Angry Words Out Of My Mouth

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. … If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” James 1:19-20, 26NoEvil

It was a long week.  Anytime I have to teach on anger and the necessity of keeping your mouth shut, I just know it’s going to be a long week of trials and temptations!  Teaching through the book of James is tough work!

Friends, acquaintances, and random people irritated me all week-long, bless them, and I did pretty well… until 10:30 pm the night before class, when I finally snapped.  And I did it in an email where several other people got a glimpse of my not-so-pretty heart.  Sigh.

I walked into class with a heavy heart.  I took a poll and discovered that I wasn’t the only one who struggled and offended others during the week.  We paused, and everyone made a mental note of whom they had hurt.

We read in James 5:16 that we are to “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”  So we sat in small groups and did just that.

We prayed Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me…” because we’ve already discussed that the problem with the mouth starts in the heart! “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34

In closing we studied Romans 12:17-18. “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Thank you ladies, for your honesty and humor.  I pray that those you have offended would be as gracious and merciful as my wounded friends have been to me this week.  Courage!

On Discipline and Repentance

A few of my favorite quotes from “Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted”, homework from week 3, with Priscilla Shirer:

“Adversity is redemptive, not punitive.”

“Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” – Hebrews 12:10-11

On the heart:

“Whether or not Jonah knew God was never the concern.  Clearly he was well acquainted with God.  He could discern the leading of God.  Yet Jonah had a problem agreeing with God and changing his mind, attitude, and actions to comply with God.  His heart was out of alignment with the heart of God.”

On repentance:

“Jonah still did not desire to go to Ninevah… Repentance doesn’t necessarily require that your feelings have changed about what God is asking you to do… Repentance means that you are willing, despite those feelings, to put it aside and stop travelling the wrong way.  True repentance requires a change in direction.”


The Problem is Not Your Tongue

Donna said something wise yesterday – “As we continue on with taming the tongue, I keep getting the feeling that my tongue is not the real issue.  About 10 inches south is a heart that does not always beat for Him.  Pray for me as I’ll pray for you that our hearts will be tender to Him and our tongues will be the reflection of true devotion to the One who entrusted us with such a powerful tool.”

She’s right.  Matthew 12:34-35 says, How can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

Out of the overflow (abundance) of the heart, the mouth speaks.  Yikes!  Putting my hand across my mouth is only a little band-aid on the surface!  It hardly masks the deep infection that lies within my heart.

No wonder it feels hopeless sometimes.  I might succeed in keeping my mouth shut – briefly – but the real problem is in my heart.

“The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” Matthew 15:18-19

So what in the world can we do about the condition of our hearts?

This study is not a bad start.  The author might have titled it 30 Things You Can Do Wrong With Your Tongue.  If we allow it, the study should be making us aware of how our words can be displeasing to God.  Knowing that we have a problem – a fairly serious problem – is a good start.

But it doesn’t solve the problem of the heart.  We must ask God to reveal to us what is going on in our hearts, what lies beneath the ugly words and habits?

And then we have to acknowledge the truth he shows us.  And repent, turn away from it.  Let go.  Let go of anger, bitterness, and resentment.  Let go of jealousy, envy, self-centeredness, and pride.  Let go of the need to feel accepted by everyone else, be smarter than everyone else, be funnier than everyone else.

He is faithful and will heal our hearts – if we ask Him to.

Our words will be transformed if we allow Him to renew the state of our minds and hearts.

Let’s allow Him to change us.  We need to.  We must.

One of the MOST scary verses in the Bible is the continuation of the passage quoted above.

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

Let’s get our hearts right, ladies.  Pray for me.  I’ll pray for you.  Love you!

And I’m skipping Day 12, The Betraying Tongue.  Betrayal is a heart issue anyway.

Longing for Good Soil

I wish some grass would grow in my backyard.  I dream of lush, green, golf course grass… but all I’ve got is Florida sand.  Sand, sand, sand.  This is what my yard looks like.  I was thinking it would be cool to do time-lapse photography to show how the grass filled in.  At this rate I’m gonna be dead before I can time-lapse grass growing.  There’s only sand.  And weeds.  The weeds are growing like crazy.  What’s up with that?!

So today I’m waiting on a contractor to give me a quote for sod.  I already know he’s going to want a million dollars to make my yard green.   But I don’t think I can have a sand-trap backyard forever.

What does it take to make the grass grow?!

Twice in the last two weeks we’ve studied the Parable of the Sower at church. Usually if something is repeated, it’s important so I’m trying to pay attention!  You know, the parable really isn’t about the sower at all – note to Bible editors – it should be titled the Parable of the Soils.

I presume you are familiar with the story in Mark 4 (or Matthew 13) – the seed is the Word of God and it falls on 4 different soils which represent four different heart conditions:

The hard path – where the seed is snatched away,

The rocky soil – where the seed sprouts but has no root and withers in the harsh environment,

The thorny soil – where the weeds and cares of the world grow up and choke out the seed, and

The good soil – where the seed produces a hearty crop.

So as I eat my breakfast cereal and stare at my sand trap every morning I am thinking about how to get FERTILE soil, in my yard and in my heart.  Best I can tell, this is what needs to be done:

  • Get rid of the weeds – The worries of the world, the deceitfulness of wealth, and OTHER things that distract me from a single-minded focus of a life lived for God, they all have to go.  Pull the weeds out!  They will always grow faster than the good grass and they will steal all the energy and nutrients and eventually take over the whole yard, choking out all that is good.
  • Get rid of the rocks – Whenever there’s a rock, the grass doesn’t grow.  Gravel, cement chunks, or boulders – the bigger the rock, the bigger the bare spot in your yard and in your heart.  You cannot put down roots to sustain you in times of drought if you’ve got boulders in your yard.  Get rid of the rocks!  And sometimes you need the help of a friend (and maybe even their truck) to haul out some of the rocks in your life.  Do it.  You cannot grow grass where there are rocks.
  • Break up the hard soil – If you just have a few hard spots then a patient gardener can break them up by hand.  But if the whole place is baked hard, that gardener is going to need to run a plow through there.  I personally prefer to NOT have God run a plow through my life, so I am trying to keep my heart soft and to allow Him to break up the hard spots before they turn into something else.
  • Beat the birds – In the parable the birds that snatch away the Word represent Satan.  Are there flocks of crows in your life?  Or even just one persistent crow?  Do you need a plan to keep the birds out of your life?
  • Lots of water and fertilizer – Scripture is called the Living Water.  Drink of it daily.  Do not impose a drought upon your soul.
  • Ask other expert gardeners for help – Find a place where the seed has yielded a hundredfold and ask some questions of the gardener, learn from her.  People with beautiful gardens love to show them off and share their gardening secrets with you.  Trial and error on your own is slow and painful, go get some good advice!

Weeds?  Rocks?  Hard spots? Crows?  Water and fertilizer?  Help from other experts?  How is your soil doing?

Have you ever heard of “hardpan”?  Hardpan is a general term for a dense layer of soil, usually found about 10 inches below the uppermost soil layer.  With hardpan you can have a crop, but it will never be a great crop because 10 inches underneath the soil is hard as a rock.  One of the best ways to get rid of hardpan is to use a tool called a “ripper”.  That just doesn’t sound good.  ….  So maybe your life is ALREADY producing a crop – yea!  But beware of the hardpan deep in your soul – we don’t want to have to call in the ripper.

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap a harvest if we do not grow weary. Galatians 6:9

Also, check out this neat animation of the Parable of the Sower (SOILS!):