July 8, 2017

The Power of Our Words

It is a good day in sunny and hot, Phoenix. I woke up this morning with a sore throat coupled with itchy eyes and stuffy nose. Yes, I think summer allergies are in full swing. I am feeling better now that I have had my coffee, but when I first woke up, I had that awful “head is full” sensation. The good news is that I don’t think I am the worse for wear, so to speak. Summertime in Phoenix is hot, dry, and well, dusty. It is just that winning combination that really sends my allergies off to war.

In other news, our weather is in an unusual high pattern right now. Our normal daily high is 107, but yesterday we broke another record. We hit 118 in Phoenix, and that was the hottest day on record since 1942. I think there were three other places in the state that also broke records, so we are on a streak, I guess. Not saying I am loving the heat, but it is what it is, and well, it is better to be cheerful about things you cannot change than to grumble and complain, know what I mean?

It is a good day, despite the fact that my Logitech Solar keyboard is down. Yes, I invested in this cool solar keyboard earlier in the year. I liked the fact that it was white and that it looked cool with my Magic Mouse next to it. But, I have had problems with it keeping the charge, and other issues with it jumping/skipping when I am in Blackboard. This morning, the solar rating was down to less than 36%, and the only way to get it back up into the “good” range is to blast direct light over it. I bought the keyboard because the promo said it functions in low-light conditions (natural light). My desk is sort of softly lit, and I prefer it this way because of my eyes. However, the low-light in my office is not enough, even next to a window, to keep the thing charged. Oh well! I am back to my former black Logitech wireless keyboard and trusty gray mouse. Yes, I am back to the old stand-by keyboard and mouse combo that worked through most of my graduate program. I have to admit that I preferred the other keys —low profile — to these rather high sticky ones. I am sure I will get back to business and be able to type my 70+ words per minute again soon. LOL!

In all things, I am thanking the Lord for His provision of good — good things — to me. I woke up this morning feeling blue, sort of depressed again (like yesterday), so rather than sulk in my feelings, I decided to take a positive spin on my entire life as it is playing out right now. What got me started was this short clip from Joyce Meyer this morning:

This word showed up on my Instagram feed, and well, it really convicted me. The last part, I mean. I have tried to not sow negative seeds in my life for a very long time, but I haven’t always sowed positive ones either. Joyce suggests the same thing — and her message is on point. It is biblical, and the biblical principle of sowing and reaping is encapsulated in her thesis: what we sow, we reap.

Proverbs 18:21 AMP says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it and indulge it will eat its fruit and bear the consequences of their words.”

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible says this about Proverbs 18:21:
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,.... Of witnesses, according to the testimony they bear; of judges, according to the sentence they pass; of teachers, according to the doctrine they preach; of all men, who, by their well or ill speaking, bring death or life to themselves and others. Some, by their tongues, by the too free use of them, or falsehood they utter, are the cause of death to themselves and others; and some, by their silence, or by their prudent speech and prevalent intercession, secure or obtain life for themselves and others; yea, judgment at the last day will proceed according to a man's words, "By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned", Matthew 12:37; the tongue is the instrument either of a great deal of good, or of a great deal of evil.
Our words have power, and the way we use our words can directly influence the outcome, the success, or the ability to experience the good God has in mind for us. Matthew 15:18 AMP says something similar. We read, “But whatever [word] comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this is what defiles and dishonors the man.”

