Recently I was in conversation with a former Navy Seal. As he shared his past experiences, he told me how God had changed his life when he was born again (John 3:1-22; Ephesians 2:1-10; Titus 3:5). As a result, his speech changed as did his angry heart.
Then he said, “It is easy to holler at someone, but it takes compassion and thought to communicate.”
My dad had many sayings. When my friends and I got rowdy as a kid, he would sometimes utter, “You boys need to settle down.”
Now in my 60’s and having been exposed to so much in the Christian and religious world for these years, could we as pastors/Christian leaders just settle down?
My background is one of . . . growing up in a pastor’s home (My dad was Church of the Nazarene until his Army days in Korea, and then came to understand the security of believer in Christ, thanks to a godly chaplain who taught him the Word!); The Wilds Christian Camp (Doc Hay, Rock Royer, Major Brooks, etc.); Bob Jones University (college and seminary plus a host of its graduates including all of its presidents to date, Bible Conference speakers, faculty, etc.); Tennessee Temple University graduates; the Sword of the Lord crowd; my Southern Baptist grandfather who pastored in Kentucky and southwest Virginia; the GARBC; the many men who fellowshipped in what was for years known as the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship (Now Foundations Baptist Fellowship); Dallas Theological Seminary grads; being mentored personally by the likes of J.B. Williams, J. Robert Martin, Randy Patten, Reynold Lemp and many others; plus being influenced from a distance by the likes of Charles Stanley, Chuck Swindoll, Adrian Rogers, Henry Blackaby, David Jeremiah, and more.
In more recent years, my background continues to be of the many mentioned above plus Men’s Prayer Advance, 9Marks, T4G, CoRE Conferences, plus many, many books authored by Tripp, Ortlund, Wells, Bridges, Payne & Marshall, Thomas, Huegal, Ryrie, Walvord, Pickering, etc.
“What’s the point?’, you may ask.
Well, I want to say that for all of us in ministry, none of us have it all figured out; none of us knows all the facts about everyone or every situation; none of us know more than our God; none of us have the absolute right methodology; none of us are the standard; and none of us have arrived!
For all of us in ministry, none of us have it all figured out . . . none of us have arrived!
We all come from various backgrounds and are all influenced by a diverse group of people, churches, institutions and movements, but we are saved by grace through faith alone in the cross work and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are one in Christ. We are made complete in Christ. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit. We are children of the living God!
Therefore, understanding that there are clear, biblical points of separation and the application thereof, such as preeminently, the Gospel (Galatians 1:1-10), may I say that we need to . . .
Give one another the benefit of the doubt.
Be gracious and kind.
Stop making fun of our brothers on social media whether you agree with him or not. (No wonder the lost world doesn’t want our Jesus, seeing the way we lampoon one another.)
Throw away our Pharisaical microscope.
Give one another space to grow in sanctification.
Cheer our brother on when he’s down. When revival breaks out where he pastors but not where you serve, rejoice and praise God with him!
Personally call up the brother we have issue with instead of talking about him behind his back or on social media.
Exchange the time of criticizing and posting for time on our knees in prayer.
Let God handle error by His righteous standard rather than us being “the enforcer.”
Meet with your brother for coffee; get to know him and disciple each other.
Confess and repent of our arrogance and pride.
Remember, we will live forever together in Glory!
Throw away your Pharisaical microscope.
In times past, I have jokingly said, for instance to a group of four men, “There are only four people in the world that’s perfect. That’s me and you three, and . . . I am doubtful about you three!”
Proverbs 22:4 recently challenged my heart again . . . By humility and the fear of the LORD (not man) are riches and honor and life.
May I suggest that we soak our soul often in the truths of Colossians 1:15-18 and go deep in meditation and prayer in Philippians 1:1-2:18?
Let’s join Paul in prayer . . . And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
That’s my impression from my stroll down the main drag of Gatlinburg, TN, recently.
Few people smiling or laughing.
Harsh words being spoken to others, especially to children and other family members.
One woman spewing out foul language because she has pulled into a blocked street and folks are not “parting the Red Sea” for her to back out onto Parkway.
Impatience on display.
