Tag Archives: words

An Apple a Day

We were in a restaurant eating lunch with our son and his family. As usual we tried to split the grandchildren up so we could be sitting next to all three of them. One of our granddaughters ended up next to my wife who, therefore, helped her order her entree. On this day our granddaughter did not want a selection from the Kids Menu; she was determined to order something from the adult selections. So that’s what she did, with grandma’s permission! A short time later the waitress brought the food to our table. After she was done our granddaughter looked down at her serving and said, with a brilliant smile, “I have an adult plate!” Whether or not she would enjoy the food didn’t matter – she felt like an adult.

I was reminded again that such simple things – like allowing a child to order as an adult – mean so much. We all crave positive encouragement; we long for anything that raises our self-esteem. And more often than not our simple, well-chosen words offered to someone else accomplish this for them. Consider Proverbs 25:11 – “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”  As Prov. 15:23 adds: “What a joy it is to find just the right word for the right occasion!”

It sounds so simple, but it is not. It takes discipline to offer the apple regularly. In fact, as Paul was teaching the Ephesian church about new life in Jesus, he mentioned the critical nature of words and speech. 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.” (4:29) He continued by explaining that this meant that they were to “…get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Still later (5:4) he said “Nor should there be any obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” A Christian’s speech should be clean, clear, uplifting, encouraging, and enabling – especially when addressed to children. (It is especially important in this time when adults all around them and in the media are not living by that standard – but that’s another blog for another time.)

I can testify to the power of the apple. I still remember receiving so many apples as a child and youth – words and notes of encouragement. They came from Sunday School teachers, pastors, youth leaders, school teachers, parents and other family members. One of my most vivid memories is, following a speech I gave at my High School graduation, receiving a note of commendation, appreciation, and encouragement from a local judge who was in attendance. His note, along with all the other apples, prepared me to answer God’s call to ministry. Their apples have profoundly influenced my life, and the many apples I have opportunity to offer.

What were some of the apples in your life? Whose words influenced and impacted you? And to whom are you giving apples? Who has Jesus placed before you? I truly believe an apple a day is a powerful way to positively influence our children. What apples can you give out today?





At a Loss for Words

Sometimes I know I need help. It’s often when I am aware that I cannot communicate in an effective way.

  • For many years our congregation was blessed to have someone sign our entire worship service. I did not know how to communicate with the hearing impaired.
  • I have travelled in countries where I did not know the native language. I needed an interpreter.
  • On a few occasions my wife has accompanied me to a medical appointment. As a Registered Nurse she could express and understand things from a medical perspective I did not have.
  • There have been times I’ve been asked to speak, preach or pray at a specific event with which I was unfamiliar or which had certain expectations. I consulted speeches, sermons and prayers by others who knew the expectations and language.

I’ve always been grateful for those who could speak the necessary language.

And it is also true on an even deeper level.There have been difficult and even tragic situations into which I, as a pastor, was called to render support, assistance and comfort.

  • A family with young children had just lost their husband and father to cancer – another their wife and mother – another their young daughter, wife and mother because of a tumor
  • A family of a high school aged son and grandson killed in an auto accident
  • A young husband and wife whose baby was still born
  • A wife and mother whose husband just committed suicide
  • A man who came home to find his son had murdered his wife and daughter

I was, at least initially, at a loss for words, not sure what or how to communicate. I had no language, no words to say. How could I speak into life situations that are so horrific and difficult?

Yet I am grateful that in all these situations, and so many others, God through His Holy Spirit prompted me with what to say and do, or what not to say and do, or even to just be present – always something far more appropriate than I could ever have come up with on my own.

Similarly, I’m sometimes not sure what to say to God, how to pray to Him. Life and situations are simply overwhelming, complicated and confusing. That’s when I am grateful I know Someone who can help.

