The power of your words

In my first post for the ERLC.com website, I wrote about the power of words:

Imagine a resource with endless supply that can be leveraged for unbelievable good or incomprehensible evil and distributed instantly through global networks.

What is this resource? It is the simple commodity of words.

We were told as children that words could not hurt us, but that is not true. Words have power.

The universe was created by the word of God (Heb. 11:3). God used words to instruct the children of Israel, literally writing with His hand on tablets of stone (Exod. 31:18). It is through the Scriptures—written words inspired by God, chronicled by man—that we learn of God and find faith (John 5:39; Rom. 10:17).

Jesus, the gospel writer John says, is the living word of God (John 1:1, 14). As a man he was sustained by the very power of God’s Word (Matt. 4:4). As God incarnate, His last words on the cross, “It is finished,” satisfied the wrath of God and secured the faith of those who believe (John 19:30).

The wise Solomon wrote that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Prov. 18:21). James, the brother of Jesus, said “from the same mouth come blessing and cursing” (James 3:10).

Words lit the fire of the Reformation and inspired the American Revolution. Words have sent people to the death chamber and stayed the hand of execution. Words have begun wars and ended wars.

Words can be instruments of healing or as destructive as “sword thrusts” (Prov. 12:18). Most of us have been both inspired and wounded by them. Words of Scripture. A speech. A sermon. Song lyrics. Lines from movies. A teacher’s encouraging remark. A loved one’s angry outburst. A friend’s sincere compliment. A rebellious teen’s nasty text.

Words hold weight. We know this. So, as people of a Book (the Bible), as followers of the Word (Jesus), as children of a God who speaks, how then shall we think about our words?

Read the entire article:

Called to Stay

Today for Leadership Journal, I interview my friend, Caleb Breakey, a talented writer and speaker. Caleb has a heart for his fellow millennials. I love his tone, calling them to engage the Church rather than give up on it. This is the theme of his book, Called to Stay

In your book, Called to Stay, you voice some of the generational tensions that Millennials have voiced and yet you don’t counsel them to give up on the church, but to stay, why?

There’s a vibe circulating among Millennials that Jesus would turn over tables in most churches. I totally get that. Some churches are really unlovely. But you know what Jesus would do in those churches? He would speak the truth. He would say, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15). He would love the unlovely people inside them the same way he loves sinners and tax collectors. He would commend the churches for what they’re doing right, then call them to overcome the things they’re doing wrong (Revelation 2-3). He would set a new tone of love, truth, and unity—regardless of what the congregation thought of him. We should too.

Read the rest of the interview here:

Christianity As a Word-Centered Faith

Today I interview Karen Swallow Prior for Leadership Journal. Karen is one of my favorite voices in the evangelical world. She’s a fun follow on Twitter. Karen Swallow Prior is Professor of English at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. She is the author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me and a contributing writer for Christianity Today. I love Karen’s work, because she urges the Church toward a rich and robust love of literature. 

One of the questions I asked her was this:

Why is it important for followers of Christ to read deeply and read well?

Christianity is a Word-centered faith. That term—“Word”—takes on layers of significance, all of which are meaningful and relevant to our faith. Because Christ is the Word and the Bible is God’s revealed Word, it is clear that Christians have a special calling to the understanding of words—and therefore the Word. Neil Postman famously points out in his classic treatise, Amusing Ourselves to Death, that the prohibition of graven images in the Ten Commandments suggests that the Judeo-Christian God is one who is to be known through rational, abstract language rather than the immediate, sensory experience of images as seen in the idol worship of the surrounding pagan cultures. If we know God through reading the Word, then the practice of reading—deeply, faithfully, and well—helps us to do that. Furthermore, reading demanding works of literature that require our time and attention can foster the very spiritual disciplines that enable us to slow down, attend, and heed the Word of God. As our society reverts increasingly to an image-based culture, our calling as a Word-centered people becomes even more compelling and resonant.

Read the rest of the interview here:

Grace Makes the Medicine Go Down

One of the things that confounds me, as a parent, is the refusal of my kids to take their medicine, even as they are crying out in pain. It’s particularly annoying in the middle of the night (you know, those few nights when it’s actually me getting up instead of my long-suffering and faithful wife, Angela).

It’s quite illogical, really, for kids to refuse medicine that not only has the power to relieve their pain, but also can heal them of the sickness or injury that is making their little lives miserable. And yet, there a kid squirms, mouth closed, head shaking in refusal. As good parents, we practically have to hold them down and force the medicine down. Then we have to tell them that this medicine–the medicine we just forced down their mouths–is for their good. Trust me, we tell them.

But just when I begin to shake my head in disbelief at my kids’ lack of logic, of trust, of common sense in all of this, I’m reminded of my own attitude toward God’s good medicine. How often do I refuse what God designs for my good, because in my childishness I think I know better than He does what is best for me. It even may be at the same time I’m complaining to God about pain in my life. And so God, because He’s a good Father, often has to force the medicine into my soul.

Now to be sure, sometimes God’s medicine, like the medicine we get from the drug store, doesn’t taste very good. Even when the label assures you it is “cherry flavored,” the aftertaste reminds you it is still medicine. Even if you tell your kid it tastes like bubble gum, they know it really doesn’t. It’s like this with the hard medicine God asks us to drink. Yes, He gives us grace in trials. Yes, we have the body of Christ to help us endure the worst of life. And most importantly, yes, we have the hope of future resurrection, where faith will be sight, where these decaying bodies will be transformed into eternal ones, perfect and fit for heaven.

Still, pain hurts. The Fall continues to crush every area of life. Even Jesus wept at death. Paul longed to shake off the dying flesh and be with Jesus. Jeremiah lamented. David vented and wept and longed for renewal.

So Christian maturity is not so much the fiction that medicine tastes good, that trials really aren’t that bad after all, that to follow Jesus means unending prosperity and happiness in this life. Maturity is more about perspective, putting away the childishness that refuses the sovereign medicine of trials, allowed by the Father, ordained because of His loving desire to mold us to be more like His Son. It’s saying, with a wry smile, “I may not like what God is making me drink now, but I trust Him. I will accept it.”

We don’t always do this perfectly, which is why we need grace. The grace of One who did take that cup of suffering, not because it would make Him better, but because by accepting this cup, we might be renewed. He trusted the will of His Father so that we could taste the grace of forgiveness and experience resurrection.

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