Posts Tagged ‘speak the truth in love’

I know what you might be thinking, I don’t come here for science, politics or anything of the sort. I come here for creative ministry tips, well this is related to that. I’m not talking about the climate of the earth. I’m talking about the climate of the culture. Roseanne made some bad comments and got fired from her own show. Probably should have happened, racism is not acceptable in any circumstances, but I’m not her judge. Another high profile celebrity reportedly said worse things things to a guest on her show but will be allowed to keep working because she is on the other side of the political aisle. If the story is true, she at least had the common sense not to put out there for the world to read. I’m not her judge either and because I don’t know for sure the story is true, I won’t divulge her name.

The point is, the climate has changed. Were Don Rickles to start his career today, he would be run out of town on a rail. We can’t laugh at ourselves anymore. People are triggered by more and more things and less and less things are “sayable.” If you’re a Christian in this climate, you need to know you already have two and a half strikes against you and I don’t know that it will get a lot better. What does this mean? Should we be silent, cringing in the corner in fear. No. Instead we should be careful to say what needs to be said in love. Speaking the truth in love is more key than it has been in a long time.

Getting by without offending someone is essentially impossible in this climate, especially since we serve the One who is called a rock of offense in 1 Peter 2:8, and if people are offended by the Gospel, that’s on them, unless you are being deliberately offensive in which case, the Gospel isn’t the problem, you are. We can survive and even thrive in this climate, so long as we accept two things. First we Christians will never be universally popular and we’re becoming increasingly unpopular. No surprises there, Jesus said it would happen.

Matthew 5:11, 12 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Secondly we need to make sure that we always lead with love. Jesus told us more about how to navigate this climate just before the verses above, just to prove that while this climate is changing, that is nothing new.

Matthew 5:3“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

To thrive in this climate, we just have to be all of the above.

I’ll just confess it. I’m aggravated. It’s not at any one person, just the state of our world. We are a nation in dire need of Jesus, and yet his church is vilified. In some cases maybe we deserve it, but there are a lot of us out here trying to make a difference. Lately there has been a real urge in me to speak out. The problem is what I really want to do is lash out, and as long as I want to lash out, I need to be silent. Otherwise I’ll just be adding to the problem. That “speak the truth in love” thing is in the Bible for a reason.

At the end of the day, I need to honor God. This means that no matter what the world does, I need to follow God, first and foremost. I need to obey Him whether that is popular or not because at the end of the day, He calls the shots. I need to comfort myself in the fact that greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. I need to remember that my mission to rescue the perishing does not change with the political climate. My mission to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth has not stopped and will not stop until Jesus brings the plan to completion.

My creative brothers and sisters, we need to stay on mission. Sometimes that means we stay above the fray, and work that ripe harvest, i.e. seeking those who are seeking and showing them the love of Christ. Don’t let yourself get drawn into the “ugliness.” We’re here to bring beauty. 2 Timothy 2:23-24 reminds us. ‘Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” To do this involves prayer and make no mistake about it, it means continuing to do our best work, letting it speak even when we need to be silent. It means we need to live as holy lives as we can in Christ, and always being prepared to give the reason for the hope we have, with gentleness and respect. The fruit of the Spirit has not changed, and if we exhibit it, people will be drawn to it and want to know more. In these ever darkening days, we need to continue to be light. Many things have changed, but Jesus still wins. Don’t give in to the pressures to compromise God’s truth. Don’t let the culture change you. That’s not what you’re here for.

You’re here to change the culture.

So I saw the above video on Facebook the other way. No I’m not an evolutionist. To be clear the evidence of micro-evolution is everywhere, where small changes in creatures take place over time as species adapt to their environments. It’s macro-evolution, where one species becomes a totally different creature over the course of billions of years, with which I take issue, but this post is not about that. I watched this video with great fascination, and I almost shared it on Facebook, but then I read the comments underneath. They were ugly.

