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Friday, May 31, 2013

Help Me with FAQ's about Resisting Gossip

I'm collecting frequently asked questions about gossip to answer in future blog posts.

What questions would you add to this list?

"Is ok to use the word "gossip" to describe something good?"

"I’d be interested in your definition of gossip. Where is the line?”

"Is it wrong to whisper?"

“I’ve been taught that if it’s true, it’s not gossip. Is that right?”

“That’s a real problem in our church, but nobody wants to talk about it. How do you get people to think about what they are saying?”

“How do you keep from gossiping? I mean, it’s everywhere.”

“When is your book coming out?”


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Subscribe to the Resisting Gossip Update Email Newsletter.

Pre-order Resisting Gossip on Amazon today.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Church Statement on Human Sexuality: Homosexuality and Same-Sex "Marriage"

I've said it before, and I'll say it again...I love being a part of the EFCA.  And one of the biggest reasons is that our leaders are not afraid to tackle difficult issues with confidence that God's Word will speak to them and that God's people can grow in their theological acumen and ability to apply the truth to the hard topics of life.

Back in January, our EFCA Theology Conference was "Sex Matters" on human sexuality with an emphasis on homosexuality, a topic that demands clear thinking these days. I highly recommend listening to the audio from that conference. I learned a lot.

Now, here in May, the EFCA's Spiritual Heritage Committee has produced a very helpful document entitled "A Church Statement on Human Sexuality: Homosexuality and Same-Sex 'Marriage' A Resource for EFCA Churches."

Authors Bill Jones, Bill Kynes, Ernie Manges, David Martin and Greg Strand have crafted a careful piece that outlines the context in which they speak, a list of affirmations and their implications, suggestions for a local church policy, and issues to be addressed. There is also a well-informed bibliography in the back.

The document is biblical, theological, practical, thoughtful, compassionate, and wise.

I'm glad to be a part of a family of churches that encourages this kind of careful thinking and I recommend it to you.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pre-Order "Resisting Gossip" on Amazon!

Now it feels official.

As of today, you can pre-order Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue on Amazon.com.

In future weeks, I'll let you know about lots of other places where the book will be available and at special pricing, including the website of the publisher: CLC Publications.

But for today, I'm just enjoying seeing ISBN 978-1619580763 at the world's biggest store.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Going Social with "Resisting Gossip"

Resisting Gossip now has some new digital homes.

Here at Hot Orthodoxy continues to be the best place to get the latest news and information about Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue.

But this weekend, we've also added some other social media avenues to get the word out about the book:

Resisting Gossip on Facebook

Resisting Gossip on Google Plus

Resisting Gossip on Twitter

The Resisting Gossip Update Email Newsletter

And this is fun: Thanks to my sweet cousin, Laurel Eriksen, we now have ResistingGossip.com which re-directs you back here to the blog page about the book. Thanks, Laurel!

***

By the way, I'm new to all of this, so I'd love your advice about how to have a sustainable strategy for connecting with people without wearing yourself out.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "Good Words" Proverbs 25:11

“Good Words”
The Tongue of the Wise - Spring 2013
May 26, 2013 :: Proverbs 25:11

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

“Aptly spoken” means the right word spoken at the right time.

Proverbs says that the right word at the right time is like “apples of gold in settings of silver.”

What is that talking about?

The King James Version translated this verse: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”

I think it’s supposed to remind us of fine jewelry.

What is more precious than gold and silver?  And this is an apple made of gold, gold fashioned into an apple (or possibly an apricot, this word could mean either one) and laid in a silver setting.

What could be more precious?
What could be more valuable?
What could be more beautiful?
What could be more good?

Good words.

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

The right word spoken at the right time is precious beyond belief.

We’ve all experienced that, haven’t we?

I got an email this week from a friend that include a one-sentence prayer for me.

And that prayer was exactly what I needed to hear that moment for what I was dealing with right then.

That one sentence prayer lifted my head when it was a little down.

That one sentence in a brief email was an apple of gold in a setting of silver.

Proverbs 10:20 says, “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.”

Notice the connection between the tongue and the heart.

“The tongue of the righteous is choice silver...” It’s good and valuable and beautiful and precious.

“...but the heart of the wicked is of little value.”  That’s where words come from. They come from the heart.

So good words come from good stored in the heart.

I don’t know about you, but I want to have a golden and silver heart.

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

Now that word might be a rebuke.

Look at verse 12.

“Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear.”

We talked about this verse a month ago.

Not all good words feel good at the time.

Sometimes, we need a good word to hurt us to in a smaller way to help us in a bigger way.

Sometimes, the good word is right-decision being made.

The phrase, “a word aptly spoken” in v.11 could be translated “an answer aptly spoken” meaning that this is not just any word being spoken, but an official word coming down from an authority.

We say, “Having the given a word on that yet?”

The 2011 NIV translates this verse, “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a ruling rightly given.”

And if that’s correct, then this is the right word at the right time making the right decision.  The right call.

Don’t we all love it when that happens?

“I think they made the right call.”

As someone in leadership, it so encouraging when you hear someone say that.

“I think you made the right decision.”

“Good job! That’s an apple of gold in a setting of silver.”

However you translate this verse, I think it’s clear that there are some words that are just golden, just beautiful, just valuable and precious to hear when they are spoken at the right time.

God has given us an amazing gift of these precious words that have a powerful effect for good.

We’ve all seen the opposite. “A word poorly spoken is like trash on the highway.”

“Reckless words pierce like a sword!”  “But the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

Now, I’ve picked out to share with you four sets of words today that are some of the best, most beautiful, “good words” in the entire English language.

When these words are spoken at the right time in the right way, amazing things happen.

It doesn’t always seem like it. They are under-used words and under-appreciated words.

But I think they are apples of gold in settings of silver.

Let me share them with you.

#1. “I’M SORRY.”

See what I mean?

That’s a powerful set of words right there.

But they are not always easy to say.

When I was growing up, there was a television show that I just loved on Tuesday nights. It celebrated life in the 50's in a fictional Milwaukee neighborhood with wacky characters who were always getting into and out of trouble.

Officially, the name of the show was what?

“Happy Days” and the star was Ron Howard who played the main character–Richie Cunningham.

But Happy Days was not what my brother and I called the show.  And Richie Cunningham was not the most important character on the show, as far as we were concerned.

We called the show, “The Fonz.” Tuesday nights would roll around, and Andy and I would say, “The Fonz is on!  The Fonz is on!”  And we’d flip on the TV and enjoy Henry Winkler as Arthur Fonzarelli–The Fonz.

Do you remember the Fonz?  He was the coolest thing alive.  He had a closet full of white t-shirts that he would wear under a very cool, black leather jacket–which is now in the Smithsonian.

The Fonz could do just about anything.  He could get any girl he wanted to go out with him if he just snapped his fingers.  He could break a world record for jumping his motorcycle over barrels. He could turn on a jute-box by bumping it with his elbow–and it would always play the song he wanted!  Nobody could beat the Fonz in a fight.  And he never had a hair out of place!  Do you remember that?  Every time he’d come to the mirror, he’d get out his comb–check the hair–and then go, “Aaaa!”  (With his trade-mark thumbs in the air.)  Never a hair out of place.  Why he owned a comb, I don’t know!

But there was one thing the Fonz could NOT do.  Do you remember that?

There was one thing the Fonz could NOT do.  The Fonz could not apologize.

Every once in a while, Fonzi would mess up and do something wrong.  He would hurt one of his friends, Richie or Pottsie or Ralph Malph or somebody.  And he knew that he should apologize, but he just couldn’t bring himself to make an apology. (Do you remember this?)

He would go to the person and say to the person he had hurt, “Uhhh.  I was wrrrrrrrrr....  I was wrrrrrrr......  What I’m trying to say is I’m sssssssssss....  I’m sssssssssssss....”

