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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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Christian Living

Follow Me-A Prophet Gets Held Back

Numbers 20:8-12 

Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

Today’s thought on men and women who were called by God and something of note about their service came about from a quick devotional I was called to do last night with our young people. They were studying the birth and call of Moses. The subject of young people and making life-altering bad choices came up in the fellowship hall, and as I scrambled to put together a devotional at the last minute, this all came rushing to mind.

So, really this is not about the calling of Moses at all; that has been written about extensively by folks way smarter than me. This is about choices and bad consequences.

Moses was called and is a quite spectacular way. God laid an intricate plan at the birth of Moses to free His people from bondage. Moses gave 80 years of dedicated service to His God. We really can’t over blow the important of Moses in the Biblical narrative. Moses screwed up, though.

Again, the people were grumbling. They always grumbled, right? This time it was over water. So, God instructed Moses to gather them, speak to the rock, and they would get water. Well, no doubt Moses was pretty irritated after decades of complaining, and maybe just a tad ticked off. Maybe he wanted to just show out a little bit, and be the big man prophet. So, Moses HIT the rock.  Bad plan. The Hebrews got their water, but Moses lost out.

Friends, decisions matter. It simply doesn’t matter who we are, or what we have done for the Lord. We can find a lifetime of work undone in a moment by a rash, impulsive decision. We can see a future life trashed by a rash, impulsive decision.

Think. Don’t be rash. If God has said: do it this way, then do it that way.

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Follow Me-A Prophet Stays in His Lane

Isaiah 40:3-5 

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

Not only was John the Baptist called by God, but God prophesied his calling through the Prophet Isaiah some 700 hundred years before he appeared on the scene.

John’s entire life was of serious note. There had not been a prophet in Israel for some 400 years since Malachi; God had seemingly been silent for all of the time. Then John the Baptist burst on the scene.

Even John’s birth was notable, as he was born to a couple far beyond childbearing years, Zechariah and Elizabeth. The birth of John the Baptist was special to our Lord:

Luke 1:15-17  For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

John the Baptist was a rock star, so to speak. He preached in the desert, famously living on locusts and wild honey, garbed in his camel hair raiment. He attracted crowds, he had disciples, and He even baptized the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. John was in the big time, and in God’s plan was a VERY important man.

Yet John, as our title says, stayed in his lane. Some may have thought John the Baptist was actually the Messiah. Despite fame and followers, John knew his place and what his mission was.

Before he was even born, he knew his Lord when he saw him. As the pregnant Mary is greeted by the pregnant Elizabeth, her cousin, we see this:

Luke 1:41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

As an adult, John knew who he was, and who he was not

John 3:28  Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.

Matthew 3:13-15  Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

John 3:30  He must increase, but I must decrease.

John the Baptist knew that his role in the Kingdom was not about him and that it was about Jesus. Despite his notability and his own fame, he never stepped out of his bounds; he stayed in his lane. Ultimately, he gave his very life, literally leaving the picture as our Lord rose in prominence.

Friends, we need to remember that also. Today, famous preachers and personalities are a dime a dozen, and many seem to be pretty full of themselves. Sometimes Jesus seems to be completely missing from the word they speak. But, we can also fall into that same trap. Some teach, some sing, some preach and others do things that tend to thrust them into the limelight. Even bloggers can fall into the same trap.

John never forgot what his place was, and we need to remember that ourselves.

Follow Me-God Saves a Patriarch

Genesis 12:1-4 

Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

Hebrews 11:8-10 

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Hebrews 11:17-19 

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

Romans 4:22 

And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

Read the above passages, in the context they appear(full chapters,) and I need to write no more, as the post will have written itself. I think they will make the point here just fine; nonetheless, I will write.

The question sometimes comes up, “How were Old Testament saints saved?” Friends, they were saved exactly the same way we are and are excluded from salvation the same way some are today. Many have this idea that somehow salvation in olden times was the Law and Works, and that today it is all faith in Jesus Christ. This is not so; salvation has always been by faith, ultimately in the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation has NEVER been attainable for us by our works and efforts.

