Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Tongue, To Hold Or Not To Hold (Part 1)

I thought I would share some of what I have been learning as I prepare for the college class on Sundays...So, last weeks lesson:

Ahhh, the tongue. A wonderful muscle (centimeter for centimeter, the most powerful muscle in the human body): It moves food, tastes it, detects texture, makes funny popping sounds, helps us whistle, rolls, folds, sticks out, touches noses, licks lips, sticks to frozen things, etc... But have you ever considered what trouble our tongues get us into?

From tongue tied, to tongue lashing; tip-of-the-tongue to the cat getting it, it has it's problems. For example, James says:
And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. James 3:6

That's a bit harsh...but James was, after all Jesus' half-brother and witnessed first hand the harm unbridled speech could cause. So, he points out, not only is the tongue a source of spreading destruction (consider the "rumor mill") but also, "set apart among the members of our body" as "that which defiles the entire body." Defile is such a harsh word. I found a couple of things when I looked it up:

1) Defile, as you might expect means to make dirty or unclean. Ok...that makes plenty of sense, I can say some pretty nasty things, and I recall going through my Junior High cussing phase when I punctuated everything with four letter words. I felt pretty nasty...and I wanted to be back then, nasty was "cool." I found something else though:

2) Defile also means, "To violate the chastity of" and "To desecrate." It strikes me that James might just be using a clever play on thoughts there. On the one hand, we Christians are to be "set apart"(consecrated) from the world. And on the other, the tongue is "set apart" from the other members of our body as the portion which can soil a consecrated being.

So, I think to myself, what is it that I say that could be so bad? Well...I won't repeat those things here (this a family blog)...but I wouldn't say them in front of my daughter. And I guess that makes me pretty special doesn't it?

Yeah, right. As I thought about this last week and this, I realized that maybe letting a four letter word slip out in front of her might be better than some of the trash she listens to me spew. I really try, but James is not talking about curse words...that's just first line stuff. He seems to me to be talking about those things which keep my eyes and mind, and the eye's and mind's of those listening to me focused on the "world." The problems, the "dirt" on that guy, the ridiculous decisions being made by the U.S. Gov. right now (do I have to tame my fingers too?), and how come we can't have this or that...?

But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and filled with deadly poison. (But didn't you just say we should tame our tongue...why try if it can't be done?) With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. (Oh) (James 3:8, 9)

Say what you want to say about me...but say what you might say about my daughter....made in the image of ME...and you can take it up with me.

As James says: "My brethren, these things ought not to be this way!"

So, let's recap:

1) My tongue not only defiles me, but it destroys others, whether with fire or deadly poison.

2) I can't tame it.
3) It makes me worse than a hypocrite, praising God but cursing His creations...which is the same as cursing Him.

"Oh wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death?" Romans 7:24

"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1,2

Yes! (Fist pump)
I found something really practical to help me try to do my (small) part in taming my tongue. I learned a long time ago to pray for a watch guard to be set over my lips. ("Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips." Psalms 141:3)
I found this great suggestion...if one guard is good...why not four! My challenge to myself this week is this, to consciously work to tame my tongue by checking what I say against these four criteria:

Watch 1) Is what I am about to say the truth?

Watch 2) Is what I am about to say being said in love...is it loving (and all that comes with loving others)?

Watch 3) Does it need to be said, is it necessary (or am I just saying something because I think it is time to talk)?

Watch 4) Is what I am about to say wise with heavenly versus earthly wisdom?

I can't tell you how many times I have kept my big mouth shut over the past three days!

But! Are Christians just supposed to shut up, sit down, and stay quiet? No, I don't think so. We are set apart for a purpose, our members tools for the Master, and our tongues the most powerful of those tools...

Part 2...coming soon.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My New Teaching Job

Five years ago I was granted the opportunity to teach psychology at our local Junior College. I was, and still am thrilled at the incredible opportunity. The chance to affect young lives is an awesome responsibility which I take very seriously.
Five weeks ago, I was granted the opportunity to teach the college class Sunday School at our local First Baptist Church. Seems like a logical choice...college teacher by week, Sunday school college teacher by weekend. Guy knows how to present a message to a group...etc...
I have prepared two lessons so far. The first took me 7 hours, the second took me 8 (and I was wrong about teaching that week anyway so I never got to deliver it). It is REALLY hard! I wish I had a Master's in theology versus a Master's in Psychology.

Doling out man's wisdom is easy compared to comprehending some of the mysteries of God...and getting it wrong...well, that would be bad.

It doesn't help that the topic for last week was James 2 (Wherein he seems to contradict Paul's contention that we are saved by faith and not by works.) Even bible scholars have shied away from that one.

It gets better though, next Sunday, when I am (for sure) teaching, I get to deal with James 1. This is where James (probably the half-brother of Jesus) says that we are blessed when we face trials and hardships.

GREAT! If I were a religious man, and I am, I would say there is a conspicuous irony in ME being the one to present these passages with insightful commentary. I worry that I might see this a bit differently than some in the Baptist church.

One preacher whom I respect a great deal once told me he believed that trials and test come directly from God in order to test us, to temper us (like steel). I don't like that answer. C.S. Lewis is quoted, erroneously I might add, in the movie Shadowlands as saying that hardships on us are like "blows of the Master's hammer upon our souls, which hurt us so much at the time, but make us perfect." My thought there is..."ummm, couldn't we just skip the blows of the hammer and start out perfect please."

Anyway, the movie progresses to the point where he is challenged in his earlier views to see such trials as coming from God. Indeed, James himself says that we aren't to consider temptation as coming from God because God can't do anything evil.

It's all very confusing without a real grasp of things like .... GREEK!

Yes. Quite ironic. Anyway, fortunately for me, my church membership, and my sanity, I own a really good bible commentary...and there is one for free on the Internet which sells in stores for several hundred dollars.

That's why it takes me so long. Understanding, much more teaching the Word of God involves understanding Who it is all about, and the fact the He is a much more capable people builder than I.

So once again, I am reminded that, IT'S NOT ABOUT ME!!!!!