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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!}

April 6

Thursday, April 6th, 2023

In 2003 Emmy-ward winning actress, Patricia Heaton, did something very few would consider doing…then…or now. She walked out of the American Music Awards.

Describing the event as “an onslaught of lewd jokes and off-color remarks” made by presenters, performers, and the hosts for the evening (the Osbournes…’nuff said), which was passing for humor ranged from the stupid to vulgar so offended her, she said, “I’m not going to be part of this,” walked out, and said, “Get my car.”

She was not alone is her disgust. Ozzie bragged about being “bleeped.” He was…often. One of the performers referenced three-way sex.  There were other off-color and lewd “jokes,” comments, etc. that I’m going to have the common decency to not share. She was not alone but too bad others didn’t follow her example.

When she walked on the set of Everybody Loves Raymond the next morning, she was applauded by one of the camera men.  {Source: patriciaheatononline.com}

We need more Patricia Heatons! (I don’t even want to mention this past year’s AMA and what was celebrated. It is beyond words). In media. In life.  It is often an assault on the ears and decency to watch anything today. I mute commercials-except an occasional St. Jude’s or T2T (both of which make my eyes leak)-but I often don’t have the remote (98% of the time). 🙂 Anyway, the other night we were watching something and Jo failed to mute the commercial and suddenly I heard a G**D*** fly out of the mouth of someone in a clip advertising some series. My words were, “Oh my. Now we get it on TV, not just the movies.”

Common decency seems to be gone these days. It is not unusual to hear women-who want respect-using the “F” bomb. The vulgarity of that word assaults my ears anyway, but to hear a “woman” use it? Nah…beyond the pale.Have we become so cold and hardened to words that we simply don’t care or don’t “hear” them any more?

It is time to clean up our language-no matter who we are-but especially if we are a follower of Jesus. I’m no prude but enough is enough!! I once had a paper with a saying on it that I used to have on my file cabinet: “Profanity is the effort of a feeble mind trying to express itself forcibly.”

Abe Lincoln is credited with saying, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”  Solomon wrote a lot about the mouth in Proverbs. Here is one: “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” (13:3)

As the old child song said, “Be careful little mouth what you say…”

March 30

Thursday, March 30th, 2023

What does God require of us? That is the question I posed to my  “66” class last night. (I am teaching a class on the 66 books of the Bible).

I can hear it now. “Pastor Bill is going to click off a list of Do’s and Don’t’s related to his interpretation of Scripture and tell me that “God says you can do this-or-that, but you can’t do this-or-that.” Most often when some makes this kind of list (particularly a pastor or religious teacher) the list of what you cannot do far outnumbers the list of what you can do.  And sadly, the list includes things which are outward. “You don’t wear this or that.” “You don’t cut your hair.” “You don’t wear pants.” (It always seems to be tougher on women-know what I mean?)

Even “religious” things are involved. Regular church attendance. Tithing (cheerfully of course). Read the Bible on a daily basis. Clean language. Sing (old hymns only) with gusto. Read the KJV only. Now…I’m not saying those are bad things in, and of themselves (although I might balk at the hymns and KJV only idea 🙂 ), but even those are duties.

You see…all of those, as well as others, can be done by anyone, even if that person’s heart is not right with God. They are all centered on the outward and reveal nothing of the heart.

Micah, the Old Testament prophet, has a different take on what is required. Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness (mercy), and to walk humbly with God?” (ESV)  Three things: 1) do justice; 2) love mercy; 3) walk humbly with God.

The qualifier is that last one. It takes the other two and tells us why we should do them and how. To walk humbly with God infiltrates all we do. Every act of justice, every act of mercy, flows from a heart walking with God. The so-called “justice movement” we witnessed in the summer of 2020, and even now, was not justice. It was anarchy.  It was not rooted at all in Biblical truth or in walking humbly with God.

If you want to see an example of justice in action, stop right now and read James (a book in the Bible) 2:1-9,14-20.

Three things are required: do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Talk about a game-changer! Hmmm not a stitch of clothing or hair mentioned. 🙂

March 2

Thursday, March 2nd, 2023

One of the phrases we often hear today is, “Don’t judge.” Someone commits a blatant sin…don’t judge. Someone’s lifestyle is contrary to the Biblical mandate…don’t judge. You don’t like the way I live…don’t judge. To make matters sketchier, the person saying that will go to the passage in Matthew 7 where Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you to will be judged. For in the way you judge others, you will be judged…”

That sure seem like a biblical warning doesn’t it? Several thoughts flow through my mind as I think about this:

First, it goes both ways. In our world today, those who want tolerance, i.e. not to be judged, often become the most intolerant, i.e. most judgmental. “Don’t judge me or my lifestyle or I’m going to cancel you.” Who is being judgmental then?

Second, and even more important, this passage was NOT saying to refuse to examine a person’s actions in order to hold them accountable.The context shows Jesus ripping on the Pharisees for their incessant self-righteous judgment while building themselves up to look better than everyone else.

We really do need to be careful when judging others. I have been guilty of doing so before I know the whole story.  There are two sides to every story. Looks can be deceiving. There is also one huge factor: only God is qualified to judge.

Pointing the finger of blame at someone else, especially with a self-righteous, condemning attitude is dangerous. Case in point: have you ever seen someone carrying a protest sign with “I am the problem” on it with an arrow pointing downward? Nope. Didn’t think so. Pointing the finger at others takes the heat off us…at least temporarily.

The Scripture is correct: “Don’t judge.” Discernment is essential. Self-righteousness is not.

February 8

Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

I received an email about it the other day. I can imagine you have as well.  I saw a commercial about it just within the past few days. I suspect you have also. It is becoming a scourge, a blight, on our lives. And our security.

I hope I have piqued your curiosity-meter to working overtime wondering what I’m referring to.

IT. No, not as in “I work in IT.” IT as in Identity Theft.

Seemingly more and more it is becoming an issue. Social Security #. Home ownership. Bank accounts.

There’s another kind of IT. The kind where someone tries to tell us we aren’t who we are. You are “stupid” or “fat” or “a waste” or “a junkie” or “a nobody.” There are racial slurs thrown around. There are false accusations made, though untrue, which cut deeply. And on and on.

To counteract that there are those who say we need to look within ourselves and bolster ourselves and repeat a mantra that “I am somebody.” Media influencers “preach” at us about how beautiful, smart, wise, etc. we are.

For followers of Jesus, we find our identity in Christ. We are specially made; we are important; we are who we are because we are God’s. I’m not talking about an arrogance around people as though you are better than they are. “I’m a follower of Christ and you aren’t. Na Na Na Na.” In Matthew 5:22 Jesus tells his listeners about calling someone “Raca” or “fool.” Using those words was equal to calling someone an idiot. It was used to demean someone or demote them by robbing them of their dignity and true identity. 

Let’s remember two things: 1) who we are in Christ; and 2) every person has value, no matter their color, status, wealth, or mental capacity. Our words will display whether we believe that or not.

I heard it put this way: To insult the creature is to insult the Creator.”