Monday, November 20, 2017

If You Can't Say Something Nice...


OK, so maybe Thumper’s little speech about “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all” isn’t in the Bible but Proverbs 15 certainly has a lot to say to us about our speech.  In fact, nine of the thirty-three verses relate directly to the words we say. They seem to fall into three categories that are very instructive for taming our tongue and using it as an instrument for good.  Today’s study will look at the Content, the Tone, and the Timing of our words.  Getting these right will greatly cut down on arguments and misunderstandings, while drawing us closer to God and those around us.

Proverbs 15:23 (The Message)
Congenial conversation—what a pleasure!
    The right word at the right time—beautiful!

Things to think about:
·       Verses 1,2, 4, 7, 14, 23, 26, 28, and 29 all relate to how the righteous and the evil use speech to either build up or tear down
Content
·      Of course, what you say matters!
o   Verse 2 - Knowledge flows like spring water from the wise; fools are leaky faucets, dripping nonsense.
§  this verse is contrasting knowledge versus nonsense
o   When was a time someone shared godly wisdom with you that helped you think about an issue more from God’s perspective?
o   Have you ever been presented with “worldly wisdom” that you either immediately rejected or came to see for the nonsense it was?
o   What steps can we take to make sure we are offering God’s wisdom and not our own?
Tone
·      Clearly, how you say something is as important as what you say.
o   verse 1 – A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.
o   verse 4 – Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim
o   How have you seen a gentle response defuse anger?
§  When have you seen a sharp tongue start a fight?
o   The words we choose and how we deliver them can make all the difference in the world.
§  Can you share a memory of when someone was able to perhaps deliver a hard message kindly and thus engender healing and help?
§  We can all feel the sting of a harsh word spoken harshly. Why is this not an effective way to strike back, especially if we’ve been hurt?
Timing
·      As the saying goes, timing is everything. Our intentions can be good, even our words and tone sincere, but if the other person isn’t ready to hear it, it can cause more harm than good.
o   Verse 23 – The right word at the right time, beautiful!
o   Why does timing matter so much?
§  What are cues we can use to ensure our timing is God’s timing?
o   When has someone said just the right thing at just the right time that made a big difference to you?
·      James 1:19 - Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. 
o   Which of our three areas that should govern are speech come more easily to you?  Which one is the biggest challenge?
·      Luke 6:45 - A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
·      May we store God’s Word in our hearts, deal with others as gently as we have been dealt with, and save our words for when they can be of the greatest good.


Monday, November 6, 2017

YNWA


If you’re an English Premier League soccer (football) fan, you will instantly recognize the initials YNWA.  They are forever associated with the greatest football club in the world J - Liverpool. YNWA is shorthand for the club’s motto, You’ll Never Walk Alone, taken from the song title in the musical CarouselJust before the beginning of each home match, it is sung by the supporters and it is generally regarded as one of the most moving experiences in world sports.  Its appeal is universal because life has many  hardships and it is very comforting to know that we aren’t in it alone.  Our verse for today comes from a time that was challenging for the Israelites and Joshua in particular.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Things to think about:
·       Can you recall a time when the events in your life conspired to make you feel alone? What was going on and why were you feeling that way?
·      Similarly, can you recall a time when somebody really stepped up and was there for you?
o   What did they do that was most meaningful to you?
·      Our verse starts of with the call to be strong and courageous.  I love this because Christianity is a manly faith. God wants us to be strong, to not shirk from challenges or disappointment, but to face them head on.
o   Who is someone you know (or know of) who has demonstrated this kind of strength and courage?
§  What do you admire the most about them?
·      Our passage says not to be afraid or terrified.  What are things that can cause that level of fear?
o   Loss of good health, an enemy, the sudden loss of income or finances, maybe a situation you feel ill-equipped to handle, the potential loss of a loved one, admission of a weakness, making a bad decision, being found out for a mistake one has made, death (and what happens after we die).
§  Do any of these resonate?
§  What else might be on this list?
·      Left to my own devices, all of the things listed above terrify me! There is so much that we don’t have control over and no one is immune to the tough challenges life hands out.
o   I remember the first Bible verse that jumped off the page to me was Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding but acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straights.
§  That is massively comforting to me knowing that it’s not my job to figure it all out but rather to lean on Him who cares about me.
·      Our verse goes on to say that “the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you.”
o   Or according to the EPL version of the Bible, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”
o   How do you sense God’s presence when circumstances stoke your fears?
§  How do you “lean in” to Him?
·      Before Jesus was crucified on the cross, He told His disciples that even though He was going to have to leave them, He was not going to leave them (or us) alone.
o   John 14:16-17a – “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.”
§  I think this is such good news! More than the Power of Positive Thinking, or “man up!” or anything else that puts the weight on me, we have Someone who is with us, even in us, to give us strength and courage when we need it the most.
·      You may be in the midst of tough times right now.  Be strong and courageous, Your Father goes with you. He is there and He will empower you to be triumphant.  Not only does this help you in your time of need but it serves as a signal to others who are, or will, go through difficulties themselves, that there is Someone who will ensure You’ll Never Walk Alone!