The words just wouldn’t come out!  He just couldn’t say, “I was wrong” or “I’m sorry.”

It’s hard to bring ourselves to apologize–to say, “I’m sorry.”

In our personal relationships, apologizing is one of the hardest things to do.

But it’s vital for us to learn how. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

Now, that’s true in our vertical relationship with God, and it’s also true in our horizontal relationship with one another.

“I’m sorry.”

Learn to say that at the right time, and you will have learned some golden words.

Now, I’m not saying to apologize for things that you have not done. Please do not lie.

But in almost every relationship, there is something that we can to say, “I’m sorry” for.  And it does amazing things to a relationship.

“I’m sorry.”

Have you used those words this week?  I think they are hard to say because it involves humbling ourselves. But that’s what we need.  And God honors it!

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

“I’m sorry.”

Here’s #2. “I FORGIVE YOU.”

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

When you say, “I forgive you,” at the right time, it’s positively golden.

There is nothing more toxic to relationships than bitterness and unforgiveness.

I mean that.

We will all sin against one another in all of our relationships.

Marriage, for example, is the union of two sinners.

Two sinners are now joined to one another for life. The result of that will be sin!

But what happens after that sin is acknowledged and confessed after one person in the relationship says, “I’m sorry?”

If there is no “I forgive you,” then the fat lady may as well sing because it’s over.

Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

How did the Lord forgive you?

How many of us said, “I’m sorry” this week?

How many of us said, “I forgive you.” ?

We teach our kids to do that, but we all need it.

“I forgive you.”

Here’s #3. “THANK YOU.”

Those two little words are so powerful yet so unused by most people, including Christians.

When someone does something for you, no matter how small, it’s appropriate to say, “Thank you.”

When we don’t, it’s often a function of our pride again.

We feel like we deserve it, whatever it is.

Do you thank you server when you go out to eat?

Do you thank somebody who opens a door for you?

Do you thank somebody who passes the salt?

This is a good weekend to thank somebody who has served in our military.

They have defended us and defended our freedoms, and we should render our thanks.

Thank you, Veterans, for your service for our nation.

Kids, thank your parents.

Parents, thank your kids when they do something for you.

And we all should be thanking God.

Because all good gifts come from Him.

The Bible says that a lack of thanksgiving is at the root of all kinds of sin. Romans 1 says that “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

We refused to say, “Thank you.” to God and so much disaster has been the consequences.

Who do you need to thank today?

Say, “Thank you.” At the right time it’s an apple of gold in a setting of silver.

Can you guess the last one for today?

#4. “I LOVE YOU.”

Those are powerful words spoken at the right time to the right person in the right way.

Apples of gold in settings of silver.

“I love you.”

Don’t say it at the wrong time.

Don’t say it romantically until it’s the right person and you are in a position to do the right thing about it.  The Song of Songs says, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.”

Don’t say it at the wrong time or to the wrong person.

But at the right time to the right person, it’s a word aptly spoken.

Husbands, tell your wives, “I love you.”  Don’t pull that stunt we talked about two weeks ago of saying of saying, “I told you I loved you when I married you and if that changes I’ll let you know.”

No. Tell her today. Tell her often. Tell her well.

Don’t just say it show it. But say it, too.

Wives, tell your husbands, “I love you.”

Parents tell your kids. “I love you.”

Don’t just say, “Love ya!”

Say it out all the way. “I love you.”

You can’t say it too much.  Those words don’t wear out.

Kids, say it to your parents.

Friends, say it (in appropriate times and ways) to your other friends.

I was talking to a pastor friend two weeks ago, and I ended our conversation with, “I love you, goodbye.”

That’s not weird.  Or least it shouldn’t be.

Siblings say it to siblings.

“I love you.”

We could add to this, “I trust you. I respect you. I appreciate you.”

Those are all forms of saying this sort of thing.

The point is to open our mouths and speak good words.

The world has enough bad words.

Christians should have mouths filled with good words.

The right word spoken at the right time in the right way in the right moment is astonishingly powerful, beautiful, valuable, and precious.

Proverbs 25:11, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

Let’s have the tongue of the wise.

Let’s have tongues of silver and gold.


***

Messages in this Series:

1. The Fearsome Tongue
2. Sweet Words
3. Grumbling (Part One)
4. Grumbling (Part Two)
5. Praising Mom
6. Bad Words
7. Good Words

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Wild Violets



Wild Violets in a Cute Elephant Creamer

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pastors and Mudslinging

Brian Croft of Practical Shepherding (one of the blogs I read) posted twice this week on how a pastor deals with criticism, especially that of the mudslinging kind:

How Does a Pastor Face Criticism From His People?

My God use whatever harsh, painful words might be spoken to us this week to make us tenderly afraid of sin and more concerned to live a blameless life, all the while looking to the cross where Jesus Christ alone is our redemption, sanctification, and righteousness.
What Questions Should a Pastor Ask Himself When Criticisms Come?
Pastors, I would encourage you to use these questions as we did; merely a template to search your own heart about how you cope when your people criticize you.  Do you get sad?  Angry?  Hurt?  What do you do with those feelings and how do you now deal with those throwing the mud and hitting others in the process?  What mud do you drag home with you hoping your wife will clean the mud off for you?  How we face these questions in a God-honoring way and with a gospel perspective will often determine our level of joy in the work and how long we will last in the ministry.

Brian is talking mainly about criticisms that the pastor hears in person, but some of his thoughts also relate to the sticky problem of being criticized behind our backs.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tim McIntosh on "Resisting Gossip"

Tim McIntosh is the author of  Leadership Peruvian Style, director of general studies at the Evangelical Seminary of Lima, Peru, and (more importantly) a good friend. He served as a critical reader during the development of Resisting Gossip, and I was very pleased for him to endorse it:

“This book on gossip meets a huge need. It is a response to a problem within the church as well as individual lives. I would recommend it to all Christians and more specifically to pastors. There is precious little on this topic.” – Tim McIntosh

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Jackie Hill's Love Letter to a Lesbian

At the DesiringGod blog, poet (and former lesbian) Jackie Hill writes a sympathetic letter to a lesbian about the superior love offered by Christ.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

First Look at the Official Cover for "Resisting Gossip"

Here is the front cover for Resisting Gossip, due out on September 4, 2013.


And here is the back cover and spine, as well, with an author photo courtesy of the talented Schenley Pilgram! [Click on the image for a closer look.]


It's exciting to see it all coming together.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Recommending "Risen"

I'm very glad I read Risen this Spring.

Steven Mathewson has done a marvelous job of crafting 50 bite-sized meditations on the resurrection that are both theological and applicational at the same time.

With exactly 50 "reasons why the resurrection changed everything," it fit perfectly between Resurrection Sunday (Easter) and Holy Spirit Sunday (Pentecost, yesterday).

Mathewson masterfully takes readers on a treasure hunt through the New Testament to find out how the apostles connected the doctrine of the resurrection to other points of doctrine and then to our lives.

On one level, I knew most of the things he said, but I had never thought as deeply or as interconnectedly about them on the level that Risen takes you, especially all at one time.

I will be re-reading Risen next year. Highly recommended.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "Bad Words"


“Bad Words”
The Tongue of the Wise - Spring 2013
May 19, 2013 :: Ephesians 5:4

I told Heather yesterday, “This will be a quick message. I’ll just say, ‘Bad Words. Don’t say them. Let’s close in prayer!”

And it will, probably be a quicker one, but I think God has a few more things for us to share today than just “Don’t say bad words!”

What do I mean by “Bad Words?”

I almost entitled this message, “Pardon My French.”

Because I think about it as sermon on all of those things people say that we know that we shouldn’t say: cursing, cussing, swearing, foul-mouthed dirty-jokes, using the Lord’s name in vain, expletives, double entendres, profanity, crudeness and so on.

