Truth Telling

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June 11

Friday, June 11th, 2021

It was one of those “WOW!” moments as you read the Bible. It wasn’t one of the earth-shattering or ground-breaking moments. There were no explosions or neon lights. Just a simple, but essential, reveal.

I was reading Proverbs 10. I’m going to write it down for you with emphasis mine as you read:

“Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. The words of the godly are like sterling silver; the heart of a fool is worthless. The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense. The lips of the godly speak helpful words, but the mouth of the wicked speaks perverse words.” (verses 19-21,32)

I’m sure you notice the common thread- OUR WORDS. Elsewhere in Proverbs it says, “Well-spoken words are like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Pr.25:11)

We must not kid ourselves.  Our words carry weight-sometimes more than we would like to think. That careless word. That cutting word. That word spoken in haste. That malicious word. All devastating.

The front part of verse 21 should be our guide: “The words of the godly encourage many.”

Those of us who are Christ-followers should be the encouragers. We ought to be the one who builds people up, not tear them down. Psalm 141:3 should be true of me and of you: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

“Father, may my words build people up, not tear them down. May my words encourage, not discourage. May they bless, not curse. Let Psalm 141:3 be true of me.”

June 10

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

We are forgiven to forgive.

We are given grace to give grace.

Those are just a couple of sayings that we will hear and that ran through my mind this morning.

Tragedy: it is too easy to forget and too often done.

My thoughts were piqued this morning because of the Scripture in Matt.18:23-33.  (I’d like to suggest you stop now and read that passage). However, just in case you are short on time, here is a summary: Jesus tells the story of a man who owed a massive, unpayable debt; begs forgiveness; the debt is cancelled; and he moves on. He moves on to a fellow slave you owes him a small debt-payable over time- who asks for the same grace and forgiveness just offered to the other. The other man refuses to forgive and throws the man in jail. (I’ve always wondered how that will help pay the debt). Anyway, the result was not good.

It is important to remember that the grace I have been given is to be given to others. The massive “forgiveness project” which took place from God to me should stand as an example for me to follow when dealing with others.

Think about this with me for a moment. The best person to reach an addict is a recovering addict. The best one to show forgiveness is the one who has been shown forgiveness.

“Father, help me to learn from Jesus’ parable.  Help me to be the one who shows extraordinary grace and forgiveness to someone else because I have the recipient of that same grace and forgiveness.”

June 7

Monday, June 7th, 2021

I’ll say it right up front: I am not on any social media-but then again, some of you already know of my disdain for it. I’ll go one step further: I don’t miss it. AT. ALL.  (Want me to tell you how I really feel?) 🙂

I read an article recently that was talking about what will keep a church from growing in the coming years. Know what one of them was? A pastor who doesn’t or won’t use social media.  My first reaction was benign- neither here nor there. Then I got upset that whether I am on social media or not will determine whether the church I pastor grows. Say what? Then part of me-a very, very small part- could see his point. Presence breeds an audience. So I left it at that.

I’m still not planning on using social media (except if this blog is considered social media). I’d probably get cancelled anyway since I’m not “woke” enough.  (Don’t care either). But there is something else which comes into play for me.

I don’t need all the vitriol I hear about and sometimes have read to me, i.e. so-and-so said this, “_________.”  Filling my mind and heart with garbage is not my idea of fun.

What prompted my thoughts this morning? Try reading Colossians 4:5-6 and not feeling the same way. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (NASB 2020)

The NLT has an interesting take on that passage: “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

Frankly, I don’t trust myself. People spout off the whole BLM/CRT mumbo jumbo and my blood begins to simmer. To see a “woke” culture cancel everyone who doesn’t toe the party line and spiel their putrid garbage fries me. To see blatant hypocrisy and lies only gets my dander up. What hurts even more is to see and hear about the anger and the hate and the vitriol and strong, sometimes vulgar language, and lack of love words come out of people I know makes we want to shout, “No! This is not the way! This is not the Jesus way!”

So, you see…I don’t trust myself to practice Col. 4:5-6 (no matter what translation you read it in). Better to avoid than to wallow in the slime.

“Father, may my conversation always glorify You. May it always be “with grace and seasoned with salt.” May my words be those of healing and encouragement.”

 

June 4

Friday, June 4th, 2021

FOCUS. REMOVE. PUT ON. REPRESENT.

I read Colossians 3 this morning. That is how my mind worked and wrapped itself around my reading. In fact, it went into “preacher mode” (unfortunately) and actually did an alliteration. 🙂  I’ll share that with you at the end of this devotion.

