How To Talk About Your Church

  • “Well, I walked into church, and no one spoke to me!” 
  • “Every Sunday, my heart is stirred, and I leave knowing I have met with my Lord!” 
  • “Our preacher (fill-in-the-blank)!” 
  • “All our church knows to do is ask for money!” 
  • “Our kids’ ministry is awesome!”

These and a whole host of other statements, both positive and negative, true and false, have been and continue to be said about the local church. In connection with yesterday’s post, Covid’s Speech Lesson, I want us to consider what is said to others about the local gathering we attend. Let’s look at one of them.

“Our church (or, That church) is so unfriendly!”

There’s a quick remedy for that one. Proverbs 18:24 reminds us, He that has friends must himself be friendly.  Next Sunday, before you get out of your car, pray by yourself or with your spouse or your family, “Lord, I surrender to You, Who dwells in me, to be friendly, compassionate, listening, and caring to all we meet. And, lead us to the seats in the auditorium where You want us to sit today that we may help move folks around one step toward Christ.”

Think about it. If we are given to say that our church is not friendly, then perhaps we are not friendly because we are the church. We as born again believers are the body of Christ. Therefore, when we gather, we are more than just friendly on “the outside.” We desire to go deeper by showing mercy to those around us. We greet others with a firm handshake or a fist-bump or with raised eyebrows (for mask-wearers) and a word of greeting. Try to refrain from the norm, “How you doing?” and move on.

If you are greeting a visitor/guest, stop, speak to them, give your name, listen for their name(s) and use their name(s) immediately so you can begin to remember it. Put yourself in their shoes. Consider how you can make them feel at home; as if they were entering your living room. As you chat with them, don’t be in hurry. Introduce them to those serving at the Welcome Center. Ask questions and give guidance to the auditorium or nursery or fellowship area. Pray with them.

Sometime during the week, send a thank you note or a text or give them a call to let them know you have prayed for them. Make sure they know you genuinely care.

True friendliness is grounded in the person of Christ. He spent time with His disciples and others (John 3:22). He initiated conversations (John 4:7-42). He came to serve others (Mark 10:45). He prayed for others (John 17). He visited in homes (Luke 19:1-10). He reached out to sinners (John 8:1-11).

Since we can do all things through Christ as He lives His life through us, we can ignite a culture of biblical friendliness in our local congregation that will be contagious for Christ and to others!!

“That congregation is so friendly! They are genuine; they really care!”

Covid’s Speech Lesson

Covid descended upon me in December, and our home became very quiet. Due to potentially coughing every time I wanted to speak, words were few and my wife lived in “Silent Night.”

During those days, this thought came to mind: Most of us talk too much, and too often about things that don’t matter; many of us do not talk enough about what’s really important.

Then the following arrested my attention one morning while reading the latter chapters of Job in his response to God, Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. (Job 40:4). Having told his friends to put their hand over their mouths (21:5), now Job knows he must do the same lest he speak out of turn with God.

Perhaps it would do each of us good to take a cue from Job.

David prayed something along the same lines, Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! (Psalm 141:3)

Please, honestly ask yourself the following questions. Do some personal inventory as I have.

  1. Do I need to put my hand over my mouth?
  2. Do I need to share “that information” with everyone, and is it completely true?
  3. Do I gossip, participate in gossip or listen to gossip?
  4. Do I need to give my opinion on everything?
  5. Do I speak of other’s sins but seldom speak of my own?
  6. Do I talk about others more than I talk to God about others?
  7. Do I complain and whine and criticize rather than rejoice, encourage and praise?
  8. Do I talk more about myself and what’s on my mind than talking about my Savior, my Lord, my Friend, my King and what He has done?

Solomon put it this way, A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent (Proverbs 17:27-28).

Don’t let Covid have to teach you this important lesson of life. Lay your hand to your mouth (Job 40:4).

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin (Proverbs 13:3).

Preachers, His Name Is Holy!!

For those of us who make a living by communicating the Words of Life, may I offer a strong, loving encouragement from my heart?

Please be careful how you use the names of God and the Lord Jesus Christ in your preaching and everyday speech.

Against the backdrop of Jesus’s words on Pharisaical hypocrisy in prayer, He said, Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name (Matthew 6:9). To “hallow” something is to recognize it as holy, great, and set-part from all other.

So, to hallow God’s name, we are exhorted to speak and/or use His name in such a way that sets His name preeminently and transcendently above every name in the universe! His name is to be revered, protected, adored, and magnified with humility and utmost respect.

Exodus 20:7 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Ezekiel 20:14 – But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out.

