I am beyond thankful to fellowship with an amazing group of women each week. These ladies set the bar so high as they live their faith in love and service.
So often their examples inspire discussion in our home and provide a lovely model for my daughters. They are sincere women who do not seek to call attention to themselves, but simply serve where God has placed them.
Truthfully, I am honored just to be in their number. And so, I felt especially honored to be asked to join with the speakers at a recent Women's brunch and have the opportunity to share my heart. The topic I was asked to speak on: The Right Word.
We had seventy women and young ladies in attendance. As I shared it was with laughter and quite a few tears, which is often the case when women gather and share the deep life changing work of God in our lives. May God be praised forever!
Good afternoon ladies. I feel so privileged to speak to you today. Most of you know me, but for those who may not, my name is Rebecca. By God's grace, I've been married to my husband, Tom for nineteen years and we have five girls from the ages of 2 to 13.
While I can truthfully say that today our home is one of blessing and peace, it is nothing short of a miracle that I am standing before you today speaking on the topic of using the right words in our homes. You see, speaking the right word has not always been a strong point for me.
I grew up in a home with a lot of fighting. My father, who decades later came to saving faith was, during my formative years an alcoholic. As his drinking increased, so did the fighting between he and my mom. He began to keep poor company, miss work and eventually have trouble with the police. It was a stressful time.
People process trial in different ways. I became very self reliant and thought I needed to fight to get my way in life. I was angry and stumbled my way through life with little guidance or interest.
Well, God knew. And in the fullness of time, when it would bring Him the most glory and for His purpose, He intervened in our lives. He drew both of us to Himself. He made us new in Christ and began to wash our minds with His truth.
Today I want to share some of the things the Lord has shown me over the years about speaking the right word in my home. Proverbs 12:20: says "There is joy for those who promote peace." It is my prayer that our homes would shine with this kind of joy and peace.
Romans 6:22 says: But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap is holiness, and the result is eternal life.
And Jesus told the Jews in John 8:32: You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
Before coming to faith in Christ we are slaves to sin. Like soldiers in an army we obey the spirit of this world. The Word says when we were unbelievers we stumbled and didn't even know what caused it. But once we become new creatures in Christ we are like a soldier released from duty. We may have served the enemy commander for many years, marched in rank with his troops, and when when we see our old commander coming our way, our first reaction may be to salute him. But we are no longer in that army. We are servants to a new leader who is Christ Jesus. And we are freed to obey Him.
Romans 6:17-18: But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves of sin... you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
Ephesians 4:22-24 says: Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires... and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Those verses remind me of when I first came to faith. What a year of change. Our friends and family weren't quite sure what to do with us. We couldn't help but tell others about the Lord and how He made a way of salvation for us. We were so excited and the changes God was making were undeniable.
At one point I remember my step father accused us of being "put ons." Those were his words. At first I was kind of hurt and unhappy by the idea of being called a "put on." I mean, what kind of thing is that to say? But then the Lord showed me those verses in Ephesians and encouraged me that I was doing just what he wanted me to. I was a put on. It was a choice to put on the new man and for the first time, I had the ability to chose it.
Thankfully, my step father has since come to faith in Christ and he too is a "put on." He has has changed so much and loves to share what God has done in his heart.
1. Ephesians 4:29- Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. What are our words supposed to accomplish in this verse? They are for edification or encouragement; they are specific to the need of the moment and they are to give grace to those who hear them.
2. Proverbs 10:11- The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Our words are supposed to be like a fountain of life, they are not be violent or just barely concealing hatred. They are not to stab or slander, but they are to speak words of life.
3. 1 Thessalonians 4:18- Therefore comfort one another with these words. Paul is writing to remind believers to comfort one another with the truth of Scripture in difficult times- our words are to bring comfort to other believers. We do not need to seek out the wisdom of this world, but we are to share the truth of God's Word.
4. Hebrews 3:13- But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. We don't often think of our words being so powerful, but we are told that as we encourage our brothers and sisters day by day we are keeping their hearts from being hardened by sin's deceitfulness. Those words "sin's deceitfulness" are interesting, aren't they? They are very similar to the words in Ephesians we just read that talks about the old self being corrupted by "deceitful desires." Sin- and sinful desires- are deceitful. They lie and tell us they will satisfy. But the truth is, only obedience to Christ and esteeming others more highly than ourselves truly satisfies.
5. 1 Thessalonians 5:14: We urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Our words have a specific purpose, based on the circumstances God brings to our path. Using our words correctly is a skill. In fact, the Hebrew word "mouth" is "peh" which can be translated edge. Our mouths can be like knives-- bringing healing, like in the hand of a skillful surgeon or destruction like in the hand of a criminal. Of course we must remember that even though the skillful surgeon brings healing, he first brings pain. When we warn the idle or encourage the timid we may first cause a bit of pain to our friend, spouse, or child, but if done in love, those momentary painful words will bring healing and growth. Faithful are the wounds of a friend.