FOCUSVerses 1-2

  • Seek the things that are above
  • Set your mind on things that are above

REMOVEVerses 5-9

The focused life-the one centered on Jesus- needs to be cleaned. Old garbage needs to go. Removed. Deleted actually. Killed. Buried. For good.  The list is very inclusive of what needs to be removed. It really brings to light the sins which lurk within.

PUT ON Verses 10-16

The old is removed-stripped off-and put to death. It needs to be replaced with clothes worth wearing. One wouldn’t strip of dirty work clothes, shower, then put those-or dirtier-clothes back on. No. New ones. Clean ones. Fresh-smelling ones. That is what the new nature calls for.  This list includes the gifts of the Spirit; the importance of forgiveness; and the exceptional quality of love. (I Cor.13 sure needs to be read at this point). The message overwhelms us, changes us, challenges us, makes us different so we can…

REPRESENT Verse 17

All of the stripping away and renewal (re-clothing) comes with a purpose-to represent Jesus in all things. That’s why it is so essential that the order be followed: Focus. Remove. Put On. Represent. 

And now for my “preacher mode” which likes alliteration: Rivetted. Remove. Re-clothe. Represent.

“Father, may I represent You clearly. No questions. No cause for sideways glances. No questioning eyes. Focus me. Strip me. Re-clothe me. Let me be a good representative of You.”

June 1

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021

Responsibility.

That word carries a lot of weight. What does it conjure up in your mind?

A husband/father who feels the weight of providing for, taking care of and protecting his family,

A teenager’s maiden (and each subsequent) voyage in his/her dad’s car.

Dad/mom/teen reporting to work on time each day and giving a full day’s work while on the job.

Daily chores. Taking care of animals. Cleaning the house. No age limit on that.

Here is one I have: “God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you.” Col.2:25-27 (NLT)

Such a weight! To know that the great responsibility I have is to take the message of the Gospel and give it to the people God has entrusted to me.  Admittedly, sometimes I feel like Frodo carrying the ring-the ring is too heavy to bear. But to see a face light up; to see someone grasp the truth of the message; to see acceptance of that Good News as it sinks in, is worth it all.

Even if I need a SamWise to carry me for awhile.

“Father, the responsibility is there. May I be faithful to carry out that responsibility.”

May 27

Thursday, May 27th, 2021

I’ve been reading a book called Beauty in the Browns by Paul Asay. Paul is a writer for Focus on the Family and other venues. Short story: it is about walking with Christ in the darkness of depression. Mr. Asay has been brutally honest in his person memoir on his struggle with depression.

I have no plans to go any deeper right now. What I want to focus on is one of the three key elements that brought him out of his depression.  Time. Love. Action. Those are the three key elements. My focus is on the second: Love.

Hardly a person alive-one who know the Bible or one who doesn’t-has not had some exposure to John 3:16: “For God so loved the world…”  That verse sums up the essence of Christianity. Think this through with me please:

  • We didn’t deserve it.
  • We didn’t deserve the gift of life and salvation.
  • He loved us, not because we were lovely, but because we weren’t.
  • He loves us not because we had and have it all together. We could say He loves us because we didn’t. To use a common phrase: He loved us because we were broken.
  • His love was not dependent on our goodness. It was not dependent on our response.  It was not dependent on us raising our hallelujahs or our hands.

His love is real. His love is sincere. His love is pursuant. (One author once called Him the “Hound of Heaven”).  His love is constant. His love is steadfast. It does not depend on our skills, talents, and dedication. Aren’t you glad?

So this morning I want to challenge you to sit back, relax, and bask in the love of God today. Live in that love.

“Father, may that be my desire today. Help me to just rest in Your love.”

May 17

Monday, May 17th, 2021

I have been slowly reading Paul David Tripp’s book called Leadership. When I say slowly, I mean slowly. It is not one to bust through. I have read a chapter and had to stop. Sometimes for weeks. The latest has probably been a month.  Recently I read the following:

There is no doubt about it: servanthood is the thematic biblical description of every follower of Jesus Christ. How much more, then, is it true of those who are called to be leaders? (p.140)

But then a bit later he wrote this gem:

“Hypercritical theological arrogance is not the fruit of a servant’s heart. Looking for people to troll on Twitter is not what occupies the heart of a servant. Pride of accomplishment contradicts servant humility. Disrespect of the vital gifts of women to the health of the body of Christ fails to mirror the servant heart of Jesus. Treating your church or ministry as if it belong to you denies your servant calling. Resistance in the face of the loving advice, concern, watchfulness, and rebuke of fellow leaders is resistance against your servant position. Exercising your leadership position in a way that is more political than pastoral does not flow from a servant’s heart. Treating staff members as if they are there for you rather than together with you serving the Lord happens when you forget your servant calling. Any dismissive, disrespectful, impatient, angry, bullying behavior is a failure to joyfully embrace the lifestyle of a servant. Ministry leadership conversations that are regularly marked by complaint are the fruit of entitlement, not servanthood. To get mad at little ministry inconveniences when we have been called to follow our Savior in His suffering, demonstrates how easy it is to drift away from what our Master has called us to be and do. ” (pp.141-142)