It always amazes me how some people can be so quick to belittle someone else’s deeply held beliefs. Disagreement I get, but the venom and nastiness is pretty tough to take. When I see a video like this, I marvel at it, and yes it’s true, I see it as evidence of my beliefs in a creator God. To me the complexity of everything around me rules out anything but intelligent design. Other people disagree with that, and that is their right. As a believer, my goal should be to pray and lovingly try to share what I believe. To be honest, after reading the comments, “lovingly” was not first on my agenda. No, I wanted to add to the ugly.

Oh it’s true. I wanted to call these people out. I wanted to highlight the hypocritical intolerance I saw in comment after comment. I wanted to refute every mean spirited thing I saw. I wanted to slam every person who made some ugly comment about the God I love. I wanted to jump into the fray and bash the bashers, especially the ones who were so mean to people who just wanted to marvel at what they see, what I see, as evidence of God. I wanted to throw their venom back. I’ll say it again, I wanted to add to the ugly. But is that what God wants? I don’t think so.

See every comment I make, does two things. First it spreads the venom. In my need to vent, I give the disagreeable behavior of the people in question a wider audience, all my friends, many of whom would also be tempted to add to the ugly. This would only escalate the matter. More importantly, when Christians add to the ugly, it entrenches people in their argument. It hardens their belief that there is no God and that is the last thing God would want. No, if we can’s speak the truth in love, we’re better off not speaking. When we see things that are disagreeable and even mean-spirited we need to remember why we’re here and remember our mission. My mission is not to make everyone be fair and kind and supportive of my beliefs. No my mission is to help people to come to belief in the one who loved me and freed me, in hopes that they will experience His love and be set free. Further our mission as creators is to create beauty that points to the Creator of beauty. I can’t do that if I add to the ugly.

Don’t add to the ugly.

It happens on a fairly regular basis, and I’m not usually what one would consider a hot-head, but I read things and I hear things especially on social media and I just want to explode. Now to be clear, there’s a lot out there to be frustrated about, but that’s not the guy I want to be. There are times where I just think I want to bail on the whole thing, but then I remember all the wonderful stuff that can happen as I keep up with my friends from all over the world. The other issue is I try to deliberately live by a double standard. That is I hold one standard for unbeliever and another for believers. When I see someone who does not profess faith in Christ posting something objectionable, I can usually let it slide. We’re coming at things from a decidedly different world view, I remember when I had a decidedly different world view, and I try to show grace, okay I sometimes fail, but I try.

Believers though, well that’s a different story. We should know better. We have God’s Word and we express faith in God and so often I see people, believers, even church leaders, post things that make me want to say, “What Bible did you read that in, because that page must be missing in mine?” I have to admit I probably have far too little patience for this kind of behavior and sometimes I get a little hot under the collar, sometimes I even want to go a little thermonuclear on them. the thing is thermonuclear is not an option.

The truth is if I blow up, and I confess I have, what do I accomplish? Well first of all, the people I want to blow up on, will just dig in and become more entrenched in what they think. Secondly, all those people who I love who do not yet believe will see one more example of Christians fighting among themselves, something they want no part of. If I am part of something that keeps someone from coming to a faith I believe everyone desperately needs, I am no longer part of the solution. I am part of the problem. God forbid!

I loved the passage I read in my study for my next sermon this morning from R.T. Kendal’s book on The Sermon on the Mount. Kendal writes, “Do you want to know the will of God? Read the Bible! That is the best, most God-honoring way to know His will. It is caring enough about Him to read what He has said.” This is how I desperately want to live my life. I want to honor God by doing what He says in His Word. I believe it is among many other things a guidebook for how to live a God-honoring life. That being the case, it takes the thermonuclear option off the table. Instead I need to do thing like love my neighbor and even my enemies. Jesus tells us people will know we belong to Him by the way we love one another. This means all of us who claim the name of Jesus need to love each other because the world is watching. Is there still room for healthy debate? Yes, though I would argue, we have to be careful where and when and we get one of the best guidelines from Paul in Ephesians 4:15 “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

When it comes to disagreements, especially public ones, this much is clear.

“No Nukes.”

