we always think that size determines our success or ability to influence. but it’s not necessarily true. i’m in the midst of reading and studying the book of James and he reminds us that destructive power is beheld in this tiny entity called the tongue. remember when we were kids and chanted the mantra, “sticks and stones will break our bones, but names will never hurt me!” i’m not so sure about that. i think that physical pain heals, but emotional scars can last a lifetime. i still remember when someone took a shot at my preaching by saying that “a dog could preach better.” i brushed it off, but it hasn’t left my memory. it’s a remark that somehow enhances an existing insecurity and makes it all the more difficult to move forward and grow. i also remember when a teacher long ago told me that she saw incredible success in my future. these words embedded hope and inspiration whenever i feel like a failure. words are absolutely powerful. they can inspire us to accomplish more than we ever imagined possible or they can kill our spirit to a point where we are physically immobilized. what words do you speak? do you give life? or do you destroy life? james calls us to tame our tongue. he questions how we bless God and yet curse people who are made in His likeness. And he tells us that this should not be so. know that your tongue has great power – power to kill or power to heal. and, know that what you speak changes our world!!!
Do you believe that “Love can change the world?” I think that we think it, say it, but don’t necessarily believe it or live like it. As I’ve been reading scripture, I’m constantly reminded about the power of love and the need to give it freely. I also am constantly reminded that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (change) and not control or manipulation. I still admit that I default at times to control games and subversive forms of manipulation to try and change people. As a parent, I sometimes have to punish my kids. But do I really think that punishment will change their behavior in the long run? I don’t think so. I believe that a moment of love has more power than years or even decades of judgement.
I was watching a clip from “les miserables” last week. It’s the opening scene where jean valjean is just released from prison (20+ years of hard labor for stealing bread) on his way to meet his parole officer and is invited into the home of a catholic bishop for dinner. Jean Valjean can’t believe that he’s being let in and keeps reminding the bishop that he’s a criminal, he just got out of prison, and he’s dangerous. The paper in his hand says that he’s dangerous. In the night, Jean has nightmares of his time in prison. He woke up remembering exactly who he is (or at least who he’s been told he is). Then he gets up and steals the bishop’s silver spoons and when he’s caught in the act, he knocks out the bishop and flees. The next morning, he’s caught by the police and brought back to the bishops home. When the police ask the bishop if he knows the man, he says, “yes.” And when asked if he really had given Jean the silver spoons as a gift (Jean’s story to the police), he says, “yes I did. But I’m very disappointed in you Jean. Why did you not take the candlesticks? They’re worth more than the spoons.” Then he draws up close to Jean and stares into his most humbled eyes and declares that he’s bought his life back unto God.
In this moment, Jean’s whole life is changed. Year’s of prison that was supposed to reform him did nothing but destroy his humanity. Yet, in a moment of radical love and radical grace, his life is changed forever. Love can change the world! And if we choose to love, perhaps we can be a part of changing it!
i was reading joshua 1 last week where God tells Joshua that Moses is dead and he is now in charge and will lead the people into the promised land. what kept sticking out to me was the fact that God tells Joshua to enter the land that God had promised them but to be, “strong and courageous.” he says it three times in the first nine verses! now, why would Joshua need to be strong and courageous if he was about to enter the “promised land?” this was the cumlination right? i mean, they had escaped Egypt, walked through the desert for 40 years so i figure the destination should be a walk in the park right? NO!!!
as i read through this passage over and over again, i started to see how God was telling Joshua to be strong and courageous in keeping His word; making sure that he doesn’t stray from it at all. he didn’t say, “be strong and courageous” and go and build up your army. he calls Joshua to trust in Him and to keep His word. what does this have to do with entering into the promised land? maybe more than we think…
maybe the pursuit of our dreams has just as much to do with our formation as it does with reaching the destination. maybe our formation is the purpose for God even giving us the dream/destination in the first place. maybe walking 40 years in the desert was preparing everyone to trust in God’s provision every day rather than reacting to the environment. He keeps saying that He’s with us and will never leave us or forsake us. But do we “believe” Him? Do we “trust” Him? More often than not, we don’t. We give in to our fear, the circumstance and believe what we see rather than what we hear from God. So, maybe God is constantly working to transform our life so that we’re looking to Him rather than what lies before us. Our dreams, then, have just as much to do with changing us as they do with changing the world around us…