Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Power of Cause and Effect

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Mary Kassian reminds us that our words come from our hearts.

Mary Kassian: You need to look under the surface of your words to examine the attitudes and deep beliefs in your heart. If you notice that your words are snarky, malicious, critical, biting, or sarcastic, take some time to pull up that foul plant and examine the roots and the soil underneath.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, January 21, 2015. 

Nancy: We read in Scripture that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Mary Kassian is going to expand on that important truth today. She'll help us identify what our words say about our hearts.

My friend, Mary, is a wife, she's a mom, she's a speaker and an author who lives in Canada. She and I have been hard at work on a new resource that will be coming out in a couple of months called True Woman 201: Interior Design. I look forward to telling you more about that in the weeks ahead.

But for now, let's get back to our guest teacher, Mary Kassian, in a series called "Conversation Peace."

Mary Kassian: Farmer He lives in a brick and tile home surrounded by lush, green rice fields in China's tranquil countryside. What can't be seen and what's difficult to fathom, are the heavy metals polluting the soil under his farm. Shangba, the village where Mr. He lives was nicknamed China's "Village of Death." It's one of hundreds of "Cancer Villages"—small Chinese communities situated near industrial, chemical or pharmaceutical plants and factories where cancer rates have soared.

The presumed source of pollution affecting Shangba is the Daboashan Mine, which is located ten miles upstream from Farmer He's farm. The mine was once Asia's largest source of copper and zinc. During rainy season, rust-colored water from the mine's tailing pond rushes over a dam, into the river, and onto the fields. As a result, cropland in Shangba is heavily polluted. The crops contain dangerous levels of copper, zinc, cadmium, lead, and arsenic.

Mr. and Mrs. He have both been diagnosed with cancer, as has a brother. The He's are worried about the future of their farm and even more worried about the wellbeing of their young daughter, who plays out in the fields and eats its produce every day.

The quality of the soil impacts the quality of the produce. If the soil is contaminated, the produce will be contaminated. There's a cause and effect relationship between the two. It's the same way with our words. The quality of the words we speak is connected to the quality of that which lies in our hearts.

We're on part two of a series on "The Power of Transformed Speech." In the first program we learned about the "Power of Navigation." Like the rudder on a ship, your tongue is a steering mechanism. How you use it determines where your relationships will end up.

Today, we're going to talk about the "Power of Cause and Effect." The power of cause and effect indicates that problems with our mouths originate in our hearts. We see this clearly in a conversation Jesus had with the Pharisees. Let me read from Matthew chapter 15: "Then Pharisees and scribes came from Jerusalem to Jesus and asked, 'Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they don't wash their hands when they eat!'" (Matt. 15:1–2 HCSB)

The Pharisees, a Jewish sect noted for their strict interpretation and observance of religious law, were religious perfectionists. They had all sorts of rules about what was and wasn't acceptable behavior. One of their rules was that people had to ritually clean their hands before they ate a meal, otherwise they would be spiritually defiled.

Lots of you moms have that rule with your kids—you have to wash your hands. These Pharisees had defined the process, and they were specific about what had to happen. You had to use a volume of one-and-a-half egg's worth of water; you had to hold your hands in just the right posture, and let the water flow in the right direction. Your cleanliness and your spirituality depended upon perfect attention to detail.

The Pharisees were curious, "Jesus, why don't Your disciples follow these cleanliness rules?" What was the big argument about cleanliness? Didn't Jesus think it was important to wash His hands before eating? Didn't He know that germs from your hands could get on your food and cause severe illness?

In Jesus's mind, and in the mind of the Pharisees, the issue at stake was much larger than bacteria. To understand what it was, we need to understand the biblical significance of "clean" and "unclean." The Greek word for unclean comes from the word "common"—meaning "something that is unhindered in contact and exposure." Clean, on the other hand refers to something that's been "purified, set apart, and devoted." To the Jews, "clean" meant holy and set apart for God. The unclean was common. The clean was special.