Bad Words. That’s what I mean.

And it’s hard to preach on bad words this these days for a number of reasons.

First off, it’s everywhere and everyone does it.

Well, maybe not everyone, but it sometimes it seems like it, doesn’t it?

What used to be a word that no one would ever say in front of a lady, is now shouted by some woman (I won’t call her a lady) in public on a stage into a microphone on a camera broadcast to the world. And nobody blinks.

The Internet and social media have just made it worse.

It’s socially acceptable now to use bad words. And many people don’t even realize how degraded their speech has become.

And that probably includes some of you. And I apologize in advance if I step on your toes today. I don’t enjoy it, but I do it in love.

You might say, “Don’t we have bigger fish to fry than this? I mean, really, how relatively important is cussing compared to some other sins out there, including other sins of the tongue?”

And I’d say that you’re partially right. There are bigger fish to fry in the sea, but this smaller fish is still a fish that needs fried. In 15 years here, this is the first sermon I’ve preached on bad words. I wouldn’t make preaching against bad words the center of my ministry, but we’re going to see today that God has something important to say about it, and we all need to listen carefully.
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person-- such a man is an idolater-- has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:1-5, NIV 1984)

I was about 12 or 13 when I said my first swear word.


Now, that probably sounds really old to most of you. Many of you probably learned and used them long before me.

I was, as I’ve said before, a goody-two-shoes. I grew up much more like a Pharisee than a disciple like Peter or John and James, the sons of thunder.

And I was proud of not having said swear words until about Junior High.

[This is how I remember it, of course. There may be someone out there, my little brother for example, who might remember all of this differently and better.]

But I remember once walking home from Junior High School and deciding that I was going to say a swear word.

Out loud.

Just to see what would happen.

I had a word in my head that I had heard the other boys use, and I knew that it was a bad one.

And I was by myself, and there was no one around, and ... I said it.

And nothing happened.

The sky didn’t fall. The traffic didn’t crash. The birds didn’t stop singing. The sun didn’t go dark.

As far as I could tell, nothing happened!

But something did happen.

I had given in to something I knew I shouldn’t give in to.  I had compromised where I knew I shouldn’t have compromised. I had done something in secret that I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to know about, so I would now have to hide it.  (In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever told this to anyone until now.)

And I had set myself up to do it again. And next time, maybe something a little worse.

Remember what we’ve learned. Small words are still powerful.

And you know what? There was someone else listening.

Two people heard me use that bad word.

Myself. And my God.

Was it a small thing? Yes. And I can laugh about it today. And it’s forgiven!

But it was not a good thing.

In Ephesians 5, the apostle Paul is talking about the changes that are necessary for Christians now that they have come to know Christ.

He started back in chapter 4, verse 17.

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.”

We have been changed by Jesus!

And we need to live out that change. V.22

“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.”

And then Paul lays out what this looks like in quick succession:

v.25 Put off falsehood and put on truth.
V. 27 Put off stealing and put on work and generosity.
V.29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it might benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [on Pentecost Sunday!] with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
V.31 Put off bitterness, rage and anger, etc, etc, and put on forgiveness and compassion.

And then our verses:

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.

[And our key verse...] Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”

#1. NO OBSCENITIES.

The King James has “filthiness” in v.4.  No filthiness.

No dirty mouths.  No dirty words.

No words that stand for something shameful or disgraceful to mention.

Let me list a few obscenities for you here in the pulpit.

[silence]

Don’t worry. I’m not going to do that.  God’s Word here says not to say them.

I’m glad that some of you gasped. We don’t need sermons that have to be beeped out by the censors.

Many obscenities are tied to impure sexuality.

Verse 3 said, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality.”

A lot of bad words come from talking about impurity in sexuality. Body parts, sexual acts, bad names for people who engage in illicit sex.

And Paul says that there shouldn’t be even a hint of that in our speech.

No obscenities.

But, what if you’re really angry?  I mean sometimes a regular word just doesn’t cut it to express how you feel. You need a really strong word!

Well, the truth is that you don’t have to express how you feel.

But you do have to obey your Lord and Master.

No obscenities.

No, “Pardon my French.” There is no excuse for “French.”

I think this includes using the Lord’s name as a swear word.

Now, using the Lord’s name in vain means a lot more than just using it as a swear word. Maybe we’ll have a whole sermon on how we can use the Lord’s name wrongly in this series.

But it’s not less than that!

When we misuse the Lord’s name, we are taking something utterly holy and turning it into a bad word!  That’s serious.

I know everyone does it.  “O my Lord!”

Or in they put OMG on their status, right?

No. That’s not the kind of talk that God wants from us.

No obscenities.

How do you know whether it’s an obscenity or not? Especially if you’re a kid.

I think this is where parents have an important role to play in their children’s lives.

We should be teaching our kids bad words. You heard it here first!

Not to use them but to not use them.

One of the dads in our church family here was telling me last week that he has invited his son to ask him about any word that he hears at school, and this dad will tell his son what that word means even if it makes him blush.

Not at the dinner table! But one-on-one that dad will teach his son what every obscenity he hears means.

I think that’s a great idea. And I am going to promise my boys the same thing.

We parents need to not be afraid of hearing those bad words so that we can train our kids to not use them.

Now, what about “substitute swear words?”

Everybody I’ve talked to this week about this sermon has asked me what do I think about words that aren’t the really bad words but we substitute in for them?

You know which words I mean.

The truth is that it’s not as bad to say those words as it is to say the words they are based upon.

But it’s not good either!

Let me give you some tamer examples: “Darn,” “heck,” and the phrase, “What the...?”

Not good.

I’m not going to give other examples today. I can’t do so in this pulpit in faith. If you need help with this, I’d be glad to talk with you further in private.

But the point is, “No Obscenities.”  And don’t try to get around it by saying something that is just you saying it without saying it. God knows.

#2. NO FOOLISH TALK.

V.4 again.

“Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”

Bible Teacher Joe Stowell says that foolish talk is “language offensive to Christian decency. This would certainly include words that are vulgar and indecent in their connotations. Speech from a foolish heart is godless. Since God is pleased with modesty (1 Timothy 2:9), talk that condones immodesty is foolish. Since God is concerned about loyalty in marriage, conversations that make light of marital fidelity are foolish as well” (The Weight of Your Words, pg. 73).

The picture I get of “foolish talk” is empty words that are spouted out in unthinking foolishness.

Proverbs 15:28 says, “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.”

I would put name-calling in this category.

And hate words.

We should never use ethnic slurs like “Chink” for Chinese or “Towel Heads” for Muslims or hateful words like “faggot” for homosexuals or “nigger” for black people.

That’s foolish talk.

And we should be especially careful with the words we use for those in authority over us.

Like the President of the United States.

The Apostle Peter said, “Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”

Of course, our president is not a king, but he does have an office that we should respect.

And it’s foolish talking to call him bad names.

#3. NO COARSE JOKING.

King James has “jesting.” The NASB has “coarse jesting.” One scholar translated it “degrading jesting.”

This is stories and jokes with suggestive overtones and double entendres.

And here’s the problem with them:

They can be ... really funny.

Some of the funniest jokes you’ll ever hear are a little ... coarse.

People wouldn’t tell them if they weren’t funny to someone.

But just because it’s funny, doesn’t mean it’s good.

That was something I learned back in High School. I’m not sure how I learned it, but it was a brainwave for me. A lightbulb went on.

I used to think that all kinds of things were excused because they were funny.

I was still a goody-two-shoes (for the most part) in High School.  And I was a leader in my youth group at church.

And I was juggling Christian speaker at banquets and youth events.

And I also have some favorite ribald jokes that I would tell in private.

I say this to my shame.

