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5 Questions to Ask before You Speak

20 May

Thinking before we speak might be a good thing for game show participants. Here are some funny answers* people gave on the game show “Family Feud” that indicate a little more thought was needed.

  • Name a number you have to memorize: seven
  • Name something you do before going to bed: sleep
  • Name a famous bridge: bridge over troubled waters
  • Name a continent: Italy
  • Name a kind of ache: a pancake
  • Name a part of the body beginning with “N”: knee

Granted, the “Family Feud” contestants were under time pressure. But sometimes those responses are so absurd, because we’re not sure what the contestant was thinking!

Sometimes my life responses are just as foolish.

Christians want to be sure they think before they speak (Ecclesiastes 5:2a). A common acronym encourages us to carefully and wisely T-H-I-N-K before uttering a word, and this can be supported with scripture—many references from the Bible’s wisdom literature.

In general, we do not want to sin against God and others with our tongue (Psalm 39:1).  We want to be careful not to speak rashly to the Lord (Ecclesiastes 5:2-6a); and we must understand the power of the tongue to speak “life” or “death” into people in our relationships (Proverbs 18:21).

Lately, I’ve seen so many hurtful things said on Facebook and Twitter, and I wonder if people think their words carry less impact because someone can’t see their face. In one case, a godly young woman poured out foul language, and a few posts later, invited friends to attend a church concert. I thought, “What? Can’t she see how foolish that sounds? How hypocritical?”

Jesus said we speak out of our hearts, so that is the first place for ALL of us to start. We must watch over or guard our heart and be sure our words and actions align with God’s Word, will and ways (Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 12:33-37; 15:11). We need to examine our conversations and behavior carefully.

“T-H-I-N-K”-ing before we speak includes these five questions:

T – Is it TRUE?

Many scriptures speak about the perils of deceitful words and how a false witness can deeply wound others (Psalm 34:13; 52:2; Proverbs 25:18). Peter says one of the ways to “see good days” is to keep our tongue from evil and our “lips from speaking deceit” (1 Peter 3:10).

God wants us to “breathe out truth” (Proverbs 12:17, 19, 22) and speak with wisdom and justice (Psalm 37:30).

H – Is it HELPFUL?

The Lord is our Helper (Hebrews 13:6a), and when we become more like Christ, we will speak helpful words that guide and instruct others in the ways of godliness (Proverbs 12:26). We will consider and study the very best way to answer or respond in the circumstances of life (Proverbs 15:28).

Discerning how to use knowledge rightly and wisely (Proverbs 15:2a, 7), we use soft answers to turn away anger and diffuse hurtful situations (Proverbs 15:119:11; 20:3).

And beyond that, we use helpful words to edify (build up) and “give grace” to hearers, modeling the kindness and forgiving spirit of Christ (Ephesians 4:29, 32).

I – Is it INSPIRING?

If you’ve ever been encouraged by a “good word” from a friend in a tough season of life, you know the importance of inspiration and encouragement–words spoke in “due season” (Proverbs 12:25; 15:23).

Pleasant, inspiring words are like “honey,” sweet to our thoughts but even more important, healing! (Proverbs 16:24). The person who offers these kinds of discreet, wise, skillful and godly words are offering “life-giving,” refreshing water to the soul (Proverbs 18:4).

N – Is it NECESSARY?

But sometimes, it’s better just to be silent. We don’t have to speak all our mind.

Proverbs 10:19 and 12:16 tell us a prudent, cautious person restrains his lips, even in the face of insults. There is potential danger in “many” words, and it’s wise to consider our responses. A wise person, the writer of Proverbs says, uses “sparing” words (17:27). It’s wise to not speak too hastily (Proverbs 21:23; 29:11).

Learn when to keep your mouth shut!

The most UNnecessary words are found in gossip. Gossip—often rooted in pride, selfishness or insecurity—can separate friends and hurt deeply (Proverbs 17:9; 18:6-8, 19; 20:19; 26:20). Don’t be a “babbler.” Be the one who shuts down gossip! 

