Archive | September, 2016

BEING SINCERE IN OUR SPEECH

25 Sep

Kids can be creative in so many ways. When Destiny was younger and she would be in her mama’s classroom, she would play school.  She would lead an empty classroom in the pledge of allegiance.  What an imagination!

For me, well you may not believe this, but I was a strange kid. Since I was in elementary school, I wanted to be in ministry.  I loved watching Dr. Patrick, the pastor who baptized me, I  would take notes on the things that Brother Jack Clinkscales, who influenced my call to ministry, preach.  Bobby Fuller started preaching revivals in my home church when I was a pre-teen and I was riveted by his preaching style. And I learned from Ken McMeans about balancing ministry and life. As a kid, I would practice preaching in my room in front of my dresser mirror.

But I also loved cowboy movies. I watched John Wayne all the time. Loved “Big Jake”, “The Alamo”, the “Shootist”… but my favorite Western hero was “The Lone Ranger”… My Dad bought me a couple of cap guns that looked just like authentic western holsters. I didn’t have a mask but I did have a red bandana.

So sometimes when I was left without a playmate, I would combine my two worlds. I would become the “Outlaw Missionary”. Like the Lone Ranger,  I would fight those who would bring injustice to the world. I would encounter these evil villains as I travelled the world preaching the Gospel.  But when I found these evildoers, I would put on my mask so they could not know my identity as clergy and I would go after them. Like my hero, I would only shoot to wound but never to kill.

Yeah, I was weird.

But our imagination as a child can be an awesome thing.

Unfortunately, after we become adults, the line that separates fact from fiction is not drawn clearly enough. That wonderful faculty for imagination can be misused in lying or deceiving others.

Fundamental to relationships is the aspect of truth. When we believe what someone is saying we can form a relational bond that results in the sharing and depths of thoughts and feelings. And if someone breaks that bond, it can result in total mistrust and cause us to wall off from certain people or in some cases, everybody.

In their consciences people know that truth is right and essential. That is one reason that even in their lies, they go to such lengths to make what they say appear to be truthful. Our problem is in being truthful. Unfortunately, many people are inclined to the truth only when it benefits them.

The question for each of concerns the pattern of our speech? Are we prone to say something and not follow through? Do we play word games and assure ourselves that “at least we didn’t lie”? If so, we do well to look at the teaching that Jesus has for us and learn from the Jews of Jesus’ day.

The ancient Jewish rabbis revered the idea of truth in principle, but in practice it was buried under their system of tradition, which over the centuries had continually cut God’s law down to fit their own sinful perspectives and purposes. In Matthew 5:33-37 Jesus proceeds to expose the convenient distortion and contradiction of the divine revelation they claimed to love and teach. In these five verses Jesus sets forth:
1) Promising Speech, 2) False Speech, and 3) Godly Speech

First, let’s look at Promising Speech. Matthew 5:33
Matthew 5:33

[33]”Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ’You shall not swear falsely, (but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn).’ (ESV)

Okay, time for a little Greek lesson.

The traditional teaching that Jesus quotes here was a composite of ideas found in the Old Testament.

The two vows mentioned here are from two different, but related, Greek terms. The first is from the verb epiorkeô, which means to perjure oneself, to swear falsely, to make false vows. The second is from the noun horkos, which literally means to enclose, as with a fence, or to bind together. The truth of an oath or vow is enclosed, bound, and therefore strengthened by that which is invoked on its behalf.

A clear description of an oath is given in the book of Hebrews:
Hebrews 6:16

[16]For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. (ESV)

The name of something or someone greater than the person making the oath is invoked to give greater credibility to what is said. Any oath calling on God invites Him to witness the truthfulness of what is said or to avenge if it is a lie. An oath was therefore generally taken to be the absolute truth, which made “an end of every dispute,” because it invited judgment on the one who violated his word.

Jesus many times used the phrase “Truly I say to you” to call attention to a teaching of special importance. As with God’s oaths, the words Jesus introduces with “truly” are no more truthful than anything else He said, but emphasize the unique importance of certain of His teachings. It is important to note that Jesus Himself swore an oath before Caiaphas:
Matthew 26:63-64 [63]But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God (I charge you under oath), tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” [64]Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

That was a righteous oath. But I want you to check out what happened with Peter not long after that.
Matthew 26:69-74 [69]Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” [70]But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” [71]And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” [72]And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” [73]After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” [74]Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. (ESV)
That swearing was not profanity, but an oath given with special emphasis. Peter increased the strength of his oath, but that did not increase the truth of what he said. It was bad enough to have lied; it was even worse to call God as a witness to the lie. In addition to denying His Lord, Peter used God’s name in vain. It is small wonder that he “went out and wept bitterly” (v. 75).

God established the seriousness of keeping an oath… keeping a promise.

