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Words

May 20th, 2013

“A word out of your mouth . . can accomplish nearly anything – or destroy it.” James 3:5 MSG.

You possess the power to bless or curse; you can do either but you cannot do both.

My thoughts and comments today are about “words.”

Words have a longer life span and far greater importance than you may realize. The Bible says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21 NKJV. James gave good advice when he wrote, “Be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” James 1:19. I always thought that a strange pairing of words, until I observed how anger fuels how you hear and what you say before you realize the havoc and hurt your words can cause. Choose words well; use words wisely.

You possess the power to bless or curse; you can do either, but you cannot do both. Choose words wisely. James wrote, “No one can tame the tongue . . sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out in curses against those who have been made in the image of God. So blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth – this is not right!” James 3:10.

Every time you use words positively you enhance their power; used improperly, you devalue their meaning. Sometimes slang and definitely profanity or vulgarity devalue the importance and strength of everything else you say. Their destructive power touches the one who speaks them and those who hear them – long after their sounds fall silent. That is true of the words you hear and read, as well as the words you speak. See Matthew 15:18 NLT. You live in a vulgar culture, increasingly profane. Civility and propriety are discounted as unimportant. Promises are defaulted; truth is compromised. Be decidedly different from the culture surrounding you.

Words have power. They strengthen or harm friendships, inspire or dishearten, encourage or discourage. Words of affirmation empower dreams in the heart. Words of doubt and disbelief predict fear and failure. All words have power; the more important you view person speaking them, the deeper and more lasting their effect on you. Jesus said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” John 6:63. Let that be your objective as well. There is unimagined authority within your spoken words. John writes of those who “overcame the devil by the word of their testimony.” Revelation 12:11.

My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Cook, taught me appreciation for words in a book about the origin of words. My Dad taught me the practical integrity of words, “A man is only as good as his word. Don’t say something you don’t mean.” The words of my Mom and Dad influence my life long after they were spoken; words can endure beyond lifetimes. The Bible taught me the enduring quality of Godly words, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words will not pass away.” Matthew 24:35.

Life taught me the double-edged potential in words, “A gentle answer turns away wrath; but a grievous word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1-2 NIV. Make every word count; weigh them carefully; share them gently. Here’s how God says this should work, “God wants you to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love – like Christ in everything . . watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.”  Ephesians 4:15/29 MSG. Each word can be a gift from God through you. My prayer is as David’s, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14. See Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that your heart will be pure and your words pleasing.

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Civility and Respect

August 24th, 2012

“Don’t let anyone look down on you, but set an example . .” 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV

Civility is the right choice; respect is the result.

My thoughts and comments today are about “civility and respect.”

Commerce, community, friendships, and family all do best in the climate of mutual respect. As multiple Grammy Awards winner, Aretha Franklin, so notably sang, All I’m askin’ is for a little respect, R-e-s-p-e-c-t; find out what it means to me.” The Bible commands all of us to, “Show proper respect to everyone: love the brotherhood of believers, [reverence] God, honor the king . . Give respect and honor to all to whom it is due.” 1 Peter 2:17 NIV/Rom 13:7 NLT. Being respectful of others is the surest way to be respected by others. The Psalmist seemed filled with wonder as he considered, “Though the LORD is on high, yet He regards the lowly.” Psalm 138:6 NKJV. What an example.

But first, there is another side to this discussion. Wherever respect is lacking disrespect fills the void. That seems to have become a pervading attitude at every level of culture and society, and we are not the better for that. It seems increasingly common to hold little of anything or anyone in regard. Personal rights disrespect selfless concern for the common good.  Personal whim disrespects traditions, however long-standing and valuable. Respectful discourse is replaced with coarse language, more suited for the street than the home.

Every individual is either part of the problem, or part of a solution. Disrespect is at the root of any attitude or action evidencing an opinion that diminishes another person’s worth or importance. Such opinions are born from prejudice about things such as age, gender, nationality, education, or social standing. External and unchangeable differences should not necessitate disrespect.

Any person wants respect; every person deserves some respect. I think this begins with honest civility. Civility is the right choice; respect is the result. “This should be your ambition: to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we commanded you before. As a result, people who are not Christians will respect the way you live . .” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NLT. Your goal should be that your life in very practical, everyday ways is worthy of others’ respect. Respect cannot be demanded; it can be generously extended.

It is not length of years, but rather depth of character that commands others’ respect. Paul’s advice to young Timothy was, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young [or old, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, native or immigrant, man or woman] but set an example . .  in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV. I might paraphrase Paul’s words in this way: people will not look down on those who always give others reasons to look up to them. Our nation, politicians, communities, churches, marriages, families, and individuals need a revival of gracious civility and Godly respect. Let that begin today with you.

My prayer for you today is that you will live respectfully in a manner that honors God.

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Love’s True Expression

August 1st, 2011

“Love is patient and kind.” 1 Corinthians 13:4 NLT

Loving others begins with the Christian civility of patience and kindness.”

My thoughts today are about “love’s true expression.”

The Bible warns, “Quick! Catch all the little foxes before they ruin the vineyard of your love.” Song of Solomon 2:15 NLT. Marriages, friendships, and even business relationships are not as commonly damaged by big things like dishonesty or disloyalty as by little things, like taking one another for granted, or disrespect, ingratitude, or ongoing criticism and complaint. It‘s those small inconsistencies that may appear negligible when they occur, but are relationally destructive as they accumulate.

They are eventually harmful because such attitudes and actions stand in stark contrast to love; such little irritations grow in the fertile soil of impatience with others and its resulting unkindness. I regret to say that impatience is an area with which I am not altogether unfamiliar. I have learned to be more patient after observing that my tone of voice and words became less kind when I was less patient. I hope I have improved in this important area as I have grown in Christ and matured in life.

In Paul’s majestic discourse about love at its best and most sincere, he writes, Love is patient and kind . . it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4/7 NLT/NIV. As I have thought of that description, beautiful and practical in its simplicity, I observe that patience is a prerequisite of kindness. To me, kindness seems an observable evidence of patience. Patience with another person opens the door to your kindness being expressed toward them in thought, word, or deed. Patience is a choice you make; kindness is the expression of your choice.

Can you imagine God’s love for you being absent of patience, and lacking kindness? Wouldn’t that confuse you? The Bible teaches that God’s kindness is directly linked with your salvation. “And so God can always point to us as examples of the incredible wealth of His favor and kindness toward us, as shown in all He has done for us through Christ Jesus. God saved you by His special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Ephesians 2:7-9 NLT. See Titus 3:4-7 TEV.

Here’s the practical application. Are you and I not required to be gracious with others as God has been with us, and as gracious as we wish Him to be continue to be toward us? Can I treat you in a lesser way and still expect God to treat me in a better way? Jesus was pretty clear about His expectations – a “new commandment” that “Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” John 13:34-35 NLT. That is not a suggestion, nor a noble objective; that is non-negotiable, a command to obey! Loving others begins with the Christian civility of patience and kindness.

My prayer for you today is that patience and kindness will crown your relationships.

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