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May 16

Thursday, May 16th, 2024

There are a lot of ways to destroy a church, a business, or even a friendship. Since my job is the pastor of a church, let me focus on that.

First, it is really important to clarify a term. By church I am NOT referring to any physical structures. A physical structure can be destroyed any number of ways (like many around the world are today), but the church can go on…and does. A natural disaster.  A mob bent on destruction. A vengeful act. An act of hatred. Houses of worship can be leveled.

But a more insidious type of destruction is one from within. A wolf in sheep’s clothing can sneak in and spread false teaching. A leader can “ride herd” on a church and bring it to its knees (check out 3 John 9-10 and the story of Diotrephes). There is one type I think that brings more churches to its knees (not in a good way) than just about any other. This verse from Proverbs 16:28 says all that needs said: “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” (NLT)

It’s easy to see. You want to destroy a church? You want to destroy a company? You want to destroy a friendship? Gossip. Be a troublemaker. Or let them go unchecked. Let it go unchecked and watch the dominoes fall. Little by little. Piece by piece. All that will be left is a pile of ashes or rubble. If the enemy can get the people inside bickering, talking smack, spreading poison or something as ugly, he will have found the way to bring the church down. It is the most effective way and he didn’t need a bulldozer to accomplish his feat.

Don’t be part of the problem; be part of the solution. Stop the gossip and the gossiper.

May 13

Monday, May 13th, 2024

Have you ever gotten the feeling that God is trying to teach you something, or, at least, prepare you? I had one of those mornings.

#1- It started off as I read something by Pastor Greg Laurie. In his devotional book, Every Day with Jesus, he wrote:

A tongue controlled by Jesus Christ can be a great blessing. But uncontrolled, it can do much damage. Just as a horse is controlled by a bit, we are controlled by our words. (Week 20-p.115)

#2- The psalmist, David, wrote, “You have tested my thoughts and examined my heart in the night. You have scrutinized me and found nothing wrong. I am determined not to sin in what I say.”  (Ps.17:3)

#3- “Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.” (Pr. 13:3)

The verdict? No coincidence. There is a lesson to be learned. So I say to myself: Learn it. I suggest to you: Learn it. Watch what you say today (or maybe down the road since God may be preparing you for what is to come). No lesson is wasted.

March 13

Wednesday, March 13th, 2024

We have several sayings directed at people who act rashly:

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

“Think before you speak.”  Or a variant of that is “Think before you act.”

Sadly, we are a people of inflamed passions. I’m not speaking of the sexual, although that certainly can be included. I’m actually referring to our emotional state. How often have you seen (or been guilty yourself) of acting or reacting before you have thought out the consequences? You blow someone’s doors off and the collateral damage is huge. I once confronted someone who had a habit of blowing up at people-telling them off in a sense-and then acting like nothing happened. I asked her, “Why do you do that?” “Do what?” “You blow up at people, tell them off, then act as though nothing is wrong, as though all is forgiven and over.” “I tell them so they will know how I feel, then it’s over.” I said, “So is a tornado or hurricane. It unleashes its fury and then moves on, but look at the damage it leaves in its wake.”  I let her think about that for a moment, then left. I’m not sure she ever learned the lesson!

Proverbs 13:16 says, “Wise people think before they act; fools don’t-and even brag about their foolishness.” (NLT)

Don’t be a fool. Think before you speak. Think before you act. Don’t be known as “one of those people.” You know…the kind of person others want to avoid.

January 10

Wednesday, January 10th, 2024

The power of the tongue seems to be a common theme in Proverbs. Probably the most forthright and pointed reference to the tongue in the New Testament is found in James 3. Just a few picked and chosen from 3:1-12. “But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire…it is set on fire by hell itself.  People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison…” If you have access to a Bible, I’d like to encourage you to read James 3:1-12 in its entirety.

Proverbs 10 is full of verses dealing with the tongue. Please get your Bible and read verses 6, 8, 11, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 31, and 32. I highlighted verse 19 this morning: “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.” (NLT)

This hits home. I’m a talker. I’m very social (they call us “extroverts”). And I am. Jo just shakes her head sometimes when I strike up a conversation with a clerk or a total stranger in the store. I love children, especially those as gregarious as me, and Jo has to remind me to be careful who I talk to. Some parents are leery of adults who talk to their children. At the ball fields this past summer, kids I read to in school would come to me and say, “Mr. Bill!” and then want to give me a hug.  (I did group hugs when I was done reading). Some parents stared at me and I had to introduce and explain who I was and how I knew their child. And yes, sometimes I talk too much. Someone said about me that “He assumes a familiarity that is not there.” Guilty as charged.