The psalmist, in describing the kind of person who may enter God’s holy presence, makes clear that one mandatory requirement:
Psalm 15:1-4

[15:1]O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? [2]He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; [3]who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; [4]in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

Keeping oaths made to God is the mark of a true worshiper. To put it another way, true sons of the kingdom hate lies.

The lesson for people of any age is how serious God regards truth and how severely lies interfere with our relationship with God and with one another.

In the movie Mary Poppins, the two children, Jane and Michael Banks, jumped into bed after their incredible first day with the amazing Mary Poppins. Jane asked, “Mary Poppins, you won’t ever leave us, will you?” Michael, full of excitement, looked at his new nanny and added, “Will you stay if we promise to be good?” Mary looked at the two and as she tucked them in replied, “Look, that’s a pie-crust promise. Easily made, easily broken!

We have seen Promising Speech,  and now:

False Speech.
Matthew 5:33

[33]”(Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ’You shall not swear falsely), but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ (ESV)

The tradition Jesus mentions in verse 33 seemed to be biblical, but it had several flaws that made it fall short of what the Old Testament actually taught. First, it had a missing ingredient, and second, it had a misplaced emphasis.

The missing ingredient was a proper circumstance for making an oath.

People would declare anything and promise anything with an oath even if they really had no intention of carrying it out.

Instead of being a mark of integrity they became a mark of deceit. Instead of prompting confidence they prompted skepticism.

Their misplaced emphasis was in limiting the honest oaths to vows to the Lord, to oaths made directly to Him or in His name. The keeping of those oaths to the Lord was rightly regarded as mandatory, whereas the keeping of oaths to others they falsely made optional.

We must be very careful that the need for truth is seen as necessary for all people. Kids should not just be encouraged to tell the truth to adults, thereby implicitly instructed that it’s OK to deceive other kids.

The system of oaths between one person and another was like a giant game. People would swear by heaven, by the earth, by the Temple, by the hairs on their heads, and by any other thing they thought would impress those they wanted to take advantage of. That kind of routine oath-making was usually lie-making; and it was considered by those who practiced it to be perfectly acceptable as long as it was not in the name of the Lord.

In our time this custom is found in phrases such as: “I swear by God,” “cross my heart and hope to die,” “stick a needle in my eye” or “I sear on my mother’s grave or I’d swear on a stack of Bibles.”

Leviticus 19:12

[12]You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. (ESV)

This was misrepresented and interpreted to mean that swearing falsely by any other name was allowed.
The most severe punishment for children should be reserved for lies. Not only does this highlight how important truth is to God but kids will be encouraged to be truthful if they know that deception will be treated more serious than any infraction.

We have seen Promising Speech, False Speech AND FINALLY:

Godly Speech. Matthew 5:34-37
[34]But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, [35]or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. [36]And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. [37]Let what you say be simply ’Yes’ or ’No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (ESV)

Jesus is not saying “No oath at all”… not in the truest interpretation. After all, in Romans, the Apostle Paul made an oath before the Roman tribunal that he was not lying.

So what is Jesus trying to say.

Simply this:

Be people of integrity.  Be people who simply because they want to honor Jesus, cannot bring themselves to lie.
Christians bear God’s name and every action or inaction is a reflection on God. The most damaging impact that a faulty testimony can have on a lost world can seem to be almost irreparable.

God’s absolute, unchanging standard is truth and sincerity in everything. Not only should oaths be totally truthful and dependable, but even the most routine conversations should be truthful in every detail.
Matthew 5:37 [37]Let what you say be simply ’Yes’ or ’No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (ESV)

Ephesians 4:29 [29]Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (ESV)

God is a holy God, His kingdom is a holy kingdom, and the people of His kingdom are to be a holy people. His righteousness is to be their righteousness, and anything less than His righteousness, including anything less than absolute truth, is unacceptable to Him, because it comes from/is of evil. So our Lord shatters the fragile glass of their hypocritical oaths, which they used to cover lies.

We also need to remember that our Lord hears every word, not just the oaths, and that we will give account of all our words:
Matthew 12:36 [36]I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, (ESV)

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Your Worth To God

1 Sep

I like “Peanuts”.

No, I’m not talking about the food. I’m talking about the great cartoon by Charles Schulz.

They tried to revive it a couple of years ago with “The Peanuts Movie”.  I didn’t get to go see it at the theatre but we had HBO free for a while so I taped it. Unfortunately, I taped it on the Spanish channel. Oh, well!

“A Peanuts cartoon, showed Peppermint Patty talking to Charlie Brown. She said, “Guess what, Chuck. The first day of school, and I got sent to the principal’s office. It was your fault, Chuck.” He said, “My fault? How could it be my fault? Why do you say everything is my fault?” She said, “You’re my friend, aren’t you, Chuck? You should have been a better influence on me.”

Now, this was nothing more than Peppermint Patty trying to avoid responsibility. But truth is that part of it was right.

We should be the right type of influence on those with whom we hang out.

