Sunday, November 29, 2009

Watch Your Tongue

By Deborah Smith Pegues

Most of us are unaware of how often we displease God with our words. Here’s an idea: Try fasting from gossip, complaining and negative words until you overcome.

"Sorry I’m late for the meeting. Traffic!” Half-truths such as this one were becoming easier and easier for me to tell.

Of course, there had been some traffic on the freeway, but nothing that would have delayed my arrival if I had left on time. The real truth was that I had overslept because I had stayed up to watch the late-night edition of The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Notice I didn’t actually say that traffic was extremely heavy or that it was the traffic that had delayed me. I just implied it so that my team members would conclude my tardiness was outside my control.

For some time prior to this incident my husband had been trying to convince me that any intent to deceive is a lie. My conscience had also been faithful to remind me of Proverbs 12:22: “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight” (NKJV).

I had to acknowledge that whether the misrepresentation takes the form of a half-truth, flattery, an exaggeration or blatant deceitfulness, it is still a lie—plain and simple.

I’ve been challenged with sins of the mouth for as long as I’ve been able to talk. However, a few years ago, I reached the height of frustration with my tongue after some unguarded words I spoke wreaked havoc in a valued relationship. The moment I uttered the words, I regretted them. I knew that trying to get them back was as impossible as recapturing a pillowcase of feathers released in the wind.

I decided then that it was time to bring my tongue, that unruly member the apostle James talks about, under control. I began my journey by researching every negative use of the tongue I could find in the Bible. I ultimately identified 30. I’m sure there are more but I knew that if I could conquer even half of them, I would have gained a major victory.

I made a commitment to go on a 30-day “tongue fast,” a period of verbal abstinence from all ungodly speaking. With my arsenal of Scriptures, I embarked upon my quest for a wholesome tongue that would be a wellspring of life in every situation.

I knew the task would be impossible without God’s help. I was well aware of James’ warning: “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).

Nevertheless, I took courage from the words of our Savior, “‘The things which are impossible with men are possible with God’ ” (Luke 18:27). Each time I caught a negative talker in the act, I drafted her to join my mission.

My strategy when faced with the temptation to dishonor God in any way with negative speech was to catch myself, stop midsentence and exclaim, “Tongue fast!” It seemed that I had to restart the fast a zillion times during the first few days.

I would succumb to some of the tongue temptations even though the Holy Spirit was flashing a yellow caution light, warning me to stop. Sometimes I deliberately ran the red light and said the wrong thing; other times I stopped and won the battle.

It was eye-opening as well as disappointing to find out I wasn’t the only one suffering from tongue trouble. During my fast I realized that this is a big problem throughout the body of Christ.

Many people seem to be oblivious to the power of their words to build up or tear down, motivate or discourage, heal or hurt, spread or squash rumors, and delight or deceive. Perhaps you can identify with my struggles and triumphs in the following instances.

Complaining. “Why don’t they just get more tellers?” whined the woman standing in line behind me at the bank. In my desire to relate to her misery, I chimed in and agreed. What else was I supposed to do? Isn’t commiserating how you instantly bond with people?

Was I going to risk alienating myself from her by disagreeing? Heaven’s no!

This incident seems like eons ago. I now have a new strategy. When faced with a long wait, I pull out some reading material, intercede for the salvation of each person around me or try to get the complainer to see the bright side of the situation.

I have not forgotten that it was murmuring and complaining that caused most of the Israelites to die in the wilderness and miss the Promised Land.

I frequently challenge myself to note the number of times I am tempted to complain within a 24-hour period. My goal is to resist the temptation to express displeasure with any person or situation.

I once expanded the no-complaints challenge to seven days when I took an exciting trip to the Hawaiian island of Maui. Before I boarded the plane, I had to resist murmuring about the traffic at the airport, security procedures, the lack of meals on the plane, the length of the flight and a host of other unimportant issues—all before we arrived in Maui.

I am making every effort these days to “pour out my complaint before Him” alone (Ps. 142:2). Sure, it’s OK to solicit a friend’s input on a problem, but constant complaining is a contagious and God-dishonoring pastime. I’m trying to make gratitude a lifelong attitude.