K – Is it KIND?

A kind heart overflows with carefully-chosen, kind words that bring healing (Proverbs 12:18). Words that are kind are wholesome and gentle, life-giving to hearers (Proverbs 15:4). Christians are instructed to “be kind” (Ephesians 4:32a).

On the other hand, a crooked mind and willful, contrary, perverted words, or words impulsively offered—flowing from anger or offense—only lead to more trouble (Proverbs 17:20; 14:29; 15:18; 29:11). A fool gives full vent; a wise person “holds back,” not wanting to be unkind.

James says it well, “… be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,” because anger and angry words don’t lead to righteousness (1:19-20).

If we would but pause to T-H-I-N-K before we speak, we could both bless and encourage people.

Is this the prayer of your heart today?

“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;

keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Psalm 141:3)

 

 * “Family Feud Answers” from CybersaltDigest, Issue #4115

 – Dawn

Media Distraction: Rabbits and Lizards

25 Feb

My maltipoo, Roscoe, has a short attention span when it roscoe_whereistherabbitcomes to two words. No matter what my furboy is doing—even sleeping!—if I say either “rabbit” or “lizard,” he stops what he’s doing, cocks his head, and then look toward the back door or a nearby window.

Roscoe wonders, I think, “What am I missing? Is there a rabbit out there? A lizard?”

I have to admit I’m a Roscoe when it comes to the daily news and social media. No matter what I’m doing, it doesn’t take much to distract me these days.

“I wonder what’s happening on Facebook?”

“What’s up in the news? What am I missing? 

Rabbits and lizards. Sad, huh?

The worst thing about media distraction is, it takes up a lot of precious time. 

Time that can never be reclaimed (Psalm 90:12).

  • Time with the Lord in prayer.
  • Time reading or memorizing scripture.
  • Time with family.
  • Time writing about things that matter.
  • Time sharing the Gospel.
  • Time working hard with purpose.
  • Time to be creative.
  • Time to rest my heart and mind—away from all the stressful voices that disturb my peace and joy.

Now I am, by nature, a woman with a lot of curiosity. It’s not that I’m nosy; I just love learning about things. And I’m not condemning these things per se: the Internet and media are sources for learning. (Even though I need to be careful to weigh what we learn against the truth of scripture.)

My rule of thumb is: The news and social media should enhance our lives, not become our lives.

But the enemy of my soul would like to keep me more curious about and loving the things of this world rather than the things that count for eternity—my relationship with God, people with souls, and the eternal Word of God. It’s a pretty powerful scheme (2 Corinthians 2:11). Part of his strategy in my life is getting me addicted to media.

The recent Presidential election kept me glued to my television. I was constantly turning my head, checking out what the most influential talking head of the hour thought about the candidates and how their platforms lined up with world issues. In the process, I got caught up reading a lot of things that made for nastiness and division.

I foolishly thought that would all stop after November 2016. But it didn’t. The nastiness and division continues. And Christians are caught up in it too. Christian friends who share similar doctrines have parted ways over political and social “preferences.”

Have we no respect and civility? Have we forgotten love?

Jesus said, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Paul said we’re to outdo ourselves in honoring one another (Romans 12:10).

And if a Facebook friend suddenly feels like an enemy? Jesus said to even love our enemies and pray for them! (Matthew 5:44)

I’ve learned I do not need to comment on every negative post; and I’m asking the Lord to help me discern when to share and when to stay silent (Proverbs 26:4-5).

It’s silly to end up in pointless quarrels with people who just want to debate (2 Timothy 2:23-24). But there are also times we need to speak up to expose weak, unbiblical thinking in the church. We need to speak truth while letting love reign, and pursue, with godly wisdom, what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding (James 1:5; Romans 14:19).

And sometimes, we just need to step away from the constant distraction of media and social media—so many voices—and seek the Lord and listen for His voice.