Revelation through God’s Word has always been successive and in stages. Abraham had only the promise of God and the promise that he would be a great nation. His promise was that his line would produce the Messiah. Later in history, the people had the clear promise of a Messiah who would come and rescue them. Friends, the promise has been fulfilled and today the promise of the Messiah has been fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friends, salvation has always been by grace, through faith. It was true for Abraham, and it is true for us. What we DO never restores us to God; the only thing that matters is what we do with His promise to us.

 

Follow Me-God Calls a Wee Little Man

Luke 19:1-10 

And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost

First of all, it’s important to realize that Zacchaeus was NOT some cute little wee fellow; Zacchaeus was a monster. That was simply the nature of tax collecting in the Roman Empire. Nice guys went broke fast, and this man clearly was successful. Not only was he good at tax collecting as an individual, but he was the chief among the publicans. Zaccheus was not only bad, but he was the baddest of the baddest; Zacchaeus more or less ran a crime syndicate among his own people. That really makes this story all the more amazing.

We could talk for pages about this story, but as with the other Follow Me posts, I just want to capture a couple of easy thoughts that we can put to practical use.

Jesus knows who is seeking him, and He responds. We don’t get any information about what made this publican climb up that tree, but clearly, he understood his need for…….something he did not have. Jesus was NOT there, that that time and the place, by random happenstance. We know this because our Lord stopped in the road, looked up and issued His invitation to Zacchaeus. The heart of this man was made ready, through circumstances and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, to receive and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Friends, if you seek honestly, Jesus will respond just as honestly. While the Pharisees constantly chasing our Lord around pretended to be seeking knowledge, we know they were not. Jesus knew the real deal then, and He knows it now.

Zacchaeus had a life that was immediately transformed. The honest truth is, that we don’t all have the same amount of baggage to unpack. We all don’t have a moment in a Sycamore tree or a blinding light on the Road to Damascus. Yet, any life converted by the power of the Holy Spirit should be a changed one, and the change should be evident. Quickly. I am not saying that we all become perfect, as that would be nonsense. However, we should both change, and have the desire for more change in the instant Jesus saves us and we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

My friends, if you are honestly seeking after Jesus, He knows that and will find YOU. If He does, and you respond, He will also change you. What are you waiting for?

 

Follow Me-God Calls a Young Prophet

Daniel Chapter 1

Daniel 1:8

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

Here we see what it seems like is the active call to ministry of the prophet Daniel, along with his three friends: Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego. These fine young men, the finest specimens of the captive Israelites, had clearly been lifelong believers in the true God but it is in our story that Daniel is first brought into prominence in the Bible. As I said, this was basically his call to active ministry. Daniel was….ready. His readiness and his response is the backstory for a couple of brief thoughts on the matter.

We all know the story, I believe. King Nebuchadnezzar had called for the finest of young men in his kingdom to be brought into his palace, provided all the best the King had(particularly the King’s food,) and be turned into a showcase for Babylonian superiority and domination of the world. This was a problem for those young men, as to comply with this program would have violated many of the Jewish dietary laws from the Law of Moses; this was a problem. How Daniel approached it is a good lesson to us all. The basics of his reaction are contained in our key passage.

Daniel was ready. He had purposed in his heart that he would not partake of this sinful behavior. It seems evident that this was likely not a surprise that this request was made of the young men. Daniel was ready. He understood the environment in which he lived and understood some of the temptations he would likely be facing. I like to think he had thought out his response before the temptation ever actually showed up. How many of us do that in our own lives? How many of us are seemingly caught by surprise by the temptations that beset us and quickly succumb, then claim we “just couldn’t help ourselves?” Maybe if we paid more attention to where, and among whom we live, we might likewise respond in a firmer, more intentional way to these things.

