Christianity 201

September 5, 2020

The Tongue is a Fire

“Let the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be acceptable in the sight, O Lord.” (Psa. 19:14)

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”  Prov. 18:21

The title of today’s article is a phrase from the book of James.

And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.
 (3:6 NLT)

Of course, James had never heard of a typewriter keyboard, a computer, the internet, Twitter, etc. Today he might write, “the keyboard is a flame of fire.”

The full context is:

NIV.James.3.1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 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 body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being 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 human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

There are so many issues right now which are fracturing and polarizing: Race relationships, mistrust of media, defunding the police, the American election, responding to the pandemic, the existence of the pandemic, climate change, religious freedom, immigration, women’s reproductive rights, technology and privacy, etc. Did that list strike some nerves? Do some of those topics raise your blood pressure? It’s easy to get drawn into these battles, especially on social media.

Paul wrote to Timothy:

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. II Tim 2:4

But for some of you, even that issue — how involved Christians should be in the issues being discussed in the public square — is enough to get you going!

Today we’re sharing a cover version of Steve Camp’s song The Tongue is a Fire. I thought we’d covered this song once before here, but when I checked, it was a different song by the same name. You can read that devotional here. At that time we quoted Stephen Whyte:

It is God’s desire that our tongues be a “fountain of life” (Prov 10:11) and that our speech be “seasoned with grace” (Col. 4:6) in order that we might “know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. (Isa. 50:4)  We probably cannot fully appreciate the positive effects which words of praise, encouragement, appreciation, comfort and compassion have on a person. But God is exhorting us to see that our very words can bring restoration and life into a situation where death is reigning. (Prov 16:24; 25:11; Eccl. 10:12)

Our friends at Live To Tell posted the song, and the video description explains why:

I felt compelled to perform this song because of all the dissension, confusion, anger and disillusionment that is being foisted upon us from all directions. Now more than ever, our greatest resource – our words – have become either a healing balm for troubled souls or weapons that destroy and plunder the lives and minds of so many.

I am not exempt from the damage that can be done from my inept, careless choice of words or criticisms, whether they’ve come from my typing on my keyboard or from out of my own mouth.

I pray we all focus on learning to take better care of/get a handle on our thoughts and verbal output, for ‘out of the overflow of the mouth, the heart speaks’.

May God grant us the serenity (and the WISDOM) to change the things we can and weigh whether it is a good time to be quiet or speak out wisely and only after being extremely well-informed by reliable sources.

 Psalm 4:4 “ … do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.”

Proverbs 10:19 “Where words are many, sin is not wanting; but those who restrain their lips do well.”

Isaiah 30:15 “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”

Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”

Here is the video:

March 19, 2014

Devotional Confessional: On Staying Silent

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As always, today’s thoughts begin with scripture, but then the writer takes the words of James to heart and personalizes it in a way that those of you who also blog or post to Facebook might relate to. Scripture is always helpful to read, but there are times we really need to pause and let it ‘hit home’ for us, as in today’s example, where the author allows James’ thoughts to speak into his individual situation.

The writer is Rob Martin, the blog is called Abnormal Anabaptist, and as always, you’re encouraged to click through to read this at source, where it appeared as Sacrificial Silence.

Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you’d have a perfect person, in perfect control of life.A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!

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.

This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!

My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?
James 3:1-12 Message

I am very, very, very tired of remaining silent.  There are any number of issues in the church, in the world, for which I have opinions and thoughts.  I could easily spend hours commenting and writing and giving voice to what I have in my head.  But I do not.  And it gets very, very exhausting staying quiet.  So, why do I keep my mouth shut?

First, because I know that for any of these issues, there are people with great pain who have been deeply wounded because of their own personal experiences within these “spheres” of thought and commentary. For me to give voice to my convictions, my opinions, may re-open those wounds. And I don’t want to do that.  Why? Because I love them. I don’t want them to feel that old pain. I don’t want them to flee from me because I remind them of that pain.  I want them to know that they are loved and valued and that I am safe.  To reopen those old pains may mask this message of love and value… so I stay quiet.

I also stay quiet because I know, in some cases, the “other” voices have not been heard as much as they probably could be or should be.  They deserve to speak as much as anyone does.  These other voices deserve to be allowed to communicate that they DO have wounds and that they DO have pain and that the history behind them is a bad history.  I stay quiet because I want to give space to those voices who have not felt free to speak in the past because of these many acts of wounding.

