Why Your Words Are Important

Posted in Choice, Criticism, Encouragement, Marriage, Relationships, Words by PCraig on August 24, 2017

Some of us are external processors, some of us are internal processors, but we all talk a lot. One-fifth of your life will be spent with your mouth open. Is that insane to consider? Even more, that’s a lot of opportunity to bless and that’s a lot of opportunity to curse, according to James chapter three. And some of us are really over achievers when it comes to spoken, text, tweet, post and emailed communication.

It’s not surprising that God has something to help us with this area that consumes a fifth of our lives. James tells us to be “quick to listen and slow to speak.” I wonder how many marriages would be better today or even together today, if they put that one principle into practice? Proverbs 18:21 goes so far as to say that the “power of life and death is in the tongue.” But, before you discount that as extreme, think of recent bullying that has resulted in suicides and depression.

You and I weld a lot more power in our mouths than we give credit. The challenge is to direct that force in a good, positive and beneficial way for others and us. When a spouse gets all puffed up and raises their voice to set the record straight, all that may have been accomplished is lowering the quality of their relationship and complicating things further. Being loudest, most boisterous or cutting may win an argument, but it can lose the relationship. You may get someone to walk away, wave a flag of surrender or cower down, but you didn’t build anything along the way.

How do we get control of our tongue? James says it isn’t easy. As a matter of fact, he says it’s easier to tame an animal, bird or fish than it is to tame the tongue. Ever been to Sea World?

Here’s what James says can help:

Be slow to speak. Don’t speak first and think later, that’s a recipe for regret.

Be wise. Ask yourself: Is this is wise to say? Will this be beneficial?

So peace. If you can’t something positive, don’t say anything at all. Mom said that too!

Your words will steer your life in one direction or another. The cause for some not having a better marriage is in their mouth. Some don’t have the job you would like because you sabotage your self by gossiping at work.

We need more peacemakers in the world, and that requires being more in control of what comes out of our mouths. Let’s all start today!

*If you liked this post, join us this weekend for part 4 of Functional Faith as we discuss James 3 in more detail. You can also catch the podcast from our website next week: www.crossroadsavon.com

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Negative Words

Posted in Attitude, Criticism, lies, Mind, Perspective by PCraig on August 17, 2017

Is it just me or do harsh words seem to last longer in your memory than positive ones? Whether it’s through social media, texts or right to your face, do you find yourself being defined by words that were spoken over you in the past? Maybe statements like, “You don’t fit in, I don’t love you anymore, you don’t measure up or have what it takes.” Comments like these can cause us to compromise our morals in an attempt to be accepted or loved. They also can tempt us to perform in order to prove that we are good enough. Others choose to cling onto even unhealthy relationships in an attempt to find validation from people.

There’s a better way. Instead of basing our security and confidence as a person on the acceptance of people, we can get our worth from the acceptance of Christ. Here’s three parts of our position in Christ, we are:

Forgiven

Secure

Free

This means you no longer have to be defined by your past and what others have spoken over you. God has spoken something even more powerful over you – you are forgiven, you are secure, you are free! It’s time to shut the door on those negative voices and rise up and open the door of what Christ says about you. Get yourself plugged into the Word of God and what it says about you.

Replace the lies of the enemy of your soul with the truth of God’s Word and you’ll feel yourself getting stronger every day. Go ahead and try it for a week and see what happens. (I’d suggest starting by reading the book of Philippians)   Do you have selected verses that encourage you? Make a list and go over them until you believe it about yourself.

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Distortion

Posted in Criticism, Perspective, Victorious Living by PCraig on June 1, 2017

Ever go through a Fun House with those distorted, curved mirrors? I used to love looking in them when I was a kid. Something about seeing my head look elongated by several feet or my body looking like it had been squished was really amusing. All of that is imaginary fun, but some of us carry distorted images of ourselves on the inside. “I’m stupid,” “I’m ugly,” or “I’m unlovable.” Perhaps it started with comments from others, past bad choices, or current tough conditions. Whatever the case, distorted messages inside can lead us to false conclusions outside. Therefore, we might tailor our lives around the distortion. We can live our lives based upon what others have said over us or about us.

Jesus said, “When you know the truth, the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Nowhere is this more important than when it comes to our self-image. We each want to be accepted. We work hard at it by buying things, wearing certain things, and joining or doing things. Our desire can be for acceptance at any cost.

I want to help you be free of the distortions of past mistakes, words of others, and your own opinions. Here’s some good news: God has accepted you, according to Romans 15:7. Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus say that it’s based upon you. Instead, He emphatically declares that we are accepted unconditionally. You are not accepted because you’re worthy; you’re worthy because you’re accepted.

God accepts you, so begin a process today of accepting yourself. Your Heavenly Father loves you right where you are and just as you are. That gives me a lot of confidence, how about you?