It's like the difference between the plates you put on the table every day and your antique bone china. The fine china is reserved. It's set apart; it's not for indiscriminate use. Jews in an unclean condition were disqualified from worshiping God. They became ceremonially unclean if they contacted mildew, infection, disease, death, blood, or bodily discharge of any type. An individual who had become defiled in this way could be restored to a proper, clean condition through the specified washing and the offering of sacrifices.

For Jews, adhering to cleanliness rules was an expression of devotion to God. By symbolically making themselves holy and clean, they were able to approach a holy God and enjoy a relationship with Him. If cleanliness symbolized holiness, why wasn't Jesus happy with the Pharisees' hand-washing standards? Let's look back at Matthew 15:10:

Summoning the crowd, [Jesus] told them, "Listen and understand: It's not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man." . . . Then Peter replied to him, "Explain this to us."
"Are even you still lacking in understanding?" [Jesus] asked. "Don't you realize that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is eliminated? But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a man. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man, but eating with unwashed hands does not defile a man" (Matt. 15:10, 15–20 HCSB).

In being obsessed with external washing, the religious leaders had totally missed the point. They had confused external cleanliness with internal purity of heart. The Pharisees were only concerned that things looked good on the outside—that their actions and words appeared proper to onlookers. The problem was, they were so careful to clean up the outside to look good but the inside of their hearts was still full of sin.

Jesus taught that for things to be right on the outside, they must first be right on the inside. According to Jesus, we can do the right things and say the right things, but if the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts are impure, our words will also be impure, no matter how good they sound.

Jesus had taken the Pharisees to task about this issue before. Just a few chapters back, in Matthew 12:33–37 He confronted them by saying:

Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! [He's calling them snakes!] How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. A good man produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil man produces evil things from his storeroom of evil. I tell you [and this is very sobering] that on the Day of Judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. 

Here again you can see the cause and effect relationship at work. The mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. What's seen is connected to the unseen. So in order to improve our words, we need to improve what's in our hearts. There are two basic types of soil that exist in the human heart: The pure, healthy, good soil of truth; and the evil, tainted, infected soil of deceit.

One fosters goodness, wholeness, connection, healing and spiritual life. The other fosters brokenness, isolation, pain, spiritual separation and death.

Deceit is a condition of the heart that occurs whenever God's truth is concealed, perverted, or denied. A deceitful heart fails to acknowledge God:

  • It doesn't believe God's words.
  • It doesn't value God's ways.
  • It doesn't think God's thoughts

Our hearts are deceived whenever we believe something that is out of line with God's truth. When we become followers of Jesus, we take a step of faith to believe that God is the source of truth. And we receive the gift of His Holy Spirit to help us understand Scripture and guide us into truth. It's like He gives us a big deposit of good soil with which to landscape our hearts. For the rest of our lives, we cooperate with Him in the process of replacing the old tainted soil in our hearts with the good soil He's provided.

The Bible clearly indicates the soil of deceit is responsible for the evil that shows up in our words. Deceit allows evil in all its various forms such as envy, pride, malice, and bitterness to take root in our hearts. These attitudes and thoughts then sprout into negative, hurtful words. Think of it this way: Your words and behavior are like the leaves and fruit of a plant. They're above the surface and can be observed. People can hear your words and the tone and volume of your voice; they can observe your facial expressions, posture, and other body language.

For instance, maybe you just snarked at a coworker, saying something like, "Way to go Einstein!" The coworker hears your words and the tone of your voice. He notices you sneer and roll your eyeballs . . . and he concludes that you're mocking him. But he knows there's more to the message than he can see.

A plant is connected to an unseen root. If we tug at the plant, we can usually reveal a portion or even the entire root. The root of your words is made up of the underlying attitudes and thoughts. The coworker will probably make assumptions about your motives. Maybe he'll conclude that you're just trying to be funny. Or maybe he'll assume that you resent that he got the promotion and you didn't.

But the truth is, he can't look into your heart. Unless you tell him, he doesn't know the root that lies under your words. Maybe your dog died this morning and your words are masking your grief. Maybe you had a run-in with your husband and are feeling frustrated. Maybe you're feeling insecure or jealous.

