Control your tongue

When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise. ~Proverbs 10:19 HCSB

Gossip by Norman RockwellNotice what this verse does not say: “the one who doesn’t speak at all is wise.” God isn’t suggesting here that you become a mute.

However, it is true that more spoken words likely leads to words that displease God. Wisdom, according to Proverbs 10:19, is found not in silence, but in the ability to control what you say.

Consider a few other passages of scripture that address the words proceeding from your mouth:

  • Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit. ~Psalm 34:13
  • Put away from you a deceitful mouth And put devious speech far from you. ~Proverbs 4:24
  • Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands? ~Ecclesiastes 5:5-7
  • But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. ~Colossians 3:8
  • Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. ~Colossians 4:6
  • Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. ~1 Timothy 4:12
  • If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. ~James 1:26

As you pray and study God’s word today, ask him to reveal any area of your speech that is displeasing to him. Invite the Holy Spirit to help you control your lips.

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Avoid disgrace

Doing wrong leads to disgrace, and scandalous behavior brings contempt. ~Proverbs 18:3 NLT

"David Sees Bathsheba Bathing"by J. James Tissot

“David Sees Bathsheba Bathing”
by J. James Tissot

You probably don’t have to try too hard to remember the names and faces of people you know or have heard of whose behavior landed them in trouble. From a family member who was unfaithful to their spouse, to politicians caught in a lie or criminal act, to entertainers who exhibit outrageous irresponsibility, you can think of people whose behavior has led to disgrace and even contempt.

The Bible is full of examples of people who did wrong:

  • Cain killed his brother, Abel and tried to deny it (Genesis 4)
  • Abraham decided to have a child with Sarah’s maidservant instead of waiting for God’s promise to be fulfilled (Genesis 16)
  • Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery (Genesis 37)
  • Moses fought and murdered an Egyptian who was abusing an Israelite (Exodus 2)
  • King David had Uriah murdered because he wanted Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11)
  • Judas Iscariot kept the money bag for Jesus and his disciples, and stole from it (John 12:6)
  • Peter denied that he knew Jesus, three times (Matthew 26)
  • Ananias and Sapphira lied about how much money they received for the sale of their property, intending to keep some of it for themselves while getting public recognition for donating it all to the church (Acts 5)

And in every case, the wrong-doers were discovered – some immediately, some after a time. Their reputations were hurt when people learned what they had done. More importantly, God knew about what had supposedly been done in secret.

  • God banished Cain, forcing him to be a nomad
  • The Lord told Abraham there would always be strife between Ishmael (the son of Abraham and Hagar) and Isaac (the son of Abraham and Sarah)
  • The rest of Jacob’s sons eventually bowed down to Joseph; none of them achieved anything close to what Joseph accomplished
  • Moses suffered a decades-long, self-imposed exile, running away to avoid the consequences of murder
  • David was confronted by Nathan the prophet, who revealed everything about David’s selfish sin; the child David conceived with Bathsheba died soon after being born
  • Judas Iscariot committed other sins in addition to stealing, and died an unpleasant, sudden death
  • Peter suffered intense emotional agony after pretending not to know who Jesus was
  • After lying to the apostles about the sale price of their property, both Ananias and Sapphira died suddenly

In some cases, these people repented when confronted – they changed their minds, agreed with God that their behavior was, in fact, disobedient, and sought forgiveness. David, for example, endured consequences of his sin. But he was eventually restored to a full relationship with the Lord. The next son born to David and Bathsheba was Solomon.

Doing something you know to be wrong is never a great choice. There may be a significant price to pay in terms of public humiliation, losing the respect of friends and loved ones, or having your reputation diminished.

But there is no sin you can commit (other than refusing to trust in Jesus for your salvation) that God will not forgive. The natural consequences may be unavoidable, but you can enjoy full restoration with the Lord when you seek him in repentance and humility.