Likewise, Gill’s clarifies the intent of this passage by saying,
But those things which proceed out of the mouth,.... Meaning not material things, as spittle, vomit, &c. but, as it follows, which come forth from the heart: are first conceived and formed there, and then come forth from thence, and are expressed by the mouth; as all idle words, foolish talking, filthy jesting, unsavoury communication, and every word that is rotten and corrupt, or which is done in the life and conversation; and they defile the man: the heart is the corrupt fountain from whence all moral defilement flows; and sinful words and actions are the impure streams, which spring from thence, and increase the moral pollution of human nature.
The idea is that the issue is not what goes into the man that defiles him; rather, it is what comes out of the man (and as Gill's says, it is not the material things, but the manifestation of what is in the heart). As a communicator, I am well aware that the words I speak can either build up and bring life (fruit) to myself and others or they can be used to demean and demoralize. Satan, our enemy, seeks to steal and destroy life, and one of the ways he does this is by planting thoughts into our minds that do not sow life, but rather sow death. Paul commanded the Christians in Ephesus, to heed control of their mouths when he said, "Do not let unwholesome [foul, profane, worthless, vulgar] words ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good for building up others, according to the need and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing to those who hear [you speak]" (4:29 Amplified). Likewise, he encouraged them to "encourage and comfort one another and build up one another, just as you are doing" (1 Thess. 5:11 AMP). The Message translation says, "So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it."

Clearly, the Bible reminds us that the words we speak can be a blessing or a curse to those around us, but inherent within this teaching is also the caution to be careful with the words we speak about ourselves, over ourselves, and through the circumstances and situations we find ourselves in. Let me explain...

This morning, as I was laying in bed, I was thinking some negative thoughts about my current situation. The first thing that popped into my mind as I laid under my covers was the fact that the weather outside was going to be another extremely hot day. Thus, logically this meant that I would be taxed to remain indoors all day long. I had previously read through my Facebook feed, and I saw all the lovely posts and pictures of my friends in other (not so hot) places enjoying forest hikes, beach visits, and even time at the water/theme park. All the of these visual images reminded me that I live in an intolerable place, with intolerable heat, and where it is next to impossible to spend time outside because it is too intolerably hot. My first thought was to grumble and complain about the heat. My second thought was to be reminded that for the time being, I am stuck in Phoenix, settled here, and without any real plan of action to tell me otherwise, I am positioned to remain here.

My mind quickly created a number of negative scenarios that all worked together to reinforce the way I was feeling in that moment. I was STUCK. I was FORCED to remain. I had to ENDURE hardship. There was NO WAY out. I was UNHAPPY, MISERABLE, and hence, I was DEPRESSED because my life pretty much was not like that of my friends or family members who live in other parts of the country. Yep, you can see how one negative thought simply spawned a myriad of other not so happy thoughts.

Thankfully, before I got too far down this negative stream, I checked Instagram, and I watched Joyce's message. Her words encouraged me, but they also convicted me. They reminded me that what comes out of my mouth is often what is born in my heart. If I am sowing unhappiness, then I am reaping unhappiness. If I am sowing discontent, then I am reaping discontent.

The dictionary defines the word, discontentment, as "dissatisfaction with one's circumstances" (Reference.com). Merriam-Webster clarifies and suggests discontentment is a "lack of satisfaction with one's possessions, status, or situation." The KJV Dictionary includes "Uneasy in mind," which suggests a lack of peace or a feeling of anxiety or a being troubled or uncomfortable. I think a good word that covers all of these ideas is being disturbed. Disturbed or disrupted is something we can all identify with, especially if we have ever had a sleepless night. It is easy to remember how awful the next day was when the previous night was spent tossing and turning. When we are disturbed, something has caused our normal pattern or function disrupted. In short, we've been knocked off our routine, bounced off course, or simply distracted to the point where we have lost our focus or our way. If you tie all this together, you can see how easy it is to lose our countenance, our peace, our joy, etc., when we entertain negative thoughts -- when we speak them -- give them air and life.

As I processed my thoughts this morning, I realized that while I may not be happy in my present circumstances (for example, the heat), there is little I can do to change my outcome. Sure, I can up and move someplace else, but until the Lord provides for me, calls me forward to do so, moving to simply move, might not be in my best interest. No, the better choice is to change my thinking, my mind, and to let positive thoughts flow more freely, more readily, and with the same principle in mind, sowing positive thoughts will reap positive rewards.

So, before I got out of bed, I decided to look at all the negative thoughts I was presently entertaining, and I simply flipped them around. Instead of saying, the heat is so intolerable (waah!) like I normally would do, I simply said,

Lord, thank you for Phoenix and the life I have here. There is a good reason why I live where I do, and you know that it is good for me to remain here for a while longer.