So there's the top of the plant—the observable message. Then there are the roots—the attitudes and feelings that lie under the surface. But there's a third factor that affects the health of the plant, and it is the most important factor—the soil. The soil is your deepest beliefs and values. It's the foundation of everything you say and do. It either encourages or prevents certain attitudes and thoughts from taking root in your life. According to the Bible, the quality of your speech will depend upon the type of soil your words are anchored in.

If you were to examine the root of your snarky comment toward your coworker, you may find that the root is jealousy. That jealousy is planted in the faulty belief that you're better than other people and that God owes you because you've been so good. You can pull out the weed of snarkiness, but unless you dig out that false belief, unless you get rid of that tainted soil in your heart and replace it with truth, more and more snarky weeds will just keep popping up in your speech garden.

Whenever we speak or act, all three of these factors are at work: Words and behavior are connected to the attitudes and thoughts that are rooted in the deepest beliefs and values of our hearts. Let me say that again: "Words and behavior (the leaves/fruit) are connected to the attitudes and thoughts (the roots) that are rooted in the deepest beliefs and values of our hearts (the soil)." Jesus said, "It's out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks." So if you truly want to improve your words, you have to do the work to dig the tainted soil out of your heart.

It reminds me of the fairy rings we had in our front yard. Have you ever seen a fairy ring? Fairy rings are circles or arcs found in open grassy places and in forests. The circle is composed of dark green grass, mushrooms, puffballs or brown, dead grass. Fairy rings were once believed to be the tracks of elves dancing circles on moonlit lawns. The rings appear, and they are darker than the rest of the lawn. They actually appear when fungal spores infect the soil.

The fungus releases nitrogen, which at first makes the grass green. Then the fungus uses up all of the nutrients in the soil and blocks water from reaching the roots of the grass. Without the nutrients and moisture of healthy soil, the grass dies. My husband, Brent, was on a crusade for several years because there were two fairy rings in the front of our yard. They're difficult to get rid of. Fungicides don't work. The only way to get rid of them is to dig them out and this is a challenge because it's hard to determine the boundaries of the infected soil.

You need to dig deep and at least a foot-and-a-half on either side of the ring. If you miss digging out any of the infected soil the ring will re-grow. If you spill any of the infected soil on your lawn, you'll get another fairy ring.

But this year, after several years of battle, we were gratified to see that there were no fairy rings on our lawn when the snow melted. We solved the problem . . . at least for this year. Even though we're now rid of them, there's a good chance that we'll be battling fairy rings again. That is because the neighbors around us also have fairy rings. The tainted soil from their yards can be carried over from an animal or a kid and infect ours again. It's the same way with our hearts. We're not unaffected by the deceit all around us. Just when we've gotten rid of one ring of infected soil in our hearts, another one can pop up.

The problem with communication books and courses is that they work on changing people's words and speech patterns without changing the bad attitudes and faulty beliefs that lie in their hearts. Changing your words can certainly influence your attitudes and beliefs, but the most profound change that will happen in your speech will happen from the bottom up, from the inside out. Until the polluted soil in your heart is cleaned out, changing your words just surface-dresses the problem.

So where do you start? If you want to harness the Power of Cause and Effect and see your speech transformed, you need to look under the surface of your words to examine the attitudes and deep beliefs in your heart. If you notice that your words are snarky, malicious, critical, biting, or sarcastic, take some time to pull up that foul plant and examine the roots and the soil underneath.

Ask the Lord to give you insight. Ask Him to point out any areas where your attitudes and thoughts do not line up with His standard. And then dig out that tainted soil of deceit through confession and repentance. That's the way that we deal with deceit in our hearts. That's how God wants you to start working on your speech issues.

On those issues where you hurt others, you say something nasty to your husband? Pull on that plant. Where is that coming from? Is that because I have expectations? Is it because there is bitterness there? Is that because I have the belief that I have the right to be his judge or to stand in judgment of him?

You need to examine the things in your heart to see whether or not they are in line with God's truth. Aren't you glad that God has given us His standard of truth in the Word of God? We have Scripture to be our guide. We have Scripture to teach us what is truth so that we can begin to walk in it.

