Offering Our Best

“The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”

Proverbs 15:28 (ESV)

How often do we rashly blurt out a comment and then realize the implication of what we have just said? We all know we can’t just pull those words back from the atmosphere.

In Proverbs 15:28, Solomon reminds us of the value of weighing, or pondering, our words before we say them. In this verse, he encourages us to think before we speak. If you’re like me, you probably think this proverb applies only to our conversations with other people. But I recently read some verses in Ecclesiastes that caused me to reconsider how this verse applies to our conversations with God as well.

In Ecclesiastes 5:2, Solomon says, “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” (NIV) Like Proverbs 15:28, this verse encourages us to not speak too quickly because there are consequences when we do.

Have you ever told God, “If you will do __________, then I’ll never do ____________ again?” or something similar?  God is holy and he is truth, so our insincere or hasty promises are unholy in his sight. Solomon is quick to point out this fact in Ecclesiastes, which he penned toward the end of his life.

Sometimes when we are in distress, we should just let our heart speak, without using words. In Ecclesiastes 5:2, Solomon tells us that we should “let our words be few” before God. He also tells us in Proverbs 10:19 that when many words are present, sin is sure to abound along with them. When we let our words be few, we gain two benefits: we will most likely not say something offensive to the Lord, and we will say only what is necessary.

Worship music trio Philips, Craig, and Dean have a lovely song that describes this type of worship: Let My Words Be Few.

When we stand in awe of the Lord, we can let our words be few. Praise can come in the simplest of sentences. Requests can be made with a genuine petition that doesn’t include flowery or excessive words. Jesus taught this principle when he explained in the Sermon on the Mount, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:7)

So, when we pray, let’s stand in awe of God, considering and limiting our words to the very best that we have to offer.

On Becoming Like…

“Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged; parents are the pride of their children.”

Proverbs 17:6 (NLT)

“Will it hurt, Dad?” This is the question twenty-something-year-old Mike Seaver asked his father, Jason, on the TV sitcom Growing Pains as he wondered what it would be like when he started speaking like his dad. While the question was portrayed as funny, there are many young adults who loathe the idea of becoming like their parents and vow that they will never be like them! But, whether we like it or not, we eventually acquire some of the traits of our moms and dads, and at some point in our lives we inevitably wind up saying, “Wow! I sound just like my parents.”

I’m glad that Solomon comforts us with the thought that becoming like our parents is a good thing. Proverbs 17:6 encourages children who emulate the good things their parents do, because this passing on of godly traits to children brings glory to their parents (and grandparents, too).

In another episode of Growing Pains, Mike’s mom, Maggie, wonders whether she is like her father who had just passed away. She begins to doubt that she was like her dad at all, which causes her to worry that her own children would not be like her. This leads her to despair that all of her hard work in parenting would turn out to be in vain.

This made me think about the traits in my own parents that I admire and either already display or want to emulate. I’m blessed to have four parents – two biological and two by marriage. As I thought about each of these amazing people, I realized the following, which is my tribute to each of them.

My Mom

Since she passed away 12 years ago, it is especially important to me to remember all her wonderful traits. The ones I admire the most are:

  • her love for her children
  • her enjoyment of music, dance, and books
  • her ability to research anything
  • her generosity in giving to others

 

 

 

My Dad

  • his strong sense of right and wrong
  • his devotion to family
  • his diligence and ability to fix anything
  • his ability to talk to anyone

 

 

My In-Laws

Even though Bert is the thread that tied me to his parents, God wove our hearts together and I count them as my mom and dad, too.

Mrs. Gangl

  • her love for the Lord and her devotion to prayer
  • her love for her family
  • her amazing skills as a cook and gardener
  • her gift of encouragement

 

 

Mr. Gangl

  • his interest in all things education-related, especially history
  • his belief in clean hands (he and I are the germophobes in the family)
  • his kindness

 

How are you like your parents? Even more importantly, which of your parents’ qualities do you most admire and want to display in your life? Make a list this week, and, if possible, share it with your parents. After all, our moms and dads are the “pride of their children,” and becoming like our parents brings glory to them!

Speak Life!

“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.”

Proverbs 10:11 (NIV)

This week I’ve been battling a sore throat, so when I dropped off Caroline for one of her classes, instead of staying at the school where I usually wait, I decided to drive to the UAH duck pond and read in my car there until her class was over. During this time, I was facing the pond and could watch the water fountain constantly pouring forth its water. It’s really relaxing to watch fountains, and it’s especially relaxing to listen to their rhythmic sounds.

The amazing thing about a fountain spraying its spouts high into the air is that it never runs out of water. It continually pours forth as long as it draws water from its source, like a pond or lake. In Proverbs 10:11, Solomon compares the words of the righteous to a fountain, a fountain of life. From this verse, we gain two encouragements to speak positively:

  1. Our words are constantly flowing, and we can either bubble over positive words or spew out negative words.

2. When our words are positive, they build up (bring life to) others, and when they are negative, they tear them down.

If your words could be displayed as fountain, what would your fountain look like? Would it be muddy, splashing dirt on others because the source from which it draws water is polluted with criticism and negativity or trickle forth a small stream only here and there, because it lost connection with its source? Or would your words look like a splashing, clean water fountain that never loses its energy because it is constantly drawing from a source that is clean and full of life?

Our words are important. They can bring “life” or “death” to others (Proverbs 18:21). Can you recall a time when someone said just the right thing to you at the right time? How did it make you feel? This person gave you a gift, something as beautiful as an “apple of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).

On the flipside, has someone ever said something harsh to you? Harsh words are like piercing arrows (Proverbs 12:18), and the wounds they leave are often hard to heal. How many of us still remember the mean things kids said to us when we were on the playground in elementary school?

If your words are like the Proverbs 10:11 fountain of life, keep spouting forth! If your fountain isn’t bringing life to others, pray for wisdom to discern what’s going on with your water source (your heart). Ask the Lord to help you root out the negative attitudes and replace them with positive ones. This is a first step to producing words that nourish others (Proverbs 10:21). Let the waters pour forth, and speak life!

 

 

The Culprit Behind Our Anger

“An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.”

Proverbs 29:22 (NIV)

When you hear the word anger, what images come to mind? Maybe you think of a red face, squinted eyes, flaring nostrils, tight lips or a ferocious scowl accompanied by crossed arms or yelling? It’s interesting that flaring nostrils are an indicator of anger, because the Hebrew word for anger is aph, which means nostril, nose, face and anger.

Regardless of the images we associate with anger, the emotion itself is unpleasant and destructive. Without self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23), we will always have trouble controlling our anger because anger is a secondary emotion rooted in our lack of patience, peace, and joy, all of which are a fruit of the Spirit.

If you struggle with anger, or being hot-tempered as Proverbs 29:22 describes, consider those things that make you angry. There is always a root cause to your anger. Because anger often comes quickly and we often speak and act immediately on it instead of thinking things through first, it is important to consider what situations bring out our anger ahead of time. Why do these situations make us angry? What is the primary emotion behind our anger? When we can answer these questions, we will learn better how to control our anger, which spares us from conflict and sin.

Many verses encourage us to be slow to anger:

Proverbs 15:18: “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger calms dispute.”

James 1:19: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

It’s easy to say, “I’ll do better next time” when we blow up over a situation, but the only way we can truly do better is to discover what stirs up our anger and pray for God’s Holy Spirit to heal us so that we may be slow to anger and show gentleness in our responses to others.