Friday, July 06, 2007

I Dare Not Be Silent

She stood against the ice rink wall, her arms crossed, guarding against the cold. I followed her line of sight to a tiny, delicate girl gliding far too skillfully for her age.
"Is she yours?" I asked.
"Yes, she's five. I bring her here every day," she replied in an accented voice.

Thus our conversation began.

A refugee from the Vietnam war, she explained, "I am a Buddhist, but really I am lost." (I would agree, but it was amazing coming from her.) She continued, "I haven't gone to temple in years. I don't know what I believe."

At first taken aback, I felt my spirit prodded to ask more questions. God help me. I don't know what I'm doing, I prayed.

We talked on.

"Just comparing Buddhism with the Bible..." I attempted to segue to the truth. Finally, I mustered the courage to bring up the "s" word--sin. How can a man see his need for Christ unless he is first humbled by a glimpse of himself? After all, Christ did not come to save the self-righteous, but those who see the sickness in their souls.

And yet mentioning sin still manages to challenge me, as one of the most difficult words to get past my lips. A million questions whirl through the mind, "What will she think? Am I going to sound preachy? What if she gets angry?" I was downright scared.

Speaking of sin requires love. It takes the love of Christ to motivate forgiven sinners (who are still very fearful, weak creatures) to stick out their necks enough to say, "Friend, you're in sin and because I love you I want to warn you where it leads." Yet this love is so important that 1 John tells us we're not really in the faith if we do not have it:
"The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him." (1 John 2:9-10)

After discussing sin, the eyes of the woman at the ice rink widened in amazement. "I have lived in the United States for many years and known many, many Christians and you seventeen year old girl the first to tell me about this!"

I felt sick, knowing I almost had not told her; but I know God must feel sicker, knowing full well the fearfulness in my heart, and the hearts of countless others who pursed their lips instead of speaking truth.

Our behavior is shameful. As soldiers of the Cross we deserve to be court marshaled. We're cowards, cooperating with the enemy by our refusal to fire even a word into the fray. Even Jeremiah, who never heard the name of Jesus Christ in his lifetime, knew enough of God that he was compelled to speak. He cried,

"For each time I speak, I cry aloud;
I proclaim violence and destruction,
Because for me the word of the LORD has resulted
In reproach and derision all day long.
But if I say, 'I will not remember Him
Or speak anymore in His name,'
Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones;
And I am weary of holding it in,
And I cannot endure it."
(Jeremiah 20:8-9. Italics mine.)

Having seen God's love hang on a Cross, how can we be anything less than a Jeremiah? How do we dare keep silent? I'm ashamed of myself. It's my prayer that my tongue will be quicker and my heart more eager to vent the smoke of this fire in my bones. Hopefully next time, I'll be bold.

Until then, I'm praying for the woman at the ice rink.

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Death or Life: The Power of the Tongue

Have you ever said something, and afterwards immediately wished you could take it back? You know the feeling. All of a sudden, your mind panics—Did I actually just say that?

One day, I said something very inconsiderate to my sister. Seeing that my thoughtless words had wounded her, I started thinking frantically, “Edit, Undo! Edit, Undo!” as though I could simply reverse my words with two clicks of the mouse! Although my initial reaction was somewhat amusing, the truth behind it is not. Unlike a Microsoft Word document, our words cannot be taken back.

Proverbs is full of wisdom regarding our speech. Descriptive metaphors are given to describe the power of our words. In Proverbs 12:18, our words are compared to either “sword thrusts” or “healing”, and Proverbs 18: 21 says that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” What a picture!

Have you ever heard the saying,“Sticks and stones can hurt my bones, but words will never harm me"? Nothing could be more false. A cruel remark can be just as painful and humiliating as a physical slap on the face! The Bible says that our words can be used to tear each other down, or to build each other up in the Lord. In Ephesians 4:29, we are instructed: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” The purpose for all our words should only be for building each other up, and giving grace to the hearer.

Restraining Our Words
Proverbs 17:27-28: "Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent."

The apostle Peter liked to talk. He was usually the first disciple to speak up and ask questions, or to reply when a question was asked. He was impulsive, rash, and often spoke before he thought. In fact, John MacArthur refers to Peter as "the disciple with the foot-shaped mouth"! But the Lord worked in Peter's heart. In the books of 1 & 2 Peter, Peter himself wrote about self-control, humility, and restraining our tongues! 1 Peter 2:9 says, "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." When you're tempted to say something thoughtless, remember this verse— and reply with kindness instead.

Learning how to restrain our words is a difficult task— and one that can only be done with the help of the Lord. Thoughtless remarks can slip so easily from our lips, only to be regretted the next moment! Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” We girls love to talk, but we need to consider our words very carefully. “Think before you speak” is advice that I have found very helpful, especially when I am frustrated or angry.

But most importantly, we need to remember to pray. The Lord will give us the strength and self-control that we need to restrain our tongues. Jesus promised in John 14:13, "Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." Jesus was saying that He will give us anything we ask for that is within His will. And it is certainly God's will for us to have godly, encouraging speech!

Matthew 12:36: "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken."
Posted by Lindsey

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