And then we come to the third reason of staying silent… I’m afraid. The world of social media, as much as there is good in it, can get very, very ugly and scary.  Based upon some of the things I’ve seen and read on Twitter and blogs, anyone who expresses the kinds of opinions that I have on any number of topics are met with anger, the violence of words, distance, and rejection.  It hurts.  It really does hurt to know that, if I speak, I will experience pain.  Additionally, I have many friends and acquaintances that I interact with in the social media world of blogs, Twitter, and  Facebook.  I’m afraid of the loss of friendships.  I am an introvert which means that I deeply treasure the few friendships I have.  I have never been a popular guy so the fact that I have so many people who interact with me and are actually friends with me… do you realize what that means to me?  The high school outcast and “nerd”, to have so many people who treat me as a friend, this is huge.  And, in my mental count, if I come out with my own thoughts on these things, fully half of those folks will disappear from my life, I’m almost sure of it.  I’m afraid of my own pain.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense. I am so tired, so very tired of being quiet. But I know that, at least for now, staying quiet is the most loving thing I can do.  And, for now, for my own mental and emotional health, I need to stay quiet.  Self-esteem issues really suck.  However, it does hurt to remain silent because it means that I must, many times, set aside my convictions for the sake of love… and this kind of sacrifice hurts.. it hurts deeply.

So, sacrificially, I remain silent.  I pray, desperately, for a day, hopefully soon, when this kind of sacrificial silence will no longer be the norm for so many people.  But for now, silence must remain.

July 8, 2012

Purity of Speech

Today’s reading is from Rev. Stephen Whyte, a pastor for many years in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  This devotion appeared in a church newsletter in August, 1980. Stephen is the son of the late H. A. Maxwell Whyte, regarded in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles as a pioneer in deliverance ministry. Stephen took over his father’s church, then known as the United Apostolic Faith Church (later as Dayspring Christian Fellowship) but later moved to the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination.  I had the privilege of attending UAFC for two years, and in copying this out, I was reminded of the very, very high place of scripture in Stephen’s teachings.

The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.   Luke 6:45 (NASB)

Our tongues will, sooner or later, reveal what is really in our hearts. And without Jesus, our hearts are “desperately wicked and deceitful above all else.” But even with Jesus in our lives, our tongues reveal that there is yet transformation needed in our beings. We should be challenged by the Lord who looks on the heart, and who cannot be hoodwinked, to get our lives in order that we might be truly conformed to the image of His Son.

Jesus never spoke an idle word; yet the Bible declares that we shall give account for such words we utter. The word idle means “unprofitable, hollow, useless,” or by implication, “injurious.” Succinctly, an idle word is a careless word, which because of its worthlessness, had better been left unspoken.

How many of us have not been deeply hurt, and except for the restoration power of Jesus, permanently scarred by such “idle words!” But worse than that, we too often have been the instrument by which such verbal injury has been inflicted. James declared that “the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity.” (James 3:2-12) As we utter such unprofitable words, we are revealing what is really in the depths of our soul. It often requires pressure and anger for these words to be expressed, but they have been hidden in our hearts all the while.

As a people who are being shaped by a loving Father, we must, under the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, take action to purify our hearts in order that our tongues will be pure. Such action requires a setting of the will (a conscious decision), the possible need to seek prayer for release from Satanic bondage, and the disciplining of the mind under the anointing of the Spirit, in order that we lay aside the deeds of the flesh. (Eph 4:31; 1 Pet. 2:1; 3:10; Psa. 34:13)

All of us must continually come before the Lord and cleanse our hearts and minds in order that we “speak not evil of one another.” (James 4:11) As we do so, the rewards of such discipline will be great. Solomon declared that, “whoever keeps his mouth and tongue, keeps his soul from troubles. (Prov 21:23)

It is God’s desire that our tongues be a “fountain of life” (Prov 10:11) and that our speech be “seasoned with grace” (Col. 4:6) in order that we might “know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. (Isa. 50:4)  We probably cannot fully appreciate the positive effects which words of praise, encouragement, appreciation, comfort and compassion have on a person. But God is exhorting us to see that our very words can bring restoration and life into a situation where death is reigning. (Prov 16:24; 25:11; Eccl. 10:12)

Truly, “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Prov. 18:21)  Let us be sure that with our mouths we are bearers of life and not death. (Col. 3:21 AMP) May our cry, with David be,

“Let the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be acceptable in the sight, O Lord.” (Psa. 19:14)

~Rev. Stephen Whyte