Category Archives: My Depravity

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, Don’t Say Anything At All.

My tongue tends to get me in trouble a lot. Or maybe it isn’t really the fault of the tongue. I think the real problem goes much deeper than that. Jesus said in Matthew 15:17-19 (NIV), “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

What I say reveals a lot about what is going on in my heart. This is especially true in those moments where I am not “focusing on being good.” We all have moments where we slip up and say something we would rather take back. What comes up in these moments may reveal things in our hearts that we need to allow God to resolve.

My tongue problem is really a heart problem. And the tongue is indeed a powerful part of the body. With the tongue we can curse or bless; we can hurt or heal; and we can encourage reconciliation or cause division. The words we say to others can come back and hurt us. I think of it sort of like bouncing a ball against a wall. All that force and destructive energy has to go somewhere. And it tends to bounce back at some point.

I am starting to realize that much of what I think should never be said. This is hard for someone who is a verbal processor. And while it may seem like common sense, it is hard to accept when you highly value honesty and justice. Keeping your tongue in line, is also hard for someone who is paid to make value judgments in his occupation. As a journalist, I am supposed to interview various people and write what I find. But this is always more than just dictation. You have to make judgments about the reliability of various sources, analyze the importance of the different aspects of a story, and make clarifying statements that some would seem as undue criticism. When it comes to writing opinion pieces, you have to be critical and analytical. That is what you are paid to do. It is hard to turn off this way of looking and speaking about the world when you are not at work.

Scripture offers a pretty harsh critique of the tongue. It calls the tongue a “restless evil, full of deadly poison.” The tongue is “set on fire by hell.” The tongue cannot be tamed by any man. It can “corrupt the whole person” according to James 3. This famous passage makes you almost want to take a knife to your tongue. But I think even a mute person might tell you this doesn’t really solve much.

Jesus clearly never shied away from making a harsh rebuke when necessary. He scolded His disciples and made all sort of tough rebukes (some might even call slanderous statements) against the political and religious leaders of the day. Jesus said all sort of things that baffled or enraged some who heard His statements. Of course, we are not Jesus. He is His own category. Yet, it doesn’t seem that Jesus forbid His followers from making judgments or giving harsh rebukes. The key comes back to the heart and why we say what we say. Is this rebuke to build up or just merely to cast mud on the reputation of another? Do you have standing so that your words matter to that person? Have you prayed about this first?

These questions all make me want to stop and think before I say anything. Maybe my momma was right. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all (that is unless you know that you have the authority, standing and the responsibility to give a godly rebuke).

Some interesting Scriptures on the tongue and its power.

Psalm 139:4
Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.

Proverbs 10:19
Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.

Proverbs 12:18
The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 15:4
The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.

Proverbs 16:1
To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue.

Proverbs 21:23
Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.

What Do You Want?

A number of times somebody approached Jesus and He instinctively asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” This is an incredible question because He who asked it could truly answer it. Jesus once declared that all power in heaven and earth was given Him. Better than a genie in a bottle, Jesus could actually answer incredible requests.

Some people asked for miracles or healings. Others wanted to follow Him and see where He lived. Still others asked for position and blessing in God’s kingdom. Have you ever stopped to think what you would say if Jesus turned to you and asked, “What do you want for me to do for you?”

This is a very loaded question. It reveals a lot about what we believe about God. It opens our heart motives and inner longings. It shows what we value and how we are open for God to move in our lives. Even the degree that we take the question seriously, reveals something. Do you think God would ever ask you what you want for Him to do in your life?

As I think through this question, I am disturbed by my potential requests. I could list so many things. But these all seem so petty compared to the response, “I want whatever you want.”

Oh, how I wish this was my request. But so often, I want so much more than just what God wants. Actually, my problem is that I want less than His best. There is no such thing as more than what God wants because my more is actually less.

I am wrestling with this question… What really does God’s best look like for my life?