You’ll be burned

Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire? Can he walk on hot coals and not blister his feet? So it is with the man who sleeps with another man’s wife. He who embraces her will not go unpunished. Excuses might be found for a thief who steals because he is starving. But if he is caught, he must pay back seven times what he stole, even if he has to sell everything in his house. But the man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys himself. He will be wounded and disgraced. His shame will never be erased. ~Proverbs 6:27-33 NLT

Wedding Cake DividedTwo of the Ten Commandments warn against adultery. In Exodus 20:14 the word says, “You shall not commit adultery.” In verse 17 the scripture further states, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife…”

In recent days, our thoughts have turned to several pastors we know personally who have fallen into the sin of adultery. We’ll spare you the sordid details. But each of them was married, with children. Each of them was a committed Christian, and well-respected by many. And each of them was certain he would not be found out.

What were the immediate consequences?

  • Their church leadership ministries ended abruptly. Just as the scripture says, they destroyed themselves, in terms of their ministry careers.
  • They were disgraced – again, as the word predicts – both professionally and personally.
  • And of course, they were each wounded when they realized the tremendous impact of their behavior. 

There is no “undo” button for adultery. You can be genuinely sorry for it and you can repent of it, but you cannot pretend it did not happen. Adultery and divorce also bring longer-term consequences. None of them are pleasant:

  • Far beyond the destruction of their careers, each of these men found they had also destroyed their families. Only one of these situations ended in divorce. But even for the families that remained together, adultery caused terrible relational violence between the husband and wife, as well as between the husband and children.
  • Imagine the personal disgrace you might suffer when members of your family learn that you have been unfaithful to your spouse. These men all broke a solemn vow before God that they would be faithful to their wives. Now, at every family gathering, they are looked upon differently.
  • In addition to their own wounds, their wives and children have suffered unspeakably. There are few sins that cause more damage to a family than adultery. It will take a long time – perhaps a lifetime – to rebuild trust between the husband and wife when their intimacy has been broken. And rebuilding a relationship with children who feel betrayed isn’t much easier.

Is there forgiveness? Can restoration take place? Yes, Jesus can and will forgive anyone who commits adultery, and repents sincerely of his disobedience. The wounds caused by adultery, however, are severe. Even when they do eventually heal, scars will remain that remind one of the original wounds. And according to Proverbs 6:33, “his shame will never be erased.” A man may seek and receive forgiveness, but even that may not erase the serious damage that has been done to so many people.

Are you praying regularly for your Christian leaders? The enemy seeks to steal, kill and destroy. Pastors, their ministries, and their families are prime targets. Intercede for your pastor(s) today, asking the Lord to help them be men of integrity. Pray for transparency and accountability in their lives. Pray for them to avoid the hot coals and open flames of adultery.

I would have…

How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you. But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you – when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. ~Proverbs 1:22-27 NIV

Fools mock sinThe first chapter of Proverbs is an introduction to collection of wise sayings and insights about both God and people. This passage, however, is a specific warning: those who reject God’s wisdom are, in a very real sense, rejecting God himself.

The first two questions are rhetorical. Simple (foolish) people love their foolish ways. They are comfortable in their foolishness, and are annoyed at the perceived interference of God. Mockers enjoy making fun of God, and fools reject the knowledge of God.

This passage does indicate that God is ready and willing to reconcile with you when you do finally listen. But there is no good news for those who continually reject the Lord’s advice, guidance and wisdom.

When calamity comes upon the person who has rejected God, the Creator himself will laugh at that person’s distress. Overwhelmed by your troubles while you mock God? The Lord will not come to your assistance. Yet even for a mocker and a fool, Psalm 51:17 still promises:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Isaiah 57:15 further reinforces this idea:

For this is what the high and lofty One says – he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

If you come to the Lord with a broken heart, truly sorry for your disobedience, he will not reject you. He is eager for you to turn from your rebellion and wants reconciliation with you. Ask the Lord for forgiveness and restoration today.

A land of transgression

When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but when the ruler is a man of discernment, understanding, and knowledge, its stability will long continue. ~Proverbs 28:2 AMP

The United States of America was founded by men who, for the most part, embraced the teachings of the Bible. Judeo-Christian morals and values informed their decisions about how 13 colonies would govern themselves after winning independence from Great Britain.