But at some point there in High School or shortly thereafter, I learned the lesson that just because it’s funny, doesn’t make it okay.

I’ve had to learn that more than once as I’ve strayed at times since.

No Coarse Joking!

Not to impress the boys in the locker room or the garage or the guard shack.

No Coarse Joking.

And that goes double for what you post online. Some of the things I see Christians sharing online make both of the hairs on my head stand on end.

When you share a poster or a story or a graphic or an image or a status that is coarse joking, you are disobeying Ephesians 5:4.

And why is that bad?

V.4, Paul says these things are “out of place.”

They don’t belong for Christians.

#4. BAD WORDS ARE "OUT OF PLACE."

The King James says they are “not convenient” but he doesn’t mean that they come at a bad time. Convenient used to mean “what was fitting.”

These bad words don’t fit.

What don’t they fit?

They don’t fit Christians and they don’t fit the Kingdom. V.5

“For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”

That’s how high the stakes are. And it’s no laughing matter.

Bad words don’t fit. They are impure, and they are out of place for Christians.

Like in verse 3 where it says, “these are improper for God’s holy people.”

They don’t belong.

Obscenities, foolish talk, or coarse joking in the mouth of a Christ-following believer is like putting Ghandi in charge of the U.S. Marines. They just don’t fit together!

Why?

Because of who we are.  Look back at verse 1 again.

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Bad words are not loving words.

And they are not being like God. Imaging God.

Now, notice that it doesn’t say “become God’s holy children by stopping your bad words.” It doesn’t say to don’t do these things to earn your salvation. It says to do them because you ARE God’s holy people, God’s dearly loved children.

This is a call to live by grace. Not a call to do this on your own.

You are already pure because of Jesus, so purify your mouth.

Does that make sense?

If you don’t have a purified and purifying mouth, then you might not know Jesus, and you might not have a share in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Because all saved people are being sanctified.

Don’t think that you can clean up your mouth to impress God so that He’ll let you into His family.

You only get into the family of God by faith in Christ and what He did on the Cross.

But if you are in that family, then you need to talk like it.

And that means no obscenities, no foolish talk, no coarse joking. Because they are “out of place.”

This is not about being nice. It’s about being holy!

Now, let me say this about when people are using bad words AROUND YOU.

What do you do when people around you are swearing, for example.

For the most part, you don’t do anything. You probably try to change the subject.

Most of the time, you just overlook it. Because we are not the word police. Especially around non-Christians. We must remember that we are not trying to win people to cleaned-up mouths. We’re trying to win them to Jesus!

I know Christians who feel like they are witnessing when they require the unbelievers around them to change their language when they are near.  They think they are witnessing when they chastise unbelievers for bad words.

But witnessing is about winning people to Christ, not to cleaned up mouths. After they come to Christ, then we can talk about their mouths.

But there are some situations when we might want to confront.

- When we are parents or authorities with kids.
- When there are ladies or kids present, to protect their ears.
- When the language is so over the top that you simply cannot overlook it.
- Or when you are alone with another Christian who is slipping and you have the kind of relationship where you can speak into their life.

In those kind of situations, we should speak up about bad words, but with unbelievers, we shouldn’t make a big deal of it.

We shouldn’t be crude, but we should be prudes either.

We can let the Holy Spirit do the convicting.

Because Bad Words are out of place.

Is there ever a time for bad words?

Maybe. There are a few places in scripture where someone like Paul himself uses high octane language.

But he always does it in holiness and in love, for some good and godly reason.

So, if you can say that strong thing in holiness and love for a good and godly reason, more power to you.

But most of the time, we use bad words to build, not Christ’s kingdom, but our own.

And those kingdoms are out of place.

What should you do if you have fallen in this area?

The same thing as any other sin.

Confess it.
Turn from it.
And change by faith in the promises of God.

I didn’t do it that day when I was 12 or 13, but a few years later, I did. I asked God to forgive me for blurting out that expletive.

And He has been changing my heart and my tongue ever since.

Is this a big deal?

Are bad words a big deal?

Jesus Christ died on the cross for bad words.

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

If He did that, then we can use our tongues for Him.

“Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”

#5. RATHER THANKSGIVING.

That’s what we should do instead.

Christians, those bought by the blood of Christ, have everything to be thankful for.

And thanksgiving will push away the allure of obscenity, foolish talk, and coarse joking.

Because bad words are out of place.

But for those of us who belong to Christ Jesus, it’s always appropriate to give thanks.


***

Messages in this Series:

1. The Fearsome Tongue
2. Sweet Words
3. Grumbling (Part One)
4. Grumbling (Part Two)
5. Praising Mom
6. Bad Words

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Friday, May 17, 2013

First Look at the Cover of "Resisting Gossip"

The wait is almost over.

The good folks at CLC Publications tell me that we're soon going to get to share the official cover of Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue with the world!

If you want to be one of the first to see this image, sign up today for the "Resisting Gossip Update" email newsletter.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cussing

In my research for this upcoming Sunday's message on bad words, I found an insightful article by Carolyn Arends on The Trouble with Cussing Christians:

All language is a kind of social contract. We agree—as heirs of centuries of etymological development—to call the pointy thing in our arm an elbow, just like we agree to label things we find despicable with words we identify as profane. The words themselves hold only the power we give them. But curse words tend to be powerful indeed, because to linguistically reduce something or someone to the level of biological functions (and their resultant products) is almost always an act of contempt. And contempt is toxic.
Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Gray Havens Are Coming to Our House!

Exciting news:

Dave & Licia Radford, aka The Gray Havens are going to do a "house show" concert at our home on May 26th at 7pm.

Heather and I first heard of this singer/songwriter couple in January when they gave away their first EP album, Where Eyes Don't Go, online.

We made the mistake of downloading it, because now we can't turn it off!

Their music is creative and fresh, and the lyrics are, too. Dave explained some of the philosophy behind their songs on this very informative interview at challies.com:
The album is sort of a concept album in that everything centers around one central idea, a song. The first track, “Where it Goes,” is an account of creation, fall, and redemption from “History’s” perspective. The song’s subject matter is a “song” which is meant to represent the fabric of reality that God spoke into existence at the founding of creation. This theme continues in “Silver,” the second track, which is inspired by a conversation between C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkein before Lewis was converted. “Lies breathed through silver” was the description Lewis gave to the myths that he and Tolkein both shared a passion for. Tolkein, however, argued that Christianity was the true myth, and therefore distinguishable from myths crafted with “silver.” Therefore, the song is an attempt to capture this kind of imagery that depicts some who grow up with “silver” songs but begin to hear echoes of songs that are of a different nature. They sail off in search of the song’s origin to find that it melts everything silver, which gives them eyes to see the song’s inherent truth. The third track, “Gray Flowers,” stands alone as a gospel narrative story about a town that does not allow “grays.” Grays is really grace. The officials represent the Pharisees. The woman represents the church. The man represents Jesus. You’ll just have to listen to it. The “song” theme is re-introduced in “Train Station” through a more redemptive lens. It depicts a series of well-polished trains and conductors who promise a way of escape and deliverance from the train station for a certain fee. However, one conductor operates a train that is free to any who might accept a ticket from him. The “song” makes its final appearance in “Music From a Garden,” a combination of Genesis 1 and a chapter from The Magician’s Nephew entitled “The Fight at the Lamppost” from Lewis’s Narnia series. It’s about how the song (God’s original design) was so much more full and real at creation, but now can only be heard as an echo until Christ returns.
Interestingly, Dave was also once a contestant on American Idol.

We're looking forward to having them in our home, sharing their stories in Sunday School (9am), having them sing in church on Sunday morning (10am), and doing a house show at our place in Lanse (7pm). We're asking for $10/person suggested donation at the door.