Acts 4:12 – And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

So, may I ask, how do we reverence and magnify the holy name of God when His name is used so flippantly in the pulpit or in everyday conversation? Here are some examples:

  • A joke is told or a funny line is used when preaching and then tagged with, “Well, praise God!” or “Well, bless God!” Example of one I heard recently – “How many of you remember filling the Christmas tree the last time I was here with Starbucks gift cards? One? Oh, there’s another, two. God bless you sister!”
  • In the moment of a highly emotional declaration in preaching there is the follow-up of, “Great God Almighty!”
  • In the south, we are notorious for saying such things as, “Lord, have mercy!” Or, in sounding like a cry for assistance we say, “Jesus, help me!” Or, even, “Oh my God!”
  • Using the Lord’s name repeatedly in prayer. Can you imagine using another person’s name in conversation as many times as we use the Lord’s name in prayer? Sometimes it sounds like Baal-worshippers on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18; Matthew 6:7).
  • Although I am speaking to preachers, I must include so-called Christian comedians who throw the name of Jesus around like its any other common name and all for the goal of gaining some laughter or applause.

Isaiah 42:8 – I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

Leviticus 19:12 – You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.

Isaiah 9:6 – For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

So, preachers, myself included, let’s honor and cherish God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, by protecting and reverently proclaiming the name that is above every name!

Philippians 2:9-11 – Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Take a Breath!

As I entered the hair shop where my wife and I have gone for almost 20 years, two ladies were engaged in a gleeful “1,000 words-a-minute” conversation! With my loud voice, I interrupted this exchange and said, “Ladies! Take a breath!!” The room was filled with laughter, and I have since gained a friend in her 80’s who has not forgotten that moment. She’s a hoot anyway!

For most of us, we love to talk. We have something to say.

Question: Are you talking to the right people?

  1. You have a complaint. Do you talk to the person who is part of the problem or who is a solution to the problem? Or do you talk everyone else, filling your listener’s ears with your criticism?
  2. You have an issue/problem/misunderstanding with someone in your family. Do you discuss your “concern” with other family members rather than the family member with whom you have an issue/problem/misunderstanding?
  3. You disagree with church leadership on a decision. Do you talk to someone in leadership to get clarification and have your questions answered or do you speak to others in the church family to get their “viewpoint” and “prayer” on that decision?
  4. You have been offended/wronged/sinned against. Do you hold a grudge which develops into defiling bitterness and discuss this with anyone who will listen or do you forgive and not talk about that person? (Colossians 3:13; Hebrews 12:14-15)

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)

Recently while chatting with someone in the store, they shared their negative thoughts, in passing, about someone that I have never met. Quite frankly, their comment soured our conservation in my mind. What do you suppose will come to my mind if I ever meet this person? Yes, those negative words.

Words are a gift from God and need to be stewarded faithfully. Take a breath, and let’s redirect our words to that which would minister grace to the hearer (Ephesian 4:29) and would be acceptable to God (Psalm 19:14).

(Photo from widjiitiwin.ca)

Huh?

Communication!  Wow!  For 5 1/2 years this has been more of a challenge than it has ever been in our marriage.  Why?  Because of my hearing.  Now, I am guilty at times of the “selective hearing syndrome” that we men seem to contract in older years.  In all seriousness, my hearing is declining hampered in my left ear especially, and with my wife’s soft voice, . . . oh, brother!

One of most needed areas of constant attention in a marriage is communication.  How interesting that I make a living talking, yet the lack of communication has been such a struggle for me in our marriage.  I can talk the “hind legs off of a mule” but struggle to interact consistently with my precious wife.  So, in a transparent fashion, I hope to help us in a crucial area of marriage.

Why do we as men need to take time, to make the effort to listen, to talk, and to thoroughly communicate with our wife?

 1.  Our wives need the security of our listening ear.

They want to know that what matters to them matters to us.  They want to know that they are more important than Joe at work, Josh Heupel in his orange and white, and Michaels and Collingsworth on Sunday night!   For many wives, if they are moms at home with little ones, all they have had all day is communication on a three and/or five year olds level.  They need adult interaction when the hubs gets home without his iPhone, iPad and other distractions.

  • Ephesians 5:23 – God intends for the man to be the head, the leader in the home. Wives find security in our loving, servant leadership.  One of the greatest ways you can serve your wife in a Christlike fashion is to talk and listen to her.  Doesn’t Christ always listen to us?

 2.  Our wives want to know what we are thinking because they love us and intimacy is very dear to them.

  • 1 Peter 3:7 – We will begin to understand our wives when we open up to them because they will feel free to share their heart since you have been open, honest and transparent with them.