I know that is a lot to take in.  Now you can see why I wrote about why I’m slowly reading this book. I know many of my readers are not pastors or “people in professional ministry.”  If you have been mistreated, bullied, or taken for granted, I am sorry.  I know I have done just that in the past.  I wish I could do a traveling “forgiveness show” and go back to all the churches and tell them I’m sorry for not being a servant. But I can’t. But I CAN change now.

Perhaps you can as well. Professional or not. We are all servants, not here for ourselves, but for others.

“Father, help me to be a servant. As I struggle with that, help me to change.”

May 7

Friday, May 7th, 2021

I’ve written several times in this Shadow blog about legalism, specifically mine. I was raised in a semi-legalistic church but not in a home that bent that way. It was when I became a young pastor “earning my wings” that seeds were planted that blossomed into what I now see was an assault of peoples’ freedom. I still cringe at my boldness and arrogance. I now see my legalism was a weak attempt to control peoples’ lives because it (so I thought) reflected on my job as a pastor, or it was to make me feel better and draw attention away from myself (and my own sin).

I know it made me feel better. If I could say, “Read my Bible.” Check. “Tithed.” Check. “Don’t drink or smoke or cuss.” Check.

I’m guessing you get the point and where I’m going with it.

Paul wrote, “…they (so-called Christians) sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 2:4-NLT)

They spy on us. What a vivid picture that gives me! Someone or someones who are secretly watching, taking notes, peaking around corners, tailing me. I’m on someone’s hit list.

You see, there will always be those who will try to impose their “religion” on others. But the problem with legalism is that it misses the point altogether. It and they go “beyond what is written” is the way Paul put it. (I Cor. 4:6)

Legalism makes secondary things primary and primary things secondary. It relegates love lower than regulations and performance. That which is first takes a back seat to that which has no business being in the driver’s seat.

I’ve had my share of legalism to last a lifetime and never want to go back. With God’s help and by His grace, I never will.

“Father, that is my prayer today.”

May 6

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

How often have you wished your troubles would go away? How many times have you (and I) said, “Oh, I’m so tired of this mess. I just wish it would all be right. For once.” More than I care to admit.

I’m in the process of reading Surviving Religion 101 by Michael J. Kruger. It is written in the style of a father writing to his daughter at college. (His real life daughter was just beginning her freshman year at UNC in Charlotte).  So the format fits perfectly.

His first chapter address the question: will I survive? I started reading this book because I see and hear and read of so many who are deconstructing their faith, especially those who go off to college. In this first chapter he said something which was so spot on, so insightful, it impacted me enough to write his post. Opposition to our faith comes in various ways. Kruger writes about the effect/importance of/response to opposition.

Here is some of what he wrote:

“In short, opposition  made the early Christians better theologians (My note: he had referenced the Gnostics), better defenders of the faith, and better evangelists.”

“But opposition to your faith will change you in another way. In addition to sharpening your mind, it will hone your character.”

And finally: “Don’t view opposition only in negative terms; view it as an opportunity to grow as a Christian, so that you might be better equipped to build up your fellow believers and reach non-Christians more effectively.”

Nothing wasted. No wasted opportunity to learn. To share. To grow. I believe that is God’s modus operandi.

So…let me ask you: how do you view opposition in your life?

“Father, help me to view opposition not as a negative, but as a positive influence in my life.”

{Note: All quotes are from page 35}

April 27

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

Sometimes the description of the Christian life is one of opposites. Sometimes living the reality of the Christian life is a bundle of opposites. I want to say a paradox but I’m not really sure if that fits. Let me show you what I mean:

“We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”  (2 Cor. 6:3-10)

What I underlined during my Encounter Time this morning are verses 7-10.

I’m reminded of some of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. So many times Jesus says, “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” He was challenging their age old beliefs (legalism) with something totally radical. He took the law even further and gave it more scope.

In the 2 Corinthian passage Paul is saying, “We are…but they say…” That seems to be an outgrowth of being a Christ-follower. First, taking it one step further than it appeared. Second, facing accusations which aren’t true or are embellished to make them look bad. The key is for us, when they say that about us, is to live a life of love (v.12a)

“Father, may my life be consistent with what You want. No matter what people say to tear me down may it be found to be a lie.”