Monthly Archives: September 2011

TAMING THE TONGUE


Have you ever had one of those moments (or days) when you opened your mouth and out came something that surprised even you? You wanted to suck those words right back into your mouth? Later all you could think was “me and my mouth! God help me to know when to keep it shut!”

Well, you’re not alone in that struggle to keep a spiritually hygienic mouth; that on-going battle to reign-in the tongue.

The Scriptures have a lot to say about an “unbridled mouth”.

James 3:7-8  All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

We need to renew our thinking about what come out of our mouths. In the words of Edwin H. Stuart, “Remember, every time you open your mouth to talk, your mind walks out and parades up and down the words.”*

 Eph. 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths . . . .   (English Standard Version)

The New International Version uses the term “unwholesome” in its translation of the Eph. 4:29, but the translation “corrupting” points to the results of unwholesome speech; it has a negative impact on those who hear it, as well as those who use it. There are four speech areas I’d like to address in this article.

Profanity

Unwholesome talk includes profanity and swearing – carelessly invoking God or Jesus’ name in cursing people or objects; misusing His name is sacrilege –  degrading that which is holy – lifting God’s name up to emptiness.

 James 2:10-11 says: Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

An old farmer who was known for the use of profanity, drove his team of mules into town and was very late returning home.  “What took you so long?” asked his wife.  “Well,” the farmer explained, “on the way home I had to pick up the preacher, and from there on, these mules of ours didn’t understand one word I said.”

Profanity may or may not be an intentional blasphemy or desecration of God’s holiness on the part of the person swearing, but the profane use of God’s name is intentional on the devil’s part. The enemy seeks to defame God and to cause His name to be used as just another word to express strong emotion.

Have you ever noticed that people who swear or invoke a curse, never use the names of other “gods”, such as Buddha, or Allah, or Krishna, or a myriad of other “gods”?  It’s always “Jesus!” or “Jesus Christ!” or “oh, God!”

 Ex.20:7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

I also believe that to speak disparagingly about the Lord, to say things that cause others to doubt His love or His faithfulness, is a form of profanity. To do so profanes the character and integrity of our Heavenly Father.

Lying

Col. 3:9-10 speaks of another unwholesome use of the tongue:

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

Jesus addressed a group of “religious” people in John 8:44 regarding their practice of lying:

“You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He . . . does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

When people speak lies, they are cooperating with the “father of lies”. Even to ask your child to answer the phone and say you are not home when you are there is encouraging an “unwholesome use of the tongue” and corrupting your child.

Obscenity

Obscenity, coarseness, filthy language and crude jokes, phone and cyber-sex, all have a corrupting influence – a slime that is left behind, the feeling that a bath is needed after participating in or overhearing such talk. Such communication should never be a part of a Christian’s life.

Col. 3:8 “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”

Gossip & Slander

Gossip and slander are other forms of unwholesome talk, and the corrupting influence is that of ruining someone’s reputation or good name, or causing others to think less of that person

Gossip has been defined as “sharing private information [about others] with those who are neither a part of the problem nor a part of the solution.” ***

Someone once said, “Gossiping is the art of confessing other people’s sins.”

I remember a story about a woman who had just heard her pastor present a sermon on the tongue, in which he addressed the topic of gossip. Later that day the woman heard a bit of “information” about someone and couldn’t wait to share the juicy morsel with her friend. She began her phone call by saying, “I know that pastor said this morning we should not repeat gossip, so you have to listen very carefully the first time I tell you this.”

It isn’t the things that go in one ear and out the other that hurt as much as the things that go in one ear, get all mixed up, and then slip out the mouth. **

Your friend has a friend, and your friend’s friend has a friend; be discreet.  [The Talmud]

Eph. 4:29-30 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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.   (ESV)

Even prayer meetings where people’s needs are shared openly can border on, or lead into gossip.

