God's truth

Pleasant Words

A wise person’s heart controls his speech,

and what he says helps others learn.

Pleasant words are ⌊like⌋ honey from a honeycomb—

sweet to the spirit and healthy for the body.

 (Proverbs 16:23-24 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 16:16-24 GW)


An old children’s refrain goes, “Sticks and stones can hurt my bones but words can never hurt me.” The truth is—words can and do hurt. It’s not just about insults and taunts—those are certainly not pleasant words—but many other words can hurt us.

It can be as simple as words unspoken. Many a child, even spouses, never or rarely hear the words, “I love you,” or “I forgive you,” or any apology or admission of wrong.

How about unfair or false accusations? This happens a lot in homes and in workplaces, even classrooms, let alone in politics and social media.

One tactic interrogators and lawyers use is to sow doubt. This was commonly used in prison camps to break the spirit of POW’s. They would say things like, “Your family and country have forgotten you, “ and “No one is going to rescue you.”

Years ago, an assistant pastor told me I didn’t have a “shepherd’s heart.” It stunned me when I heard this and the wound went deep. It wasn’t true for me but it ended up being true of him. Through prayer and encouragement from others—especially my wife and close friends—the Lord gave me an accurate perspective.

The words we echo to ourselves—self-talk—can also be hurtful and damaging. So, yes, words from various sources and in different forms can and do hurt.

The surprising antidote is to hear and utter pleasant and truthful words—”sweet to the spirit and healthy for the body.” It may sound too simplistic but it’s true.

Certainly, the truth can be spoken harshly and be destructive when spoken with the intent to hurt. This is why understanding needs to be applied when speaking the truth.

As said in another place in the Bible, we are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). It’s not enough to just use nice words, as pleasant as they might be. The pleasant words spoken of here in Proverbs come from a wise person and are helpful not harmful (verse 23).

The foundation for pleasant words spoken with wisdom is the truth of God. The primary source of His truth for us is found in the Scriptures and is revealed to us by His Spirit to our mind and heart.

Whoever gives attention to the Lord’s word prospers, and blessed is the person who trusts the Lord. (Prov 16:20 GW)

This leads to understanding that is useful and beneficial—not only for those who hear pleasant words wisely spoken—but this divinely based understanding becomes a fountain of life for those who speak them (vss 21-22).

Let us be careful with our words—not speaking carelessly but wisely. When we choose to speak pleasant words in a wise way, it will bless and help others and bless us, as well.

Reflection—

The foundation for pleasant words spoken with wisdom is the truth of God, which leads to understanding that is useful and beneficial. Let us be careful with our words—not speaking carelessly but wisely— so we may bless and help others and be a blessing.

Prayer Focus—

In your prayer times, ask the Lord to help you be mindful throughout the day in all your interactions with others, that you would speak wise and pleasant words.

©Word-Strong_2018


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The Fallacy of Common Sense

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The teachings of a wise person are a fountain of life

to turn ⌊one⌋ away from the grasp of death.

Good sense brings favor,

but the way of treacherous people is always the same.

Any sensible person acts with knowledge,

but a fool displays stupidity. (Proverbs 13:14-16 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 13:14-25 GW)


Whatever happened to common sense? If it's so common, why isn't there more of it? It turns out... common sense isn't so common after all.

If you haven't said it, you've probably heard something like—"Use some common sense!"—as an admonition to use good judgment, act wisely, or think wisely before making a decision.

Sadly, common sense or good sense seems in short supply. The idea of good judgment that follows logical, rational thought just isn't so common or ordinary.

There's no question that it's valued but it doesn't appear to be common for the general population. Why not? What seems to be the hindrance?

Common sense, in order to be good, sound judgment, needs to have a sound basis or origin. Is there really such a thing as common sense? Yes, but at present, it's suppressed in our culture by what's popular, trendy, or whatever is most appealing at any given time.

For common sense to be sound, it needs to have a frame of reference and a reliable point of origin. Also, consistency and continuity are required for something to be common or accessible for everyone.

When something is uncommon, it's in contrast or at least significantly different than what is common. In other words, for something to be an exception to the rule, there needs to be a rule—a standard.

In a way, common sense gets pushed aside with a new common. The new standard is relativism and individual preference. These have become a new frame of reference for truth, morality, fulfillment, and even spiritual truth or spirituality.

Consider how flexible and accommodating companies and the service industry have become. Menus with "no substitutions or changes" are going by the wayside. Most of the time, you can have it your way for a small up-charge.

The consumer public wants their personal preference to prevail. We don't want what everybody else has unless it's customized to suit us. This demand for accommodation and individuality permeates our present-day culture in so many ways.

