Joelton Church

Keep your eyes on Jesus



The power of motivating words

A story is told about a little girl named Mary who was born with a cleft palate. Mary had to bear the jokes and stares of cruel children who teased her non-stop about her misshaped lip, crooked nose, and garbled speech. With all the teasing, Mary grew up hating the fact that she was “different”. She was convinced that no one, outside her family, could ever love her…until she entered Mrs. Leonard’s class.

Mrs. Leonard had a warm smile, a round face, and shiny brown hair. While everyone in her class liked her, Mary came to love Mrs. Leonard. In the 1950’s, it was common for teachers to give their children an annual hearing test. However, in Mary’s case, in addition to her cleft palate, she was barely able to hear out of one ear. Determined not to let the other children have another “difference” to point out, she would cheat on the test each year. The “whisper test” was given by having a child walk to the classroom door, turn sideways, close one ear with a finger, and then repeat something which the teacher whispered. Mary turned her bad ear towards her teacher and pretended to cover her good ear. She knew that teachers would often say things like “The sky is blue,” or “What color are your shoes?” But not on that day, Surely, God put seven words in Mrs. Leonard’s mouth that changed Mary’s life forever. When the “Whisper test” came, Mary heard the words: “I wish you were my little girl.”

In the same way sometimes the words from a father can powerfully set the course of a life. Words from God can pull us out of the pits of fear, despair and shame. God is whispering in your ear right now. “I wish you were my child.”



I have often been accused of being picky with words and I plead guilty as charged. I learned this from Jesus. Four examples come to mind. One is when a Metro Council person asked me how she should introduce me when she was going to ask me to lead a prayer before a community meeting. She asked if I should be called “Reverend McKinney” and I replied “I would prefer to be called ’Joe’”. There is a dear sister in Christ who often calls me “Pastor Joe” and I have repeatedly reminded her that I am not “Pastor Joe” but I am Joe who “pastors” or “shepherds” the flock. Years ago when I taught the Bible at the School of the Bible in Recife, Brasil, I had a young teenage student named Wellington who, when he had a question would always say “’Professor’, what does this verse mean?”. I continually replied, “Please do not call me ‘Professor’ because Jesus said in Matthew 23 ‘The scribes and Pharisees love being called rabbi by others but you are not to be called rabbi. For you have one teacher and you are all brothers.’” Jesus taught against the use of religious titles and I thank God that the Joelton church practices what Jesus preached (usually but not perfectly). I wish I had the courage, when someone telephones asking to speak to the pastor, Jean and Darlene would answer simply “Yes! You may, He will always listen!” I don’t want to come across as a smart aleck. I just want us to practice what Jesus taught. This is referring to our present activity of recognizing more elders and deacons, of course. We will not be giving titles of honor to more people. We are actually just recognizing some men who are caring for and serving the church. This does not require or involve a title or even being recognized, necessarily. If you are caring for people, keep on doing what you are doing. If you are serving others, keep on serving. If you are not caring for or serving others, then start. “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15, 16



THE BEST WORDS are helpful words. They bring forth wisdom (Proverbs 10:31). They promote instruction (Proverbs 16:23). Words of wisdom, and knowledge, and instruction, and good counsel and sound advice are exactly the opposite of words of foolishness, and folly, deceitful flattery, slander and gossip, arguing and strife, profanity and vulgarity, bragging and boasting, talking too much, lying and exaggeration and perversity, and ignorance. A pretty good rule of thumb to follow is to ask ourselves this question before we speak. Are the words I’m about to say going to be helpful to somebody else?

Good words are going to be few. Proverbs 10:19, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”

Helpful words are going to be calm words. Sometimes people speak with very inflammatory types of language. And maybe they speak with a lot of volume that displays anger, bitterness, and tempers begin to flare, and people say things that really they wish they hadn’t said once things cool down, and the writer of Proverbs, the wise man Solomon said, “Words at their best are words that are calm.” Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Words at their best are encouraging words. Proverbs 12:25, “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 16:24, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 25:11, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Those are encouraging words you see.

There are enough discouraging words in the world. There are enough people who are trying to tear others down, what folks really need is encouragement. Mark Twain said, “I can live up to two weeks on a compliment.” Let’s try to polish and hone that skill of encouraging and helping others with our good words.

How do we learn to speak encouraging words instead of discouraging words? Jesus said that a person speaks out of the abundance of his heart so the first step is to pray, “Create in me a pure heart O God, Let me be like You in all my ways.”

Proverbs, chapter 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”


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