But as a society, the US has fallen dramatically. We have become a people of licentiousness, blasphemy, and excessive sin. Our collective transgressions against God’s laws continue to mount, and we are not even close to repentance. Sadly, this is true, to a degree, even within the Church.

  • Although the divorce rate among self-professed Christians is lower than American society as a whole, more than one-third of Christian marriages in America end in divorce.
  • Abortion is legal, and widely practiced in all 50 US states.
  • Homicide rates are far higher in the USA than any other nation.
  • Sexual immorality (including adultery) is excused and even celebrated, rather than condemned.
  • Religious illiteracy is at an all-time high among Americans. Most of our citizens are completely ignorant of the teachings of the Bible. Even believers fail to read the Bible for themselves regularly.

Blasphemy is defined as “an act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for a religious deity, or irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things.” Consider this astonishing, blasphemous statement by actor Jamie Foxx, in which he names the President as “our Lord and Savior.”

This post is not intended as a condemnation of any particular person or statement, but rather a broad lament that our culture has descended to a point where anyone would call a politician “Lord and Savior” – a title reserved exclusively for Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 2:1-6 clearly instructs believers to pray for their leaders:

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time.

Godly leaders make it possible for us to live peaceful lives. We encourage you to pray today for our nation and our leaders. Pray that people’s hearts will be turned toward the real Lord and Savior, Jesus. Ask God to strengthen and encourage believers who are faithfully witnessing to others today about their faith in the One, True, Living God – Jesus. And intercede for all of those in authority over you, asking God to show them mercy and draw them to himself. Ask the Lord to give us leaders who possess a strong faith in God.

We are disgraced

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. ~Proverbs 14:34 HCSB

National elections include more television and radio commercials than you can count. The speeches are seemingly endless. Candidates promise that electing them will make your life happier, make your life circumstances better, and bring order to the universe.

What does God think of all this posturing and pretension? Probably not much.

Scripture does tell us, however, that those in authority over us are placed there through God’s divine direction. We are encouraged to obey our civil authorities. Consider Romans 13:1-7:

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

But what are Christians to do when our society is content to allow – or even embrace – great evil? Since the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Roe v. Wade that the Constitution included a previously well-hidden “right” to abortion, Americans have killed more than 50 million unborn children.

In Genesis 4, God confronts Cain after he murdered his brother, Abel. In verses 9 and 10, The Lord explains to Abel that what he thought he had done in secret is no secret to God:

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.

“Listen.” Can you hear it?

The ground we call the United States of America is soaked with the blood of 50 million victims of abortion. Like Cain, we pretend not to know anything about it. But killing unborn babies is sin, and Americans are disgraced because of it.

Learn to accept criticism

Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery. ~Proverbs 29:1 NLT

“Criticism may not be agreeable,” said Sir Winston Churchill. “But it is necessary.”

No one really enjoys being criticized. When you do receive criticism, though, doesn’t the attitude of the one providing advice matter?

There is such a thing as “constructive criticism” – sometimes referred to in the business world as “feedback.” It’s intended to help you improve, not tear you down. Sincere criticism really can be constructive, if you’re listening and learning from it. That’s God’s intention when he corrects you.

Proverbs 29:1 speaks of a person who consistently denies any shortcoming on their part. Stubborn refusal implies a committed, wilful ignoring of problems. 

If you’re a Christian, by Biblical definition, you’re a saint who sometimes sins.1 John 1:8 reminds you that, although you are redeemed and forgiven, you are not yet perfect:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

The question is, what is your attitude when you realize that you’ve thought or said or done something that displeases God? If you stubbornly refuse to admit you’re in the wrong, you have a problem. And this verse tells you that eventually, much bigger problems will be yours.

Psalm 51:16-17, on the other hand, promises you that God will not reject anyone who sincerely seeks restoration:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

If you’ve been disobedient, don’t stay there. Accept the Lord’s discipline and criticism. Agree with God, and call sin what he calls sin. Then ask for and experience his forgiveness today.