Even the truth is affected, or should I say, infected with this expectation for individualistic expression. Individualized interpretation of the truth results in confusion and a lack of understanding when it comes to theology and spirituality in general.

When everyone has their own interpretation of the truth or what truth is, there's no reliable standard to base truth on, which also affects what is considered sound judgment.

When you or I go to buy something at a store or fill the car with fuel, it matters what the cost is based on. What taxes are added to the cost? When it comes to measuring things, is it metric or American standards? When traveling abroad, what currency is used and what is the exchange rate based on?

Common sense needs a common point of reference as its basis, its standard. Otherwise, it has no lasting value. When it comes to navigating life and our relationships, we also need consistent and reliable values.

So, what is the standard for your life values? What truth are you relying on?

When you rely on your own interpretations of the Bible and its truth, you'll run into the same troubles others have who choose to go their own way and common sense will elude you.

If the truth of God written in the Scriptures isn't your point of reference, you don't have a trustworthy standard of truth. This is the message of the wise writings throughout Proverbs.

Good sense brings favor

Reflection—

Do you think you have common sense and good judgment? What truth are you relying on? If God's truth isn't your point of reference, you don't have a trustworthy standard of truth and likely lack sound judgment.

Prayer Focus—

Seek the Lord regarding whether or not you have common sense based on His truth. Ask God to give you discernment and confirmation of what good sense is and if you have it and are experiencing His favor.

©Word-Strong_2018


The Way That Seems Right

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There is a way that seems right to a person,

but eventually it ends in death. (Proverbs 14:12 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 14:1-13 GW)


How often have you heard this quote, "To thine own self be true?" It's a famous quote from William Shakespeare's play, Hamlet. In those times it had a certain meaning but it's been reinterpreted in a different way in our present culture.

What comes to mind when you hear this saying? What does this expression mean to you?

Looking back on my own spiritual journey, it seemed I was always looking for a way to live that fit me—that seemed right to me. I was looking for something that was true for me.

But that kept changing as I went through various life experiences and sampled different approaches to life and spirituality. I found that being true to myself was an unreliable guide.

Using one's own self as a plumb line isn't such a great idea. It's unreliable because we tend to internalize values and beliefs based on our acceptance or resistance to what we encounter in life. Sometimes it's a combination of acceptance and resistance that results in a hodgepodge of beliefs and values.

I came to a turning point in my life where I challenged God to reveal Himself to me in some obvious way. After a morning of fasting, hiking through the woods, and waiting, I returned home disappointed. I saw no vision or sign, nor heard any voice of direction.

Later, after grumbling about this failure, I opened up a Bible someone gave me and began to read. I came to where Jesus said the wide gate and easy road leads to destruction and the narrow gate and hard road leads to life (Matt 7:13-14).

I realized I'd been looking for a wide gate with an easy road. I was heading in the wrong direction and I knew it.

Jesus also said, only a few found this narrow gate and hard road that leads to life. The day started with me challenging God but ended with God challenging me. I accepted that challenge and my way in life became clearer day by day from that point on.

I've never turned back since that day but life since then has not always been easy. But, my life from that point has been fulfilling and God has blessed me in countless ways.

This verse in Proverbs may be hard to hear but the larger context helps clarify its truth (especially verses 2, 10, 13).

We all need a reliable guide for our lives. God's written Word and God's Spirit are always reliable. They've been a trustworthy plumb line for many centuries for millions of people.

Reflection—

Are you wondering if you've chosen the right way for your life? Read through these verses, even listen to them read to you (Proverbs 14 audio). Allow the truth of God and His Spirit to give you insight on all of this.

Prayer Focus—

Ask God for discernment and confirmation of the way of life—a true and fulfilling life—that He intends for you. Ask God to guide you with the peace of His Holy Spirit and the clarity of His truth.

©Word-Strong_2018


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Avoiding Burnt Clothes and Burned Feet

The early chapters of Proverbs have several admonitions addressed to a son but they are not gender-specific. Yes, it sure seems like it but they were written during ancient times. Women did not have the place they have now in most societies. 

Many admonitions also focus on the dangers of immoral women, which sounds hypocritical coming from King Solomon who had a thousand wives and concubines. But figurative language is used a lot to emphasize a point, even overstating it.

Guard Your Heart!

It's been said, "the eyes are the windows to the soul." This is a popular version of similar expressions throughout history. A person's eyes are a truer indication of the state of their soul than their facial expression and words.

In this case, the eyes are windows for others to look inside another person—into their soul, their heart. A person can wear a smile on their face while trying to cover the grief within them that's seen in their eyes.