“NO!” to Corrupt Communication, “YES!” to Grace

file000868689848 “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” – Paul, in Ephesians 4:29

Paul says you have the say so.  YOU “let” no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.  If you have to duct tape your lips together, you just say “No!” to corrupt words.  “Corrupt” in this instance is translated from the Greek word sapros, meaning:

  1. rotten, putrefied

  2. corrupted by one and no longer fit for use, worn out

  3. of poor quality, bad, unfit for use, worthless

So, what kind of words, then, do we use?  Words good for edifying and ministering grace.  Let’s begin with “edify”, which comes from the Greek word oikodome, meaning:

  1. (the act of) building, building up

  2. metaph. edifying, edification
    1. the act of one who promotes another’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, happiness, holiness

  3. a building (i.e. the thing built, edifice)

Now, let’s look into ministering grace.  “Minister” is from the Greek word didomi, meaning:

  1. to give

  2. to give something to someone
    1. of one’s own accord to give one something, to his advantage
    2. to bestow a gift

  3. to grant, give to one asking, let have

  4. to supply, furnish, necessary things

  5. to give over, deliver
    1. to reach out, extend, present

    2. of a writing

    3. to give over to one’s care, entrust, commit
      1. something to be administered
      2. to give or commit to some one something to be religiously observed
  6. to give what is due or obligatory, to pay: wages or reward

  7. to furnish, endue

  8. to give
    1. to cause, profuse, give forth from one’s self
    2. to give, hand out lots
  9. to appoint to an office
  10. to cause to come forth, i.e. as the sea, death and Hell are said to give up the dead who have been engulfed or received by them
  11. to give one to someone as his own
    1. as an object of his saving care

    2. to give one to someone, to follow him as a leader and master

    3. to give one to someone to care for his interests

    4. to give one to someone to whom he already belonged, to return

  12. to grant or permit one
    1. to commission

And now for grace.  In the Bible, “grace” has different shades of meaning, from different roots, all of them marvelous, powerful, and wonderful.  In this verse, “grace” is derived from the Greek word charis, meaning:

  1. grace
    1. that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech

  2. good will, loving-kindness, favour
    1. of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues

  3. what is due to grace
  4. the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace

  5. the token or proof of grace, benefit
    1. a gift of grace

    2. benefit, bounty

  6. thanks, (for benefits, services, favours), recompense, reward

And now, let’s put ourselves on the receiving end.  Do I want to be the recipient of corrupt words–putrid words, words unfit for use, rotten words, death words?  I think not.  I was not created for this.  In God’s very image, I am created for love, for grace, and to minister grace.

Our mates, children, friends, and associates have no need of any corrupt communication which may be trying to “proceed out of our mouths.”

Choose life and say so.

Marriage Makers vs. Marriage Breakers

OUT  WITH THE JUDGMENT, IN WITH THE JOY!

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“Take the word ‘should’ out of your vocabulary.  Don’t say ‘should’ unless you’re looking in the mirror.”  A wise woman once said these words to me, and I took them to heart.  Or tried to.  No easy feat, this.

I want to talk today about the dangers of “should” and those of “supposed to” as relating to marriage, or indeed, any relationship.  I will try to avoid a rant, especially when I begin discussing my least favorite of all “supposed to’s”–“The man is SUPPOSED TO be the spiritual head of the house.”  Oooh, I feel my blood pressure rising already, so let’s just back up and talk about “should” dangers.

We each and every one have full plates–plenty, plenty of things to work on in our own selves.  But, alas, when a lass begins focusing on all those shortcomings of her mate (friend, sibling, parent, co-worker) her eyesight is adversely affected.  She looks right over the running-over pile on her plate.  To put it another way, worrying yourself about someone else’s faults will make you blind to your own.  You will personify that person admonished in the Bible to get the giant plank out of their own eye instead of worrying about the speck in someone else’s (Matthew 7:3,4).  Sounds like looking at someone else’s little faults actually gives our own room to grow.

And if this is not bad enough, when we zero in on another’s faults, their eyes become wide open to our faults!  I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t need that.