And sometimes, more so in the past when I was younger and less cautious and disciplined, I said too much. It got me in trouble. You know the old adage, “Open mouth insert foot?” That was written about me. I’ve swallowed a lot of socks in my day. I didn’t always heed Proverbs 10:19 nor did I listen and learn very well from James 3.

Those words on the pages of the Bible are there for a reason. Learn from them. Take it from a recovering talker. Be wise. Keep your mouth shut. You can’t ever regret something you don’t say.

September 5

Tuesday, September 5th, 2023

There is one word-in leadership and in life-that never has and never will go out of style.

That one word? I.N.T.E.G.R.I.T.Y.

Integrity has been defined as “who you are when no one’s looking.” That is a pretty spot on definition but in some ways it is almost incomplete.  I get what the definition is saying. Many people are one way in public and another in private. The “up front” persona picture people see is no where near the “in secret” persona. I’ll let you pursue that thought on your own.

But I also think that saying might be a tad bit short on meaning. Being who we are behind the scenes as we are up front is vital. But…what do people see up front? It is someone worth emulating? Is it someone worth following?

I was reminded of that this morning as I read Titus 2:7-8- “Show yourself in all respects  to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” Do you see the word “model?” Do you see the words “integrity, dignity, and sound speech?” Those are some serious words! And they come with some meaning and challenge. My translation of that verse is “Live in such a way that when someone says something bad about you people will know they are lying.”

I thought of the Apostle Peter’s words in I Peter 3:16-17- “Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

Integrity means being who we say we are-in private and in public.

August 17

Thursday, August 17th, 2023

“Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9 (ESV)

While many are quick to condemn lying, stealing, adultery, idolatry, homosexuality-you know…the so-called “big sins”- a pass is often given to another devastating and life-ruining sin: GOSSIP. I’m thinking more lives have been ruined by gossip than possibly all the others combined.

No, I’m not downgrading the severity of the so-called “big sins” in relation to a soul, but gossip is carried on regularly with seemingly no guilt.

The proverb above can be looked at two ways. One, it could involve me and another person. If someone does something to me, I could either choose to love and forgive, or spread to others what has been done. That other person and I will likely never again be close friends (if friends at all). 

Or two, I could be a witness to someone being hurt and spread the event with my tainted opinion. Again, instead of being one who helps others reconcile, I become the one who splits them.

James tells us the tongue is “a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8) We can talk about swearing and cursing, but gossip may be the cruelest of all.

Go by this: if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all. Keep the gossip to yourself.

July 13

Thursday, July 13th, 2023

INFLUENCE.  Someone has said, “Leadership is influence.” That is a big word which goes both ways. I Corinthians 15:33 says, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” That is true so I hope and pray that when people are around me I encourage them. I lift them up. I influence them for the good. Ultimately, I want them to consider Jesus-a follower of Him or not.

But sometimes it is the other way around and it comes when I least expect it. Yesterday was a perfect example.

At lunch time I met with a young man whom I have known for a little over 6 years. I met him and his young family when they returned from a traumatic time in South Sudan where they had served as missionaries. Their experience, while it had its good points, was very draining. Spiritually. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically. God, in His marvelous way and plan has brought healing. Next week he, his wife, and now three children (it was one when they came home), are heading to Nairobi, Kenya as missionaries. They are going to encourage other missionaries who are in the place they were. Their home will be a sanctuary for recovery and rest. His heart for God and for other missionaries shows God’s power in healing their hearts. I came away encouraged.

Then last night Jo and I took a young family (a young couple and their three children (5, 3, and a newborn) to the Mexican restaurant for a meal away from home. We figured they could use it. 🙂  (And I never heard Jo complain about eating out…ever).  They are a wonderful couple/family, obviously in love, and have two delightful children and one who I’m sure will be loved, smothered, and nurtured by mom and dad and big brother and big sister. Jo went away saying, “I like them. They are so real and down to earth.” I agree. She also said she never heard the husband talk so much. 🙂

It did my heart good to be influenced. As a pastor, I am the one who is usually expected to influence and encourage. And I tried to do so in both conversations. But it was also good to be encouraged by simple conversations and shared lives.

So let me ask you: who and how have you influenced people lately?

June 26

Monday, June 26th, 2023

This morning I read 2 different items that impacted me. They are related by subject (words) but not really in content. However, since they do have to do with our words I wanted to share them together.

The first is found in Proverbs 26:22- “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.”

That verse is pretty easy to understand. Many register (and express) shock with a harrumph and a cluck-cluck of the tongue when they hear of someone committing a “big sin,” i.e. adultery, theft, murder, or the like. But gossip gets a pass. Much is made of a divorce and remarriage, but little is said about the gossip which fanned the flames of rumor and rancor. You know the kind I am talking about.