We need to focus on what is of “first importance”—getting out the freeing Gospel message and living in light of it (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We can’t afford distractions.

We’ve got to learn how to deal with those pesky rabbits and lizards!

How can you let media enhance your life without letting it control (or become) your life?

~ Dawn

 

 

 

 

For Internet Zombies

17 Aug

I live on the Internet – necessary for my job and my hobbies. But there are times when I suspect I’m turning into an Internet Zombie. For those who wonder if they are “Webbed Out” too, here are some sure signs:

  • Your best friend is someone you’ve never met face-to-face.
  • You get frustrated when you encounter a Web page with no links
  • You feel driven to consult the “Cool Page of the Day” … on your wedding day!
  • When you read a magazine, you have an irresistible urge to click on the underlined passages.
  • Your little girl has her own Web page.
  • So does your dog.
  • and your hamster.*

According to an article in Newsweek, July 16, 2012, “The brains of Internet addicts, it turns out, look like the brains of drug and alcohol addicts …. One of the early flags for addiction was spending more than 38 hours a week online.”Computer_IWillControlYou

Oh my … my brain must be Internet mush.

Apparently, with Internet maxi-use, the brain shrinks in areas the process speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory  and other information. Lynn Baab, posting at Gathering Voices, concluded, “This has profound implications for Christian faith development and congregational life.”

Baab points to a MIT researcher, Shirley Turkle, who discovered some disturbing things about Internet mega-users:

  1. Moms and dads were emotionally unavailable to children because of high Internet use.
  2. People who spent lots of time online were sad and stressed.
  3. Teenagers were weary and depressed – worn out from trying to “create themselves” online.
  4. Major Internet use causes people to forget what’s important in life.

It does sound like addiction to me.

And it made me ask myself tough questions:

How much Internet time is too much? Is the time I spend online necessary – and if it is, how can I safeguard myself against addictive responses?

Baab hints at three responses to Internet overuse. I want to expand on them a bit with my…

Three E’s to Tame the Internet Zombie Within

(1) Enter a Fast (Isaiah 58:6). This is a practice used for years in fighting addictions and helping to refocus one’s life on things that matter, especially to God. Fasting of any kind is hard for me, but it’s meant to contribute to our discipline. When I do fast, I find it freeing. When I say “no more” to the Internet for a season, it breaks the links (pun intended) and reminds me there is more to life than staring at a monitor screen.

During an Internet fast, it’s important to check motives against scripture truths, and determine why we spend so much time online. We can re-focus on priorities, ask God for clear direction and commit to obey what He says.

(2) Enjoy a Day of Rest  (Hebrews 4:8-10).

God designed a day of rest for good reasons. Although the day of rest is a time to seek and worship God, He also knows we need planned breaks – some time to “unplug.”

Because the Internet also supplies some of my recreation, I do often go online on Sundays, but not for work. But when I sense that even that is too much time online, sometimes I need a clean, complete break (which takes me back to suggestion #1).

(3) Engage in “Offline Recreation.”

It can be as simple as walking the dog, or tending a garden or playing with a grandchild. We need to push away from the desk, computer, and monitor and everything else, and breathe in God’s clean air.

I believe there are so many good things about technological tools. I’ve made some uplifting “re-connections” with old friends as well as new Facebook Friends I hope to meet in person someday.  I use the Internet for research, creative resources and to stay connected to the world and relevant; and these are all good and appropriate uses.

But when the Internet, social media and other modern technologies begin to take over our lives (to control us), we become their servants, and this is never good. Paul says, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12; see also 1 Corinthians 10:23). “Enslaved” is the key word.

We must beware of becoming Internet Zombies. It’s neither wise nor healthy.

Responsible Internet users: what do YOU do when the Internet threatens to control your life? What is your best strategy?

* Adapted from material at CybersaltDigest.com, 4-12-13

– Dawn

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