Daniel responded with reason and caution. My friends, we can speak our opposition to things and refuse to partake of things without being random and seemingly unhinged. I don’t see anywhere where Daniel screamed and lectured at the powers in place regarding the sin of eating the Kings’ meat. I am NOT saying that he would have been wrong to do that, and that might have been another’s calling. But, in this case, Daniel was clearly only responsible for his own behavior. So his response? He requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. We see later in the story that he laid out in a calm rational manner exactly why he had an issue with it; he also asked for the opportunity to show that his way(God’s way, actually,) could work. Without becoming PART of the system, Daniel worked within the system to live out a positive testimony of his faith in a faith hostile world. Daniel had credibility with the existing powers because outside of his faith, he was a good and loyal servant. “Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.” Daniel 1:9. Friends, there is absolutely a time and place to rail loudly against sin, but there is also a time and a place to simply live out the example. God grant us the discernment to know when to rail, and when to just stand on our own example.

The real takeaway in total here is to note that Daniel was never random or reactionary in his response to this serious dilemma. He had clearly spent time in Scripture and understood in his own mind how he was going to carry himself when this temptation presented himself.

Maybe we ought to try that ourselves.

 

Follow Me-Jesus Calls a King

Acts 26:27-28

King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

Friends, I don’t have much time this morning so this will be just a quick thought on an instance of Jesus calling a man and his response.

As part of his long trip through the Roman legal system before ultimately being sent to Rome to finally be executed, Paul the Apostle had the opportunity to appear before King Agrippa and Festus the Roman Procurator of Judea and present his case before them. Paul preached one of his finest sermons and it ended with Festus declaring Paul to be a madman and Agrippa being “almost persuaded.”

This story is almost universally presented as a very sad ending, and it is very likely that it was. We actually don’t know, as Agrippa and his salvation never come up again. We actually don’t know either way how he ultimately dealt with Jesus. That’s actually our thought and lesson for today. Friends, we won’t get a positive response from all we present the Gospel to. We won’t even get that from a majority or even that many of those we tell about Jesus. That’s not our problem. Our job is to tell it. Our commission is not that we save anyone, as only Jesus saves. Our job is not to bring anyone to conviction, even, as that is the place of the Holy Spirit. Our job is to proclaim it.

How cool would it be if one day Paul and Agrippa encountered each other in Heaven? Maybe Paul just planted that seed, another later watered, and ultimately God brought in the harvest?

 

Just Because You Know it Doesn’t Mean You Have to Say it Part Six

Gossip-Just Stop It!

This is going to be the final installment on this series on gossip; I hope you have enjoyed it. Today we are going to talk about specifically how we can stop gossip on our churches.

How do we stop gossip on our churches?

Don’t do it. Don’t be the guilty one. That sounds too easy, but gossip is like any other sin. First we become tempted to do it, then we succumb to the temptation and do it.

Like any sin, flee temptation. Step away from the gossip. If drunkenness is a problem, most would avoid bars. If gossip is our problem, don’t hang out with the gossips.

Decide beforehand. Remember Daniel and the King’s meat? Daniel’s obedience was no accident. Daniel had purposed in his heart, not to disobey. If we know a thing is a problem, it behooves us to pre-plan how we will react to temptation, so as not to be caught by surprise.

Think before speaking. Are our words true? Are they kind? Most importantly, are they actually necessary?

Don’t stand by and be part of the problem. This is sort of a repeat. Step away from the Gossip. Our simply not participating in something can speak volumes about how we feel about it.

Teach others how to do right. Note here, that our responses are escalating in directness. When you walk away, somebody will eventually ask you why you do. Or, they actually might just gossip about you, to tell the truth. If they do ask, be ready to explain why and teach them what God says about gossip.

Let’s escalate just a bit more. Nobody asks you?  Well, maybe it is time to ask them. Hey, my friend, may I speak with you? Love, kindness, and reasonableness can do a lot.