 

3.  Our wives need to hear communication that glorifies God.

  • 1 Corinthians 10:31 – or whatsoever you do includes our communication with our spouse.
  • Ephesians 4:25 – Our wife is our neighbor and we are members one of another if we are born again believers.
  • Ephesians 4:29 – Good, grace-filled communication that edifies the hearer glorifies God.

Please do me a favor.  Don’t make excuses or think my comments are one-sided.  I realize it takes two to make a marriage, but the point of it all is, God expects us to lead and live with our wives as loving, serving leaders.  Begin by simply taking 10-15 minutes-a-day to look at each other, no distractions, and listen to each other; talk to each other.  By the way, remember when you were dating?  Both of you would hang onto every word . . . even when you didn’t have anything to say on the phone, you just loved to hear each other breathe!!!  🙂

Get honest on your knees before God.  Ask Him to give you strength, ears to hear, words to say, a humble spirit and a passion to glorify God.

I reckon I’d better turn up my hearing aids!! 🙂

Men and Women Text Differently – Tim Hawkins brings some humor to it all.  Enjoy this short video. K?

Listen to Him

Last night’s presidential debate, . . . well, what a fiasco! What an eye-opening view once again into the heart of man (Jeremiah 17:9).

How difficult it is to listen to three men argue, interrupt, accuse, disparage, and fuss! Proverbs 18:13 reminds us, If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.

This past Sunday, I had the joy of listening to Carl Butler, the new pastor of Thompson Baptist Church, Thompson, PA, preach from Hebrews. The major portion of his message was seven reasons why we should listen to the Lord Jesus Christ.

As God’s final Spokesman, Jesus Christ deserves to be heard because . . .

  • He was appointed heir of all things (1:2).
  • He was God’s Active Agent in creation (1:2).
  • He revealed the Divine Glory (1:3).
  • He represented God’s character in the flesh (1:3)
  • He upholds all things right now by the word of His power (1:3).
  • He has totally purged our sins (1:3)
  • He finished the job and is seated at God the Father’s right hand (1:3)

Against the backdrop of last night’s disappointment and debacle, may I say to you today, because of Who Christ is, listen to Him. Men will fail you. Men are not omniscient. Men are fallible. Men are self-serving. Men need Jesus.

Open your Bible. Sit at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:38-42). Listen to Him (Romans 10:17; James 1:19-21; Revelation 2:7).

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)

(Debate pic from thinkadvisor.com)

An Epidemic in the Church

Image result for Epidemic images
UPI.com

There is a plague that has been and continues to sweep through the body of Christ around the world! This scourge has the power to hurt, ruin, maim, tarnish, destroy and kill. It is an epidemic!

What is it? GOSSIP!

The Apostle Paul in his concern for the Corinthian Church said, For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder (2 Cor. 12:20). Gossip here is defined as “whispering, secret slander; of the magical murmuring of a charmer of snakes.”

Romans 1:29-31 describes the sinful, rebellious actions of the unrighteous as being filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanders, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,  foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Here gossip is “a whisperer, secret slanderer, detractor.”

“Sinful gossip is bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart” (Pastor Matt Mitchell). This “bad news” may be the truth, but it becomes “bad news” when brought up out of the well of a deceitful, selfish, proud heart.

Within the church, it is much easier to talk to other people about someone with whom you have issue than to talk to that person directly with the desire to humbly understand, listen, and biblically correct the situation (Matthew 5:23-24; James 4:11)

It is also easier to talk to other people about someone than to talk to God about it in humble prayer. A gossiper does not believe in the power of a sovereign God to perfectly handle any situation or issue.

You see, if you slander, gossip, speak evil of another to someone, that thought is hard to be removed the next time the one gossiped about is seen again by the “informed.”

How many pastors, deacons, Sunday School teachers, laymen, brothers and sisters in Christ have been maligned by an evil tongue?

How many churches have been split or damaged because of one tongue hinged to an evil heart?

For now, I leave you with God’s viewpoint on this issue. Instead of destroying others with our tongue, lets destroy gossip!

Proverbs 18:21 – Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Proverbs 26:20 – For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. 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.

James 1:26 – If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

Ephesians 4:29 – Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

National Enquirer Prayers

two men gossiping

“What a blessing to have friends you can ask to pray for a situation, and they don’t ask questions.”

Have you ever heard the tag line, “Enquiring minds want to know”? This line was made famous many years by the tabloid National Enquirer, sadly located in your supermarket checkout line.