There was that Sunday School song we had when we were kids. Be careful little eyes what you see… and remember that one verse that said be careful little mouth what you say? Well a lot of people need to work on that one and now that we can broadcast our thoughts to the world on a whim, it is more important than ever.

Case in point, Roseanne Barr. Her show was rebooted and seemed to be going very well. There were a few things a lot of my readers would find objectionable, but over all, it had some pretty funny moments and it looked like it might be in for another long run. Then she tweeted. One tweet and it’s over. The show is cancelled, just like that. Unemployment in 144 characters. Cast and crew find themselves out of work and some of those folks haven’t worked since the last time the show was on the air. In my opinion, the network was right to do what they did, Barr’s comments were pretty unconscionable, but I do feel for the cast and crew. Pay attention, there is a lesson to be learned here.

Before I say what I am about to say, remember, I think Ms. Barr’s comments were reprehensible, but in our day, people’s offense meters have hair triggers. When we make a statement, we better prepare for quick and harsh consequences. Gone are the days of meeting each other half way and having constructive dialog, now we just shout each other down on our way to shutting each other down. Again this is not in defense of Ms. Barr or her comments it is simply a statement to be careful what you say. Offend someone, anyone, and the gloves might just be off, and the price might be high. Are you prepared to own the fall out of your words?

Does that mean we should shy away from being offensive. I don’t really see how you could do that in this day and age, but the Apostle Paul did give us some wonderful advice. Speak the truth in love. Say what you have to say in the most loving, kind-hearted way you can, and before you speak, or tweet, ask yourself a question. “Am I speaking this out of love and concern or do I just want to fight?” Maybe even ask a couple of follow up questions, like: “Am I right or just self-righteous?” “Will anyone be helped, edified or blessed by me making this statement?” “Will the person I am directing this comment toward be helped, edified or blessed by what I am about to say?” and the one we should ask first, “Is this statement even true?” Remember, once you hit send, it’s out there forever. Look, there are times to stand your ground, and there are hills you should probably die on, but a political argument usually should not be one of those. If you decide you have to speak, or tweet, are you willing to live with the fall out? More importantly are all the people who will be effected by what you do willing? All this should be considered before we open our mouths or put fingers to keys as the case may be.

Before you speak maybe you should heed the words of James 3:5 ‘Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” Sometimes when you start a verbal fire, a lot of people get burned.

Use wisdom.

I went to sleep praying for an image that might speak to someone and this one might only be for me, but I doubt it. All I kept hearing as I prayed was pearls before swine, and yes I know it’s a little literal, but there is more to this one than meets the eye. It comes from Matthew 7:6 which says, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” To me this one has to do with arguments especially over matters of faith.

Before I go any further, let me say this. I do not think people who disagree with me, especially on matters of faith are pigs, or dogs, or anything of the sort. No this is more about whether or not people have ears to hear, at least in this expression. Have you ever had an argument with someone and you know beyond a doubt you’re at an impasse? The other person at this point is not ready to receive your point of view and you are not going to concede yours. At this point you have two choices. You can either a) keep arguing in hopes that you can beat their argument into submission, or you can b) love them and move on to someone who may actually want to hear what you have to say. I’ve seen so many of these bouts over controversial topics on social media and I regret to say more than once I have stayed in these conversations for far too long and it goes nowhere.

The pearls before swine illustration, to me, is about the fact that you are squandering valuable time to fight a losing battle. The person is not ready to receive what you have at this point and it is time to offer your pearls to someone who might receive them with joy. This is essential in matters of faith. If a person is not ready to receive what you have to say, no amount of argument is likely to sway them. If no one comes to the Lord who isn’t drawn by the Spirit, continuing this fight is actually detrimental to everyone involved. Better to continue to love the person and trust God to bring the breakthrough. People aren’t often fought or argued into faith. Usually they’re loved into faith.