These questions need to be considered: why is this information being shared? Is this information going to result in anyone being built up or graced by God? Does sharing this information grieve or please the Holy Spirit? Can we through our prayers be a part of the solution?

Tongue Tamers

There are some things we can do to help tame the tongue – to harness it and prevent unwholesome and corrupting speech from escaping our lips.

  • Ask God for His help – At the beginning of each day ask God to set a seal on your mouth, to keep you alert to think before you speak.
  • Look for the “way of escape” when the moment of temptation comes to misuse this wonderful gift of speech.
  • To correct profanity, confess it to the Lord and tell Him you will no longer carelessly use His name. Remember, “practice makes permanent”.
  • To correct a gossip habit, develop the habit of speaking well of people, even defending them; make a point of not saying something that you could not say directly to the person.
  • In place of cursing, learn to bless others, even your enemies.
  • If your problem is a critical tongue, make a point of complimenting and building others up. This does not mean that you can never speak a corrective word or give a constructive word of advice, but the goal should be encouragement.
  • If filthy talk is an issue, you may need deliverance from a spirit of lust or sexual perversion – seek out Godly counsel for help and deliverance prayer.
  • Remember that “self-control” is a fruit of the Spirit of God who lives in you if you are one of His children – it is really “Christ-control”.  Consciously surrender your mouth to the Holy Spirit each day.
  • If you still struggle with an untamed tongue, ask God to show you the root of your issue and to do a spiritual “root canal” so that your mouth will honor your Heavenly Father and bring glory to His name.

Remember today to commit your tongue to the Lord – He will help you fulfill His command to:

    Col. 4:6 “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

©2011, Marcy Alves

Photo: Indian Tiger by Christopher Moncrieff/Dreamstime.com photos

* Great Quotes &Illustrations

**Illustrations Unlimited

*** Bill Gothard, Basic Youth Conflicts

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Memorials: to Life and Death


This past weekend was one of memorials. It seems that on every news program there were reports about memorial preparations and video footage of memorial services held in honor and remembrance of those who lost their lives on 9/11/10.

There were stories of heroism and saved lives, loss and recovery, children who never met their dads; widowed- mothers who bravely moved on with constant reminders of their loss, the father-resemblance etched on the faces of their offspring.

Often as we viewed the images on our TV screen and heard the words “We will not forget”, we were moved to tears. Those tears expressed pride in our resilient countrymen and in the dedication and heroism of first responders, professional rescue workers, and fellow office workers at the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.  There was also pride in and amazement at the braveryof those who downed the plane in Shanksville, PA; those who knowingly sacrificed their lives to save other lives.

As part of last weekend I also attended a Christian memorial service for a friend named Bill who had bravely fought, but lost a war with cancer.

Bill left a legacy behind, expressed in the testimonies of friends and family; a legacy of toughness and bravery, humor, dedication to his Savior, concern for the eternal destiny of others, and tough love that expressed itself in action to those God put in his path. Bill had discovered God’s love and forgiveness in his life and was dedicated to helping others find the same spiritual healing and release from the prison of addiction and sin; to help them discover a life of joy and peace.

But there is a third memorial that the 9/11 weekend calls forth in my mind: it’s a commemorative of wasted lives, destructive acts caused by a handful of men who were groomed by hate and bitterness against an “enemy” of their  imagination. They were groomed by others who hid in obscure places, preserving their own lives by sending others to do their murder for them. These hit-men commandeered aircraft for the sole purpose of killing others, without regard to the individual innocence or guilt of their victims.

These were men driven by the perplexing  philosophy of a strange religion that appears to be a belief in a “god” who hates, a “god” of violence.

These young men committed acts of random carnage for what? They committed suicide for what? A moment of glory that will pass away as the blades of grass? The promise of 70 virgins in paradise?

What about their wives and children left here on earth to mourn their senseless loss? What about their parents and brothers and sisters and their grief? Surely Muslims mourn these losses, as we should also mourn such a waste of life.

