Well, we certainly learned once again this week that words really do matter. Whether you are asking rhetorical questions that seem to bring serious doubt on the biblical idea of hell as an eternal separation from God or simply tweeting “Farewell Rob Bell”, no one can doubt the power of words to stir things up in evangelical Christendom. For those not familiar with the controversy over Rob Bell’s new book, feel free to Google it as I have no desire to add more words to this controversy at the moment.
This weekend, my wife and I attended a mega missions conference in Lancaster County, ran a huge book table and spoke in two Sunday school classes. We got there slightly earlier than we normally have in the past (we have been attending this conference annually for 15 years now) and had plenty of time to set up. As we were finishing, Deb mentioned that we had gotten a greeting card from one of our friends in the church and wanted to know if I wanted to read it. Upon opening it, I was delighted to see that they had written a personal note to us indicating that they still read our newsletters, prayed for us regularly and greatly appreciated our ministry with books. What a way to start the weekend. With those few words, our spirits were lifted, we were encouraged and we were motivated for service in working at the book table.
As I was pondering what to share with the junior high Sunday school class (not always known to be an attentive audience), it struck me that Satan asked one of the most dangerous questions in the entire Bible in the book of Genesis and that this might be a good jumping off point. When Satan confronted Eve in the garden, he asked a simple, but incredibly insidious question, “Did God really say that?” That question led to doubt, which led to sin and ultimately banishment from God’s presence. How powerful were those five little words.
Words are only magnified when they are in print and when they are in a best selling book, they have the power for untold good or evil. Hitler moved an entire nation to ruin with his book Mein Kampf and Chairman Mao affected the thinking of millions of Chinese and instigated a revolution with his Little Red Book. At the same time, the Bible has been the best selling book in the world for many years and will probably stay that way for years to come.
As I consider the awesome power words, I am reminded of the what the book of James says,
“but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.”
With that in mind, I thought I would craft a list of words that have the power to change people’s lives, but in a positive way. Feel free to add your own.
1. Thank you
2. I really appreciate what you do.
3. Can we pray together?
4. Is there anything that I can do for you?
5. Is there anything you need?
6. I am sorry.
7. I forgive you.
8. Please forgive me.
9. God loves you and so do I.
10. You are important to me.
As great as these words may be, I reminded once more than any human words that we can conjure up, pale in comparison to the words of God that are in print in the Bible. I need daily doses of these words to remind me that He will never leave me nor forsake me and that He really does have a plan for my life and that it is for good and not evil.
This week, I am planning on choosing my words even more carefully than I have in the past, while recognizing that I serve a God who has spoken and whose words are readily available if only I would take the time to pay attention.