Posts Tagged ‘James’

Yesterday I gave a kids’ sermon to the children at our small town church. I usually try to come up with some sort of object lesson to help the teaching stick with them. Almost always I get good feedback from the adults in the congregation because, taking a page from “what would Jesus do”, I’ve found telling stories is the best way to communicate truth about God, no matter what age I’m teaching.

toothpasteIn yesterday’s sermon, I used a tube of toothpaste. I had one of the older children squeeze out as much toothpaste as they could onto a paper plate. Then I asked him to put it all back. Of course he told me he couldn’t. None of the other children volunteered to try either, except the one smarty who told me she could with some sort of vacuum. Kudos to the problem solver. She’ll probably be an engineer some day.

The purpose of the lesson was to illustrate that speaking out without thinking is much like squeezing out that toothpaste.  Once those words are spoken, it’s almost impossible to get them back. I encouraged the kids (and the listening adults) to choose their words carefully, and if they speak hurtful or angry words, to quickly apologize. Most of us don’t realize the power we have with our words. I even told the kids their words can sometimes hurt their moms’ feelings. Yes, moms have feelings. There were a few significant looks exchanged between daughters and moms at that gem of truth.

Left that little 5-minute lesson feeling pretty good. I’d passed on some truth, encouraged kids to be kind, laughed a little over squeezed out toothpaste and sat down. This morning I got a little frustrated over some circumstances beyond my control. How did I respond? Did I remember my own sermon? Did I get all spiritual and think, “O Lord – You have prepared me for this moment. I will respond in kindness and compassion, just as Your Word teaches. I will love and honor my fellow man.”? Nope. Not even close.

I lost it. I chose (yes – it was my choice) to pass on my frustration through angry words in a conversation with one of my favorite people on the planet. It took a long walk around my city (and a cold iPhone battery leaving me with no walking music) to allow the Holy Spirit to show me my failure. And I learned a lesson of my own.

I’m not a rock star. I’m not a superhero. I’m not a great Bible teacher. I’m a flawed human being who needs the grace of God to exist in relationship with others. My pride took a hit today…and I really hope I’ve learned this lesson so I don’t have to revisit it again tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day. But I know a few things about God and I know He wants me to pass this test so I can move on to something else. So – as I’m trying to cram toothpaste back into the tube, will you give grace to those who may lose it on you today? Most everyone has a story we don’t know. Face value is rarely accurate. And, if you can think fast enough in the face of frustrations, try to choose life-affirming words. Toothpaste is a real mess to clean up.

James 3:4-6 – “It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.”

P.S. – I apologized and thankfully, I was forgiven. I think the heart emoji helped.

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“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” What a lie. A big fat lie. Words can cause greater damage than any stick or stone.

We often believe what we hear about ourselves, especially if the speaker is someone in authority or someone we trust or admire. Parents, siblings, other family members, teachers, coaches…even ourselves. I’ve found in my tutoring of students of all ages that my toughest job is getting them to believe in themselves after hearing things like “You can’t” or “You’re dumb” or “You’ll never…” for far too long.

Two solutions.

First, don’t destroy others with your words. Be an encourager, a cheerleader. Don’t bad mouth someone, or be nasty or rude. Avoid saying (or typing in your status bar) anything destructive or negative about another person. No matter who they are. No matter their political party or religious denomination. No matter what you perceive they think of you or have done to you. A well known person once said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” Good advice for all of us.

Secondly, do not disparage or bad mouth yourself…not your mind or intelligence, your emotions or your physical body. No matter what someone else has ever said about you…You are smart. You are kind. You are important.

God’s Word is full of His words of unconditional love and acceptance of who you are. Are you calling God a liar? Start reading through Proverbs and inserting your name.

“The speech of KRIS is worth waiting for…” (Proverbs 10:20a) Or “The speech of KRIS clears the air…” (Proverbs 10:32a) Or “The words of the wicked kill; the speech of KRIS saves.” (Proverbs 12:6) One of my favorites is Proverbs 16:24 – “Kris’ gracious speech is like clover honey – good taste to the soul, quick energy for the body.”

I’m attaching the link for a more in depth article about the power of our words if you need more convincing but this Scripture from James states it pretty clearly.

“It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.” (James 3:5-6 MSG)

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Day 8 – The Blame Game

“But it’s not my fault! She made me do it!”
“This is your fault, not mine!”
“He did it, not me!”

If you’ve ever had a child, this game comes pre-programmed. If you’ve had more than one child, the game comes in high-definition. First as a daughter and later as a mom, I’ve been a giver and a receiver of blame. Some of it was legitimate…most was not.

Basically it comes down to taking responsibility for ourselves – our actions and our words. Some of us “old timers” may want to blame our society for this epidemic of irresponsibility but all I have to do is look at Genesis 3:12 to see the first ones who played the Blame Game.

God is looking for Adam and Eve in the garden (after their little encounter with the serpent). They were hiding from God (kinda funny, really. You can’t hide from the One who sees everything). Adam said they were hiding because they were naked and God asked him, “Who told you that you were naked?” Adam steps up to the plate and takes personal responsibility for all of it. Not.

“The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’”
And lovely wife Eve continues with “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

The Blame Game continues on with the stories of Cain and Abel; Abram, Sarai and Hagar; Jacob & Esau; Joseph and his brothers and on and on and on. It’s no different today. We get frustrated or angry about some affront and begin blaming someone or something. Today it could be the snow, the cold, the snowplows, or the government. Social media is full of vitriol against megachurch pastors, Oprah, the president, Lady Gaga, or whomever is your personal whipping boy. I’ve heard adult men blame their mothers for the choices they are making today. Come on guys. She may not have been the best mother in the world but let it go and be an adult. Take responsibility for your own choices in life. If you’ve got serious emotional issues, ask for help…but blaming others is not the way to mental health and healing. Playing the Blame Game only gives bitterness and resentment.

No more passing the buck. There was only One perfect person. We all make mistakes. We all make bad choices. Time to admit it and move on.

Let’s consider what James said in his New Testament book – “If any of you lack wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” So, today I’m giving up the Blame Game and choosing to ask for wisdom. Sounds like a great trade off to me.

Blame Game

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