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May 9

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

My title today is Speak Against or Speak For.

Have you noticed how easy it is to speak against someone? You’ve been done wrong. You’ve been attacked. You’ve been misrepresented. You’ve taken it on the chin. What to do? What to say?

I found an interesting tidbit today as I read in I Samuel 21.  First, the backdrop (I read it yesterday). Saul had threatened to kill David. Jonathan warned him by shooting arrows. David and Jonathan had made a covenant with each other and that covenant came into play here. David fled. Saul found out what Jonathan had done and 20:30-34 records the exchange. Saul called Jonathan a “son of perverse, rebellious woman” (wonder what that translates to in 2019?). He ends up throwing a spear at Jonathan. So much for fatherly love!!

Now to Chapter 21. David and his men are hungry so they go to Ahimelech, the priest, and ask for something to eat. The only thing there is the bread from the Table of Shewbread. But what interested me was David’s conversation with Ahimelech. Twice David would not speak against Saul.

First, David tells Ahimelech “The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.'” [21:2] Second, David needed a weapon. No man of war leaves without his weapon but when asked where his was David said, “…because the king’s business required haste.” [21:8]

Twice David had the opportunity to speak against Saul but he didn’t. The backstory tells us why David fled. But instead of railing against Saul and seeking Abimelech’s sympathy and support, David covered over the real reason. He refused to speak against the king.

This is not a devotion on “Touch not the Lord’s anointed” and how we ought not say anything against the pastor. That is a bunch of nonsense. I have yet to meet one who is infallible. This is a devotion on how it is sometimes better to keep our mouth shut than to say anything against someone-friend or foe. Very often the best defense is that which is not said. Let me round it off with this verse from Psalm 49:20: “Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.” I’m inclined to believe we need to come down off our high-and-mighty judge’s chair and just keep quiet.  Let’s choose our words we say about others or for others wisely.

“Father, put a guard on my lips. Put a door over my mouth. In other words, help me to put a lid on it.If I don’t have something good to say, help me not to say it.”

March 26

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

My title is “They say” vs. “I say”

I had already been planning to do a devotion this week on “They say vs I say” or (more truthfully) “They are saying vs It’s really only one or two” but wasn’t sure when, until I read these verses this morning: “As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body. Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel are fervent lips with an evil heart.” Pr.26:21-23

Have you ever fallen victim to the “they say” phrase? Not us vs them, but the lying death knell of “they are saying.” I have. I have sat in meetings and watched my ministry end because of the barrage of “they say” or “I have heard’s.”  Understand, “they” is supposed to be the collective voice of the people. You know, there are so many who want you out of here…Most often it might be one or two making the rounds. I even caught some leaders being not quite honest. One said, “I’ve been told” and another saying, “So have I” and a third adding his collusion. Each thinking he had heard another voice when the truth was they had heard, but it was the same voice of the same person making his/her rounds. By then, in their minds, it was too late. Damage done. Tongue wagged.

It’s easy to bolster a claim with the multiple “they” instead of the singular (but risky) “I say.” The former hides behind a mask of plurality (and most often duplicity), while the latter risks exposure because it is siingular. But the latter is so much more honest. And, after all, is honesty in speech not what we are supposed to be after?

This principle also applies in teaching and preaching. It’s not enough to say, “The experts say”  or “The historians say” if I don’t have proof. It is dishonest to act as if I have tons of sources backing up my point when I don’t. It is even more dishonest to say, “They say…” if I’ve not seen anyone who has said.

It behooves me or any follower of Christ to get away from the “they say” or “they have been saying” and start using the “I say” or “We feel” or even better “The Bible says.” Being quarrelsome or a whisperer (gossiper) is strictly condemned in the Word. Proverbs 26:21-23 is proof.

“Father, words can be for good or bad. Misused words can be devastating. Misrepresentative. Outright lying. Forgive me, Father, when I have used the “they say” or “I have been told” approach without truly investigating. Help me not to be part of the ‘glazing’ group.”

March 12-13

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

I took a few days to visit in Ohio but took one morning to go to Panera Bread and do some reading and journaling. This is a combination of both Monday and Tuesday.

I’m calling this Spoken Words vs Unspoken Words.

It seems, at least to me, that we are a nation of spoken words. What I mean by that is that it is hard for us (for me) to keep my mouth shut. It’s almost like I/we are afraid of dead air. Tragically, when words are spoken it is more often than not words better left unsaid. A couple of Proverbs I’ve read recently are reminding me of the wisdom and prudence of keeping quiet, or at least of measuring my words before I speak.

“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” Pr.11:12

It seems to me there is a lot of cynicism and sarcasm in our speech these days. It’s almost like we take delight in putting people “in their place.” To put it another way, we like to make people feel small. Sarcasm seems to be our sword of choice. Jab. Jab. Parry. Jab. Jab. Slash. Jab. Slash. Foe defeated.