There is such a contrast in these three memorials:

  • the one at ground zero – a memorial to the innocent people who lost their lives, to acts of heroism and bravery by many, and to American patriotism and solidarity.
  • the memorial to our friend, Bill – which was a tribute to the God he loved and served: a God of forgiveness, purpose, joy, love, and kindness
  • and the memorial to the hijackers of 9/11/10 – a memorial to carnage; acts of confused minds driven by hatred, revenge and false promises of eternal reward; a memorial to wasted lives.

I desire that my life be a memorial to the living God who gives the sure promise of eternal life to those who trust in the sacrificial death of His Son, the One who died to give life, not to take it.

May my life be a memorial to our resurrected Savior who stands with His arms open and says in Matthew chapter 11:

 28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

And may my life be a memorial to the living God, our heavenly Father, who reminds us through the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:1 to:

“ . . . present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Such a living memorial will bring honor to the God of love who calls us to life, not death.

If you have never met the living God, He is only as far away as a prayer: “God, I would like to know you, please show me how. I want to experience the gift of spiritual life that you are offering me.”

I would love to be of help to you in your search for life with meaning and purpose – a life of peace and joy.  Please feel free to contact me.

©2011, Marcy Alves

A Dangerous Weapon


What weapon is more dangerous than a gun and does not need a permit for its use?

If you guessed anthrax or a nuclear bomb, you’re wrong. If you guessed a germ (as in germ warfare), you are wrong again. If you guessed fire, you are close, but still wrong.

This weapon is even more dangerous than any of those things listed, because it can be used at unlimited distance, from a few inches to thousands of miles, with equal deadly impact?

I’ll give you one more clue, this weapon is owned by every person, in every country of the world. You may have guessed it by now, it’s the tongue.

The Scriptures speak about this weapon and its power:

James 3:5-11 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?  My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

A Greek philosopher asked his servant to provide the best dish possible. The servant prepared a dish of tongue, saying: “It is the best of all dishes, because with it we may bless and communicate happiness, dispel sorrow, remove despair, cheer the fainthearted, inspire the discouraged, and say a hundred other things to uplift mankind.”

A few days later the philosopher asked his servant to provide the worst dish of which he could think. Once again a dish of tongue appeared on the table. The servant said, “It is the worst, because with it we may curse and break human hearts; destroy reputations; promote discord and strife; and set families, communities and nations at war with each other.”

He was a wise servant. (Knight’s Master Book of New Illustrations)

In Proverbs 21:23 King Solomon said, “Whoever keeps his tongue, keeps his soul from trouble.”                    

We may be tempted to think that words are harmless;  you’ve heard the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Names are merely “words”, right? And what can words do? They have no material substance.

But I have met many people who have been crippled for life by “names”, mere words that have come from a parent or some authority figure in their lives: names such as “stupid, dumb, ignorant, worthless, a whore, ugly, bastard, human garbage” etc.

Sometimes the absence of positive words has been as destructive as negative words. I spoke to a woman recently who said, “My father never said, ‘I love you.’ I’m sure he did love me, but he never spoke it to me. He never assured me of his affection verbally.” Another woman said, “The first time my father said, ‘I love you,’ was recently.” She’s in her late 50s.

A woman who was raised by her grandmother – both mother and father were absent in her up-bringing – shared how hard is it for her to experience God as a loving Father because of the absence of parental words of love and affirmation; it’s hard for her to read Jer. 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” as God’s love words to her.

I don’t recall my father saying he loved me until I was a young adult, though his every act showed that he did. However, as a child, hugs from Dad when he got home from work were the norm. And though my dad would push for more achievement when I brought home my report cards, “You could have had all A’s instead of those 2 B’s”, still he affirmed me by “You did real good, honey.” Affirmative words, as well as acts, were food to my soul.

It’s important to think of the impact of your words, for words are powerful.

Death and Life

Prov. 18:21 says, Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

What kind of fruits is this verse talking about? The fruits produced by the words spoken; the fruit of life or the fruit of death.

