If You Don’t Have Something Nice To Say…

“If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Seems like good advice at first. We certainly don’t want to open our big mouths and say something  we’ll later regret.

In the book War on Words, Paul David Tripp suggests, “Listen to the talk that goes on in your home. How much of it is impatient or unkind? How often are words spoken out of selfishness and personal desire? How easily do outbursts of anger occur?”

Most of us would have to admit we have a lot of room for improvement. It’s true we need to “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you” (Eph. 4:31). That’s a challenge in itself.

But for the Christian, the standard goes even higher. When frustrated or angry, we don’t have the option of just biting our lip and saying nothing.

Paul also gives a positive command regarding our speech in Ephesians 4. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:15). Then down a little further, he says our talk is to be “only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (v. 29).

In communication, step one is to “put off” words that bring harm and destruction. Step two is to “put on” words of edification in their place. Unless you’ve done both, you have not completed the cycle of sanctification. It would be like hitting a baseball, running to second base, then just walking back to the dugout instead of continuing on to home plate.

Being slow to speak is a sign of wisdom (James 1:19). But how can you then “put on” words that will build others up? Here are five ways you can start today…

  • Learn to say “thanks” for little acts of service or kindness. There’s always something we can be thankful for.
  • Instead of being nit picky, find ways to commend a person’s character, their beauty, their gifts, and a  job well done.
  • Ask questions with a sincere desire to know others better and to serve them.
  • Be willing to ask for help or advice. It’s one of the best ways we can say, “You are important. Your opinion matters to me.”
  • Look for ways to talk about Scripture – what you’ve been learning, what you’ve been reading, and what issues you’d like to understand better.

In light of Ephesians 4, I propose a new motto. “If you don’t have something nice to say, keep thinking until you have something nice to say. Then say it!”

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Photo credit: Rebecca Barray

Under New Management

Struggling with a bad habit? Maybe it’s alcohol, or gambling, or pornography, or an out-of-control temper.

Many professing Christians assume that having been saved, the battle with sin is now over. Sure, they try to avoid a few “really bad” sins. But exempt from eternal punishment, they are pretty much free to live however they want.

This is a serious misunderstanding of God’s grace, leading to many bad habits. It gives Satan a foothold into our lives and lets sin ascend back onto the throne of our hearts.

In our latest podcast, we learn from Romans 6:12-19 that salvation is not so much a declaration of independence (allowing us to live however we want) as it is a transfer of ownership (from the bondage of sin to the righteous rule of Christ). Only when we view ourselves as slaves of Christ will we be able to overcome the bondage of sin.

Click here to listen, or you can use the media player below:

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Dead to Sin

Christians will continue battling the presence of sin until our future glorification. We are not, however, any longer under the power of sin. In our latest podcast, we look at Romans 6:1-11 and learn how our new identity in Christ gives us victory over temptation. Click here to listen, or you can use the media player below:

To subscribe to our weekly podcast , you can use this link. And be sure to rate our channel in the iTunes Store to help spread the word!


If you’re a subscriber to my blog, you probably received a deluge of emails into your inbox the past couple days. Please accept my apologies!

Last week, I inadvertently *deleted* my blog account. That’s right. I deleted it. How, you may ask, did I manage to do that? Well, it’s sort of a long story, but a couple years ago, I changed my blog address from PassTheCloak.com to PinchOfClay.com. When the previous blog expired recently, I just let it cancel out. What I didn’t realize is that my current blog was a secondary account still attached to PassTheCloak.

When my old blog cancelled, the other cancelled with it. As soon as I discovered my mistake, I bought back the domain PinchOfClay and changed it my primary account. As it turned out, this actually made matters work. It created a database conflict and caused me to lose my entire archive of old blog posts. That’s over ten years of work and 700 posts, suddenly vanished into cyber oblivion.

I spent an hour on the phone with Bluehost Thursday night, but we were not able to restore any backups. Thankfully, I did discover a workaround export from an old WordPress blog of mine. The remaining posts from 2015-2017 I have to add manually from individual blog post emails I received and filed away. It is a slow, time-consuming process, but I am gradually getting my blog back up and running. The main downside is that as I post old articles, they appear in your email inbox as a new posting.

So, please bear with me as I continue to get my blog back in order. Moral of the story is, always backup your work regularly, and never delete a self-hosted blog unless you make absolutely sure all the content has been saved!

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds via Flikr

Who Will Represent You in the Heavenly Court?

“The defendant doesn’t stand a chance,” I thought. He sat nervously in the courtroom, on trial for drug possession and distribution. I was there for jury duty – that civic practice no one likes, but everyone is thankful for.

I’d never met the defendant. I didn’t know any details of the case. We were still early in the jury selection process, and if chosen, I’d do everything in my power to view him “innocent until proven guilty,” ignoring first impressions and letting facts speak for themselves.

Still, I had my doubts. You see, the defendant had declined a court-appointed attorney. Instead, he opted to represent himself. His suit was two sizes too large. His questions to potential jurors were awkward and choppy. I felt almost embarrassed for him. Meanwhile, the prosecutor was confident and sharply dressed – a District Attorney well versed in legalese and courtroom etiquette.

Sitting in court that day, I was reminded of another trial coming. The Bible says, “God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). This time, heaven will be the courtroom. God will sit on the bench as Judge and jury. We will be the defendants. God promises to weigh not only our visible behavior and religious expressions, but every secret thought and deed.

Let’s be honest. We don’t stand a chance defending ourselves against an all-knowing, all-seeing, perfectly righteous God. We will each stand guilty before him. There will be nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no excuses or alibis to withstand his scrutiny.

Thankfully, there is a skilled defense attorney standing by who can take our punishment and make us innocent. 1 John 2:1-2 tells us, “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

That word “advocate” speaks of a defense attorney. Jesus is willing to speak on your behalf, and intercede to God for you! Have you ever admitted you are guilty and need a defense attorney? Or are you seriously planning to represent yourself on judgment day? (Which would be a dismal failure.) Jesus alone “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

As it turned out, I wasn’t selected for jury that day, and I never heard the results of the drug dealing case. I pray that whatever the outcome, justice was done. But I’m also thankful to have an advocate named Jesus Christ who will represent me in the heavenly courtroom. He’s the best lawyer in the business and has never lost a case. If you haven’t yet sought him out, I encourage you to do so today. You never know when the trial will begin.

(This article first appeared in today’s edition of our local newspaper, the Hi Desert Star.)

Photo credit: Hope Media Stock Photography

The blog of Stephen Jones