Let's take a moment right now to pray. Heavenly Father, I pray that You will begin to reveal to us the things in our hearts at a very deep level that are not right—those lies that we hang on to, those lies that we believe. Father, I pray that You will begin to show us where what we believe is not in line with what You say we ought to believe.

The Psalmist prayed, "Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth" (Ps. 86:11 NIV84). We pray that, O Lord. We pray that You will teach us Your way. Teach us Your truth. Give us an undivided heart, that we may fear Your name. We pray this in the mighty and powerful name of Jesus, amen.

So ladies, you have your assignment. When you go back into your homes, and you notice something coming out of your mouth that is not what it ought to be, make sure you dig under the surface, examine where it is coming from, and dig out that tainted soil in your heart.

Nancy: That's such an important reminder from my friend, Mary Kassian. Mary is our guest teacher on Revive Our Hearts this week. She'll be right back to follow up on today's message. It's part of a series called "Conversation Peace." Mary has written a Bible study workbook by that same title. I'll hope you'll go deeper into this topic. 

All of us use words all the time. This study will help you examine what the Bible has to say about your words. It will help you dig into that soil, examine your heart out of which those words flow. We'd like to send you this workbook, Conversation Peace, when you support Revive Our Hearts with a financial gift of any amount. This ministry couldn't exist without those kinds of gifts from listeners like you.

When you choose to get your copy of the book from Revive Our Hearts versus another retailer, you're helping this program continue. That means you are helping to call women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ all around the world.

Just ask for a copy of Mary's workbook, Conversation Peace, when you call with a gift of any size. The number to call is 1–800–569–5959, or visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Mary Kassian will be back with us tomorrow. You know, it's not enough to remove hurtful speech. We need to replace those words with something else. Mary will show us how to do that tomorrow.

Now, to close today's program, some of the women in our audience are talking with Mary about how the Lord has been speaking to them through this teaching.

Women #1: I have a fourteen-year-old son who is coming through the testing zone, and we home school. It has been a real challenge in dealing with relationship and in speaking with him. So many of the things you said today are the cry of my heart to the Lord—that He would help me to do a better job. This has just been amazing in giving me inspiration.

I appreciate the way you have encouraged us to look inside our hearts, not look at the outside or what we are saying, but why we are saying them. And then to find out from the Lord what is going on inside of us. I think it is easy to look at the situation and blame other people or the situation and not really find out what's going on inside of my heart. So thank you for that challenge and encouragement.

Woman #2: I echo that because Sunday I had an issue—and it's always on Sunday morning when you are supposed to be on your best behavior.

Mary: It's usually on your way to church.

Woman #2: No, this is at church.

Mary: Even better (laughter).

Woman #2: You realize you've done something wrong or said something wrong. Then all week you are processing it. I immediately said that I was in the wrong, but it's like, "Okay, Lord, I know I've done that. Now, how do I repair once I've done that? That I'm hoping you are going to address also.

Mary: I think humility is one of the biggest steps—just humbly admitting that you are wrong. I know with my children, I had to just admit my sinful heart. I think that as we do that honestly and openly, and we'll be talking about laying some tracks in our next session and how to rebuild some of those things.

Woman #3: Going back to the whole concept of the soil of where our words actually do come from, one verse that God has shown me over the past month and I've been thinking about is Psalm 19:14. It says, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight."

I always think, we're very familiar with "the words of my mouth," but I haven't focused so much on the whole concept of what about the meditation of my heart. This goes back to the soil. That's powerful to me.

Woman #4: One of the things that really struck me was in the second session you talked about words and behaviors being connected. When I think about that, I also think about our thought life, which goes back to, if we are not in the Word and our thoughts are not where they need to be, then our behaviors aren't where they need to be. Then we fight the battle of deceit all around us. We live in a self-focused world where the world around us is telling us that it's all about us. It promotes that concept of pride.

So unless we are in truth on a regular basis, it's almost like a domino effect. I think for me, I can say, when I'm not where I need to be spiritually, all of those dominoes start to fall. I can see that pattern.

Mary: The heart that isn't focused on truth but is focused on deceit, then the wrong kind of attitudes start to take root, and then the wrong kind of words start popping out of our mouths.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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