Judging. Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s Founding Fathers, once said, “I will speak ill of no man, not even in the matter of truth, but rather excuse the faults I hear, and, upon proper occasions, speak all the good I know of everybody.”

His philosophy paralleled my grandmother’s age-old advice: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Easier said than done.

During my tongue fast, I went on a mission to stamp out my tendency to judge people who speak too loudly, overexpose their bodies—particularly when they are going to church—smack their lips while eating, and engage in a host of other behaviors that caused me to silently reject them.

Whatever happened to love covering a multitude of faults? For sure, I needed more love, and I knew the source of it. I also knew that to the extent and in the way I judged others, God would also judge me (see Matt. 7:1-2).

Gossiping. “Deborah, we have to pray. I hear that John, the music director, might be having an affair with the sexy soprano who just joined the choir.”

We all know that such statements are an invitation to gossip—cloaked in a prayer request. And rare is the person who has not been a bearer or eager hearer of information about someone else’s personal affairs.

Because I have been the subject of a few “newsy” conversations myself, I have an aversion to such nonproductive exchanges. I found that the best way for me to resist gossip is to catch myself before I start.

I engage in a little self-interrogation: Why am I willing to use the temple of God as a “trash receptacle” by being a receiver of gossip? Is this my way of establishing a rapport with someone?

Do I need to be the center of attention? Does it make me feel superior to know something negative about someone that the hearer doesn’t know?

Am I envious of the subject’s good fortune? What do I plan to do with the information a gossip shares with me? Am I bored with my life and in need of more meaningful pursuits?

Of course, my best anti-gossip strategy is to heed Solomon’s admonition in Proverbs 20:19 (NIV): “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.” Wherever I am, I declare it to be a gossip-free zone.

Retaliating. I have little respect for wimpy people because they remind me of a few significant people in my life who have allowed others to treat them as doormats. It stands to reason that I am adamant about setting a better example in my own life.

However, I found that I often failed to make the distinction between being assertive and setting healthy boundaries, and responding in kind to negative behavior directed my way. My motto was, “Whatever you say to me is what you’re going to get back.”

And then I stumbled upon 1 Peter 3:9, which states: “Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you.

“Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it” (NLT).

This is still the area that I have to commit the most to prayer. I know that I make God sad when I take His job in avenging the verbal wrongs; however, I feel 10 feet tall in my spirit when I “pay them back with a blessing.” Often the best way to do that is to remain pleasantly silent.

Cursing. Cursing? Do you mean as in “profanity”? Christians? Yes, many of God’s children use profanity.

“Oh, that just slipped out,” some say. The truth is that it slipped out of the heart, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34, NKJV).

Though I was not given to a profane tongue, when I would stub my toe, break something, upset a stack of papers, spill a drink, have an encounter with an extremely difficult person or find myself in any other frustrating situation, I would silently use profanity. When I saw that this behavior was becoming the norm, I ran to God.

I prayed: “Lord, I understand according to Luke 6:45 that ‘a good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good’; and I also understand that ‘an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.’

“Would you please take the four-letter words out of my heart and replace them with Your expressions? I thank You in advance for purging me of profanity and for allowing the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart to be acceptable in Your sight.”

Every day presents us with an opportunity to respond or to speak in a manner that would dishonor or glorify our heavenly Father. Is it spiritual naiveté to think that we can always say the right thing, at the right time and in the right way?

How was the woman described in Proverbs 31 able to set a communication standard that raised the bar so high? “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness” (Prov. 31:26). Looks as if she was able to tame her tongue.

One of my spiritual mentors, Marlene Talley, held the secret. More than 25 years ago when she observed my tendency to speak without much forethought, she cautioned, “Stop, think and pray before you speak.”

When we stop, think and pray before we speak, we find ourselves blessing rather than blasting others, exhibiting patience rather than pushiness, sharing good rather than gossip and choosing caring rather than cutting words.
Otherwise, we find our tongue in drive while our brain is in neutral. It is then that our words become verbal shrapnel that lodges in another person’s emotions with disastrous results.

Here’s what I have concluded. Words are verbalized thoughts that emanate from our hearts. If we turn to Scripture and use Philippians 4:8 as our thought sifter, our communication will always go from negative to positive:

“Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

I find that memorizing “tongue” Scriptures such as this is essential to transforming my speech.