Beyond Talk, Forget Excuses

Jesus sometimes spoke very strong words to His followers and those who expressed a desire to follow Him. From calling people to be perfect to saying that the crowd should eat His flesh and drink His blood, Jesus knew how to challenge everyone outside of their comfort zone. He harshly rebuked Simon Peter on a number of occasions. Jesus continually pushed the disciples to new places of faith and self abandonment.

Jesus told people to take up their cross and follow Him, a concept that would have seemed more repulsive during the first century than it does today. When one man asked for time to bury his father, Jesus said that the dead should bury their own dead. Jesus called those who followed Him to put everything else below their devotion to God. There are no excuses or reasons to shy away from God’s call. Either you are in, or you are not. There is no middle ground. That is where the double minded live, and they are unstable in all that they do.

Why did Jesus seem to set the bar so high? I think Jesus did this because He knew our human tendency to look for ways to get out of what we know we should do. The truth is that we do what we want to do. We have all the time we need to do what matters most. But all too often, we say something is really important and ignore it. We have lied to ourselves. And until we realize that, we just won’t change.

Anyone who is a Christian should hear the call to abandon all and trust God with everything. This requires us to go beyond talk and good intentions. We have to act in faith and divine empowerment as enabled by the Holy Spirit.

Check out this related devotion at http://utmost.org/the-go-of-renunciation/

Are You Living in Your Divine Calling?

While in discussion with some students at The Mix tonight, I noticed how they all seemed to think of the term “calling” as it relates to their future job or career. We were discussing God’s callings for our lives. It was a fairly open context. But the discussion tended to gravitate toward skills, interests and careers.

Sometimes we tend to think our call is just about what we do as a job. But it is so much more than that. It really touches every area of life. Our calling is really whatever the Holy Spirit is directing us to do at the moment. I believe that our calling is both a very complex and simple thing. Really, our calling can change through the years as we transition through various phases of life. What we do when we are sixteen is not likley to represent our life 10 years later, 20 years later or 40 years later.

Yet, as a Christian there are some callings that I believe are not unique to me. But they are part of the calling for every true believer. All Christians are called to love God and live for His Kingdom and glory. We are all called to be witnesses of Christ’s message and be connected to a body of local believers. We are all called to pray, read the Bible and seek to know God better.

Thinking about my own calling, I am reminded of what the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart ten years ago when I went out to Kansas City to pray at IHOP just as the prayer center was getting its start. I believe God placed the following four key calls on my life: 1.) Seek God’s face in a personal, intimate relationship, 2.) Write revelation that God reveals as I seek His face, 3.) Pray for those God has called me to love, 4.) Disciple the remnant.

The first part of my calling is very generic. All Christians are to seek Christ. But the second was unique to me. I was to write the revelation that the Spirit showed me as I seek God. The third connected to the fourth. Prayer was to fuel my ministry to disciple and train up future leaders in God’s Kingdom. All of these callings developed through the years. For example, I came up with a pretty well developed sense of what God meant by remnant.

I am seeking all four callings in some respects in my life today. None of these callings are directly related to my job as a journalist and publisher serving the forest products and logistics industries. My job provides me the resources, time and flexibility to carry out these callings.

It seems that sometimes when people are young they get all worked up over what they are going to do with their life. My suggestion is to simply give it away to God. Realize that your career path may change, but your identity as a Christian doesn’t – in time you only get to know the real you better.

I believe that more than worrying about your future career, the best thing to do is to make sure that you are living for God today. Focus on whatever path you are on to live as much as possible for God. Sure, you can prepare, study, and make smart education and lifestyle decisions. Education, training, hard work are all good things. You should think about the future. But you should not get so worked up over your decisions that you fail to realize how you walk down whatever path you take is as important as which path you choose to take.

Are you living in your divine calling? Stop to ask the Holy Spirit today to help you get to know the real you.

The Perfect Lie

Disillusioned is how many people would describe their present reality. From crooked politics to the down economy and high unemployment to church scandals to a high divorce rate in our families, it’s easy to see why so many feel as if the real thing is not as good as the product advertised on the commercial.

