Speak Life {a link-up}

Welcome to my first blog link-up! Last week, Danielle from This Life I Live and I announced a new link-up to encourage each other to Speak Life {read the intro post here}.

If you've never heard of a blog link-up before {also known as a "blog hop"}, it's a way to connect bloggers and readers writing about a common topic. At the bottom of this post is a tool for you to enter your blog into the link-up, if you've written a post you want to share with everyone. There is also a Speak Life grab button if you want to make it fancy. There's also a few guidelines to help everyone get the most out of this experience as possible. So jump in, share what's on your heart, and read what God is teaching others about speaking life.

For me, one verse that has always struck my heart and made me feel uneasy about my words was Ephesians 4:29.

It's a pretty straight-forward, easy to understand verse. The New Living Translation makes it even more clear: "Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them."

The difficulty in this passage doesn't lie in the interpretation, but in the application - meaning, it's perfectly easy to understand. We're supposed to always say helpful, encouraging words to others. But this is not what our immediate, natural response is in most situations.

Ephesians 4:29 is sandwiched in a passage about how to imitate God as his children. Speaking helpful words of encouragement that give grace to those who hear them is one way to imitate our Father. It's preceded by a command to speak truth {4:29} and followed by another to get rid of anger, bitterness, and gossip {4:31} - all sinful positions of the heart that lead us to use our words for tearing others down.

The difficulty in applying this verse lies in the small moments of life - the passing comments we make that we often don't give much thought to. I don't often go out of my way to intentionally say negative, condemning, or spiteful words to or about other people. But how often do those kinds of words slip into my conversations? More than I'd like to admit. And those comments influence the attitudes of people around us.

One area I see this playing out in my own life is how I respond when my husband tells me about work situations. I have strong opinions about a lot of things, including my husband's job. But often, when he tells me about something frustrating that happened, I respond by criticizing his coworkers, policies, or anything else involved. I don't stop and think, what can I say that will encourage Andrew in this moment? He doesn't need to be told how imperfect certain aspects of his work are. But when I respond with negativity, it influences his attitude towards it. Instead of encouraging him to turn to Jesus and seek the wisdom of Scripture in responding, my words encourage him to dwell on how he has been wronged.

But Ephesians 4:29 calls us to a higher standard. We are to ONLY use words that are helpful, good, and encouraging. We are to NEVER use words that condemn or judge or corrupt.

This is just one example of how easy it is to fail at putting this verse into practice. So what can we do?

First, we need to recognize that our words flow from what is in our hearts. We can't blame our words on an unloving spouse, difficult children, or frustrating life situations. Our problem with words comes from inside us, not outside us. If we feed ourselves pride and judgmental attitudes, that will flow out of us when we speak. Jesus tell us in John 15:4 it's impossible for our lives to bear spiritual fruit outside of him. And that fruit - love, joy, peace, etc. {Gal. 5:22-23} - is what will come out in our words if we are filling ourselves with him.

When we recognize that it's our sinful hearts causing our destructive words, we need to repent and turn to Jesus. We don't need a system of behavior modification or a way of punishing ourselves when we mess up. We need a new heart, and we need a Savior. It's easy to take Ephesians 4:29 out of the context of the Gospel story and think it's just another rule to follow on our own strength to make our lives better. But we can't change the nature of our hearts. Only Jesus can do that.

Luckily, we are not alone in this journey. Jesus promises to give us the Holy Spirit, his constant presence in our lives that will remind us of his words and promises, and enable us to obey him {John 14:26}. And the more time I spend studying God's word and praying it into my life, the more I sense his presence with me throughout my day, guiding me into ways of thinking and speaking that please him, instead of myself.

When Jesus gives us new hearts, words of life can flow out of them to encourage others and point them to Jesus. And he will make the impossible happen - that everything we say will bring life and grace to those who hear us.

Journey Mercies - Speak Life Link-Up

The goal of the link-up is to provide space for followers of Jesus to encourage each other to use our words for life instead of death. 

If you've never joined a blog link-up before, it's simple:

1. Write a post, including a link back to my blog or Danielle's within your post {or repost an old post you've already written}
2. You can even use the image above in your post so it's easy for others to identify that you're joining the link-up! {the grab box is above - just copy the HTML and put it into the HTML of your blog post}
3. Post your link on the InLinkz tool on either my blog or Danielle's {it will go live midnight EST on Wednesday morning, February 5}
4. Comment on at least one other blogger's post - the whole point is to encourage each other, so make sure you check out what others write!

If you're a reader, this will be a great chance to find new blogs to read. You can also follow along on Twitter or Instagram - tag me {@whitconard} or Danielle, or use the hashtag #speaklifelinkup.

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