6. 1 Peter 3:15- But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. Do this with gentleness and respect. With our words we give an answer for our faith in Christ, our hope. We are to share the gospel and are witness of the truth with gentleness and respect.
We are tempted to think these verses are God's helpful tips for our words, but if you look at their wording of these verses, you will see they are GOD's commands. The Lord says that if we love Him we will obey His commands. The purpose of our words is to edify, to speak life and truth, to remind others of God's Word in hard times, and to keep the hearts around us soft. These are right words.
THE BLESSING OF A GUARD
In the spirit of being purposeful, I have begun to do a special evening Bible study with our older girls. We are studying Loving God with all our Minds by Elizabeth George and we are loving it. In our first lesson we were looking up verses related to how God's Word helps us to shape our thoughts and in our study Elizabeth George mentioned that God's Word serves to "curb" our thoughts to keep them on the right path.
That instantly brought bumper bowling to mind. Have you done that with your kids? You take them to the bowling alley and, if they are little, you can get these inflatable bumpers that go in the gutters, right? That way, no matter how unskilled they are at throwing that ball, it can bounce back and forth but it will never end up in the gutter. They always hit at least one pin.
Well, God wants things to go well for us and so, He's given us Philippians 4:8-9 as our inflatable bumpers: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me- put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
This is especially true as we speak into the lives of our husbands and closest friends. So often, as we speak behind closed doors, we think are free to speak whatever we want to, but if we desire the best for our friends and family, and want them to have a right meditation before the Lord, we should be on our guard to speak the types of things listed in Philippians 4:8-9. Let us not cause the ones we love the most to stumble.
If you haven't studied Philippians 4:8-9 in a while, I would encourage you to write them down point by point and really contemplate each one. For example, as we are told what things the believer is to meditate on, we read:
Whatever things are true. Take time to think about and write out what true means. Before we dwell on a thought or speak on a subject are we asking ourselves- are these words true? Are they reliable and Scriptural? Are they even real?
I found a study conducted on worry and anxiety recently in which researchers found that 40% of the things people worry about are things that have never happened, 30% are things that cannot be changed by worry, 12% are needless worries about health, 10% are petty, miscellaneous worries, and only 8% were real, legitimate worries. In other word, almost 100% of the things people worry about are not true, are not real and cannot be helped by worry.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says: For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to obedience of Christ.
As we focus on what is true or real, and cast down imaginations, we will enjoy the peace God intends and our mouths will reflect those thoughts.
Whatever things are noble. The next command is to meditate on whatever is noble. Greek term means "worthy of respect." Do we meditate on what is worthy of awe? Are we memorizing Scripture? That's a great way to meditate on what is noble. The word noble also brings thoughts of royalty to mind. As children of the King, do our words reflect nobility? Is what I am about to say demonstrating high moral character and ideals? Is it fitting a person of my rank? Just as an ambassador does not speak on his own accord and should not involve himself in petty disputes, we are to be careful to exhibit excellence in our speech.
You get the idea. Each part of Philippians 4:8 is packed with depth to explore.
We think many thoughts each day, so this takes practice! Paul continues in this passage to say, "These things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things put into practice, and the God of peace will be with you."
As we use Philippians 4:8-9 to guard our thoughts, like those inflatable bumpers at the bowling alley, they may bounce around but they will never take us into the gutter.
WE HAVE AN ENEMY, BUT IT IS NOT ONE ANOTHER
Okay this next point has been a gem to me. The Lord began to show me from Scripture that I have an enemy, but it is usually not those around me. Do you find it is easy to become adversarial when you meet challenges in your home? It's almost a knee jerk reaction, right? The big things in life we see as trials, but when we encounter daily interactions, where our ideas clash with someone else's or when someone is only looking out for their own interests-- well, it is tempting to see who ever is opposing us as the enemy and enter into battle. Peter tells us we must be on the alert.
1 Peter 5:8 says: Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
We have a real enemy, but it is usually not those around us. God warned Cain that sin was crouching at the door waiting for him. If we forget or are unaware of who our real enemy is in times of conflict, or if we allow those who speak into our lives to forget it, then we are clearly giving our enemy an advantage.
I recently studied the Civil War with our girls and it is said at first, the Confederate Army did not have set uniforms. Each area just came up with their own color and some showed up to battle in the same color outfit as the enemy. Can you imagine the confusion that likely caused? Let's not be confused by those around us. They are likely not the enemy- even if they look like it at the moment.
