T HE “PRAISE THE LORD” HORSE (from various sources on Internet searches):
A preacher trained his horse to go when he said “Praise the Lord” and to stop when he said “Amen.” The preacher mounted the horse and said “Praise the Lord” and went for a ride. When he wanted to stop for lunch, he said “Amen.” He took off again, saying “Praise the Lord.” The horse started going toward the edge of a cliff. The preacher got excited and said “Whoa! Whoa!” Then he remembered and said “Amen” and the horse stopped at the edge of the cliff. The preacher was so relieved and grateful that he looked up to heaven and said “Praise the Lord!”
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►Words To Strengthen and Encourage
Our words are powerful. The Word of the Lord is more powerful.
Today we look at one of the letters that Paul wrote from prison. Many of his letters are written to admonish and correct new believers, but from the form of this letter, we believe that Paul was writing to strengthen and encourage the believers in the church at Ephesus.
Within the six chapters are tucked away some powerful, practical “how to live as a Christian” verses. Many of these were read today.
● Put off your old, corrupt self; put on your new self.
● Speak truthfully.
● In your anger, do not sin. (Notice the acknowledgment that we do get angry. Anger is not a sin — how we respond or react to anger can become sinful).
● Don’t steal. Work and share with those in need.
● Get rid of bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, malice.
● Be kind and compassionate. Forgive others.
And, the verse I skipped over. Verse 29:
● Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
This verse is the meat of today’s message. It is also the first verse I ever memorized. I taped it to my bathroom mirror, my steering wheel, and my desk at the conference center where I worked. I chose this verse when I was in my early 30s, when I first began to read the Bible, because I knew that unwholesome talk was coming from me — at work, at home, in the thoughts in my head.
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A few days ago, while failing miserably at living up to this verse once again, I asked Philip, “How am I possibly going to preach on this verse when, after over 20 years, I’m still not doing this?”
Philip has a way of defusing a situation with humor and grace that I find admirable. He simply looked up, smiled a warm, kind smile, and said to me: “Practice, practice, practice.” J He was acknowledging that I wasn’t being kind with my words, directed at him, while lightening the moment with humor. And, extending grace. I was wrong, I ought to have been asking him for forgiveness, and instead of lashing back at me for the way I was speaking to him at that moment, he chose love. He chose to love me and forgive me, before I even asked for forgiveness. He chose to love me. To show love to me.
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In the end, or shall I say in the beginning, God loves. God loves us just as we are, with all our flaws and outright sins. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that. We need to be reminded of John 3:16: That God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. And we also need to be reminded of John 3:17: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
I give the reminder of God’s love as we look deeper into Ephesians 4:29. Because as we do, you may find that like me, you have struggled in living up to its directive. I’m going to talk about it in two parts: What Paul is telling us not to do, and what to do.
● Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths….
What is meant by unwholesome talk? I won’t ask for a show of hands … swear words, lies, assigning blame, hateful remarks, offensive statements, criticism, remarks intended to bring someone down, little “digs.” Have you gossiped, slandered, or criticized? Have you been a bully? Have you spoken with rage, or gone on a long, loud rant? Have you remained silent yet said more words with your facial expression and posture than if you had spoken?
Statement: “I’m going to go shopping with my mom Saturday morning.”
Response: “Fine.” (with a smile and nod).
Alternate response: “Fine.” (with beady eyes and hands on hips). [Did you remember we were going to work in the yard together?]
This part of the verse can be difficult for many of us to hear. We know that unwholesome talk has come out of our mouths. Sometimes we catch ourselves right away, other times we are oblivious to the hurtful things we have said. We know we must to strive to do better. Which isn’t easy. As I mentioned, I’ve past the 20-year mark and I’m still trying. Practice, practice, practice.
● But only that which is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen.
Which brings us to the second part of the verse: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths … but only that which is helpful for building others up according to their needs….”