I was thinking lately about the power of language. As I thought about how God used the spoken word to create the universe I was struck by the reality that there is great power in our use of language. It is something we often take for granted. God said, “Let there be….” and the world and all that is in it came bursting forth into existence.
We cannot create a universe, but we can create divergent realities with our language. Think about the power words have over children when they are still learning. What is said to that child can determine the course of his or her entire life. Think about how criticism can break a person emotionally and psychologically. Conversely, think of how a word timely spoken can redirect the course of a person’s entire life in positive ways. Words are more than just ideas verbalized. They are a form of power that we wield every time we open our mouth. As such we are to use our speech in ways that honor God and direct people to the path of life.
The Bible has much to teach us about Continue reading
This is chapter 9 of my book, Man of the World.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
I remember watching Mel Gibson’s movie Brave Heart years ago. No one who watched that movie can forget the dramatic ending where, during intense torture, the main character cries out, “Freedom!” Freedom is a yearning within all people. Unfortunately, outside of Christ there is no freedom. Only He can bring the freedom our soul longs for. Sin enslaves all people. And religion without Christ cannot set a single person free. For those who strive to be free in the flesh, seeking freedom through religion, they will receive only weariness, toil, and disappointment. But, for those who come to Christ, a glorious freedom awaits them.
The true Man of the World comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. Satan seeks to lead us into the land of religion and ritual that is devoid of life. He creates rules and generates anxiety. He wants people to think of God as a heavenly IRS agent desperately seeking to find something wrong with you so He can smite you. He wants to create division amongst people by getting them to become suspicious of each other. He wants people to distrust each other, hate each other, judge one another, and hurt one another. He has done a good job. Lifeless religion has been the source of contention and strife for as long as history has been written. The reason there are so many different denominations is because there are no shortage of people hurling contempt upon others in the name of God. Fallen people are always looking for reasons to divide. It takes a spirit filled person to see imperfect people and, knowing they too are sinners in need of a savior, love them as Christ did.
Thankfully, Jesus came to give us the Spirit. He came that we may have life and have it abundantly. He did not come to give us rituals, or generate anxiety by telling how we might fail. He didn’t come to tell us how some are better than others. He isn’t watching over us with a clipboard and Continue reading
Thought of the Day: Criticism is the easiest form of analysis
“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).
The other day I was watching the trailer for a movie. I think it was about King Arthur and Merlin. One scene depicted a young Merlin waving his hand over a dead flower and bringing it back to life. Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of power! The reality is that in a certain sense we do. And it’s a power we often overlook. While waving my hand over something broken will not fix it, or bring it back to life, we all have the ability to speak life into the life of a broken person or a broken situation.
We live in a world with many broken things. There are broken relationships, marriages and homes. There are broken nations and communities. And all around us there are broken people. And while we cannot fix all the problems people face, we can do two things:
- We can make sure we do not contribute to their brokenness by being critical faultfinders who are looking for ways to show others what they are doing wrong.
- And we can use our words in a way that builds others up. With our words we have the power to heal and fix things that are truly broken.
I am reminded that when God created this amazing world and universe we live in He did so by speaking it into existence. When God speaks life is created and life blossoms.
Picking apart and finding fault in others is not an admirable attribute. There are times when we all need correction. But the people we admire are those who correct in a way that improves who we are as people. The word encourage literally means, “To cause another to be confident”
The prefix “en” means “to cause”
The word “courage” means “confidence”
When we encourage someone we cause them to be confident. A Leader (to be distinguished from one who is simply in charge) has the unique ability to make people confident in such way that it causes them to improve, to do what they need to do to change, or to just be a better person.
“You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” John 18:37
No one likes to be disciplined. I remember getting in trouble when I was in third grade. I don’t recall what I did at school, but I have a vivid memory of my dad’s response. He sat me down and asked me what I did. While I don’t recall what that was, I do remember that I lied to my dad about it. That was the only time my father laid a hand on me. It hurt. I did not like being corrected. But it had a very positive effect. I don’t lie. I learned that lesson at a young age. And I learned that lesson because I had a father who loved me enough not to let me get away with lying. His love cured me of that sin.