Learn more about The Gray Havens on their website.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Douglas Wilson on Talebearing Teenagers

"Tattling" is gossip, not to just anyone, but to authorities.

Douglas Wilson speaking to teens on the topic of talebearing:

For you young people, this part of your life is a white water stretch of the river. And one of the most treacherous rapids that you will need to navigate is the challenge presented by the sins of others, and by the glaring sins of others. When do you keep silent, and when do you tell somebody? Not surprisingly, Scripture provides us with a guardrail on both sides of the road.
Good biblical and practical counsel from Pastor Wilson, including a focus on the motives and attitudes of the heart.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Wisdom for After Your Book is Published

I am starting to get excited about the publication of Resisting Gossip this Fall (September 3 is the big day!).

We are in the final stages of editing, and tomorrow I get to meet with the marketing team at CLC Publications on Tuesday to talk about getting the word out. I hope to get to share the cover with you, too.

(By the way, if you want to get the latest information about the book, including a first peak at the cover, sign up for the Resisting Gossip Update email newsletter. More on that later.).

For the last few years, I've been collecting a file of articles to help me get ready for this next phase of life:

Letter to a Soon-To-Be-Published Author by Andy Crouch

When Your Book Takes Over Your Life: a Reality Check by Drew Dyck

On Finishing and Who Will Remember Me? by Tim Stafford

Now That the Book the Book Is Done... by John Koessler

I want to maintain the right perspectives. What wisdom would you offer to a new author?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "Praising Mom"


“Praising Mom”
The Tongue of the Wise - Spring 2013
May 12, 2013 :: Proverbs 31:28-31

This is the famous “Proverbs 31 Woman” which, perhaps surprisingly, I have never preached on over the last 15 years. This is my 15th Mother’s Day as your pastor, and I’ve never preached Proverbs 31 until today.

And we’re actually going to skip to the end of the chapter, verses 28-31 to get the main thing I want to emphasize this Sunday.

And that’s this: “Praising Mom.”

Today’s message is the next installment in our series on “The Tongue of the Wise.”

Which we get from our Hide the Word verse, Proverbs 12:18. Say it with me, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

The last two weeks, we talked about the reckless words of grumbling.  But now that we’ve solved that problem and none of us grumbled this week (but did we lie?), we move onto a new topic: “Praising Mom.”

The tongue of the wise praises an excellent mom.

Let’s see what Proverbs 31 has to say. Verse 28.

“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

I get the title, “Praising Mom” from verse 28.  Talking about this heroic woman, “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’”

“Praising Mom”

The tongue of the wise praises an excellent mom.

What we do on Mothers’ Day is right and good and has biblical reasoning for it.

It is right and good to praise Moms for the great things they do and for the great people they are.

Kids, praise your Mom.  Rise up and call her blessed.  It’s the right thing to do.

Dads/husbands, praise your kids’ mom. Rise up and praise her for her praiseworthy characteristics. It’s a good thing and a right thing to do.

Praise Mom.

Why? Four reasons today.

#1. BECAUSE GOD SAYS TO.

Now, this might be surprising to you.

I have often thought that we were only supposed to praise God.

Don’t praise Mom, praise God.

But that’s not true.

It is good and right to praise Mom, as well

Not to the same degree. Not on the same level.

It is idolatrous to raise Mom to the level of God.

Don’t worship your Mom!

But do praise her for her praiseworthy characteristics.

Verse 31, “Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

God says to.

Now, guys, this is especially important if you have the attitude I’ve heard that says, “I told you I loved you when I married you and if anything changes I’ll let you know.”

That’s disobedience to God.

God wants husbands to praise their wives.
God wants daddy’s to praise their kids’ moms.
God wants kiddos to praise their mommas.

“Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

And not just on Mothers’ Day!

Reason #2 for Praising Moms.

#2. BECAUSE WOMEN NEED THE TRUTH.

Women need to hear this. Women need encouraged.

Ladies need to hear the truth. V.30

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”

Now, men need to hear that because they can get fooled by charm and outward beauty.

Is she fun and is she sexy?
Is she into me and is she hott?

That’s charm and beauty and they are deceptive.  Guys, watch out.

But ladies can be deceived by those same things, can’t they?

The world sends women the wrong messages about what is important in life.

The world sends women false messages about what is important for them to be to become.

You must be charming and you must beautiful.

If not, you’re a failure.

You must be fun and you must be sexy.

If you’re not, then you’re trash.

Moms get that message every day from every direction.

And guys, it’s our job to remind them of what’s true.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”

Nothing wrong with charm in and of itself.

Nothing wrong with beauty. A godly husband will find his wife beautiful and tell her so, too.  The Song of Songs teaches us about that.

But those things are not the important things.

What’s important is if she fears the YHWH.  If she loves the Lord Jesus.

And if she does, she should be praised.

Women need to hear the truth.

Guys, our wives need to hear that they are number one in our hearts. V.29

"Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."

That’s what a godly Dad says to a godly Mom in the presence of his children.

"Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."

You are the best! You are the greatest!

You are our favorite woman.

And the kids agree. “Her children arise and call her blessed.”

Now, do you see why I picked this passage for today?

A lot of women read Proverbs 31 and they get discouraged because they don’t and can’t live up to every verse in it.

But Proverbs 31 should get us guys and us kids busy. Not just ladies. But us, too.

And it should get our mouths in gear.

Praise that godly mom. Because she needs to hear the truth.

Now, the principle is true beyond moms, isn’t it?

We all need to hear the truth.

We all need encouragement.

Don’t just praise moms for the praiseworthy things they do.

But specifically here we are told to praise godly moms.

Reason #3.

#3. BECAUSE SHE’S EARNED IT. V.31 again.

“Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

This doesn’t mean that she’s perfect.

It means that she’s done commendable things so she should be commended.

It means that her heart is praiseworthy so it should be praised.

Guys, what might you praise in the woman in your life?

Kids, what is it about Mom that you should rise up and call her blessed?

Well, let’s go back up to verse 10 and see exactly what the Bible says.

It’s important to know that this is carefully constructed Hebrew poem. It’s actually an acrostic meaning that every line begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

In other words, it’s the ABCs of recognizing an excellent woman.

Some scholars believe that Hebrew boys were taught their ABCs by memorizing this poem and at the same time were learning the A to Z’s of how to find a wife, what to look for in a wife.

V.10

“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

What could you say to that Mom.

You could say, “Mom, you are rare.”  “You are a gem.”
“Mom, you are valuable.”
“Mom, you are trustworthy.”
“Mom, you are reliable. You are constant.”
“You are good for me.”

Ladies, would you like to hear that from the men and the kids in your life?

“Honey, you are precious to me.”

You are a “wife of noble character” or that could be translated, “a woman of valor” or “an excellent wife or strong wife.”

Or a “hero wife.”  “You are my hero.”

Now, in verses 13-27, there is a long list of this wife’s activities.

She is quite a superwoman, an embodiment of the virtues of Lady Wisdom from earlier in the book of Proverbs.

I don’t think that she actually exists. She is an ideal, an exemplar, an inspiration.

V.15 says that she gets up while it’s still dark and verse 18 says her lamp doesn’t go out at night.

Apparently, she never sleeps!  I think the point is that all of these descriptions of her activities add up to her character and point to the kinds of person a godly woman should aspire to be.

This isn’t here to shame women or wear them out but to inspire them.

And to show us guys both what to look for in a wife and what to praise when we see it.  V.13

“She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.”

What could we say, guys?

“Mom, you are so hard-working.”
“You are so diligent.”
“You care so much for our needs.”

V.16

“She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.  She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.  She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.”

“Mom, you are so shrewd in how you handle finances.”
“Mom, you are so energetic. So resourceful. So industrious.”

But as hard as you work and as shrewd as you are at managing, you’re also generous!  V.20

“She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.”