But I said there’s more to this picture. It’s subtle but it was very clear that the pig needed to be wearing the pearls he was destroying. This to me represents when people already have God’s truth, but do not want to submit to it. It is really tempting to want to spar with these people as well, and perhaps sometimes we should, but I’m of the belief that the majority of the time, they will not be brought to the truth, without divine intervention, so it’s better to pray than fight and that when we do feel led to make a stand against their teaching that we do it carefully, out of the public eye and with gentleness and respect. First of all I mention privately, because much of the time the general public (our mission field) will not understand all the things we’re discussing. All it will look like is argumentative Christians fighting over things they might think are nonsense. Jesus said they will know you are my disciples by the way you love one another and these arguments don’t often look very loving. Secondly it is imperative that we remain loving regardless. When we are dealing with false teaching, etc. from other believers, we are trying to bring a loved one back to the truth.

When I consider this point, I am always reminded of 2 Timothy 2:3 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. This is exactly what we want to avoid. I even created this little strip below that you can print out and attach to your computer in case you are ever tempted to get into this stuff on line.

I want to close this post with a quote attributed to Mark Twain which I think sums it all up. He said, “Better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” It’s always wise to choose your words carefully and pick your battles. Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing, but if you must speak, speak the truth in love.

You’ve probably been hearing about this a lot lately, the idea of fake news. I have to tell you the truth today, fake news is for real. Is it true, of course not, but, and this is something anyone who wants to communicate any message needs to learn, to the vast majority of the public, perception is reality. Think about how many people believe all manner of things after having seen nothing more than a social media meme. Can I tell you the truth? I can generate about four memes an hour, more if I use other people’s images and content and if I didn’t care about truth, I think I could make most people believe anything I put out there. That’s the power if imagery and media and many people are dong just that and deceiving the masses.

Now to be clear I do care about truth, but you have no idea the temptation I have been under to roll out a fake story, just to watch it get legs and then tell people, “I made it all up.” It would be a great way to make this point. Why haven’t I done it? Because like I said before, I care about truth. I’d never want to be responsible for perpetuating a lie, even to prove a point. Also I value the people who come to this site to read and learn and I would never want to lose credibility. I value your trust. Of course all of this pales in comparison to the fact that I’m a minister of the Gospel and as such I represent the personification of truth, Jesus Christ.

Guys there is tremendous power in a story. We can do great good in the form of telling stories. We can also generate tremendous harm and it is important that we are careful with what we share. Do you know this thing to be true? Can you prove it? Will sharing it do more harm than good? All of these questions should help us to decide what to (and what not to) share. Getting caught up in a lie, even unintentionally will destroy (or at least damage) your credibility. Perpetuating a lie on purpose is downright diabolical.

Brothers and sisters, we who claim the name of Christ, have got to get our stories straight. We are called to speak the truth in love, and in this mission, both elements are essential. Love without truth is a lie (and ceases to be love) and truth without love is usually just plain mean (and probably won’t be heard.) All these fake news stories leave us in a place of being less and less sure what we can believe. That can be a benefit if it makes us do our homework, but for the most part, not being able to take anything at face value erodes trust to the point where most people have no idea what to believe. We need to tell a better story. Thank God we have the greatest story ever told in our arsenal. We Christians always need to lead with truth wrapped in love. It will not always be popular, but it will always be right.

A famous man once said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” This is precisely the aim of fake news, and it cannot be denied because fake news is nothing but a lie that contains enough of a ring of truth that when repeated becomes believable. That famous man was Adolph Hitler, a man responsible for the death of probably upwards of 11 million people, mostly as the result of believable lies. We can and must do better.

Get the facts before you spread information. Tell a better story, and speak the truth in love. Put an end to the fake news. After all it is the truth that sets us free.

One of the things that I love to do is really simple. Yes I’m a pastor, yes I speak in churches and other venues all over the country, yes I study and plan and write and design and create and prepare, but there is one story that hits home with people every time I deliver it and the truth is, It is either the story that took the least amount of preparation, or the greatest depending on your perspective. On one hand, this story took 52 years to develop on the other hand very little work was necessary to get it ready to present.

