Category Archives: Power of Words

The U-Word

James 3:9-12

Purify your language to purify your life.

I’m not a foul-mouthed person. It’s not that I don’t know the words, and it’s not as if they haven’t escaped from my mouth a number of times over the years. But throughout my adult life, I’ve decided that it was pointless to clutter up my language with words and phrases that do not reflect well on me and the God I serve.

As a teacher of English, I reject the idea that there are words that are somehow “dirty.” Words, by themselves, are just collections letters or sounds. What makes a word “dirty” or “impure” is what lies behind it. And when you think of most of the so-called “dirty words,” you’ll find that they’re mostly hurtful to people.

Sure, there is probably somebody who is driven to distraction by the word “person,” because it has the male-suggesting “son” in it. I can’t please that person, but I can try to avoid the words and the phrases and the sentences that clearly offend a wider range of people.

We have words that put down people because of their age or their race or their gender, because of their politics or their family situation or a dozen other things. We have them, and they can hurt. They’re ugly words, and the world has enough ugliness already.

  • What careless language do you allow to lurk in your speech?
  • Do you have a problem with words that offend the people with whom you share your life?
  • Pray that God will open your eyes to the changes that need to come into your language to edify rather than tearing down.

A Kind Word Keeps Giving

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Encourage others for what they are and can be.

It was in the spring of 1988 that I taught my first class, a single section of Composition I at UMKC. Other than the fact that I had pretty much no idea of what I was doing and got very little support from the person who was supposed to be shepherding me and the other graduate teaching assistants, everything that semester was great.

Somewhere along the line, each of us exchanged a set of papers with another teacher so that we could grade each other’s students and sort of regulate our evaluation. When I got my students’ papers back, I couldn’t believe the savaging that this other teacher had inflicted on papers that I saw as fairly decent. Suddenly, I found my confidence shaken. Did I have any idea of what I was doing? Did I really have any business in front of a college classroom?

Somehow I wound up in the office of Joan Gilson, one of the school’s more seasoned teachers. Joan looked over those papers. She was probably overly generous, but she assured me they were not as bad as my colleague had painted them.

I’m not sure I’d be completing my twenty-ninth year of teaching English if Joan hadn’t taken that twenty minutes out for me. Sometimes a simple act of encouragement can have a momentous effect.

  • Do you naturally see the weaknesses and failures of others or their strengths and victories?
  • Look around your life. Who can you encourage today?
  • Resolve to pray that God will open your eyes to the people who need your positive words in the coming weeks.

Bigger than the Newsboys

Psalm 145:2

Praise God for what He is.

Last week, the Newsboys visited our church, playing a sold-out concert on Thursday evening. Because I didn’t have the sense to say “no,” I wound up volunteering for the show and spend a couple of hours in close proximity to the band, first for a photo session and then in an autograph session. Literally hundreds of people, many of whom had paid a premium ticket price just to get this opportunity, waited in a line to have their moment of exposure to the guys who put “God’s Not Dead” on the radio.

There are better musicians in this world–probably in this city–than those four guys, but there’s something about them that draws a crowd. Is it the skill, the songs, the aging good looks? I’m not sure, but there is certainly something.

Maybe you’re not bowled over by musicians, but you likely have somebody who, just because of who they are, renders you a bit tongue-tied. I hate to admit it, but I think that if I found myself in a room with Salvador Perez, I’d have a tough time sounding normal.

But do we get as excited about who God is, about what He is? Do we spend time focused on the amazingness of the God who created the entire universe, who planned for DNA and photosynthesis and nuclear fusion and everything else that makes life what it is? Do we? Do you?

  • How much time do you spend focused on the great qualities of God?
  • Which of those great qualities means something special to you today?
  • Can you spend some time in prayer today, not thanking or asking, but simply praising God for who He is?