Confront it. Call it like it is, and call them out. I get that this is not for everybody, but in a way it is. Are you the leader in your family? Well, like it or not, you need to tell your flock gossip is a sin and they need to stop. Is a person being directly harmed by the words you hear? We all owe each other protection as brothers and sisters. Are you actually a leader in your church? Well, do I even need to address that? That is what leaders do…lead.

Sometimes we simply have to look another person in the eye and say in effect, “Hey, what you are doing is wrong, and it is sin. Stop it.”

By the way, confrontations don’t have to be an in your face thing necessarily. Try this next time the church gossip comes to you with their “concern.”

“Hey I think it’s great you are concerned about (insert name here)! How about we go find them and we can all have a little talk about your concern.”

It’s easy readers. Gossip is like cancer in our churches, but it is also quite treatable and curable.

Just Stop it

Follow Me-Burn Your Oxen

1 Kings 19:21 

And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.

1 Kings 19:15-21

As we read this story, we see the great Prophet Elijah nearing the end of his ministry; in fact, he had been commanded by God to pass his mantle on the man God had selected to be his successor, Elisha. Elijah did as he was told, and encountered the future prophet Elisha plowing his fields, and cast his mantle upon him. In this way, he signified the calling of Elisha. The mantle or cape of a prophet was a sign of his station; Elisha would have known immediately what the casting of it on him meant.

Elisha was plowing with a 12 yoke of oxen. This would be in today’s frame of reference, the biggest, fanciest combine a farmer could buy. Elisha was NOT some small time farmer; he had stuff and was likely not a poor man. He was also a gainfully employed, very busy man. The future prophet was not looking for something to do; he had plenty to do.

Notice how Elisha had to run after Elijah. Elijah didn’t wait around talking, he just tossed the cape and kept on going. Elisha understood and had a decision to make. He immediately ran after Elijah and asked to tell his mother and father goodbye. He did just that apparently. He also did far more than that; he burned his oxen, his plow and all of his equipment. Clearly, Elisha was never going back; he was committed!

When God calls us, do we turn our back on what and who we were and answer? Nobody is suggesting we necessarily burn our house down, or set fire to our car; the thought, however, remains the same. Too often we “follow” God but keep a handy back up plan in place in case things don’t work out. If the calling is a true one, we don’t NEED a backup plan. If we answer, God will equip and provide.

Just Because You Know it Doesn’t Mean You Have to Say It Part Five

James on the Dangerous Tongue

Today’s post will be a continuation of some previously published writings on the Book of James and the tongue.

James 3:5-12

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.


Read all of James Chapter 3 here

The Destructive Power of the Tongue

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

It may be, that a more untrue statement was never written, or said actually, since I can remember it vividly from my school days. Think back, when did we normally invoke that phrase way back then? Usually when the exact opposite was true was when we would recite that phrase. In other words, we usually made a point to say that to somebody who had just hurt us with their words.!

Here, James uses a great comparison to discuss the destructive power of our tongues, or our speech. Earlier he compared the small tongue’s ability to control our conduct to a bit in a horses mouth, or the small rudder piloting a giant ship. Here, he compares the destructive power of the small tongue with a tiny spark which ignites a huge fire.

One of the most notable examples of this, of course, is the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Although started by something so small as a lantern in a barn, this great fire eventually burned almost half of the city of Chicago to the ground.

Two of the greatest men in the Old Testament, recognized the power of the tongue and issued guidance about controlling it. David and his son Solomon both wrote about the destructive power of speech. As David was somewhat hot tempered, we should strongly consider his words in this matter.

Psalm 39:1-3 I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue,

Solomon had the following to say:

Proverbs 17:27 He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.

Proverbs 14:29 He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.

The tongue and fire have other similarities as well. Few would dispute that a fire under control can have many benefits, and can be used for much good. On the other hand, few would dispute that a fire, like a mouth, out or control can cause massive devastation.