We buy “it” for the packaging and expect the contents to match our expectations. Frequently, we envision an idealized future that will never be realized. We think that the new job will be nirvana, and it isn’t. Sometimes it is just work. We think we found the perfect spouse only to discover that they have flaws too. We  expect our new home to be something out of a dream, and then the pipes break flooding the lower floor. We have three kids, and they mimic our bad behavior and make us want to pull out what hair we have left. We trust in God only to discover that churches are filled with imperfect, broken people.

You get my drift. We (especially me) tend to get idealized pictures that make it difficult for anything to live up to our dreams. A co-worker used to have the following saying pinned on the wall in her office, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.” I believe there is a lot of truth in this statement. While we can’t really eliminate expectations nor should we, we can resign ourselves to reject disillusionment for godly contentment.

I am reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).

The Apostle Paul knew the secret was not to let our situation or reality decide our attitude or emotional state. He took a long-term view of things to see past the disappointment in the moment. His trust was in a faithful God who can turn any situation around, even death and despair.

The perfect lie is to trust in the perfection of anything other than God. While there are many good things, there is only one perfect One.

Broken Knee Cap and a Burning House

Have you ever stopped to think about what it takes for you to change? Are you the kind of person who needs to experience severe pain to change? Does a disaster drive you to God or away from Him?

A friend recently told me that sometimes it takes a tragedy for him to change. He said the biggest obstacle in his life to change and more reliance on God is his success and affluence. He said that his walk with God would likely improve if he drove home and found his house on fire and hurt his leg getting out of his vehicle. I joked that I would be willing to break his knee cap and set his house on fire if that would help.

My friend has a good point. One of the biggest challenges that American Christians face is our wealth. Even in the current economic downturn, we are still better off economically than most people on the planet. When things are going well, we can relegate God to the edge of our lives. We put necessary changes on the to-do list and never get to them.

Honestly, I find that I am a lot like my friend. Pain can be a great motivator to do things and refocus my attention on God. May 2010 be a year of personal discipline and proper priorities for me without requiring a tragedy to spur it on.

Are You Going to Wear that Shirt?

Terry Bowman recently shared the following at our men’s small group gathering. We do what is called a truth search. Our focus Scripture was Galatians 3. You generally start out with a question based on the passage. Then connect it with the passage and other verses in Scripture. The goal is to get to questions that you can ask yourself based on the truth revealed in the passage.

Terry’s truth was a question. He asked, “Are you going to wear that shirt???” The implied answer is always “No.” Terry said that he heard the voice of his wife as she frequently asked Terry about his clothing choices. He then connected this concept to  Gal 3.27, which reads “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

All Christians are to take on the appearance/character of Jesus. Terry pointed to  Rom 13.13-14, which says, “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

We are to clothe ourselves with armor of light not darkness. Ephesians 4:22-24 adds to this concept. It says, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

 Looking to the Old Testament, Terry found a similar link to idolatry, holiness and clothing as a way of putting off the old self.  Gen 35.2 records that Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes.”

Terry then concluded with these probing questions. He asked, “What am I ‘wearing’ that I need to take off? – time devoted to television;  time spent surfing for hacks and gadgets. What does God have for me to put on? – acts of service; time spent investing in other people.” 

So do you need to change your shirt? When people see you do they say, “Hey, that looks kind of like Jesus?”

Beyond the Margins

Have you ever had one of those nights when you don’t even know where to begin? Your head is swimming with thoughts inspired by the wisdom of someone you feel fortunate to have encountered. That’s how I feel right now after a 2-hour concert/walk through the Bible with Michael Card.

Where do I begin? Michael Card stated his secret purpose was to entice, manipulate…  do what it takes to inspire his audience to read the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation. He weaved songs together to provide a musical narrative of Scripture. By the end, I was in tears as the reality hit me. God’s greatest desire is to be with His people. I know this. But some how tonight, I got a deeper glimpse of God’s heart. And I am undone.

While I don’t know that I would pay to hear most Christian musicians preach, I could sit and listen to Card for hours. He plumps the depth of Scripture like few Christian artists could. Here are some of the things that stood out to me.