The same was true with the negative thoughts I had about my home life, the fact that right now I am living out of a 10x10 room and not the entire house I share with my parents. I complain about my lack of space, and at times, the close quarters cause some contention between the four of us. Instead of feeding those thoughts, I simply said,

Lord, there is a reason why you have me living in this home today. I thank you for the good life you have provided to me, and I know that while I cannot see a way out of my situation, you can see what will be down the road. I will patiently wait for your provision, and until that time, I will trust in the fact that you know that my life right now is exactly the way you desire it to be.

Likewise, as I thought more about the job I interviewed for on Thursday, whether or not I would be hired full-time, and so forth, I said these words,

Lord, you have the perfect job set aside for me. If this job (the one I interviewed for) doesn't come to pass, then you have something better in store for me. I expect your best, only your best, and I will patiently wait for you to deliver your best to me. Until then, I will gladly and cheerfully do the work I have set before me, and I will look with excitement and anticipation for your sweet reward of full-time work, in your time and according to your plan.

My plan was to see if I could change the way I was feeling by simply turning my negative thoughts into positive ones. It only took about 3-4 minutes before the depression left me. I started to feel better, think clearer, and generally, have a better outlook after speaking words that confirmed God's plan for my life rather than complain about my perceived lack of His provision. In doing so, I found that I was better able to accept my place in time, and while I am hoping for some good news soon (on the job front), I know that until that word comes to me, my attitude and my response to my situation can be adjusted simply by speaking words that are good, are positive, and affirm God's plan, love, and care for me. Yes, I believe that God does care for me.

Psalm 139 is a wonderful hymn of David. It reminds us just how much the Lord cares for us, protects us, and desires good for our life.

O Lord, you have searched me [thoroughly] and have known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up [my entire life, everything I do];
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And You are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue [still unspoken],
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And [You have] placed Your hand upon me.
Such [infinite] knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high [above me], I cannot reach it.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol (the nether world, the place of the dead), behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will take hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me,
And the night will be the only light around me,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You and conceals nothing from You,
But the night shines as bright as the day;
Darkness and light are alike to You.

For You formed my innermost parts;
You knit me [together] in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks and praise to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was being formed in secret,
And intricately and skillfully formed [as if embroidered with many colors] in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were appointed for me,
When as yet there was not one of them [even taking shape].

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I could count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.

O that You would kill the wicked, O God;
Go away from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.
For they speak against You wickedly,
Your enemies take Your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
I hate them with perfect and utmost hatred;
They have become my enemies.

Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

As I close this blog post today, I am reminded of the words of Peter in 1 Peter, chapter five, verses 6-7. The Apostle writes,

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [set aside self-righteous pride], so that He may exalt you [to a place of honor in His service] at the appropriate time, 7 casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].

Yes, God cares for me, and when I am anxious (as in disturbed), I am often not thinking clearly, carefully, and with the right heart motives. I am prone to negative thoughts and ideas, and when I give my enemy a foothold to feed me his lies, then I find that I become disheartened and discontented. I know that my first defense is to stand in faith, to demonstrate my faith in God, in His word, and in His timing. Secondly, I know that I can speak words of life, the very words of God, and the enemy will flee. More so, when I speak words that have the power to reap positive results, I am doing myself a favor, I am giving myself a "B vitamin" shot, so to speak. I am giving myself a good boost of positive thinking, and in this way, I am affirming the plan the Lord has for me, remembering to trust Him, rely on Him, and most importantly, to abide in Him. I am resting in His words, His works, and in His sufficiency rather than leaning on my own understanding or allowing myself to be demeaned, depressed and dejected simply by listening to statements that may or may not be true, accurate, or for my blessing or benefit.

Therefore, today, I give the Lord thanks for the power of His word in and through my life. I may not see my life situation shift soon, but I can remain as I am, trusting in Him completely, and resting in His ability to control and to complete the work He has planned, prepared, and provisioned for me to do. He is good. He is so good to me! Selah!

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