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Lifting Others Up

Posted in Attitude, Character, Criticism, Humility by PCraig on May 4, 2017

How good are you at cheering for the success of others? I know we all appreciate hearing remarks about how well we’ve done, but how do you do with praising others? It can be even more challenging when you are hearing the accolades from others in private. Pastors can be guilty of this. They hear of the success of another colleague from across town seeing his church grow, so they say things like, “Well, he doesn’t preach very challenging messages is why his church is growing.”

Nowhere in Scripture is this very scenario more illustrated than in today’s reading of the One Year Bible. John 3:22-36 tells the story of how a friend of John the Baptist informs him that Jesus is now attracting more followers and baptizing more people than John. Here’s his response in verse 29, “I am filled with joy at his success.” What? Where’s the, “Yeah, but he’s not fasting like I am” or, “He’s not preaching the Word as strong as I do, so that’s why so many are attracted to him.” Instead, John takes the high road and realizes that the universe doesn’t revolve around him. He’s not God’s gift, …but Jesus is!

So, in our lives, how does this play out? Next time you hear of a co-worker doing well say, “That’s awesome that she’s excelling like that, I wish her the best.” Or, when competing and you come in second, let the first place player know that you’re proud of their effort and sportsmanship.  Stop yourself before you’re tempted to open your mouth and criticize.

When you take on this attitude, it actually raises your value in the eyes of others. Days later, when Jesus is asked about John, He says that, “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John” (Lu.7:28). Pretty cool praise from the King of Kings. It just shows what the Savior thinks when you take on humility and lift others up, He lifts you up!

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Lord Have Mercy

Posted in Attitude, Character, Criticism, God's love, Relationships by PCraig on July 7, 2016

Have you ever mis-judged someone because you didn’t know his or her history?  This happens when the server at the restaurant doesn’t seem to be serving you well, but later you learn this is her second job, she’s a single mom and trying to keep it all going.  With this piece of information, suddenly you feel mercy rise up within you even though the service may not get any better.

John Wesley said, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.”  Imagine what a world would look like that operated on that principle.

This is way Jesus would have His followers to act.  Culture might say, “If they hurt you, then hurt them back.”  But, Jesus tells us to even love our enemies.  We’re never any more like God than when we’re merciful.

I think the biggest example of this in action is Jesus on the cross, and in His final moments cries out, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they do.”  Now, as the Son of God, He had many options, but He chose to show and pray for mercy.  So, when you get so ticked off at your ex that you can barely stand it, forgive.  When you are upset at your spouse for messing up again, forgive.  And, when your relative manipulates the people around you, forgive.  Got it?

Whatever the scenario, the response is the same – forgive.  Let it go.  Release it/them.

If God can be merciful to you, then surely you can be gracious to others.   Today’s a great day to get started.

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A Wrong Spirit Hinders

Posted in Attitude, Criticism, Heart, Used of God, Victorious Living by PCraig on May 16, 2013

The Bible emphasizes that while man may look at the outside, God looks at the inside.  Jesus said it is not what “goes into a man” that corrupts him, but what “comes out” of him.

Having a good spirit is huge in moving forward in life.  I can think of people with incredible talent, intelligence, gifts and abilities that stymie their own success by having a negative spirit.

Some have a hypocritical spirit that says, “you ought to be like this, but I’ll do whatever I want.”  Jesus said to focus on the beam in your own eye before trying to remove the speck in someone else’s eye.  The cure for being a hypocrite is to focus more on fixing yourself instead of excusing yourself.  Trust me, you and I have enough to work on for ourselves to be overly concerned about others.

Others have a hypercritical spirit that is judgmental and looks at others with contempt while giving grace to ourselves.  In other words, we can point out all the bad things about someone without providing any assistance.  These are people that go around pointing out what’s wrong with a person or project without giving solutions.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t need a lot of help finding problems, but I can always use some help in discovering solutions.

If you suffer from a wrong spirit, it won’t just hinder others – it will hinder you.  So, how do you fix your heart?   Psalm 51:10 says to pray and ask God to, “renew a right spirit within me.”  David also went on to say that once we get our spirit right, then God can use us to reach and teach others.

If you want to be used of God – pay attention to your spirit.

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Me Bitter?

Posted in Attitude, Criticism, Relationships, Revenge by PCraig on April 19, 2012

I don’t know too many people who would admit they are bitter, but if were to be really honest, you might discover some bitterness in your own heart.  As a matter of fact, we can see bitterness much easier in others than we see it in the mirror.

The Bible says that a “root of bitterness” can “defile” or poison many people (Heb 12:15).  It can destroy any relationship including marriages, parent-child, friendships, dating or otherwise.  Bitterness becomes a poison that keeps us from the kind of intimacy and purity that leads to fulfilling relationships.   How can you know if you have bitterness?