I store them in my spiritual war chest for use whenever a situation arises.

King David declared, “ ‘I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle’ ” (Ps. 39:1). Do you share his desire to honor God in your speech?

Then why not try a day-to-day tongue fast to get started? And don’t forget that the Holy Spirit, your Helper, is standing at attention ready to give you all the grace you need to succeed.
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Deborah Smith Pegues is a popular speaker and best-selling author of 30 Days to Taming Your Tongue. A certified behavioral consultant and certified public accountant, she has also written Financial Survival in Uncertain Times and Emergency Prayers. For more information, go to

Friday, November 20, 2009

It is good to talk

When things are going well and everyone is happy, it is much easier to talk because both of you are comfortable with the issues you are discussing.

On the other hand, when things are not going well and one or both of you are not happy with the situation around, the natural thing to do is to be silent and gradually drift apart.The danger here is that your silence would not solve the problem if anything it just worsens it. In relationship it is good to talk about what you are not comfortable with, as uneasy, as this may be it is one of the best ways to keep your friendship and closeness.Silence creates a dividing wall between you and gives room for assumptions, which may lead to grudges and malice.It is good to talk, you need to set boundaries around your talk, and have a goal.

It is definitely not a time to blame or abuse each other, but a time to take responsibility, to inform each other of the realities and have a plan to solve the issue at hand, this method will protect and foster your friendship.When you are both vulnerable and your relationship is not as strong as it should be, do not avoid each other, this is the time you should wisely treat the weak points and give it the right environment to heal and not be silent.This is the best time to talk, be positive and wise [be careful how and what you talk about] remember your goal is to get your relationship back happier and stronger than it was before.Stop avoiding each other, it is good to talk.

No We Can't But Yes God Can

I hope what I have to say below lightens up your burden and brightens your day.

We do not always know why things happen as they do......things that make our spirits sink so low.....things that leave us shattered & hope lost......and we become wavering and unstable, unsure of what the future holds. But in our most inadequacy, know that the Lord God is always able. Though we are incapable, He's powerful and great.

All that is required of us is to trust in Him implicitly.....with a faith that is deep and strong. And while He may not instantly unravel all the strands of the tangled thoughts that trouble us, He completely understands. And in His time, with our faith, will gradually restore the brightness to our spirit that we've been longing for......

So remember there's no cloud too dark for God's light to penetrate......if we keep on believing and have faith enough to wait!

You're not alone in this.....always know that I'll be there when you need me.

Loads of hugs.....

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Don't Let Bitterness Poison Your Marriage

By Sabrina Beasley

For nearly two centuries, Beethoven's death was a mystery. The famous musician suffered from irritability, depression, and abdominal pain. His dying wish was that his illness would be discovered so that "the world may be reconciled to me after my death."

In 1994, two Americans launched a study to determine the cause of Beethoven's end. Chemical analysis of a strand of his hair showed his killer—lead poisoning.

More than likely, it was a little poison in everyday activities that took his life. It could have come from drinking out of lead lined cups or having dinner on a lead lined plate—both common household items in that day. Or perhaps it came from eating contaminated fish or even the extensive consumption of wine. It didn't come in one lump sum, but the lead killed him slowly and quietly—one little bit of poison at a time.

That's also how bitterness destroys a marriage. It stores itself in the soul, and slowly poisons the one who carries it. It's a blade meant for another that eventually severs the hand that tightly conceals it.

Recently, I have witnessed what a bitter wife does to a relationship. The problems with her husband are real, and her anger is justified. However, what keeps their marriage from healing is not only the problems that he has to overcome, but also the prideful bitterness she guards in her heart.

Little by little, day by day, she has allowed this bitterness to poison her. Her husband will do something disappointing, and instead of confronting the problem, she silently holds it against him. He continues to make the same mistakes, and she continues to harbor her resentment.

This pattern has gone on for years, and now the love she once felt has numbed and hardened her heart. Recently she walked out on their marriage wearing a list of her husband's transgressions as her armor. Reflecting back on his behavior, she nurses her wounds with words that assure her that their marriage was a mistake—"I knew it all along," she says.

