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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.”

February 2

Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

Happy Groundhogs Day (for what it’s worth)!  I can never remember whether he is supposed to see his shadow or not and which one is good or not. Hmmmm. Guess all I can do is say, “Bring on Spring!”  The sooner the better.

Pushing that aside, let’s get serious for a moment.

Several years ago Lauren Daigle had a song which broke through hearts, even the coldest and hardest, and took the music industry by storm. (Here is that song). Every morning at 4:30, Tami’s alarm goes off with that song, so I heard it this morning as I was reading Matthew 12. In particular, I was reading verses 33-37. My focus was on the phrase “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Please read those verses for a better context).

The way we speak to ourselves comes out of what is in our heart!

The way to speak to others comes out of what is in our heart!

I’m not advocating the “positive speech” gibberish of the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation cult, aka Bethel Redding, IHOP, and others). Nor am I advocating for the likes of Rachel Hollis, Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Doyle, Oprah, or others like them.  While I do believe it is important for us to remember who we are in Christ, I don’t subscribe to the heresy they espouse: we are good and have it within ourselves to improve.(They leave out the effects of sin and the inability we have of saving ourselves).

Lauren’s song says, “You say I am loved…” It is not what we say or think about ourselves, it is what God says to us and what He thinks about us that matters.

But let’s not forget that what we say to and about ourselves does matter. Constant put-downs destroy the inner peace and confidence God instills and gives us. The same goes for how we speak to each other. That which is inside us will come out and we can either say good or evil. They way we speak is a good indicator of WHO controls us. It is a good indicator of WHO or what controls our heart.

So…STOP…and ask yourself, “Who controls me?” And then take it one step further and ask, “What do my words say about my answer?”

January 18

Wednesday, January 18th, 2023

Perfect storm. There was a movie by that name. Weather systems hit all at one time and the fishing vessel with George Clooney and others went down.

It is used to describe a situation where 2 or 3 or more events all come together at the same time. Like today’s Scripture and devotional reading.

Pastor Greg Laurie’s Everyday With Jesus spoke about listening. He brought out about the night Paul and Silas were in prison (Acts 16) and were singing in the night. It says the prisoners were listening. The Greek word for listening means “to listen very, very carefully.”

Add to that the devotion by the late David Powlison in Take Heart-Daily Devotions to Deepen Your Faith where he talked about listening. His devotion was about listening to people, instead of always talking.

Perfect storm. Different subjects. But still a perfect storm.

How many times have you listened but not really heard? There is no doubt we live in an age of talking heads. Opinions fly, but real listening is absent.

When it comes to the Bible, we love to chatter. But do we stop to listen? Have we asked God to speak to us through His Word when we sit down to read? As we read, are we also listening?

When people talk, do we listen? Or are we already thinking of what we are going to say next? G.U.I.L.T.Y. Are we incessant talkers or alert listeners? Pr.  10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent (wise).” (ESV)  Or how about Pr. 17:28-“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (ESV)  Insert Abe Lincoln’s quote here. “It is better to keep your mouth shut and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Some people (to quote that great ’60s philosopher Tommy James) “talk and signify and say nothing.”  (Quote from song “Talking and Signifying” circa 1970).

Truth:

The Bible says repeatedly that we grow and change only by listening, not by talking. (Powlison-Jan.18)

Let’s listen more. Talk less.

November 7

Monday, November 7th, 2022

I have always had trouble with statements like “Good Luck” or “You were so lucky.” The same goes for “May the force be with you.” 🙂 Ditto on “It just happened to open up” or some form of “It just happened.”

This recently came home to me in spades.  Almost 2 weeks ago I hit my leg just above the ankle on a metal rod used to move a weight bench at the Y. It hurt like fire.  (And no I didn’t use words I shouldn’t, but I do confess to slamming a weight on the bar). I quickly developed a “goose egg” that looked like a hard-boiled egg in size. I came home and iced it then iced it off and on for the next couple of days. About a week ago I noticed my foot turned black and blue, as if I had sprained my ankle. I also noticed the nail of my big toe also had turned color (blood pooled under the nail). I had a nurse friend who came to take a look and recommended I get to a doctor to get checked for cellulitis. So the next morning I began calling a few minutes before 7 and got through right at 7:00. No openings.  In fact, she told me to call a central number and see if an opening was available. Nope. Nada. Zip. But she said she would take one more look and said, “Oh, I have an opening at 9:05.” So I went and the diagnosis was gravity was causing the bruising; the discoloring of the hematoma was due to some varicose veins I have; and she prescribed antibiotics for the developing cellulitis.  The metal rod must have broken my skin and allowed infection to fester.

But here is the kicker: I told her about my efforts to get in to see a doctor and found her (a PA in the same doctor’s office I use) open. Her answer…wait for it…”I just happened to have a cancellation this morning.”

“Just happened.” Oh…if she only knew. I didn’t have a chance to say anything to her because she was already walking down the hall. If she only knew what I know. “A man’s steps are ordained by the Lord; how then can a person understand his way?” (Pr. 20:24)

“The mind of a person plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Pr. 16:9)

Chance? Luck? Just happened? I don’t think so. Luck, chance, or just happened are not words in God’s vocabulary.  And I refuse to have them in mine as well.

October 19

Wednesday, October 19th, 2022

One of the hardest things for me to do is to shut my mouth. My wife would agree. I am very extroverted…very. She often says we can’t go anywhere that I don’t know someone. In fact, she said just the other day that would be reason enough to go back to Alaska for our 50th anniversary in June…no. one. know. me.

While being extroverted has its advantages, it can also be a detriment. I have this bad habit of talking to fill “dead air.” When I was a younger pastor, I also felt I needed to speak because “I had the answers.” It seemed incompetent to me to be silent and not offer some type of biblical or theological answer.

I remind myself of Job’s friends- Zophar and Eliphaz in Job’s book. (What an ugly thought). Job is suffering and they are “waxing poetic,” i.e. making foolish words in an effort to act like they know what’s going on. Zophar foolishly reminds Job it could have been worse (he deserved it) (Chapter 11); while Eliphaz stupidly says it is because Job sinned and needed to listen to God more closely (Chapter 4).

I’ve learned that sometimes the best thing to do is not say anything. Don’t pretend I have the answer. Don’t presume I speak for God.

This came to me as I spent time in a hospital yesterday…waiting with a daughter while her father was being scanned, and then I visited with him and helped him eat when the daughter was called out into the hallway.  (Oops bad move. The OT wanted him to feed himself). I was at a loss for words-for him or his daughter.  I suspect that is better anyway. Empty, hollow, religious platitudes are not what they needed.

Maybe all they needed was someone to just sit with them…and to feed them (and I messed that up)…and BE. QUIET.

“Father, help me to know when and when not to speak. When I speak, may my words be  those of wisdom, not empty platitudes.”