What do we do with our tongues? Do we use them for good, for edifying believers or telling the Gospel to unbelievers? Or do we use them for evil  by teaching untruths, gossiping or pushing the non believing away from Jesus Christ?

The Tongue is the Fire of Hell

This is quite likely the strongest statement in the entire Bible concerning the misuse of the tongue in our lives. I this simple sentence, James quite completely and unequivocally lays the dangers of the misuse of it right out.

 “The tongue is a world of iniquity.” One Bible translation words this, “the tongue is the very world of iniquity.” One writer describes this as referring to a system, scheme or arrangement. It is a system of iniquity that represents every other sin of mankind.

The tongue defiles our entire body. We already discussed the comparison of the tongue to a bit in a horses mouth or the rudder of a ship. How those two things direct something much larger than themselves, so does our tongue. In this case, the sins of the tongue defile the whole person.  It’s similar to the fire and the smoke damage it causes. The fire itself may not destroy everything, but the smoke permeates and ultimately ruins even what the fire doesn’t touch.

The tongue is “set on fire of hell.” This particular description was simply fascinating. The word for Hell here is from the term gehenna. This was the Valley of Hinnom to the south of Jerusalem. This is the place where the Caananites and idolatrous Israelites had gone for their child sacrifices. Because all that activity had rendered that place unclean, it was finally used as simply a garbage dump. So, this was simply a big, rotting garbage dump, constantly burning and maggot filled. Jesus used the same term to represent Hell, the place which God had prepared for Satan and his demons. This comparison of the tongue with Hell strongly implies that the tongue can be Satan’s tool to pollute and corrupt.

We Can’t Tame Our Tongue

Man, in the Garden of Eden, was clearly given dominion over all of the animals of the world. Genesis 1:26.Even today, after the fall, we know that human kind is generally able to control the beasts of the world.

We need to look no further than the nearest circus to see that man is able to bring the largest, and most terrifying of animals under his control. Lion, tigers and the largest of land animals, the elephant can be controlled by one tiny human being.

However, our tongue is an “unruly evil.” In its natural state, our tongue is similar, if not worse, than any wild animal. It is wild, untamed and without discipline. Rather than tromping us or eating us, however, our tongues destroy by lies, gossip, slander and filthy language.

James tells us that no man can tame the tongue. In and of ourselves, we cannot even to the same to our mouths as we can do with a huge elephants; we cannot tame it our bring it under control.

Since James’ Epistle is about Christian living, the solution to our problem seems readily evident. Like any sin, sins of the tongue can be managed by the saved person through the indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit. We certainly do not have the power to do it, but God does!

David, back in the Old Testament, had something to say about how we actually take advantage of the strength of the Holy Spirit to control our tongues in Psalm 141:3:

Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.

Gossip Is Poisonous

Gossip: the favorite indoor sport of many Christians. In an earlier Devotion, we talked about that old school yard saying on how sticks and stones hurt, but words do not. We all know that is patently untrue, because words do hurt; gossip and lies about other believers is one of the primary ways we use our words to wound other believers.

I have heard a particular story several times over the years, and I would like to relate it here as an illustration of how the power of gossip spreads. In a particular church, there was a woman who had, over time, spread some completely untrue things about another woman in the congregation. Ultimately, these lies had just ruined the reputation of the victim. One day, the woman who had spread the slander came to realize that everything she had said was untrue and unfounded. To her credit, she was seized by remorse and wanted to make things right. She went to her pastor, seeking guidance on how to accomplish a repair of what she had done. He pastor told her to take a down pillow, filled with fine feathers, and scatter them in the streets of town; he then told her to come back and see him the next day. Upon her return, the pastor instructed her to walk the city streets and gather the feathers and put them back in the pillow. Instantly she responded, “Well, of course I can’t ever gather those feathers back!” His response to her: “Correct, and unfortunately you can never gather back the words you said either.”