National Enquirer has made millions on man’s insatiable desire to know the stuff of somebody else’s life, even if it is a lie.

That same National Enquirer search can be found among well-intentioned people who “pray.” Have you ever heard someone say, “I just found out (circumstance) about (name).  I’m only sharing this so you can pray about it.”  The bait has been thrown out, and wham!  We take it hook-line-and-sinker!  Do we really want to know so we can genuinely intercede or do we just want the National Enquirer version?

Or, someone is going through a rough time in their life, and they ask you to pray for them.  To further “enquire” may lead you into an area of their life they are not comfortable sharing. It puts them on the spot and causes them to perhaps not ask for prayer support in the future.

gossip in prayer

Have you ever considered that you really do not need to know all the details?  God already knows. What else matters?  Prayer for others gives you the opportunity to mention their name before the Throne of Grace, to pray Scripture for them, to pray for the need even if you do not know the details, and to bear one another’s burden (Galatians 6:1).  May I remind us that the Holy Spirit even prays for us when we don’t know what to pray (Romans 8:26).

How much more content our lives would be if we hungered for what God wants to say to us every day from His Word rather than the tidbits of other’s lives.   James 1:26 reminds us, If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

Yes, “enquiring minds want to know,” but settled hearts are satisfied to just mention your name to our omniscient Heavenly Father.

Father’s Words

Dad-Army

As a young boy being raised in the Cunningham home, there was one thing among many that was certain. When my earthly dad said something, he meant it. His words were powerful. They carried weight.

My Heavenly Father created words. They carry much more weight. As a matter of fact, God created all things out of nothing (ex nihilo) by His spoken word (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24). Who has the power to speak a word and create something out of nothing? Only Elohim, Creator God! And that is not all. God continually is speaking. As A.W. Tozer said in The Pursuit of God, “He is by His nature continuously articulate. He fills the world with His speaking Voice.” (Psalm 19:1-6)

The question to me and to you is, “Are we listening?” Through all the hustle and bustle of Christmas, there is so much noise, confusion, traffic, busyness, distractions, running-here-and-there, that it is so easy to miss hearing the voice of God. Tozer goes on to say, The Word of God is quick and powerful. In the beginning He spoke to nothing, and it became something. Chaos heard it and became order, darkness heard it and became light. “And God said-and it was so.” Do you need order in the midst of your chaos today? What is God saying to you through His Word? Are you listening?

Just as my dad spoke with authority, My Heavenly Father speaks with transcendent authority. His words always mean something and carry absolute weight. He is always speaking. Be sure to listen today for He is talking directly to you. (Proverbs 2:1-5; John 10:27-28; Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 3:20, 22)

Tidings of Great Joy To All People!

Irun Town Square (2)

Christmas is a glorious time of the year here in the States to hear the celebrated proclamation of Christ’s coming to earth to be born to die and to rise again (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Philippians 2:6-8).  How interesting and blessed to enter into a secular arena (store, restaurant) and hear the songs of Christ’s incarnation and redemption as well as in local churches throughout our land.  Even though, sadly, America becomes more and more pagan and agnostic, the message of great joy which shall be to all people (Luke 2:10) is given during this season.

While in Spain, I met Iñaki,  who doesn’t wait for just the yuletide season to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ.  Every first and third Saturday, he, along with others, sets up a booth (pictured above) in the town square of Irun, a city of the Bidasoaldea region in the province of Gipuzkoa in the Basque Community.  Without shame or fear, Iñaki hands out tracts and booklets as well as personally shares the liberating, reconciling truth of salvation for sinful men through Christ alone.  His enthusiasm and commitment to announce the Good News is “off the charts” and contagious (Mark 16:15; Romans 1:16). Obviously, I could not understand him, but communicated with him through a faithful translator. I say that to say this, that if I had never understood a word, I would have fully grasped his passion via his countenance, tears, gestures, and pointing to the picture on the wall.  To say Iñaki was animated about it would be an understatement.  The disappointment was all over him because the Saturday before, rain prohibited him from his passion, but the anticipation of the next Saturday had already eclipsed the regret knowing that it is all in God’s hands anyway.

Inaki Moreno

In the spirit of this season, let’s unwrap the gift that is in us, this treasure in earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:5-7), and let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in Heaven (Matthew 5:16).  Perhaps the Lord has not led you to set up a booth in the town square, but the whole world is out there for you to proclaim the tidings of great joy!   Just as you sing without fear “Joy to the World” or “O, Come All Ye Faithful,” speak to others about this marvelous gift of grace, a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).