The second item I read was from a devotion book I’m reading called Homespun Devotions-Vol. 1 by my blogging friend, Cheryl E. Smith. Cheryl wrote about an encounter she had in a store which tested her. She was writing about how she misrepresented the name of her family, but most importantly, her Savior in an exchange with a clerk (“A Good Name”-Pp.55-57).

Words spoken out of haste, anger, and misunderstanding escalated between her and the store clerk. Fortunately, she was open to the Spirit’s leading in her heart. She sensed His check; apologized to the clerk; defused the situation; then apologized to her son who witnessed his mom’s behavior. Now…it would be easy to say, “The clerk was obnoxious” or “It had been a long day and I was tired and not in the mood for her attitude,” but that really isn’t the issue. Defusing the situation by listening to the Spirit’s inner prompting, and saying, “I’m sorry” is the way of the Christ-follower.

Two examples of the wrong use of words. Makes me wonder about the times I have spoken out of turn; spoken ill of someone; spread a rumor; or jumped down someone’s throat.

Is there some patching up you need to do? Some apologizing? Words can kill or heal. What kind will yours be today?

June 8

Thursday, June 8th, 2023

We will often use or hear used a saying: “I really have to walk a fine line.” We use that phrase when we are trying to describe the “fineness” between choices. Some might use it to describe the slim difference between right and wrong. Or we might use it when describing whether to say or not, whether to do or not do something.

One of the struggles the church faces-and it has always been this way-is the battle between truth and love. Someone has put it this way: “All truth without love is legalism (and I might add harshness); all love with no truth is mere sentimentality.” It is a fine line between being repulsive to the world because of our stand, and yet be attractive to the world because of our love and care.

See the point? There are those who are hard-liners…no bending whatsoever. “You must stand your ground even if it offends” and I agree we should not compromise. But that ground should be stood with love in our hearts not belligerence.  That is the fine line. How much “stand” vs how much love?

There is a battle going on between isolation and assimilation. Do we withdraw or do we just drift with the cultural? You have probably heard this quote in some form: “The boat is to be in the water, but its bad news if the water gets in the boat.” That is the constant struggle. And while we are debating the rights and wrongs of things, the world has wormed its way into the church. For example, while we have debated the rightness and wrongness of say, same sex attraction (and for the record I do believe God is very clear that He created us male and female), the church has become inundated and has allowed false teachers who tell people God owes them special blessings because they are people of God to infiltrate our defenses. Seems like the classic example of misdirection by the enemy. Get them to focus on this and I’ll slip in under the radar with this.

We do walk a fine line between acceptance and love. Love and truth always go together. It’s a fine line but one we need to thread and navigate carefully.

April 18

Tuesday, April 18th, 2023

In this day and age of anger, hatred, malice, and vitriolic words, a person of peace, tranquility, and yes, sanity, is rare. Sadly rare. As I have given some thought to how I must react to these actions and words by others, I read a devotion. I must give credit to Cheryl E. Smith for the “germ” of my thoughts today. See the end of this post for information about this devotion.

Cheryl was writing about her husband, Kevin (whom I would love to meet), and how he was a humble man. The scenario is as Kevin is talking to their son about some of his experiences in the banking business. Here is what Cheryl wrote:

“Kevin respects people-all people. Regardless of their condition, age, race, discrepancies, behavior, or differences. I have never seen him mistreat anyone in all the years I have known him.

“The main thing I noticed about how he handled the customers he mentioned was his refusal to embarrass them. Even though they didn’t fit the everyday ‘normal’ mold, he never made them feel inferior. He never drew attention to their differences. He gave them all the time they needed. He treated them the way they and all people deserve to be treated. He handled them with the utmost respect, kindness, and patience-how he wants to be treated.

“He never embarrassed anyone. He never made anyone feel secondary. He loved each person with equal intensity. He was never partial. He never showed favoritism. He never recoiled, no matter how disfigured, marred, or ‘abnormal’ the person appeared.” (Excerpts from pages 126-127)

Hmmmm. That sounds like Someone else I know.  His name is Jesus. He didn’t play favorites, unless you consider giving hope, love, and acceptance to the down-and-out, the “less than,” the hurting, the physically imperfect, or the lost soul.

Imagine a world-small and big-if we all did like Jesus. Talk about change!!! But it starts with us in our own small world.

{Note: Cheryl has written 2 volumes called Homespun Devotions. I have resisted doing a review because I wanted to savor my time with them. Since I “won” Volume 2 in a blog give-away, I am reading it first. (Yeah…I know I’m not “right” sometimes).  I’m reading one or two of the short chapters at a time. I will give a complete review when I am finished with Volume 2. Hint: Buy it!}