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Constantly Surrounded

by Amanda Merideth

I am blessed with three beautiful children. They are all very talented at different things and I love to see them excel in the activities that they love. However, my greatest joy in life is seeing them excel in their understanding of God’s Word. For the last few years we have attended the annual Lads to Leaders convention in Louisville, KY. If you are unfamiliar with the Lads program it is a wonderful way to help young people grow just as it is said that Jesus did in Luke 2:52 “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” It gives them opportunity to learn how to study and prepare lessons, lead singing, and it even shows them how to use their artistic abilities and unique talents to glorify God and the church.

My older two children have participated in several events at Lads to Leaders over the years, one of which is presenting a speech based on the convention theme for the year. They spent hours, with their Daddy’s help, pouring over passages and finding a topic that they felt they could speak about. They were thoughtful in every word that they wrote on the page and even used personal illustrations just like I am doing now. They looked to their family and church for guidance. Most of all they spoke straight from the Word of God. They prepared themselves to say the right thing. And they could do this because they were looking to the right sources for their material. They were able to find the words they should use because they had the right sources, God’s Word and God’s people, in front of them. They were constantly surrounded. Of course they are young and they were directed to those places by the adults in their life.

This caused me to think about their future. You see, at some point we have the ability to choose what we look to as an example. My kiddos are having the source for their speech put in front of them by their parents and their church family. One day they will have the choice of what they use as a pattern not only for how they may write a speech but how they live their lives. My prayer is that they will continue to choose what has been placed in front of them. For many who may be reading this, you obviously view God’s Word as important or as having at least some relevance or you probably wouldn’t have chosen to continue reading this blog after the part about watching my children excel in their understanding of God’s Word. We certainly allow the Bible to have some influence in our lives. The question is how much?

How much power do we allow God to have over how we choose to live our lives and, more specific to the topic I want to address today, how we choose to speak? The book of James says “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” God has the wisdom and he is willing to share. All we have to do is ask. Perhaps if we spent more time in communication with God through prayer he would be able to guide our tongues more readily in our communication with others. Perhaps if we held God up in reverence and spoke more highly of Him in our communication everything else would fall into place.

I would submit that we, as a society, have become so overrun with negative influences that we as Christians have become confused and overwhelmed and in many cases we have given up trying to discern what is proper from what is improper. I do not just mean proper in the since of “politically correct” or social poise, I mean proper in every manner of speech.

Let me give you this example that really impacted my life when I first heard it from another sister in Christ several years ago at a ladies’ class. If someone came into your home, sat down on your couch and began making crude jokes, cursing, drinking, smoking, and doing vulgar things in front of your family and especially your children or grandchildren I feel confident in saying you would ask them to stop the behavior and you may even tell them to leave your house if they are going to continue in this manner. And yet we invite these people into our homes almost daily. We give them a place of honor as the focal point of our living rooms. We laugh at their crude jokes, rudeness and disrespectful language. We tell them to stay as long as they like and we ask them to repeat themselves with the push of a button. We do this with the kinds of things we choose to watch on television or listen to on the radio. We allow our family and our children to glorify the people who do and say coarse, rude and unkind things. We do this with a laugh and a wink and say “Don’t do or say what they do honey.” We make excuses for them. We make excuses for ourselves. We say, “Well, I am strong enough and smart enough to know better than to behave that way or speak those words.” We can see evidence in James that you are not. I am not. James 3:2 says, “For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.”  James 8-10 says, “but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” None of us are so good that we are going to be able to avoid the effects of continuously inviting sinful behavior into our homes and expect that we won’t soon be tangled up in it ourselves. I have noticed these things in myself. I have noticed television shows shaping my worldview and my speech far more often than I allow the words that my savior has spoken to me to do the same.

Some of you may think that I am crazy when I tell you this but, within the last several years, I have begun a purging of movies from my collection and I have been more discerning about what I choose to watch. I am a music lover but I have given up listening to many songs that I once loved because I caught behavior in my speech and in my thoughts that was beginning to reflect the worldly tones of some of those things. I will also share that, sadly, many people do not understand this decision and some of those who do not understand and have even made fun of this are fellow Christians. I have been told such things as “people will think you are a fanatic or something” and “your kids are going to be made fun of if they don’t know that song or that show.” My response is simply, I do not care. That is what my problem has been for far too long in my life. I have been thinking too much and worrying too much about what everyone else thinks of me. I do not need to be me centered, I need to be Christ centered. If I am going to be centered on Him then I must think on the things He has told me to think about and fill my life with them.

Philippians 4:8-9 says “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

We may ask “Why God? Why do what Paul says here in Philippians?” Jesus says to the Pharisees in Matthew 12:33-37 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

If there is anything I can do in my life to fill it up with true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent things that are worthy of praise and in the process fill my heart so abundantly that it can’t help but pour out in my life and in my speech, as a committed follower of Christ I am obligated to do it. If getting rid of things in this world that I once thought I loved and cherished helps me to find things that truly matter, I will do it. I owe it to God. I owe it to His Son. I owe it to the Holy Spirit. I must get rid of things that cause my heart to be filled in abundance with worldly ideals. I told you before that my prayer for my children is that they will decide to place before themselves good and godly things. How can I hope for them to make that choice if I myself am unwilling to?

If we have any hope of our communication with others being good we must first start with what we choose to fill our hearts with. Because, as It says in Matthew 12:34 “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Not only is it important to surround ourselves with God’s Word, we also need to surround ourselves with God’s people. One of my favorite stories to tell is about a little child who is in his room during a storm and cries out for his father. The dad comes in and says to the boy, “it is only a storm, pray to God for comfort and he will give it to you.” The dad leaves but this action is repeated a few more times until finally the boy cries out and says “Daddy! I know God is there and he will protect me but sometimes I just need someone with skin on!” How true this is in so many areas of our lives. We have God, we have His word but, He in His infinite wisdom knew we couldn’t do any of this alone. He blessed us with His Church and with fellow believers and while we should never look to any person as a guide to all things holy, surrounding ourselves with people of like mind can be an encouragement and can also help shape our speech to be more Godly.

We lived in Louisville, KY for eight years. Driving in the city of Louisville is, in a word, interesting. My husband and I were out one afternoon running some errands before we went to get the kids from school. We had plenty of time but we noticed that we were soon speeding in and out of traffic as if we did not. We were surrounded by others who were in a rush to get to this place or that place and we soon found ourselves joining in the behavior. Suddenly, we had to hurry. Suddenly, it was an urgent thing to get where we were going. We noticed the behavior and began to laugh about it and slow down a little. It is so easy to begin behaving like those you are surrounded with, to give in to the mentality of the majority.

If we are surrounded constantly by materials and people who do not see the importance of speaking to God in prayer for guidance or do not speak His name with reverence we may soon find ourselves slipping into the same behavior.

 

-Amanda Merideth lives in Vienna, WV. Her husband, Paul Merideth, is a Bible Professor at Ohio Valley University

This is from her blog, “Striving   for ‘Apples of God.’”




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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10