Should-ing people is, however, a fine and sure way to decrease your popularity, in case you are that rare person who prefers being unpopular, who likes to be thought of as an ill wind or a foul odor.  While I’m not overly concerned with popularity in general, I am quite concerned about being popular with my mate.  It just makes sense to me.

OK, here we go with a cousin to shouldsupposed to.  The statement, “The man is supposed to be the spiritual head of the household,” has caused misunderstanding, anger, and disappointment  in more than one relationship.  What in fact, does that mean, anyway?  It depends on who you ask.  These words, tossed about from preacher to congregation, from husband to wife and from wife to husband, mean something slightly, or radically, different to everyone.  Often, however, they aren’t owned words–words taken in by the man and developed by God.  Rather, they are thrown words–words accusing of shortcoming, of failure.

Wife and husband rarely see that statement in the same light, but neither do they communicate about their respective perceptions.  So, as they become frustrated with each other, and as the children see their dad failing at this obviously all-important mandate, the water of family life circles the drain.

Like “should,” “supposed to” is a  boomerang.  When you tell someone else what they should do (unless of course, they ask for, respect, and desire your opinion, which they rightly trust will be delivered in love) you become blind to your own duties of love and responsibility, and you focus the eyes of your accused on your own shortcomings.

These behaviors put you in a place of chaos, a place where you step out of touch with God’s voice and plan for yourself, even as you interfere with what He may be trying to say to your victim.  That’s right, I said VICTIM.

The bottom line is you are judging, and as promised, you will be judged, you will have a sad and sorry outcome.  Just as a wise woman once said, “Take ‘should’ out of your vocabulary.”  And as another wise (at least in this instance) woman adds, “Take ‘supposed to’ out at the same time.

The Maker’s Marriage Excerpt

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”— John 10:10

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” – Ephesians 6:12

Chapter 2 – Recognizing the Enemy

      Your mother-in-law is not the enemy

A friend tells me she and her husband always join her parents and her husband’s parents (at the same time) during holidays and birthdays, and she says this with joy. Wow! What a concept. Don’t they know that in-laws are always outlaws? Don’t they know you just have to put up with these people, and no one expects you to actually like them?

In Biblical times most families considered marriage serious business. Two young whippersnappers weren’t just sent out into the wilderness among the wild beasties and forgotten. No, indeed. There was preparation—spiritual, financial, physical. There was feasting and rejoicing. Not only was a new family formed, but the existing families on both sides were now considered one family by all parties. They were made one by a sacred covenant. It is no wonder, for example, that Ruth stayed with Naomi. Naomi accepted her not as her son’s poor choice, but as a beloved daughter.     The implications here are huge. The cynic might say it was just the patriarchs doing good business (and what, really, is so bad about good business, and starting marriage off on a sound financial footing?). But let us think about the possibilities in a mindset of acceptance, where his parents love her as a daughter, as hers love him as a son. And let’s forget about how that worked or didn’t work out way back when. Let us make some changes in the here and now.

Yes, this can be a bit tough. I’ll admit it: when I was first around my daughter-in-law’s parents I was curious to get to know them, and polite enough, but that was about it. The idea that God might want me to embrace them as prayer partners for this lovely couple and their child, and enjoy them as new friends with whom I already had much in common, was so foreign it never entered my head. Of course, John and I enjoyed them, and it was a blessing to see their great love for our mutual grandchild. Still, in spite of all the evidence, and common sense’s suggestion that we should be close friends, family even, deep down I didn’t believe we could. I certainly had never seen such a thing.

In fact, I saw the opposite. Grandma (maternal grandparent) had no liking for my dad, and Grannimother (paternal grandparent) not a lot for my mom. So, in spite of the fact that Mom loved Grannimother and that in her later years Grannimother often wanted Mom’s care rather than that of her own children, there was always that thing, that barrier that never quite fell: you don’t ever truly and completely love and accept your in-laws.

Following the example of their parents, is it any wonder couples think division is normal? Rather than having a faithful, stalwart, and wise cheering section from both sides of the family, they accept as inevitable such evils as competition, jealousy, and Strife.

Even if you, like my parents, had mothers-in-law who were simply not behaving well, and had no intention of ever doing so, you, smart girl, can overcome. Let me tell you a little story that will give you an idea or two about where to begin.