It’s fascinating. As a Christian, I have been entrusted with a story, and so have you. It’s called the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s the story of Jesus—the story of His birth, life, death and resurrection and while it’s the greatest story ever told, many people are intimidated to share it. They say things like, “I don’t know enough.” or “What if someone asks me a question I can’t answer?” Well the second question is easy enough to answer. If you don’t know the answer to a question, “I don’t know.” is a valid response. It may not be totally fulfilling to the “asker,” but it’s a lot better than making something up, especially in matters of faith. A better answer is, “I don’t know, but I’ll try to find out.”

That being said, there is one story about Jesus for which, not only do you know enough, but you are the world’s foremost expert on this story. NO ONE knows it better than you. It’s your story, the story of what Jesus has done in your life. That is a story that will probably help a lot of people. No one can tell your story like you can, so tell your story.

It works for me. I first saw this in my first “public” message. I was a youth leader at the time. My group had been asked to minister at a coffee house. We decided that I would bring the message. I had something worked out and I worked hard on it, but the closer it got, the less comfortable I became with what I had worked on. When it came time to speak, I felt strongly led to share my story from the heart. When I finished, I looked around the room. There was almost not a dry eye in the house. It was at that moment that I understood the incredible power in sharing what Jesus has done for you. It connects with people, especially those who are looking for hope and help. I’ve ministered in a lot of places since then and I’ve spoken to congregations large and small on many, many topics and God has blessed a lot but the story that connects the most, is the one that only I can tell. My story.

The thing is, there is a story only you can tell, too. Everyone who knows Jesus has one. Tell it and trust God to work through it. He will.

Tell Your Story!

WHATSLOVE-1Some of you who remember the 80s remember the Tina Turner song by the same name. It was not one of my favorites, but it had the kind of hook that made it stick in your head. You may even be blessing me for bringing it up right now. Sorry.

But this title got me thinking this morning. Jesus said they will know you are my disciples by the way you love one another. In the course of the Gospels, He commands us to love everyone from friends and family to our enemies, in other words everyone. It makes me thing love has a lot to do with it.

Further, the Scriptures tell us that God is love. Maybe love has everything to do with it. I think it does and if that’s the case, then love should be our motivation for everything. When we are commanded to speak the truth in love, it means love should guide our words and our thoughts. Sometimes we might have to share an unpopular truth. If we’re doing it to be mean judgmental, bashing, etc. we might as well be quiet because we will not be heard, but if love compels you to say something hard, then say it with all the love you can.

Love should be the motivating factor in the way we do our creative work as well. Be it love for God or love for others the best work will always be born from love. Now here’s the thing. In order to create out of love, we need to be connected with love, specifically God’s love. There have been times in my like where I have pushed myself to create and keep on creating even though my well had run dry. Natural ability only carries you so far and after a while the condition of your heart (and occasionally what overflows out of my mouth) shows that my own strength is insufficient.

A dear friend found me in that place not too long ago. This person spoke the truth in love to me and it was hard to hear but I knew it was true. I’ve been going to God about it ever since and healing is coming. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” I am grateful that my friend spoke the truth in love. I am still tired, but things are starting to come back. God is faithful.

Love has everything to do with it, especially those things motivated by the One who is love!

What’s your motivation? What’s Love Got to Do With It?

I just got done reading a very uncomfortable short story–A story about Christians interacting with people with whom they disagree. It was written from the other person’s point of view and I have to admit it got to me. It hasn’t shaken my views on right or wrong or the truth of the Word or my faith at all, but it did make me question how I express my views and my faith to those with whom I disagree. The Bible instructs us to speak the truth in love. What does that mean to you? If I want to be honest I wrestle with it. Sometimes my truth lacks love and sometimes love makes me want to sugarcoat the truth. Neither of those positions is correct. Truth without love is often mean and hurtful, a weapon. Love without truth is a lie and if it’s a lie, can it really be love.

Lord help us all to tell our stories and do our work and live our lives guided by your Spirit, mindful of where others are at and yet holding to Your truth.

God’s truth is right and perfect, it’s we who corrupt it. What does it mean to speak the truth in love?