We have been looking at the Sermon on the Mount which could also be called the greatest sermon ever.  The theme of the entire message was how we as Jesus followers are supposed to live.
Matthew 5:13-16:

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” (14) “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. (15) Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. (16) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Now, I’m going to do something I don’t do very often. I’m going to read part of this in King James.

“Ye are the salt of the earth.”

So let me explain something.  “Ye” in Texan means “Ya’ll”.

Jesus is saying “ya’ll” are the salt of the earth.

Jesus is looking at his followers, his disciples, and saying

“ya’ll are the salt of the earth.”

What a great compliment!

Salt was a valuable commodity in those days.  It was so important that it was sometimes used as instruments for barter or used as money.

Many Roman soldiers were paid with it.

In fact, our word “salary” comes from the Latin word salarium which referred to the payments to the soldiers with salt.

Haven’t you heard the expression that someone is not “worth their salt.”

We still use the phrase saying that someone either is, or is not, “worth their salt.”

We live in country where there is an abundance of food. We don’t understand teh idea of having to eat the same thing everyday.  In a large part of the world, like in Africa for example, rice is the common staple.

In Job 6:6 the Bible says, “Can flavorless food be eaten without salt?” For this one reason alone salt is indispensable.

Jesus is saying that Christians are like salt of infinite value.

However, he is also saying that Christians, like salt, act as a preservative.

Back then, salt was the only way to preserve meat.  They did not have refrigeration so salt was an absolute necessity.  Salt helped hinder the decaying process.  In the same way, we as Christians should be doing our part to slow down the decay of the world around us.

Believe it or not, Christianity has been impacting the world for a long time.

The Red Cross was started by an evangelical Christian. Almost every one of the first 123 colleges and universities in the United States has Christian origins, founded by Christians for Christian purposes. The same could be said of orphanages, adoption agencies, humane treatment of the insane, the list goes on and on of dramatic impact of Christianity in our world.

Christian’s continue to have a positive benefit on our world. As a moral antiseptic, Christians keep the corruption of society at bay by opposing moral decay by their lives and their words.
But there is an horrifying new trend today.

George Barna says that research shows that

“… the average Christian in the average church is almost indistinguishable from the rest of society. The fundamental moral and ethical difference that Christ can make in how we live, is missing. When our teens we claim to be saved, get pregnant and do drugs at the same rate as the general teenage population – when the marriages of Christians end in divorce at the same rate as the rest of society – when Christians cheat in business, or lie, steal, and cheat on their spouses at the same statistical level as those who say they are not Christians – something is horribly wrong.”
If we as Christian’s lose the qualities of being like Jesus that make us distinct and become like the society around us, we no longer have a positive impact. We become a hindrance and not a preservative.
Christians Like Salt Act As A Preservative and …

Christians Like Salt Can Lose Their Usefulness.
Jesus says that if the salt loses its flavor,

“… It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”
Technically speaking, salt cannot lose its saltiness; sodium chloride is a stable compound.

But in the part of the world where Jesus lived, salt was collected from around the Dead Sea where the crystals were often contaminated with other minerals.

These crystalized formations were full of impurities, and since the actual salt was more soluble than the impurities, the rain could wash out the salt, which made what was left of little worth since it lost its saltiness.

When this happened, the salt was thrown out, since it was no longer of any value either as a preservative or for flavoring.
When the salt was washed out, it still looked like salt, but it lost its taste. The essential difference can be leached out of a Christian’s life by the constant flow of the world’s values through our lives.
When Mahatma Gandhi was the spiritual leader of India, he was asked by some missionaries, “What is the greatest hindrance to Christianity in India?” His reply was, “Christians.”

Phillip Keller said this:
“The peculiar property of salt is that even though it may have lost its pungency,… it still retains one very devastating potency. This rare and remarkable material can still …. destroy plant life on the land…. the same principle applies in the case of the Christian. Either our lives or counting for good and for God or they are making an impact for evil and the enemy…. The way we live, the things we say the attitudes we entertain, the life style we adopt… are continuously producing either positive or negative results in society…. Our lives, whether we are aware or not either count for God or against Him. There simply is no middle ground.”

Finally, Christians, like salt, must be in contact with something to make a difference.

Fifth, Christians Like Salt Must Have Contact To Have An Influence!

The salt never did any good when it was sitting on a shelf some place and the meat was somewhere else. To be effective, the salt had to be rubbed into the meat. In a similar way Christians are to allow God use them wherever he has placed them.

The church is not supposed to be a salt warehouse. It is supposed to be a place that distributes salt out into the world.  Salt must make contact to have an affect. Christians must be out in the world to have an affect on others.

I want you to notice what Jesus says and does not say, He does not say, “You all can be the salt of the earth.” Nor does he say, “You all should be the salt of the earth.” Jesus says “You are the salt of the earth” and in the Greek it is literally “You and you alone are the salt of the earth.”

patty