“Mom, you are skillful.”
“Mom, you are so active for us.”
“Thank you!”

I was struck this week with how good my life is because of how hard Heather Joy works for us.

And at the risk of embarrassing her again, I’m going to point some of it out.

You teach our homeschool every day. 4 kids, 4 different classes!
You make good things for us to eat from scratch with great ingredients.
You hang out the laundry (lots and lots and lots of laundry).
You sew our things and knit our things.
You buy all of our clothes and supplies.
You clean everything over and over again.
You are constantly directing or managing something.

And that's just the start of the list. I won't go into particulars.

We are spoiled. You are precious.

Because you work so hard, we experience such a good life.

That’s why (v.23):

“Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

“Mom, you are so confident. So hopeful. So strong and dignified.”

V.26

“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

“Mom, you are so wise. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with our family.”

That’s the kind of thing that we should be saying.

Dads to Moms and kids to Moms.

Now, you can see why this passage might overwhelm a lady.

She’s supposed to be rare, valuable, trustworthy, precious, hard-working, industrious, reliable, constant, diligent, dependable, shrewd, energetic, resourceful, generous, skillful, active, hope-filled, confident, strong, dignified, and wise.

Makes me tired just to list it.

But, the point I’m trying to make is that we guys (and us kids) should be noticing those qualities when they appear in the women in our lives and we should be shouting them into the megaphone at the city gates.

Every time she is like that, guys, we should be pointing it out.

She’s earned it.

“Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

She’ll begin to feel like a million bucks when we begin to tell her that she’s worth a million bucks. Or a billion bucks.

Now, this is important. Don’t lie about these things.

Don’t flatter her. Don’t tell her that these things are true when you know they are not.

But when they are, don’t miss the opportunity to praise her.

She will not feel like she has lived up to the God’s standard of womanhood.

But whenever she reflects that ideal, she should be hearing about it from us guys and us kids.

“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’”

You’re not perfect. But you’re the best!

Praising Mom.

One more reason.

#4. BECAUSE PRAISING HER BRINGS PRAISE TO HER GOD.

V.30

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”

What makes her so excellent?

She fears the Lord.

God is honored by pointing to the woman’s excellence in fearing him, the One who defines and exemplifies excellence.”  (Sam Crabtree, Practicing Affirmation, pg. 13).

Where does she get all of what makes her great?

From God.

We don’t praise her to the exclusion of God.

We praise her because of what God has done in her.

Praising Mom brings praise to her God.

At least, it does when we do it right.

So, how are you going to do it?

Not just today on Mothers’ Day, though this is a good time to get going.

But every day.

Husbands/Dads, especially, how are you going to build praising your wife, your kids’ mom, into your daily life.

Does she know how you feel?

She needs to.  Women need to hear the truth.

Because Satan and the world will lie to them every day.

You need to be feeding them the truth. God says so.

Not because she’s perfect, but as she does her best, she is reflecting the perfection of the Lord. She’s earned it. Praise her. Rise up and praise her.

Don’t lie. But tell her.

And as you do so, you will bring praise to her God.

Who is deserving of all of our praise forever and ever and ever!


***

Messages in this Series:

1. The Fearsome Tongue
2. Sweet Words
3. Grumbling (Part One)
4. Grumbling (Part Two)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Next Book I'd Like to Read on Bible Translation

Andy Naselli reports on his second favorite all-time book on bible translation: One Bible, Many Versions: Are All Translations Created Equal by Dave Brunn.

This book looks really good. I'm especially interested in Brunn's perspective as a translator whose life work was not translating into English informing our perspectives on English translations.

I'm seriously considering changing my preaching/memorizing Bible because of the unavailability of the 1984 NIV, and I think that this book might help me to decide on my next version. Or, at least, it will help me to remember that no translation is ultimate and that many translations is actually ideal.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Thank you, Dearheart, for Working So Hard for Us

Image by rosiemarketing.com

Mother's Day is this weekend, and I've been thinking, Heather Joy, about how blessed our family is to have you working so diligently for us:

You teach our homeschool every day. 4 kids, 4 different classes!
You make good things for us to eat from scratch with great ingredients.
You hang out the laundry (lots and lots and lots of laundry).
You sew our things and knit our things.
You buy all of our clothes and supplies.
You clean everything over and over again.
You are constantly directing or managing something.
And that's just the start of the list. I won't go into particulars.

We are spoiled. You are precious.

Because you work so hard, we experience such a good life.

Thank you for living out Proverbs 31:17 at the Mitchell household.

"She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks."

Happy Mother's Day, Dearheart.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Torn About "Torn" 1 - Five Things I Appreciated


A few weeks ago, I promised some interaction with Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-Vs.-Christians Debate by Justin Lee.  I don’t know how many posts this will take, but I want to wade into that interaction today.

As I said before, I am torn over Torn. I wanted to like it because it had come highly recommended to me, but in the end I was disappointed and (even more) disturbed by it.

Today, I’d like to just state things I did appreciate about the book. Maybe next week I can lay out some of my concerns.

1. I appreciated that Justin Lee had the guts to write it.

I know that in our current cultural milieu, it’s getting easier to “come out,” but it still takes courage.  Justin not only comes out as sone with same sex attraction (what he calls “gay”), but he also is trying to fulfill the subtitle of his book: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate.  He feels the tension out there and throws his hat in the ring to try to solve it. That’s gutsy, and I appreciate it.

2.  I appreciated that Justin tells his story.

This book is not dry, dusty, or academicish. And even though he’s arguing for something, he’s using a story to do it. I think that’s great–and much needed. We need to listen to each other’s stories.  It will become clear over the next few weeks that I don’t agree with Justin’s own interpretation of his own story, but I think it’s good that he tells it and shows us where he’s come from and why.  All too often these issues have no faces.  But every person who is same-sex attracted has a name, a face, and a story.

3. I appreciated that Justin tells his unexpected story.

Justin’s story is not the story that I expected.  It’s not the story he expected!  I had been taught that most men with same-sex leanings had distant fathers and domineering mothers or had been molested at some time.  Instead, Justin tells a story of a loving, supportive Christian home with parents who modeled a healthy hetersoexual marriage. Justin expected that same thing for himself. He was as surprised as anyone how his story began to unfold.

This reminds me to not cram people into stereotypes.  I wouldn’t want someone to cram me into one, so why would I do it to others?

4. I appreciated that Justin wrestles with Scripture.

I don’t agree with Justin’s take on Scripture. In fact, I think it’s downright dangerous.  But he’s trying. He’s wrestling. He’s reading the Bible and trying to connect it to his life.  Justin hasn’t given up on his Bible or tossed out his Christianity on its ear.  Many people, confronted with the choices Justin believes he has in front of him, would just bail.  But Justin is trying to work it all out and help others to do it, too.  I appreciate his attempt, even though I think he’s got it fundamentally wrong.  My prayer is that he will continue to wrestle with Scripture, coming more and more under its sway, and come out in what I believe would be a different, better, and more holy place. That would be an exciting turn in the story! In the meantime, I appreciate that he's trying.

5. I appreciated how Justin is trying to get people to genuinely hear each other.

My friends who love this book are very encouraged by Justin’s attempt to get wildly different people to listen to each other (what he calls "Side A and Side B").  I think it’s a noble pursuit and birthed in love.

Some of my friends will strongly disagree with me here, thinking that I’ve compromised just by listening with respect. I can understand their concern–because I think that homosexual lust and behavior is a sinful perversion of God’s good design for holy sexuality. And I believe that I should clearly teach that in the face of a culture that disagrees. So, why would I even listen to someone who taught that homosexual desire and intimate relationships could be God-blessed?  Answer: because that’s how I would want to be treated if it was me in those shoes over there--Jesus’ Golden Rule of Thumb. And also when Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” He didn’t mean just some of them.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

I'm studying Romans with Douglas Moo, and you can, too!