The New Living Bible paraphrases the verse by saying: “. . . those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”

I have seen marriages die because of harsh and bitter words, angry words, demeaning words spoken to or about the spouse. Words used as swords in the struggle for control in the relationship. Words intended to get back at a spouse for some disappointment or indiscretion that left wounds. Words intentionally flung out to inflict pain on the partner because forgiveness was withheld.

Eph. 4:29-32   Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Maybe it’s time for some of us to surrender our mouths to the Lord; to ask Him to set a guard on our lips and to give us a jab in the heart when we have misused this wonderful gift of communication.

What is the proper use of the tongue? It should be used as an instrument of healing, not a weapon of destruction; a giver of life and encouragement, instead of pain and death.

May God grant you grace today as you set a guard on your tongue.

©2011, Marcy Alves

Songs of Praise


I love music. vocal, instrumental; acoustic, electric; classical, rock, country, jazz, pop, bluegrass, Gospel; love songs, worship songs, show tunes, movie themes, praise songs, even singing commercials; sad songs, happy songs and funny songs.  MUSIC – what a gift from God to mankind!

Often I wake up with a song running through my head; sometimes I sing in my dreams. I once wrote a song in my dream – sang it in my dream, but couldn’t remember it when I woke up.

Music – particularly vocal music – expresses our thoughts and feelings both at once – mingling mind and emotion, without one ruling out the other. And worship music, in whatever form, leaves behind the fragrance of the Holy Spirit.

Today a couple friends stopped by our home to share some personal concerns. We ended our “venting” with a time of prayer – which is the best way to end things that could leave us negative, depressed, or stressed.

At the end of the prayer time, a song of praise welled up inside me – a song of honor to the Savior who tells us to “cast all our cares on Him, because He cares for [us]”.

I began to sing the words to an old hymn that I must have learned when I was a child in a Baptist church in Virginia. Or maybe later at a Christian college? Or perhaps even later as a member of a Methodist church? Or later than that in an Independent church? Or more recently in an Advent Christian church? Or maybe we sang the hymn in all of those “cells” of the body of Christ?

Anyway, the song (which if you recognize it, will sing itself in your head) goes like this:

Praise Him, praise Him, Jesus our blessed Redeemer.

Sing, oh earth, His wonderful love proclaim.

Hail Him, hail Him, highest archangels in glory;

Praise and honor, give to His holy name.

Like a shepherd, Jesus will guard His children;

In His arms He carries them all day long.

Praise Him, Praise Him, tell of His excellent greatness.

Praise Him, Praise Him, ever in joyful song! *

To that my husband added the chorus to There is None Like You**:

There is none like You.

No one else could touch my heart like You do.

I could search for all eternity long,

And find, there is none like You.

When we finished singing, the others said they had also felt that we should end in a song. There is something about connecting with our Father in prayer together that brings forth praise which needs outward expression; and how appropriate that the praise should come forth in music – a joyful expression of a lightened heart.

We attend a very small church in which I am a member of the worship team. Often I close my eyes as we sing and I picture our small group’s worship mingling with the high praise that must continually go on in the courts of heaven.

I sense our small praise being magnified thousands of times as it passes from this dimension into the invisible space where God and the angels are visible to each other beyond our range of sight.

Back to earth and back to yesterday – following our prayer and praise time, for the rest of the day I sensed the peace of the presence of God.

After our visitors left, the Spirit reminded me of Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord; “plans not to harm you, but to give you a future and a hope.”  A good verse to ponder following the release of my concerns to our heavenly Father.

Such a God who makes such promises is more than worthy of our HIGHEST PRAISE.

Do you have any praise moments that have lifted you out of depression, worry, or negativity and given you a sense of hope?

