challenging yet fruitful process.

Several years ago we had a group of Americans come over on a short-term mission (STM). They went out with our first-year students for an outreach mission in another area. As part of our curriculum, the students had a class on personal evangelism along with the outreach (OR). This class required them to redefine common Christian terms related to personal evangelism.

I was glad to see how well the students did, but confounded by how the Americans struggled with the assignment. They had a hard time transferring what they knew into words of their own. They seemed to be bound by unspoken rules, as if it wasn't proper to decode these terms into simple words.

A useful tool

I realized I had stumbled upon a useful tool for teaching the truth. Not only for my students, but those who think they know the truth.

You try it. Take a common biblical term (i.e.: salvation, communion, etc.), Christian expression (i.e.: altar call, accept Christ, etc.), or well-known Bible verse (like John 3:16) and put it into your own words (IYOW). You may find it more challenging than you expect.

Next week I'll begin a new category of posts called, IYOW. From time to time I'll try to decode certain terms used in Christian circles (ie: church). I hope it will be helpful and insightful, and maybe a little fun along the way.

What are some Christian expressions or biblical terms you'd like to understand better?

Let me know. Just put them in the comment section. Maybe I'll use one of the suggestions in another post.


For a fun look at Christianese check out this video (still one of my favorites)— Christianese

For a more in-depth view of Christianese, here's a resource in development that might help, and give you a chuckle or two— http://www.dictionaryofchristianese.com/