Words Matter - The Crosswalk Devotional - July 7
By Rev. Kyle Norman
"Open my lips, LORD, and my mouth will declare your praise." (Psalm 51:15)
Each morning begins the same. I rise from my bed and stumble into to the kitchen to brew my morning coffee. I pass my phone, my computer, and the television. Normally, I am the only person awake, so all is silent. After the coffee (and my energy) begins percolating, I go to my office, close the door, and begin my time of morning prayer. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and begin, “Lord, open our lips, and our mouths shall show forth thy praise.” I say this verse slowly, but audibly.
There is something profound about beginning the day with such a declaration. I find it significant that the first words out my mouth are addressed to the Lord. This small act of humble praise sets the course of the day. Praying that God “open my lips’ reminds me that my voice matters. As a follower of Jesus, I am called to use my voice in a certain way. Will I use my words for praise, for adoration, for blessing? Or will the words of my mouth flow in an opposite direction?
Scripture has a lot to say about how we speak to one another. As much as we teach children that “sticks and stones my break our bones but words will never hurt us” we know this is not the case. Our words matter. What is more, our words matter to God. Paul exhorted the Ephesians to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up” (Ephesians 4:29). In case they missed the point, Paul repeats himself several verses later, writing “nor should there be any obscenity, foolish talk, or course joking, which are out of place” (5:4). God’s love, poured into our hearts, is to flow from our mouths.
From “do not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16) to “bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14), the Bible continually discloses God’s desire for our words. Our speech is to bear the mark of Christ’s love and grace. When we use vile and degrading language, or tell demeaning jokes and sarcasms, we step out of the Lord’s will for us. What is more, when such unholy speech is directed to another, either in judgement or ridicule, these words become a stumbling block to someone’s acceptance of the gospel. In fact, the book of James states that the failure to keep a rein on our tongues renders our faithful witness worthless (James 1:26). Words matter.
Our mouths should be filled with praise. As Christian people, dedicated to living our lives in the presence of the Spirit, we ought to use our voices for thanksgiving, intercession, and adoration. Of course, opening our mouths in praise is not simply about the words we use. Opening our lips in praise is also about the intention of our hearts. Our praise flow from what lies deep within our soul. It is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). This means that using our voice for praise is more a matter of the heart than the tongue.
Intersecting Faith and Life:
Jesus calls his people to use their words to bless instead of curse. Cursing means to speak words of ridicule or condemnation, words that tear another down. Cursing is the voice of judgement and unlove. To bless, however, is to say something good, to uplift and encourage, to offer words of support and care. To bless another is to follow in the way of Jesus.
How often do we use our voice to say good things? How often do we affirm one’s value, goodness, or belovedness? Saying good things about another isn’t empty positivity, it is a deeply spiritual act by which we verbally pronounce God’s delight for them. Blessing another means we step away from the tendency to criticize, or to nitpick over flaws and imperfections. Instead, we give our voice to the biblical truth that a person is loved, and loveable. How might you use your voice to declare this truth in someone’s life?
As Christian people, devoted to the Lord, we are called to voice our desire for God’s will in our lives. With our mouths we declare our love for Jesus, our dependance upon the Spirit, and our adoration of God Almighty. Doing so brings transformation in our lives. When such declarations are constantly on our lips, the actions of our lives begin to follow suit. So, the next time you wake in the morning, as you wait for your coffee to brew, take a breath, and speak the words that will start your day aright: Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.”
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Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Nora Carol Photography
The Reverend Dr. Kyle Norman is the Rector of St. Paul’s Cathedral, located in Kamloops BC, Canada. He holds a doctorate in Spiritual formation and is a sought-after writer, speaker, and retreat leader. His writing can be found at Christianity.com, crosswalk.com, ibelieve.com, Renovare Canada, and many others. He also maintains his own blog revkylenorman.ca. He has 20 years of pastoral experience, and his ministry focuses on helping people overcome times of spiritual discouragement.