But is it really a victory when we destroy someone else? I think not. At best, it is a hollow one. How can I consider it a victory when I have sliced and diced a neighbor-a flesh and blood person just me- into mincemeat? How can there be a good feeling in that? I would think that as a follower of Christ that even putting an “enemy” to mush would not further the cause of Christ. That’s not saying we shouldn’t defend our faith, and at times ourselves, but does that mean “crushing” the very soul of another? Again, I think not. I have found if people had their mind made up, sarcasm and slashing, slicing and dicing will not soften their heart but harden them.

Oh yeah, that other Proverb. “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” 12:18

Case closed.

“Father, help me in my choice of words to not choose those that drip with sarcasm but give life. let me not be so intent on ‘winning’ that I kill others so that it really results in a hollow victory. Let me remain silent if that is the result.”  Choose life Bill.

I know this is a little long but it is two days worth of Proverbs reading put into one devotion. Thanks for hanging in there with me while I was gone. 

February 18

Monday, February 18th, 2019

My title today is Wise Silence vs Wise Words.

As a young pastor, I faced a dilemma quite often. I’m ashamed to admit that I failed more than I can count. That dilemma was when to speak up and when to be silent. This was not when certain non-negotiables (Jesus’ divinity, God’s character, etc) were being discussed. I could only wish.

No. The dilemma was knowing when to speak and when to be silent with people of pain. My dilemma came because I thought I had to have an answer. Trouble with children? I have the answer…even though I have only one then 2. That’s sounds fine except theirs were teenagers. Having trouble with alcohol?  With guilt from a death? How could I relate when I’ve never had that pain?

So I faked it. I spouted off religious platitudes. I had answers…but they were hollow. Age, “maturity,” and experience has definitely changed that. I’ve raised two girls now. I’ve lost a mother to cancer. I’ve been estranged from a father who chose to be and died with only his wife around. Want to know about marital struggles? Want to know about distance from God? Want to know about church leadership betrayal? Gotcha covered.

I don’t have to fake those. The pain is real. Something comes alongside me now…credibility. I still find times it is better to be silent. But least now when I choose to speak, I can speak from a pain-touched heart.

“Father, please help me to know when to speak and when to be quiet. Even now with so much more experience, it is easy to speak out of turn. Help me to be careful when I do speak; help me to know when not to speak.”

January 17

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

The 17th chapter of Proverbs (which I read this morning) is an interesting chapter. Lots of references to speech.

Verse 1: “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.”

Verse 4: “An evildoer listens to wicked lips, and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.”

Verse 9: “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separated close friends.”

Verses 27-28: “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”

There are several others as well. I chose the ones which really caught my pen. 🙂 It is verse 9 though that I highlighted in my reading this morning. I’m not alone in this, I know, but how many times have I spread something, that if I had kept quiet, would have died…but didn’t? I don’t think the writer is speaking of justifying someone’s sin; I do believe he was speaking to not passing it along.

I guess the question I need to ask is “Why would I want to?” What kind of sadistic pleasure do I get when/if I pass along what someone else has done? An even more important question is “What good does it do?” I mean, seriously, what good does it do to pass along someone’s dirty laundry?

Answer: N.O.N.E. Nothing good comes out of it. Note to self: Keep. your. mouth. shut!!

“Father, speech is a betrayer. A seemingly upright person can be and is betrayed by his/her speech. Lives are ruined; reputations destroyed; futures derailed all because of wayward speech. Help me to weigh my words; keep my mouth shut. if I have nothing good to say. Help me to be an encourager not a destroyer.”

January 10

Thursday, January 10th, 2019

I’ve had several thoughts running through my head this morning due to my reading. Thoughts from G.C.Morgan on a famine in the land (I’ll come back to that). Thoughts on leadership abuse from authoritarian leadership from 46 Stones by Arthur. Thoughts on slogging through reading Leviticus. But two verses really “spoke to my heart” this morning.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps.19:14) It is funny how this verse stood out to me among the powerhouse chapter in Psalms.

And among many verses in Proverbs 10 about integrity and speech was this: “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”  (v,19)

Several weeks ago I spoke out of school. While talking to someone about why they were attending elsewhere and didn’t say anything to me (we are friends), she told me what someone said to her husband. He took offense. I jumped on his bandwagon and proceeded to say something about the person who said something. it wasn’t too long after I left her that conviction hit. Long story short I texted her and asked to speak to her that afternoon if she was going to be around. I apologized for saying what I did and then defended the other person by suggesting she and her husband give that person “the benefit of the doubt” that that person noticed her husband’s discomfort and tried to help. Often the other person has no filter, but maybe the heart was in the right place this time.

My words in the first incident were ill-timed and not acceptable; the second much more healing and acceptable. I should have restrained my lips better. The only right thing I did was to apologize and try to smooth things over. But how much better it would have been if I had been more prudent and either kept my mouth shut or defended that person the first time.

“Father, guard my speech. Let it be the speech of the wise. May today be one of restraint, wisdom and being acceptable in your sight.”