BiblicalTraining.org is an amazing resource.

Today in my drive to Altoona and back, I listened to several lectures by Dr. Doug Moo, an expert scholar in New Testament, teach through the book of Romans (about which he wrote a leading commentary). Excellent stuff.

And it's free! Download the entire set of lectures yourself and immerse yourself in the gospel of God.


Monday, May 06, 2013

Your Help Needed: Book Trailers

I'm looking for your input again, this time about "trailers" (short preview videos) for books like Resisting Gossip.

+   What makes a great book trailer?

+   What would cause you to watch one from start to finish?

+   What are the most important elements to include and exclude?

+   What are your top turn-offs to book trailers? Why would you close your browser instead of watching it all the way through?

+    What other advice would you give a small budget producer for book trailers?

Thanks, in advance, for your counsel.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "Grumbling" (Part Two)

“Grumbling (Part Two)”
The Tongue of the Wise - Spring 2013
May 5, 2013 :: Numbers 11:1-35

This message is called “Grumbling (Part Two)” following last week’s message not surprisingly called “Grumbling (Part One)” from Exodus 15 and 16.

And you might be wondering why we need a part two. Last week, we talked about grumbling (grumble, grumble, grumble) and murmuring (murmur, murmur, murmur), and we said a lot about it.  Why do we need another message on grumbling?

Let me ask you a question. You listened to last week’s message on grumbling. Did you still grumble this week?

I know that I did. I caught myself faster. I repented faster. But I still did it.

And that was the case with Israel, too. Even though God had confronted their grumbling in Exodus 15 and 16, here they were in Numbers 11 doing it again.

What has happened between Exodus 16 and Numbers 11?  A lot, really.  They have marched from the Red Sea to Mount Sinai where God has graciously given them the Law and the Tabernacle.  They have received the Holy Constitution of the Nation of Israel, and God Himself has moved into the middle of their camp. God took up residence in the big tent at the center of town and now lives among His people.

And they have numbered the people and gotten arranged by tribes with God at their center and prepared to triumphantly march to the Promised Land.

But. However.

In the world of finance, a “Chapter 11" is a bankruptcy.

And that’s essentially what happens in Numbers chapter 11.

The people of Israel are shown to be spiritually bankrupt.

And it comes out in grumbling. It comes out in complaining.

Numbers chapter 11, verse 1.

“Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.  When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down.  So that place was called Taberah [BURNING], because fire from the LORD had burned among them.”

“Now the people complained.”  It doesn’t sound that bad, does it?

I mean, we all complain. Every day, right?

It’s interesting that in the book of Numbers there are no complaints for the first 10 chapters. You might remember when we studied this book together years ago that the first 10 chapters of Number are very positive.

The Israelites didn’t complain for the first 10 chapters.  No real hint of it.  But here, three days into their journey, they complain.

It appears that they encountered some hardships. We’re not sure whether those were real or imagined hardships.  But we do know that they complained about it “in the hearing of the LORD.” [Which, by the way, is wherever you are.  He doesn’t miss a thing!]

V.1 “And when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.”

So is complaining and grumbling a big deal or just a little one?

The Bible says that it “aroused” God’s anger.  So much so that he set fire to the outskirts of the camp.  We don’t know if that was just tents or people or what.  But it was terrifying.

And the people cried out to Moses, and Moses called out to God, and God made the fire die down.  So they named that place “Burning.”

Complaining (or grumbling or murmuring) is a big deal.

It’s a real bad sin.

We tend to downplay the sinfulness of complaining because we live with it all the time.

Most of us don’t even try to stop it.

I was explaining something to Marilynn in the office this week, and I had say, all of a sudden, “I’m sorry. I’m complaining. I’ll shut up now.” And I changed the subject.

Did you have a similar experience this week?

God takes grumbling, rebellious complaining, seriously.

And the Israelites found that out first hand.

Because (#1) GOD IS HOLY.

All sin is abhorrent to God.  All sin is detestable in His sight.

And the sin of grumbling is no different.

It’s not an insignificant little trifle that God just overlooks.

God is holy.  And He says to not grumble.

Grumbling arouses His wrath.

Ever think about it like that?

I often don’t.  It’s easy for me to slip into complaining-mode. I did it many times over the last few months while working on the editing of my book.

But that doesn’t make it right.

We tend to think that grumbling is our right.

We don’t like something, so we have a right to complain.

But the problem with complaining is not just that God is holy, so we shouldn’t do it, but that (#2) GOD IS GENEROUS!  So we shouldn’t do it!

We saw this last week.  Israel had seen it again and again.

But when our hearts are not in the right place, we can’t see that.

That’s what happened to Israel at a place called “Kibroth Hattaavah.” Verse 4.

“The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat!”

The “rabble” here are the Gentiles who were attached to Israel and lived on the outskirts of the camp but had not fully assimilated to the people of Israel yet.

The “rabble” led the way in complaining. And notice where their complaining came from–cravings.

Complaining comes from craving.  Note that down.

Complaining comes from craving.  A craving is a desire that is out of whack.

Are desires bad? No.

Desires aren’t necessarily bad in and of themselves.  But when a desire becomes a need, becomes a demand, becomes something you can’t be happy without, it turns into a craving.  And cravings lead to complaining.

What have you been craving recently that is leading to your complaining?

For the Israelites here, what they wanted so bad was meat to eat.

And it led to (v.4), “Wailing!”  They were really yelling this one.

“If only we had meat to eat!”  V.5

“We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”  Blech!

Notice how cravings distort the facts!

Just like last week, these guys have talked themselves into believing that they were living it up back in Egypt!

Yeah!  Back when they were slaves making bricks without straw!  That was the life!

But their cravings have made them forget how it really was.

And how generous God really is.

Catch this: They’re complaining about manna!

Last week we saw that manna was the answer to their grumbling. God was gracious and gave them daily bread. Now they are grumbling about that!

Verse 7 reminds us what manna is.

“The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a handmill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into cakes. And it tasted like something made with olive oil.  When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down.”

Was manna good?  You bet it was!  The NIV for verse 8 doesn’t really get across the idea, “It tasted like something made with olive oil.”  You know, that “something” there could be translated “pastry.”  It tasted like a little pastry with olive oil.

It was mmm mmm good!

And it was free!

Did they have to work really hard to get it?  No!

Just go out and pick it up.  And we saw last week that they didn’t even have to pick it up on the Sabbath.  They got a double dose the day before.

But here they are grumbling.

Bread from heaven!  “The original Angel Food Cake!”  (Iain Duguid, pg. 150)

And they’re complaining!

And you and I say, “How ridiculous.”

But how often do we do the exact same thing?

We look at the gifts God has generously given us, and we find something to complain about.

I remember about five or six years ago, we had to take Isaac to the ER because he was having trouble breathing.

He had a bad cold and cough that apparently had overwhelmed his lungs.

It was a little scary watching him suck in the air and have a hard time breathing.

The little guy got an x-ray, diodes stuck on him all over the place, oxygen coming into his nose, a little thingergigger on his thumb to give his vitals to the computer.

And he got over an hour’s worth of breathing treatments that night.

And then Isaac bounced back in a big way.  We were really proud and happy for him!

And you know what I remember about that night, I missed my supper.

Just about as soon as Isaac seemed to be doing a lot better, I began to complain (inwardly) that I hadn’t been able to have my dinner.

There I was looking at my son who was breathing freely once more, and I’m giving thanks to God for it.

And in the same breath, I’m grumbling that my tummy is empty!

God is generous!  Don’t grumble.

The editing process on my book has been stressful this Spring.

But what I should be thinking about is how I have the privilege of being published in the Fall!

It’s manna. And I am grumbling!

How about you?  Have you been grumbling recently about manna?