The Bible has much to say about the subject of gossip. In Romans Chapter 1, as Paul is laying out the list of the sins of man which have separated us from God, gossipers were right there in the middle of the list. In verses 29 and 30 he referred to them as “whisperers,” and “backbiters.”

Solomon had much to say about the subject as he wrote Proverbs as well.

Proverbs 11:12,13 He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace. A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.

Proverbs 18:7,8 A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

Proverbs 21:23 Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.

Visualize the following if you will. If a man stands up during church prayer time and offers the following prayer: “Lord, please deliver my friend Joe from his alcohol and drug addiction, his womanizing and his little gambling problem. Thank you, Father, and Amen!” Is that a prayer request? Not really. That would be gossip shrouded in the guise of a prayer request.

What then, do we do about his issue? How do we fix ourselves? A wise older gentleman I know, who has never been known to say a bad word about anyone, offered the following advice to us all one day:

Is it true? If it’s not, stop right there.

Is it necessary? Just because it’s true does not mean it has to be said.

Is it kind? Neither truth or need matter if the words are unkind.

I don’t think any words are necessary to add to that!

The Danger of Flattery

One writer I read commenting on the Book of James said the following: “If gossip is saying behind someone’s back what you would never say to their face, then flattery is saying to someone’s face what you would never say behind their back.”

What is flattery? Well flattery and compliments are not the same; that is why the saying above rings so very true. A compliment is good for the person being complimented, whereas flattery is primarily for the benefit of the person giving the praise. And that, in a nutshell, is why God has a problem with flattery.

Like almost anything having to do with our tongue, we can find much guidance on the subject of flattery in the Book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 6:24; 7:5; and 7:21 all teach us that a flattering woman can lead us into trouble.

Flattery is put in the same league as lying and deception in Psalm 5:9 and Romans 16:18.

As we have been discussing, James is trying to teach us how to live the Christian life; he is attempting to teach us how our salvation will always result in some fruit, or action as a result. What’s that got to do with what James is teaching? Well everything, really. Because just as hard as James is trying to teach us how to do right, there are a host of people trying to teach us wrong. These would be false teachers, and flattery is one of their primary weapons in their arsenal.

Paul warns clearly of this danger in Romans 16:18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

Peter likewise warns of this in 2 Peter 2:3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

Here’s a question just for bloggers. Ever like, comment or follow just in the hopes of getting one yourself? A little encouragement in there just to make it look good? Of course we have to engage others to build a network of readers, but where is the line? I would really like people’s thoughts on that one.

Talking From Both Sides Of Your Mouth

Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary series, used the following illustration:

A man at work one day, a professing Christian, got angry and turned loose with a series of oaths and profanities. Embarrassed, he turned to his coworker and said, “I don’t know why I said that. It really isn’t in me.” His partner wisely replied, “It had to be in you, or it wouldn’t have come out of you.”

In real life, I had a friend who faced a similar situation. He, in his younger days(while a believer), had been noted for letting loose with an oath or two when angry or upset. One day, he decided he should clean up his act and quit all of that. His solution was to pick some simple nonsensical word to use in situations where before he would have cursed. I don’t recall what he said the word was, but I do recall that he said he would use that word in place of a curse word. Let’s say the word was “bullfrog.” Every time he would get angry, instead of cursing, he would say, “bullfrog.” That went along fine until one day a coworker, who happened to be a non believer, said the following: “You realize, of course, that using that stupid word doesn’t really change what you mean, right?” Ouch.

Discerning what James is teaching us here is not particularly difficult; in fact, it is very easy. We have already studied the tongue quite a bit, and this passage just continues this analysis.

Note some of his comparisons here: blessing and cursing, sweet and bitter, salt water and fresh. The common vein among these is simple; one of each pair is good and one is not good.

If we show through our words both good and bad consistently, which would see say is the real reflection of what is really inside?

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