Ephesians 6:12 says: Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
How would your response to those around you change if you could remember in times of conflict that our enemy is not flesh and blood?
1. How about when your child disobeys you or is arguing with a sibling? How could truth of knowing who your enemy is, cause you to respond in a God honoring way?
If you are like me, when you hear arguing you instantly think you know what is happening on the other side of the house. Who needs a trial, right? You know exactly what happened and who started it. But that is not Philippians 4:8-9. When I do that I am always headed for trouble. One of the points in those verses is to meditate on whatever is right. When I start heading towards a conflict, making assumptions, I am rarely ever right. And I always regret it.
But when I keep this in mind: that I have an enemy, but it is not those around me. I am far more likely to go with a spirit of helping wounded soldier rather than siding with the Accuser of the brethren. I can take those kiddos and wrap my arms around them and remind them that they have an enemy, but it is not their sister and it is not me. When I go to my children with that spirit, we are far more likely to go the Lord in prayer, truly confess our sin and ask for His help in our lives. Proverbs 15:1 says: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. This is certainly the case.
I love the verses in 1 Peter 3. In verse 3 we are told not to make our beauty merely outward, but to cultivate the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is very precious in the sight of God. We are told that we are just like the holy women of old who trust GOD and adorned themselves with submission to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham. We are daughters of Sarah if we do good and are not afraid with any terror.
Dear ladies, I know we live in a culture that says we need to "keep it real" in order to be hearable, but I am convinced that we serve a God who says we need to keep it edifying.
To be useful, we need to ask the Lord to help us to put a guard over our mouths and see those around us as being on our team. And I would encourage you to remember that you have an enemy, but it is not one another.
My dear friend Dana did a fantastic job speaking on Shining the Joy of Christ into our Homes.
THE POWER OF SPEAKING THE GOOD
We have the power to help others see themselves the way God sees them, to build up and to edify. Do not withhold a good word from those around you.
He was in the first third-grade class I taught at Saint Mary's School in Morris, Minnesota. All thirty-four of my students were dear to me, but Mark Eklund was one in a million. Very neat in appearance, he had that happy-to-be-alive attitude that made even his occasional mischievousness delightful.
Mark also talked incessantly. I had to remind him again and again that talking without permission was not acceptable. What impressed me so much was his sincere response every time I had to correct him for misbehaving. "Thank you for correcting me Sister!" I didn't know what to make of it at first, but before long I became accustomed to hearing it several times a day.
One morning my patience was growing thin when Mark talked once too often, and then I made the novice-teacher's mistake. I looked at Mark and said, 'If you say one more word, I am going to tape your mouth shut!'
I remember the scene as if it had occurred this morning. I walked to my desk, very deliberately opened the drawer, and took out a roll of masking tape. Without saying a word, I proceeded to Mark's desk, tore off two pieces of tape and made a big X with them over his mouth. I then returned to the front of the room.
As I glanced at Mark to see how he was doing, he winked at me. That did it! I started laughing. The class cheered as I walked back to Mark's desk, removed the tape, and shrugged my shoulders. His first words were, "Thank you for correcting me Sister."
At the end of the year I was asked to teach Junior High math. The years flew by, and before I knew it Mark was in my classroom again. He was more handsome than ever and just as polite. Since he had to listen carefully to my instruction in the new math, he did not talk as much in ninth grade as he did in the third.
One Friday things just didn't feel right. We had worked hard on a new concept all week, and I sensed that the students were growing frustrated with themselves and edgy with one another. I had to stop this crankiness before it got out of hand. So I asked them to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name. Then I told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.
That group of students moved on. Several years later, after I returned from vacation, my parents picked me up at the airport. As we were driving home, Mother asked the usual questions about the trip, the weather, my experiences in general. There was a slight lull in the conversation. Mother gave Dad a sideways glance and simply said, "Dad?" My father cleared his throat as he usually did before something important. "The Ecklunds called last night," he began.
"Really?" I said. "I haven't heard from them in years. I wonder how Mark is."
I had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. Mark looked so handsome, so mature. All I could think at that moment was Mark, I would give all the masking tape in the world if only you would talk to me.
After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates headed to Chuck's farmhouse for lunch. Mark's mother and father were there, obviously waiting for me. "We want to show you something," he said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. "They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it."
Mark's classmates started to gather around us. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, "I still have my list. It's in the top drawer of my desk at home." Chuck's wife said, "Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album." "I have mine too," Marilyn said. It is in my diary." Then Vicky, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet, and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. "I carry this with me at all times," Vicky said without batting an eyelash. "I think we all saved our lists."
May we chose to say with Paul, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."