©2011, Marcy Alves

*Lyrics by Fanny J. Crosby

** Lyrics by Lenny LeGlanc, 1991 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music

A Call to Arms: A Call to Prayer


I awoke this morning with a strong sense of foreboding, like a dark cloud covering the sun.  I sensed it was a warning of something coming. I prayed for God’s protection over this land that I love – my country – the United States of America.

Maybe, because the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 is approaching, it’s only a shadow cast by mental pictures of the Twin Towers in NY City crashing to the ground – fire and smoke; fire engines, and rescue workers digging through debris – that has set off the alarms in my spirit. Maybe it’s the memory of death and destruction; of sorrow on tear-stained faces, pain and suffering; confusion and fear; bewilderment over what kind of human beings would do such a thing?

Or perhaps it’s our recent tryst with Irene and the twisted landscape that she left in her wake as she romanced us with the question of where she would bed-down before expending the passion of her wind and rain? The destruction she left behind as she moved on to Canada becomes more evident to us as network news presents vivid on-site pictures of more human suffering; thousands left homeless, with no money to rebuild, escaping only with what they could carry from their homes to the safety of shelters.

There is a dark cloud moving across our land; the bright sunshine following hurricane Irene lends to the delusion that all is well in Oz. But the wizard behind the curtain knows it is not.

We are threatened from all sides – both human threats from militants driven by an ideology of hatred and revenge and on-going acts of “nature” that seem to be un-relenting this year in the U.S.  I don’t recall such a season of floods and heat-waves and earthquakes and hurricanes back-to-back in my tenure on this planet.

The question that haunts me is – where does this carnage come from? Is it judgment from God, or the death throes of the “prince of the powers of the air” as his end nears?

From whichever source, I have felt led to issue a call to arms: a call to prayer.

The effort to remove prayer and reliance on God from American public life is insanity. There is no government on earth that can afford us the kind of protection we need; no humanitarian efforts, no good will from fellow countrymen, no foreign assistance that can compare to God’s protection for America from the invisible menace.

For our enemy does not wear clothes or operate under “Roberts Rules of Order” – he hates both the God of love and life, and His creatures. This enemy takes no sides with nations, creeds or religious ideologies.

There is an enemy that hates – an entity who would end human freedom and make slaves of us all.  It’s the one who drives militants and humanitarians alike to extreme measures; including intentional murder of the innocents and human attempts to purify and perfect the human race. This enemy is behind wars and all attempts for manipulation of human evolution apart from God – such as that which drove Hitler into Arian purification during the Nazi revolution.

How do we deal with such an enemy?

We cannot do anything against him without a return to the God who created the human race; the God who did not evolve or appear on the human landscape because we felt the need to worship and made Him up.

Such absurd ideas come from modern “evolved” man who knows nothing of spiritual truths because his “mind is blinded by god of this age”. (2 Cor. 4:4)

God tells us how to defeat this enemy whose purpose is to destroy God’s creation – the earth and all its inhabitants – and to take God’s place on the throne. We are called to arms against him.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us that “our struggles are not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of his dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

We are not to cower in fear, nor are we to sit around twiddling our thumbs, waiting for God to do something.

Ephesians 6:13 instructs us to “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground”.  The armor includes – the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the readiness of the shoes of the Gospel of peace. Next we are to“take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”  Then we are instructed to “take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”.

But it’s not enough to be armed with all that spiritual equipment.

Eph. 6:14 continues: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

Most of the spiritual armor is defensive – but the sword of the Spirit and prayer are our offensive weapons of spiritual warfare.

I want to add one more weapon to our arsenal: worship. When we in worship of our Father God are reminded of His awesome power and His love for us, we will approach His throne with boldness to secure His grace – His delight in us. And we will have confidence that He both will hear and answer our prayers.

2 Chronicles 7:14 “For if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Our land needs healing.  So, in these days of insecurity and doubt, disillusionment and despair, discouragement and hopelessness – are you willing to enter the battle against the real enemy?

This is a call to arms: a call to prayer. Will you answer that call?

©2011, Marcy Alves

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