What Causes Bitterness?
In every marriage, a husband or wife does something that hurts the other. It's bound to happen because none of us is perfect. And in some cases, a spouse has a habit of doing the same thing over and over again, even after the behavior is confronted.

Bitterness comes when you hold onto hurt and refuse to forgive the person that hurt you. Most of the time, this comes as a result of ongoing actions of a small nature—lack of understanding, misuse of finances, harsh comments—that build up over time. Each offense takes residence in the heart, and at some point there is no more room left before the wife has had enough. That's when bitterness is manifested and causes the most damage.

What's Wrong With Bitterness?
A hardened heart can cause a lot of pain. Here are three reasons why bitterness should be removed from your heart as soon as possible.

First, bitterness harbors unforgiveness. You may feel justified in your anger. You may think that your husband doesn't deserve your forgiveness until he straightens himself out. But have you forgotten the mercy that Jesus had for you? Romans 5:8 tells us that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. By God's grace, He didn't wait for us to "get our acts together" before He provided a way for forgiveness. He gave it to us freely even when we didn't deserve it. At Golgotha as the soldiers gambled for Jesus' clothing, the dying innocent Christ prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). If forgiveness is given freely to us, how much more should we give it to our husbands?

Not only should you desire forgiveness simply because it was given so freely to you, but also, the Bible tells us that there are consequences for unforgiveness. Jesus said, "If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions" (Matthew 6:14-15). Seek forgiveness not only for the sake of your husband, but also for yourself.

The other day, I found that my disappointment in my friend was turning into its own form of bitterness. So I sought the Scriptures for guidance. As always, the Word of God shone brilliant light on my own darkness. I was so moved by the verse I read that I wrote it down over and over until there was no more room left on the note page. "For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13).

I wonder how many hurting marriages would be healed if Christian husbands and wives learned to love mercy as much as they love justice?

Second, bitterness doesn't give your husband a chance to repent. If you've been holding in your hurt, your husband may not even know he's offended you. Bitterness often comes from hurt that has been suppressed without communication, like filling up a bottle with pressure—eventually that bottle will explode. In the same way, the outburst in your heart can result in a broken marriage, and your spouse never even saw it coming. In this case, go ahead and tell him what's been bothering you. Sit down and try to work it out.

Perhaps your husband does know of your unhappiness, but he chooses to continue in the same patterns. This does not negate your responsibility to remove the bitterness from your heart. You still need to give him the chance to repent, although stronger measures, such as, marriage counseling may need to take place.

You may ask, "How many times does he have to do something before I'm justified in my bitterness?" In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter had a similar problem. He asked Jesus how many times he needed to forgive someone, even questioning as many as seven times. But Jesus said, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." No matter how many times your husband may do something, you are still responsible to forgive him.

(Note: If your husband is physically abusing you, get out of your house and do not stay there. A person who is physically abusive needs extensive counseling and rehabilitation. However, no matter how the situation ends, you can still work on forgiveness from the heart.)

Third, bitterness spreads. Have you ever seen a piece of moldy bread? It appears that there is only one ruined area, but if you looked at the bread through a microscope, you would see long roots spreading throughout the slice. What appears on the surface doesn't reflect what's really happening below.

Bitterness grows the same way. One little bit of bitterness can start to spread throughout your heart, and contaminate your whole body. It will start to manifest itself in your attitude, demeanor, and even your health.

In addition, the spreading can also affect your children and your family. Have you ever noticed how one person's criticism makes everyone else critical, too? It's the same with bitterness. Paul compares it to yeast when he writes, "A little leaven, leavens the whole lump" (Galatians 5:6). When you bring bitterness into your life it extends to your family, your church body, and everyone else who is involved in your life.

Getting Rid of Bitterness
You may feel like there is little hope left for your marriage relationship. You may be so full of bitterness that you've convinced yourself that your marriage could never be healed, but let me assure you that the healing begins with yourself. With God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). Here are four steps to take to begin healing from bitterness.

First, confess your bitterness as a sin. It's so easy to justify our attitude when we've been hurt, but the Bible teaches that bitterness is a sin. Hebrews 12:14-15 says, "Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled…" You must seek peace with your husband and the grace to forgive.