Monday, October 30, 2017

Dear Abby


Where do you go to for advice? A newspaper columnist, Oprah, social media, etc.? We all have decisions to make, some trivial, some life altering. Depending on where you go for advice, the counsel you receive may be wise or it may be just plain foolish.  Let’s look at Rehoboam, son of Solomon, to see how he handled his first major decision as a new king (and following in the footsteps of the world’s wisest man!) Solomon had taxed the people heavily to help pay for the building of the temple and his other public works projects.  When he died the people went to his son, Rehoboam, to beg for an easing of the taxes.  This is the question he put to the elders and then to the young men in his court. Long story short, he rejected the advice of the elders to create good will with the people and instead was greedy and egotistical and doubled down on the taxes.  This is what created the division within Israel and led to the civil war that ensued.

1 Kings 12:6-8
Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.
They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”
But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him.

Things to think about:
·       Do you tend to ask for advice when faced with a decision?
o   If so, under what circumstances? If not, what holds you back?
o   If you do ask for advice, who do you go to?
§  Does who you go to change based on the context of the decision you are trying to make?
·      I believe God gives us several avenues to help us walk in His ways and make wise decisions:
o   Prayer
o   The Bible
o   Spouse
o   Friends
Prayer
·      In James 1:5 – If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously without finding fault, and it will be given to you
·      Philippians 4:6-7 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
o    Do you find it easy or hard to pray about decisions? Does it vary based on the decision you are trying to make?
o   Are there areas like work or relationships where prayer isn’t a reflexive action for you to take?
Bible
·      2 Timothy 3:16-17 - All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
·      Proverbs 2:6 - For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
o   What are some of your favorite Bible verses on wisdom?
o   How do you use the Bible shape your decision making process?


Spouse
·      Proverbs 18:22 – He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord
·      Proverbs 19:14 – Houses and wealth are inherited from parents but a prudent wife is from the Lord
o   Our spouses know us better than anyone, both our strengths and our flaws.
o   Oftentimes, they are our opposites.  This is helpful to have someone who knows us well that can complement our blind spots.
o   How does your spouse help you make wise, godly decisions?

Friends
·      Proverbs 17:17 – A friend loves at all times, a brother is born for adversity
·      Proverbs 27:17 – As iron sharpens iron, so one man another
·      Proverbs 15:22 – Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed
o   Do you have a “go-to” friend when you need someone to listen and offer godly counsel?
o    When was a time when a friend really stepped up and helped you make the right call?

·      Can you think of a decision you have made where going to one or more of these resources may have led to a better outcome?
·      What decision are you trying to make now where one or more of these avenues needs to be pursued?