Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fire Prevention 101

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     Following several freezes and having little rain, our area of Florida is very dry and easy tinder for wild fires.  Brush fires are not uncommon this time of year in our state, but they can be devastating if they rage out of control.  A short time ago, a serious brush fire bellowed so much smoke over I 75 that a massive pile-up resulted killing ten people.  In previous years, houses have been damaged and people have had to evacuate neighborhoods until the fire was brought under control.  Certainly, this is no laughing matter.  There is a good deal of destruction that follows in the wake of a fire.
     While we realize the danger which a fire can pose, we often do not realize that within in own lives we carry an inflammatory member with us wherever we go.  If we are not careful how we use it, we can create a good deal of destruction to those around us.  I am referring, of course, to the tongue.  James, in his letter to believers, spoke at length about this member of the body that can create so many problems:

     "How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of
      unrighteousness.  The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on
      fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.  For every king of beast and bird, of reptile
      and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 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.  Does a spring pour
      forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?  Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives
      or a grapevine produce figs?  Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water" (James 3:5b-12).
     James is correct to say that our tongues represent a real problem.  I have more than once in my life
caused pain by merely using my tongue as a means of striking back at another.  A word "punch" can often do more damage than a physical one; so when we hear the well used phrase "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me", we must be aware that this is simply not true.  There are so many people out there that have experienced the pain of emotional abuse at the hands of someone whose tongue was unleashed against them.    When it comes from a Christian,  it damages not only the hearer but also shipwrecks the testimony of the one who speaks the words.
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     In order to bring our tongue under control, we must rely upon the Holy Spirit and recognize that without God's help we cannot conquer this sin.  Most of us are aware that gossip is destructive, but few of us realize that  we may be  actually telling things we ought not to disclose.  For example, when sharing prayer requests, we do not need to go into great detail about another person's situation.  We may not have all the facts and some of what we say may not be accurate.  The result is that we could be spreading information that could hurt that person.  Secondly, we know that lying or bearing false witness is forbidden in God's commandments, but how often do you tell "little white lies"?  We all have been in a situation where someone asks our opinion, but we are afraid of their reaction to our response.  So, we tell them something that is not true.  It is a lie!  We have all sorts of excuses as to why we needed to do that, but again, we cannot get around the fact that we violated God's command.  Besides, once we start telling a "white lie", we often cannot recall what we said only leading to more trouble in the future.
     All manner of evil speaking comes from that one small member of our body.  Gossip, lying, blasphemy, cursing, slander and false vows have a way of corrupting our entire character and staining our witness for Christ.  Like James, I know what fires and destruction can come when we unleash the tongue.  Jesus said:  "The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks"  (Luke 6:46).  Think about that.  What is in our heart, the Lord was saying, is what comes out of our mouth.  This puts things in a whole new perspective.  We can look so good on the outside, but when no one is looking, what do we really say that reflects what is inside our heart?
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     Having been a person who is opinionated, assertive, and always ready to answer, I am now learning to hold my tongue.  It is often better to say less and listen more.  An acronym that can help us remember to guard our tongue is the word "THINK".  "T" stands for true.  Is what you are about to say true?  The next letter is "H".  Will what you say be helpful to that person or will it be harmful?  The "I" stands for inspiration.  We are to encourage and inspire one another in Christ.  If we are not doing this, then maybe what we are saying is not a good word.  "N" stands for necessary.  Is it necessary to say something to someone.  If it is, then there are many good ways to say it according to Scripture.  We can bring correction in many ways that will bring the best results.  Finally, the letter "K" means kind.  Are we speaking in a manner that is kind?  Our goal should never be to destroy someone else with our words.  There are many ways to address someone in the English language besides "dumb", "stupid" or "idiotic".
Most importantly, we need to do just what this acronym says before we speak:  THINK!
     Controlling wild fires in Florida is a full time job during the winter months, but so is controlling our tongues.  Without the aid of the Holy Spirit, we cannot do this.  Each morning before we step out into a new day, we need to pray as David did when he said:  "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).  Only we can prevent the fires of hurt by keeping watch over our tongues.  Selah!

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