Once upon a time we moved to a tiny mountain village where outsiders were suspect, to put it mildly. The children’s librarian told me she didn’t agree with my homeschooling, the general store employees told us we’d made a mistake moving to their town, and the postmaster was so reserved I felt like apologizing for asking to buy a stamp.

It came to light that we were disliked before we ever came to town due to the whining of the couple we replaced in our new job. Never mind they were fired long before we were hired. Logic has little to do with such matters.

So I said my mantra: A smart girl like you oughtta be able to figure this out. Then it came to me. Cookies! I am a good cook—a little more butter and salt, extra nuts, raisins, organic brown sugar, chocolate chips, etc. I baked cookies and took them to the post office, library and general store. I invited the librarian over for Thanksgiving, and made a point of complimenting and thanking the postmaster. As a family, we prayed for the entire village and individuals as they came to mind. I asked the elderly how they felt and gave out free essential oils for their aches and pains. I set out to bless the town.

It wasn’t long until I began to get compliments on my kids instead of criticism of my methods. The librarian asked what we wanted in the library as far as books and programming, and the postmaster became someone I looked forward to seeing.

It is a rare person who cannot be won over, and even if they never like you, you will come to like and even to love them, if you bless them long enough. So, it won’t matter what they do and say—the sting will be gone. And yes, what’s good for the post master is good for the mother-in-law. And the mate.

     Your Mate is not the Enemy

 When it comes to marriage the stakes are higher (marriage success is the ultimate success, and considerably more important than favor at the post office), obedience to God is tougher, and the battle is more fierce. But the enemy is the same.

So, back to your mate, the scoundrel. If he’s not the enemy (just bear with me) then who is? And what good does identification do, you ask? Well, does a policeman shoot in the dark in the general direction of where the burglar was last seen, or would he prefer some night vision equipment before he starts wasting ammo?

OK, clever you. You know I’m going to say the enemy is Satan, and based on the awful things you and your mate each said in your last fight, that’s a believable assertion. So what now? Now you get over any and all teaching that scoffs at the idea of demonic influences and spiritual warfare. Now you get into the New Testament like your life (and marriage) depends on it. Because actually, it does. Study and become adept at putting on and keeping on the full armor of God.

As you study this, beginning in Ephesians, you will notice that after you’ve fully donned the armor of God you are admonished to pray for all the saints. It is my experience that this—praying for others—will keep your armor intact. And always remember, pray first and last for that one God has given you to love first and last.

            The Brain on Strife

You may recall the aforementioned scripture, James 3:16 – “For where envying and strife is, there’s confusion and every evil work.” I was praying for revelation about the full implications of this one day and I got a vision in my head of a brain on Strife. There were wires tangled everywhere, running amok over and under each other, in blue, yellow, orange and green. They all had little round connector pads on their ends, but they were connected to the wrong parts of the brain, and it was obvious the signals were getting crossed and going to the wrong places and nothing was making any kind of sense for this poor brain. This—chaos—is what happens to logic in the presence of sin (Strife being the operative sin in this particular case).

Once Satan has the upper hand (via Strife) your behavior will be appalling. Don’t waste your time lamenting the immaturity of your mate. It takes two to tango. Does your spouse’s awful behavior justify yours being just as bad? Are you really OK with a Pre-K maturity level?

I have to admit I speak from experience. John used to call me Teflon Woman. “Nothing sticks,” he explained, as I simply refused to ever take the blame. Incidentally, refusing to take the blame and responsibility for one’s actions is a symptom of ASPD (anti-social personality disorder), or to be blunt, it is the behavior of a sociopath. Well, I prefer to say I was simply immature. And I hasten to add that once I thought a bit about it, I realized my “I didn’t do it, not my fault” mentality was an open door for the enemy in our marriage. I decided Teflon Woman wasn’t really who I wanted to be.

Suggested Reading: House by Ted Dekker (not for the faint-hearted); Spiritual Warfare by Joseph Prince, who discusses how-to’s of binding the Spirit of Strife; and Dr. Caroline Leaf’s Switch on Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health, in which Dr. Leaf states, The great news is that we are wired for love, which means all our mental circuitry is wired only for the positive, and we have a natural optimism bias wired into us.

Key to Victory: Know and refuse your enemy.