What do you need to repent of and change?

Have you ever noticed that complaining is contagious?

If you are around complainers, chances are you’ll become a complainer, too.

Watch out who your friends are, including whom you listen to on Facebook or Google Plus or wherever. And what you “like.” Are you liking someone else’s grumbling? Are you sharing it? Are you passing it around?

On the other hand, when you’re around thankful, happy, content people, it’s a lot easier to be thankful and happy and content.

Well, the contagious disease of complaining had spread from the “rabble” to the families of Israel. Verse 10.

“Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent [what a pathetic image!]. The LORD became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled.”

Now, here’s where Moses goes wrong in this story.

I call this, “Moses’ Pity Party.” He starts grumbling, too.  V.11

“He asked the LORD, ‘Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?  Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers?  Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, 'Give us meat to eat!'  I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.  If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now–if I have found favor in your eyes–and do not let me face my own ruin.’”

Did you notice how self-focused he is?

Complaining is all about me.

Me, me, me, me, me.

And look how generous God is to him!  V.16

“The LORD said to Moses: ‘Bring me seventy of Israel's elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you.  I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone.”

God is so generous!  Why would we ever grumble?

God knows what Moses needs.  So He promises to lighten to load.

And at the same time, He is also just.  Verse 18.

“Tell the people: 'Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The LORD heard you when you wailed, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!’ Now the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it.  You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month–until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it–because you have rejected the LORD, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’”

Notice that in God’s eyes, complaining amounts to rebellion.  Look at verse 20 again.

“You have rejected the LORD, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’”

Ultimately, complaining is rejecting the LORD.  The King James Version says, “despised” here.

“You have despised the LORD.”

When we grumble, we put the LORD on trial (even when we aren’t thinking about the LORD!), and we’re saying that He is bad and something else that we want is better.

We are breaking covenant with Him!

“You have rejected the LORD.”

But does God break covenant with us?  No. He’s faithful.

(#3) GOD IS FAITHFUL.  Don’t grumble!

“You have rejected the LORD, who is among you,”

He’s right here being faithful.  And you want to go back to Egypt?

Let me put this in stark terms.  It’s like a former Christian saying, “Jesus, I don’t want your salvation any more.  Thanks but no thanks for your Cross. I’m going back to my old way of life.”

Now, we don’t normally go that far with most of our complaining, but that kind of treachery is still inherent in each of our grumbles.

And it’s so sad because God is so faithful.

And here, Moses still doesn’t get it yet! He still focused on himself and comes out with another complaint.  Verse 21.

“But Moses said, ‘Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, 'I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!'  Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?’”

In other words, “How am I ever going to pull this one off? Why are you promising this. How am I ever going to pull that off. I can’t do it.”

And the LORD says, “You won’t, Moses you dummy.  I’m going to do it!”  V.23

“The LORD answered Moses, ‘Is the LORD's arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.’”

I love that question.  We need to remind ourselves of that question again and again and again.  “Is the LORD’s arm too short?”

Is anything to difficult for the LORD?

No way!  “He is able, more than able!”

(#4) GOD IS POWERFUL!

His arm is not too short.

Didn’t He do the 10 plagues against Pharoah?
Didn’t He part the Red Sea?
Didn’t He provide the manna?
Didn’t He give the water from the rock?
Didn’t He come down on Mount Sinai?
Didn’t He fill the Tabernacle with his glory?

“Is the LORD’s arm too short?”

Do you need to be asked that question today?

“Is the LORD’s arm too short?”

Maybe you’re going through something really difficult right now.  Impossible.

God is the God of the impossible.

His arm is not too short.

Don’t give in to the temptation to whine and complain and focus on yourself.

Look up! See this God who is Holy, and Generous, and Faithful, and Powerful!

His arm is not too short to accomplish what concerns you today.

Don’t grumble. Trust.

Finally, Moses got the message.  V.24

“So Moses went out and told the people what the LORD had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the Tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again.”

I’m not sure all of what was happening here, but it was transferring some of the Spirit’s power onto these elders to help Moses with the burden of leading the people.  The prophesied in some way to indicate that the Spirit was on them in a special way.

And it happened in the camp, too.  V.26

“However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but [for some reason] did not go out to the Tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp.  A young man ran and told Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’  Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses' aide since youth, spoke up and said, ‘Moses, my lord, stop them!’”

Joshua is concerned that there might be a power struggle.

But Moses doesn’t complain.  Instead, he speaks in faith.  V.29

“But Moses replied, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD's people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!’ Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.”

You see, Moses gets it now.  God is powerful.  God has more than enough Spirit to empower whomever He wants.

I think that the ultimate fulfillment of Moses’ wish happened at Pentecost when the Spirit came to indwell all believers the same!

God is Powerful.

But His power isn’t used willy-nilly.  He isn’t moody and capricious.

(#5)  GOD IS JUST.

He always does what is right.  And His great power is always put to righteous use.

God is Just.  And His justice is what we see in verse 31.

“Now a wind went out from the LORD and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day's walk in any direction.”

I call this, “A Quail Storm.”  And it is the justice of God.  V.32.

“All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. [Look at the footnote: “That is, probably about 60 bushels.”  The people who gathered the least, picked up 60 bushels full of quail!] Then they spread them out all around the camp.  But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. [Many died.] Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, [GRAVES OF CRAVING] because there they buried the people who had craved other food.  From Kibroth Hattaavah the people traveled to Hazeroth and stayed there.”

God is Just.

Notice how the punishment fits the crime?

You want meat?  You’ll get meat!

You reject me?  I’ll give you what you want.  It won’t be satisfying.

Call the place, “Dead Meat” if you want.  “Graves of Craving.”

If we follow our deceptive cravings to their natural end, they will lead to death.

Only God is truly satisfying!

Sometimes, we might think that God is being too harsh.

But He’s not.  He’s perfectly just.

Don’t grumble.

Because God is Holy.  His Anger Burns Against Complaining.  It’s a terrible sin.
Don’t grumble.

Because God is Generous. He gives good gifts to His people.  Not what we say to ourselves in our deceitful cravings.
Don’t grumble.

Because God is Faithful. He keeps His covenant.  Even when we don’t!
Don’t grumble.

Because God is Powerful. His arm is not too short!  He has plenty of Spirit to go around!
Don’t grumble.

Because God is Just. He does what is right all the time.
Don’t grumble.

And one more.

Because God is Gracious.

You know why I say that?

Because this failure in the wilderness is not the end.

He was merciful all along.  His fire ate up only the outskirts of the camp.

Moses wasn’t burnt to a crisp for his pity party.

God responded to the people’s prayers with mercy.

But one day, many years later, He sent His Son Jesus to do what we could not do on our own.

Jesus passed the test in His wilderness!

Jesus never complained.

Just think about that.

Jesus never sinned.  So He never sinfully complained.

He never murmured or grumbled.

He never complained.

The Bible says, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22).

And Jesus carried the full burden of the people.

Moses couldn’t handle it all and needed 70 helpers.

But Jesus took the whole burden on Himself and carried it to the Cross.

God is gracious.  He sent His Son to do what we could not do.

I’ve said, “Don’t Grumble!” many times this week and last.

But it’s a lot easier to say than it is to do.

But Jesus did it.  And He did for me and you.

On the Cross, Jesus took our place.  He paid the penalty for my sinful grumbling.

And He gave me His perfect track record of thankful, contented speech.

And now, because of Jesus and His Cross, I can be thankful, and contented, too.

Because of His Spirit is resting on me (even though I’m not at the Tent of Meeting!), I can change into a contented, thankful man.

I can keep from grumbling because of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ.

If you belong to Jesus, you can too.

Don’t grumble.

Trust Jesus.

***

Messages in this Series:

1. The Fearsome Tongue
2. Sweet Words
3. Grumbling (Part One)