Second, ask for God's strength to forgive your husband and diligently seek that forgiveness. In Ephesians 4:31-32, Paul exhorts us to "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." It's hard to be tender-hearted to a man who has hurt you, but it is possible. We have the power to forgive because Christ forgave us, and He gives us strength through the Holy Spirit (Colossians 2:9-11).

Third, make a list of your hurts and find a time to talk to your husband about it. After you've made your list, pray about which things you can let go and which need to be resolved. If you can let them go, then do so. You may want to physically scratch off each one that you can forgive as an act of faith. Then for those transgressions that are left, ask God to give you the strength to talk to your husband about them.

Before talking to your spouse, let him know that you plan to set aside some undistracted time for you to talk about some issues. As you talk, keep the discussion productive. Start by confessing your own sins to him. Then talk to him about your hurts. Don't just dump all your irritations and criticisms on him, but speak in love with gentleness and rationale.

If you feel like you can't talk to your husband alone, then ask a pastor or mentor couple to join you in the discussion. Make sure your husband knows that someone else will be there. Once you begin, your spouse may deny his behavior or even become irritated. But the object of the discussion is to expose the wounds, not to accuse. Keep love the main motivator of your communication.

Fourth, worry about changing yourself, not your husband. You cannot change your spouse—only God can. But what you can do is allow God to change your heart. If you have a log of bitterness in your own eye, how can you take the speck out of your husband's eye? (Matthew 7:3). You, too, have made choices in this relationship that have hurt your husband and need to be mended. Even though your husband's sin goes unresolved for now, he will answer for them one day before God (Matthew 10:26). In the same way, God will hold you responsible for the bitterness in your heart.

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Controlling Your Anger

By Crawford Loritts

It was twenty-five years ago, but I still remember the lesson I learned from the near disaster in the Loritts home.

My wife, Karen, and I were arguing, and I had become very angry. I felt that she wasn't understanding what I was trying to tell her. We weren't shouting at each other, but the intensity level of the conversation had taken a decidedly upward turn.

I wanted to get out of our apartment to cool off, so I turned to walk out the door. As I did, I passed by our first child, Bryan, a toddler at the time, who was sitting in the middle of the living room floor. I walked out the door and slammed it behind me, and when I did the glass in the door shattered and sprayed around the living room floor.

When I heard the sound of the breaking glass, I felt a wave of panic as I remembered that Bryan was sitting close to the door. I spun around to see that my son was surrounded by shards of glass but that he miraculously was not injured. I can still see him sitting there, jagged pieces of glass sitting mere inches from him.

Crawford, your outburst of anger could have hurt your son very badly, I thought.

I was so grateful that Bryan wasn't hurt by my tantrum. And I was grateful for the lesson this incident taught me. To this day, whenever I am tempted to engage in an outburst of anger, God brings that scene back to my mind.

We need to make sure we have control over our anger. Although some Bible teachers and preachers might assert that anger itself is a sin, it is a God-given emotion that has its place in a godly life, as long as it is kept under control. Anger becomes sin when we lose control of it—when it controls us.

This kind of anger—anger that is based on human emotion and not on godly wisdom—is poison to relationships of all kinds. Marriages, friendships, business partnerships, and parent-child relationships suffer and even die when uncontrolled anger is allowed to enter the picture. The apostle James had this to say about anger:

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20).

In other words, you can save yourself a lot of trouble if you keep your ears open, your mouth closed, and your temper under control.

We will keep our anger under control when we learn to lend an ear to a situation, then respond appropriately. When we keep quiet and patiently listen to the facts, we keep ourselves from flying off the handle, or reacting in unwarranted and ungodly anger. In short, we must make sure we respond to the facts and avoid reacting emotionally to what we see.

Before you allow yourself to get angry, take a deep breath, count the cost of the anger, submit your anger to the ruling of the Holy Spirit, then respond as He would have you respond. When you do these things, you'll find yourself wasting a lot less valuable time and emotion on useless anger.

Excerpted from Lessons from a Life Coach. By Crawford Loritts, Jr., Published by Moody Publishers, Chicago, Ill. Copyright © 2001 by Crawford W. Loritts, Jr. Used with permission.

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