Today, many people are looking for love. But, as the song goes, they are looking for love in all the wrong places. Over the course of the last few years I have developed a bit of a twitch whenever someone has the radio turned to a contemporary Christian radio station. I actually love much of the contemporary music, but I can’t say the same for the announcers and commentary between the songs. I have come to affectionately refer to these stations as the Cult of Encouragement. These radio stations ooze encouragement all over your car, out of the window, and down the street. As the ooze slithers down the road, in my review mirror, I think I even once saw it rise up, raise something like a hand in the air and a voice said, “You are loved! Yeah!!”
Now, before you accuse me of begin an Ebenezer Scrooge, hear me out. I am all for encouragement – when it is appropriate to give it. And, I am all for people hearing that God loves them. But, Continue reading
There are a lot of competing voices in our culture concerning the gay marriage issue. Who you listen to will make all the difference on how you decide where you stand.
People in positions of influence will make statements like, “My moral code is a matter of faith,” or “I don’t have the right to impose my moral code on you,” or “You can’t legislate morality,” or “I am not always right, and neither are you.” Comments such as these appear to have a form of wisdom.
Let’s briefly consider the above ideas. First, morality is not a matter of personal preference. The source of all morality is God. True morality, the type that leads away from sin, is a reflection of God’s holy character. He, in fact, demands that we obey his moral code as revealed in His law. God’s law is not something that is given to us as a suggestion. It’s not a preference. He revealed it to the world and commands that all must obey it; and He reveals that it is this law under which all will be judged.
Second, when understood correctly, law is morality legislated. That’s the whole point. If you support something legally, Continue reading
Resist the urge to be offended. There are many in our culture today who are offended at everything, and they feel compelled to tell you how offended they are. We have entered an age where not being offended is seen as a right; and being offended makes one a victim. Unfortunately, many people have been truly hurt by the “victims” of those who offend.
However, if you are a Christian, before you jump on the bandwagon of cultural sensitivity claiming to be offended by what someone says or does, just consider a few things.
- To make the claim that you are offended means that you have climbed the lofty perch of righteousness. You have arrived at the superior moral plane where your refined moral sensibilities have elevated you above your peers. Hence, when you claim to be offended, you are looking down upon the groveling mass of ignorant plebes who have no right to disturb your sense of peace and wellbeing. They can’t possibly know what it’s like to live with such a refined sensitivity towards what is truly right, proper, just, and good. Just the suggestion that you enter into their filthy little world by trying to understand why one might say or do something that you can’t possibly be associated with is an outrage! You see, the burden is for such people to become sensitive to how righteous you are, and then make sure that, when in your presence, they act accordingly.
- To make the claim that you are offended means that you have climbed the soaring heights of intellectual superiority. You are offended precisely because they are ignorant, stupid clods who should have immediately understood that, in your presence, the only appropriate response is to listen and learn. Speaking about things that are contrary to your exceptional intellectual acumen is not only insulting, but suggesting that you should condescend and spend time with such people is absurd!
- To make the claim that you are offended means that you have assumed the towering post of an existential existence that necessarily places you in the top tier of ontological reality. As Isaiah was confronted with the majesty of God (see Isaiah chapter 6) upon entering His presence, so too, those who enter yours should have a similar response. And, if they too should appropriately humble themselves before you, then you can bestow your magnanimous mercy upon them.
Ok, that may seem like a bit much, but Continue reading
The Bible says that “No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20). In a day and age when it is all too common for people to pass the opinion plate concerning their impression of what any given verse of the Bible means, it is necessary that we, from time to time, remind ourselves that the Bible was given to us from a loving God.