  • Card is working on a book about slavery and freedom called A Better Freedom. Card said, “The only way you will ever be free is to become a slave of Christ.”
  • Leviticus is full of details about things like warts and mold. But those details point to spiritual realities. We see Jesus in the models and stories of the Old Testament. Card said, “God is in the details.”
  • The story of Hosea and Gomer shows us our wayward hearts. Card sang a song as Gomer talking about the faithfulness of her husband despite her unfaithfulness.
  • God gave Israel a great gift called the Year of Jubilee – a time when all debts would be canceled. It was to be a year-long party every 50 years where families and individuals were restored. But there is no record of Israel every observing the Year of Jubilee. This utopia idea has its completion in Jesus.
  • In Psalm 51 after David has committed a horrible sin, all he had to give to God was his brokenness. And that was what God really wanted in the first place. David said that what God wants is broken and contrite heart.
  • Card said, “The things that have hurt you in life, aren’t wasted. They are redeemed –  God uses them  to save the world.” He pointed to the cross as a perfect example of how God turns tragedy into victory.
  • Throughout the concert, Card kept on referring to friends and mentors who influenced each song. It was clear that his music comes out of community.
  • Card said about the book of Revelation, “In the end, God gets what He wants. Do you know what God really wants? He wants to be with you – His people.” Card said that the reward of  following the Law in Leviticus 16:12 is that God will walk with His people. From the tabernacle to the Temple, the dwelling place of God was to be with His people. Jesus is called Emmanuel, which means God with us. Jesus’ last words to His disciples were, “Behold, I am with you always.” He then promised the Holy Spirit, which lives in the heart of God’s people. Card said, “What God wants the most is what we need the most.” The story ends in Revelation with complete restoration as sin, death and separation from God are forever dealt with. God is fully with His people.

Facing the Harsh Realities of Sin

If we are really honest, most people don’t like to think of themselves as a sinner. This is even true of Christians. We like to dismiss our sin as merely mistakes or a lapse in judgment. But sin is quite insidious. We don’t realize just how dangerous it is until it is too late. We get used to sin, make excuses for it and even learn to live with it.

Tim Matthews delivered a tough sermon tonight at The Mix. It was a hurt so good kind of experience. His key passage  was James 1:13-15. Tim said that the harsh reality is that we want to blame others for our sin, but temptation brings out what is inside of us. We can’t blame God, the devil or even others. He said one of the first things we have to do to deal with sin is recognize it in our own lives. We have to confess our responsibility and not try to shift the blame. Then, we go to God and let Him purify us.

Tim added that we have to take pratical steps like fleeing from the appearance of evil and areas where we are naturally weak.

Looking specifically at lust, Tim said, “Lust is a lying desire, it will never satisfy.” Lust promises what it will never deliver. He went on to say, “If your sin really satisfies, why do you have to keep on going back to it?”

This is a good question, and it really shows that all sin starts with believing a lie. Sin is more than a mistake. It is rebellion against God.

The Epistle of James tells us that our sin comes from lust that conceives or births sin in us. It is almost as if sin is our own baby that is why it can be so difficult to overcome. We have birthed it, nurtured it and don’t realize it will kill us.

Tim said, “What you are trying to give birth to (sin) is trying to kill you. Dealing with sin is like trying to kill your baby. I know it (a baby) looks cute, but when it gets big you die. If you don’t kill your sin, it will kill you.”

The harsh reality is “Sin kills!”

Giving Up

“We grow tired of failing. Then we grow tired of trying. And then we just settle.” – Pastor Dwayne Moore

Pastor Dwayne said the above when talking about the Christian’s inner struggle with sin. His sermon focused on the fruit of the Spirit. He talked about the fruit as something that comes out of our life in Christ not something we can produce ourselves.

Dwayne said, “The key to the fruit filled life is surrender to the Holy Spirit…Fruit can’t be produced by the force of our will; it comes out of the work of the Holy Spirit in us.”

This is a great message because it encourages to surrender all to Christ. It sends us back to the cross and calls us to yield to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.