Many store clerks looking like their job is a misery to their soul.
T-shirts declaring the woe-filled and proud hearts of so many.
All this and more in one of the vacation capitols of America!
This is supposed to be “the happy place!” Right?
But, this is the case almost everywhere you go today. Why?
1. Man tries to fill his empty, eternal soul with temporal, earthly things. There is nothing in the world that will ever completely satisfy mankind. There may be momentary satisfaction, but it leaves a desire for more or something else.
In the midst of all this unhappiness, I saw new attractions, new restaurants, a gazillion moonshine stores (Isn’t that what brings great joy, so we’re told????), new stores, new products on the shelves, etc. This should make people happy, full of joy, right?
2. Man without a personal relationship with Christ does not have the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:19-24)
May I encourage you to read the three links given in the last sentence above?
When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds in the field, his first words were “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). That “great joy” was the truth that the God who had seemed far off had come to them in human flesh. He was to be called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us” (Isaiah 9:6–7; Matthew 1:23). Those who saw Him saw the face of God (John 14:9). He had come to rescue, to save, to heal, and to make mankind right with God (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:17–21). That was cause for great joy! (gotquestions.org/joy-to-the-world)
The only cure for a mad, mad world is the Gospel! The Good News!!
Many, many thoughts were shared yesterday across America about the Sunday church services—the preaching, the music, those born again, the length of the service, the nursery, the interruptions, the coffee and donuts at fellowship time, the bulletin, the temperature in the building, baptisms, the empty pews or full-house, etc.
What were some of your comments?
Last week, I shared the first part of How To Talk About Your Church. Today I want us to consider another familiar statement made about the local church that I hope will encourage and edify.
“I’m not getting fed at our church.“
Certainly it is every pastor’s privilege and responsibility to teach the Word of God (1 Timothy 3:2; 4:12-16; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 4:2). This mandate is not to be taken lightly. We have been commanded to feed the flock of God (1 Peter 5:2) with “good grain” from the Word.
That being said, the responsibility for your spiritual growth is not the pastor’s. You are to be a student of the Word (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3; Hebrews 5:12-14) hiding it in your heart (Psalm119:11) and making it your own in daily application. As the pastor feeds you, it whets your appetite to grow and know your God more and more. If your pastor is weak in that area, pray for him. Pray that his early morning hours will be a time of intimate relationship with God. Pray that Truth will so grip him that on Sundays he will preach from the “overflow.” The hours he spends in sermon preparation is time consuming as well as physically and mentally demanding. Perhaps he is doing too much in ministry. Ask him what you can do to lighten his load so he can pray and study. He has not been “hired” to do the entire soul winning, visitation, discipleship, and administration of the church. You need to join up with him in teamwork for the Savior. Meet with your under-shepherd for coffee and pray that you may come to know him, encourage him and be his “Barnabas.” Remember them . . . who have spoken unto you the word of God . . . . for they watch for your souls, as they must give an account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief (Hebrews 13:7, 17).
I close with a reminder. The local church consists of sinners. It is a spiritual hospital for a sin-sick, mentally-hurting, heart-broken, doubting, discouraged, worn-out society. For every issue of life, Christ and His Word is the answer, the remedy. Therefore, point to Christ first in all things in the church (Colossians 1:15-19). It is His Church. He died for it (Ephesians 5:25).
By the way, a lost world is watching and listening to us. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers (Ephesians 4:29). What have you said about your local church this past month? What have you said about your Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ?
“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 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.
Do I need to put my hand over my mouth?
Do I need to share “that information” with everyone, and is it completely true?
Do I gossip, participate in gossip or listen to gossip?
Do I need to give my opinion on everything?
Do I speak of other’s sins but seldom speak of my own?
Do I talk about others more than I talk to God about others?
Do I complain and whine and criticize rather than rejoice, encourage and praise?
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).
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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).
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.
Sometimes, it’s best to say a few words or nothing at all.
Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble (Prov. 21:23).
Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few (Ecclesiastes 5:2).
He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive (Proverbs 17:27-28).
When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent (Proverbs 10:19).
Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him (Proverbs 29:20).
My prayer today: Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips (Psalm 141:3).