There once existed a time in the world (not too long ago) when people who lived any distance apart communicated via the written letter. To write a letter was considered both a skill to be learned and an art form to be cultivated. Words were carefully chosen to convey ideas and feelings. Today, we live in an instant communication society where the written word has become nothing more than graffiti with punctuation. We quickly send-off emails, texts, and tweets without giving thought to the importance that words play in our communication. I suspect if people were reduced to the written letter to communicate with loved ones today, they would give careful consideration to the words they use.
When God wrote the greatest love letter every written, the Bible, He was very careful in the words that He chose. And he was careful because He wanted to communicate some very important, and specific truths to those He loves. When we open that love letter our Job is to seek to understand the heart of God.
Too often when we read the Bible today we approach Continue reading
I want Christ. I want the fullness of God. The Bible tells me I can have that. The Bible tells me I can have all of Him. Wow! I can be filled with the fullness of God! I can have God’s joy. I can have God’s peace. I can have God’s life. I can have it all! And I want it – all of it. I am greedy for God.
The Bible tells me that this is what God wants for me! He tells me to ask for that very thing. He tells me that He wants to be my joy. He wants to be my peace. He seeks to give me the fullness of His life – forever! “Come,” He says.” Take from the tree of life and eat. Have it all! Be full! Rejoice!”
“But there is a condition.”
I don’t like conditions.
“The condition is very simple. You can have all of God, when you agree to have none of yourself.”
“That’s right, none Continue reading
It is interesting that the Bible clearly indicates that people who claim to be believers will unfortunately be cast from His presence into hell (Matthew 7:21-23). This raises a very important question about faith: how can a person of “faith” go to hell? Or, how can believers who serve the Lord still be condemned?
Some might argue the reason is because people ultimately will be judged according to their works. While it is true that works are a sign of genuine salvation, works cannot earn one a place in heaven. If that is true, then what is the answer?
The answer lies in Jesus’ response to those who claim to know Him, and who seek to offer their spiritual resume to Jesus. He responds by telling them, “I never knew you; depart from me you who practice lawlessness.”
Notice first, that when they face Jesus in judgment, they demonstrate that they, themselves do not know Jesus by virtue of the fact that they have to tell Jesus what they have been doing in His name. On the one hand that is an admission that they too do not know Jesus relationally. One only brings a Continue reading
When a people begin to uphold a lifestyle that is in opposition to God’s laws, then that people will come to a point where they will be forced to make an untenable decision. Today as a society we are now embracing homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle. We now have a sitting president who is in favor of promoting same sex marriage. However, because that lifestyle is in opposition to God’s revealed way of living, our society is experiencing conflict.
The conflict is a result of two worldviews colliding. At many turns today we are experiencing the tension as these two opposing lifestyles butt heads. Homosexuals have become emboldened to bully everyone into accepting their lifestyle as legitimate. When people express concern over that lifestyle, the gay community demonstrates that they will not tolerate anyone who disagrees with their lifestyle choice.
Unfortunately, many people today have acquiesced into giving them the liberty they desire. However, in making the decision to accept homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle that must be defended, society must necessarily close the door to lifestyles choices that do not harmonize with it.
For example, Vanderbilt University has recently made a decision that all civic groups who use university property, must allow anyone who so desires to be a part of their leadership. This decision was the result of a gay man being denied a leadership role to a religious organization. The net effect of the decision is that the religious organization will most likely become a thing of past for the university.
In choosing to defend the gay lifestyle, the university will lose the rich heritage that comes from people of faith. But the university will lose not only their participation in campus life; they will also lose the religious liberty that has so successfully defined us as a people.
When our religious liberty gives way to a conflicting lifestyle choice, freedom itself is in jeopardy. The society that accepts a lifestyle at the expense of its own history, and at the expense of God’s revelation, is a society doomed to failure. Today we are at an important crossroads. The wrong choice will not simply mark out a new horizon for our country, but will prove to be the end of liberty as we know it.