The Apostle Paul wrote about Him in Romans 8:26-27 — “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

I am moved by how A. B. Simpson responded to these verses. “This is the deep mystery of prayer. This is the delicate divine mechanism which words cannot interpret, and which theology cannot explain, but which the humblest believer knows even when he does not understand…so we can just pour out the fullness of our heart, the burden of our spirit, the sorrow that crushes us, and know that He hears, He loves, He understands, He receives; and He separates from our prayer all that is imperfect, ignorant and wrong, and presents the rest, with the incense of the great High Priest, before the throne on high; and our prayer is heard, accepted and answered in His name.” (1)

So today I have been reminded of just how grateful I am that Jesus left the earth so He could spend His Holy Spirit (John 14). Because of His great love I am never at a loss for words or instructions when I need them most. Thank you Jesus!

(1) As quoted in Streams in the Desert, Oct. 31

That Good Old Salty Language

One of the toughest things for me to control in my life has not been my budget, my circumstances, my ministry, my mind, or even my behavior. It has been my tongue.

Considering what’s going on in our country right now, I have a hunch I’m not alone in this. And it’s important to understand, as Proverbs 18:21 bluntly states: “The tongue has the power of life and death…” How we use our tongue, the words we say and how we say them, is literally an issue of life and death.

Our tongue can destroy life. James 3:5-6 bluntly states “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.” Have you ever been burned by the tongue of someone who, with a few choice words, cut us to the quick? How many of us as parents have not, at some point in time, said something that burned and harmed our children? The tongue, like fire, does lasting damage.

Why does it do this damage? Proverbs 18:8 says, “They go down to a man’s inmost parts.” The image is that words, like food, are internalized, digested, and carried around forever; they live on long after they have been spoken. James even goes as far as to say the tongue, words, can kill (3:8): “It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Growing up I learned to say, “Sticks and stones will hurt my bones, but names will never hurt (kill) me.”  It is nice to have a positive attitude, but I have learned that it is not that simple. I have ministered to too many broken people, and have been wounded enough myself, to know words can maim and kill. A talkative woman once tried to justify the quickness of her own tongue by saying, “It passes; it is done with quickly.” To which evangelist Billy Sunday replied, “So does a shotgun blast.”  I wonder how many people have been severely wounded because of the out of control rhetoric that fills our American air (and airways)?And the damage is not limited to those who are the targets of the words – it reaches those who speak them. Proverbs 13:3: “…he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.” A quick tongue damages everyone in its wake. That’s why Proverbs 10:19 (TLB) states,“Don’t talk so much. You keep putting your foot in your mouth. Be sensible and turn off the flow.” I wonder how many people have regretted or will come to regret their inexcusable words because of the self-inflicted pain they will suffer?

It’s fair to ask: How many words of sarcasm have you uttered this week? How many insinuations have you made? How much blame have you pushed off on others? What about those “jokes” that caused more hurt than laughter? And what about the name-calling you did in jest? Or the gossip you passed along? How have you spoken to or about your mate, children, parents, coworkers, and leaders?

Yet there is a solution: The same tongue can be a positive instrument – it can build and give life. Paul wrote in Colossians 4:6: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” The tongue can offer healing grace. It used to be said of old sailors, “They use such salty language”, and it was meant as a negative as it referred to their foul language. But Paul says we are to season our words with the salt of grace.
Some people care enough about others to say the right things while other people care only about releasing their venom. As someone said, “The difference between a gossip and a concerned friend is like the difference between a butcher and a surgeon. Both cut the meat, but for different reasons.”

So how many words of praise will you utter? How many words of thanks? How much love will you express? How much affirmation will you give? How much honor will you give through what you say? How much salty language will you pour out?

I challenge everyone who reads these words to lead the way in healing rather than hurting, in giving life rather than killing. Paul wrote (Ephesians 4:29): “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.” So let us bring our hearts under the captivity of Jesus Christ. Let the Holy Spirit speak to us before we speak to others. As Beth Day wrote back in 1855 we must always ask three questions before we speak: Is it true? Is it needful? Is it kind? And to that I would add a fourth: Is it of God? William Norris has penned it cleverly: “If your lips would keep from slips, Five things observe with care: To whom you speak; of whom you speak; And how, and when, and where.”

Let’s get back to some of that good old salty language. With the Psalmist we need to pray (Psalm 141:3-4): “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil…”