Here are some signs to watch for:

  • You rejoice in the misfortunes of others.  Even if it’s not outward, inside you are glad that the other person stumbled.  You might even feel a sense of satisfaction – “Well, you reap what you sow!”
  • Justifying your bitterness.  You say things like, “Okay, after what this person did to me, I think I have a right to be angry, upset, mad…I mean, you would only expect me to want revenge, because they deserve it, right?”  You look for others to justify your feelings.
  • You become overly critical.  From now on, all you seem to do is pick that person apart, saying things like, “Well, who does she think she is coming in here looking like all that.  I mean we see through her, right?”  In marriages, you may have been hurt by your spouse, but you’ve decided you’ll make them pay for it the rest of their lives.  When bitter, you are an expert critic of others.
  • Writing off entire groups of people.  You may have been jilted by one girl, but now you say, “All women are the same; you can’t trust any of them.”  Or, as a lady hurt by men, “Every guy is a jerk.  I hate ALL men because they’re ALL bad.”
  • Seeing it in others, but not seeing it in the mirror.  You think, “Oh, if only so & so could read this blog, because they really need it.”  Problem is, everyone else can see it in you, but you don’t recognize it yourself.

So, what can you do about it?

  • Pray for God to reveal bitterness in your heart.  Ask Him to answer this question, “With whom or at what am I bitter?”  Then sit and let Him reveal any signs of bitterness toward others.
  • Release the person at which you have been bitter with total forgiveness.  The same kind of forgiveness that God has given you.  (Read Eph 4:31-32)  Get rid of it ALL.
  • Even if you don’t feel like it yet, forgive them and begin praying for them.  Jesus said that we are to even pray for our enemies!

This past weekend, we talked all about this topic and many came to me afterwards to say thanks.  Another exercise I recommended in the service was to make a list of all the ways you’ve offended God. Yes, it may take a full notebook to make a complete list!  Then, take out another sheet of paper and write down the ways that person you are bitter towards has offended you (much shorter list).  Compare all that God has forgiven you over what He’s asking you to forgive in others.  This might make it easier to give out the same forgiveness that you’ve received.

Did you find some bitterness hidden in your heart that you didn’t realize was there?  Haven’t you held onto bitterness for too long?  What step could you take today toward ridding yourself of bitterness?

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Help My Tongue Is On Fire!

Last weekend, I told the story of one of my family members catching a bush on fire one summer back when we were young.  It just started with a little fire on one of the twigs of the large arborvitae.  Then once it began to spread, the extra oxygen of trying to blow it out just made it spread all the more.  Before long the entire bush was engulfed in flames.  Thankfully, no one was hurt and the house wasn’t significantly damaged either.

James 3 says that our tongue is “also a fire” that can spread a word until our life is on fire, or someone else’s life.  Have you ever spread a fire with your tongue?  Maybe it was just a little exaggeration when you repeated a story you heard about someone else?  Perhaps someone hurt you, so the way to get back at them seemed to be in telling a story about them?  Who are you unable to speak with anymore?  How many times have you been careless with your words toward a friend, a spouse, your kids or a co-worker?

The Scripture clearly says in Ephesians 4:29  “Don’t let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.”

Once again, here is the Four Way Test I provided to know whether to open your mouth or not –

Ask:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it necessary?
  3. Is it beneficial?
  4. What is my motive?

By asking these four questions BEFORE we open our mouths, we can keep our foot out!  We can also keep a fire from spreading that could burn down our marriage, career and other relationships.

Let’s end this on a positive note.  How many people could be lifted up today by your words of encouragement?  In a world full of harshness, cruelty, pain and anguish, what might happen if you became a source of positivity?  Our world is so starving for encouragement that I believe they will be lining up at your business or home to get some more.  Give it a 30 day trial and see if it doesn’t improve the relationships in your life.

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Criticism

Posted in Criticism, One Year Bible, Personal Growth, Perspective by PCraig on October 13, 2010

There is a big difference between valid and invalid criticism.  The distinction comes in what each produces:  one makes you feel like you can do better, the other makes you feel like quitting.  One gives hope and the other brings discouragement.  That’s how you know which one to pay attention to and which one to tune out. 

When in the receiving mode, you must listen to see if the person giving criticism is trying to make you better by pointing out a flaw.  They do this by saying things like, “Have you ever thought of doing that this way?”  By doing this, they are gently trying to suggest there is a better way you might consider.  On the other hand, destructive criticism sounds something like this, “You really don’t know what you’re doing to you?” or, “Who do you think you are to try doing something like that, it is sure to fail!” 

We need to seek to be givers of constructive criticism, looking for opportunities to spur people along in their endeavors.  Who is around you that you could help raise to another level?  How might your insightful words improve another person’s life? 

Be sure to listen for constructive criticism in your life and not be too proud to apply it. 

Proverbs 25:12 To one who listens, valid criticism is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry.

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