September 2011


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “You need to see this movie.” Take a friend, take an enemy, take your spouse, take yourself, just go see this movie. Find a theater near you.

. . . but I’ve got books that need to be bought. I’m making it easier than ever. You can now purchase my first two stories at Amazon.com.

Something Special at Leonard’s Inn retails for $7.00. You may purchase it for $6.00 (plus shipping) at Amazon.

Just a Simple Carpenter lists for $10.00 but is being sold for $8.00 (plus shipping).

Both books make excellent Christmas gifts. Buy one for yourself, one for your friend, and then link the purchase info (or this post) to all your friends so they can have a happy Christmas, too.

If you are doing the will of God, you will face opposition.

You may or may not agree with that statement. However, I believe that it is true and that if we are to be effective in God’s work, then we are to expect opposition. Jesus indicated that we would be persecuted for our faith. (See the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 or Mark 4.)  Again, He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (from John 16:33). So why should we not expect trouble?

The early church faced persecution (read that “opposition”) which resulted in the worldwide scattering of early believers and consequently allowed for early expansion of the church into the known world. So why shouldn’t we expect opposition?

If then I am true in my assertion that we will face opposition for doing the will of God, what could it possibly mean? First of all, it means that working beside God in the work that He assigns for us will not be an easy task. Certainly there will be joy in the accomplishment and there will be growth along the way, but it won’t be easy.

It also means that if we are NOT facing opposition—or opposition does not arise in the course of time—we may be about something that is not the will of God in the first place. Keith Green suggested in 1978 that the church is not about God’s business. Here’s a sample of his observation:

 

The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can’t fight
Cause it’s asleep in the light
How can you be so dead
When you’ve been so well fed
Jesus rose from the grave
And you, you can’t even get out of bed

Oh, Jesus rose from the dead
Come on, get out of your bed

(from “Asleep in the Light” on the No Compromise album, Sparrow, 1978)

 

There are a couple of warnings that arise from this understanding of opposition though. First, we should not go out looking for opposition. If we simply go about the business of God as we know it to be for us, the opposition will rise up to meet us on the way. This also means that we shouldn’t go about our Kingdom building in a manner that is offensive to people. Christ told us that the Gospel message would offend those who do not receive it, there is no need for us to be offensive in its proclamation.

Secondly, it isn’t necessary for us as the church to manufacture our own opposition. I think that denominations serve a great purpose as people begin to live their spiritual identity. I do not agree that we should argue over the bestness or rightness of our denomination—everyone loses in this proposition: the defender of the denomination because he thinks his is the right way, but can’t convince his neighbor, and the unbeliever who sees the argument, because he thinks there is no unity in the body of Christ, and walks away unchanged. Instead, we should remember that we are on the same team, working for a common goal—one that has been set by our Lord and Master, and not by the leaders in our particular brand of church. Again, the opposition will crop up without our sowing it amongst ourselves.

So what should we do? The work Christ has set before us. Do it willingly, unashamedly, and courageously in the face of the opposition. And then rejoice that Christ gives us the strength to stand and not fall asleep.

 

Some of you will not remember the Doritos® campaign from a few years ago—Jay Leno stood with a bag of the chips in his hand saying, “Go ahead. Crunch all you want. We’ll make more.” It was a catchy phrase for a time, and the church has latched onto it with both hands. No, not making chips, but making gossip. I know you’re saying, “Hold on, Preacher. I don’t gossip. I’m not a gossip.” But if we are honest with ourselves, we are all victims of, partakers in, and perpetuators to the problem known as gossip.

Let’s start with what the Scripture teaches Christians about gossip (this will be pretty easy, as I’m in the midst of a sermon series from the book of James):

It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. (James 3.5-6, MSG)

Of course I understand that James is talking about more than just gossip here, but it’s the basic building block of what he is referencing, and I might argue that if we boiled all the offenses of the tongue down to their original element we’d find gossip. It’s a problem for me, I know. And it is raging throughout American society. The infection is even eating away at the Church. Since James is writing to the church in the first century, I guess it isn’t a new problem. It is probably one of the least addressed issues in the modern church. I think this is true because of the number of church members affected by and participating in the constant flow of gossip in its various forms. So let’s dig down to the roots and try to address this sadness that clouds our lives and our worship.

Cultural Baggage

To begin with, Americans are not only gossips by nature, but by right. We assume, Constitutionally, that we have a right to know everything. We have freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom to information. We sit down to listen to the evening news and expect to hear all the gory details. We not only think that it is our right to know, but we deserve to know as well.

Our newspapers stand on their right to print all the news—not necessarily the New York Times claim, “All the news that’s fit to print.” But in the mix of all this free information, we have developed an attitude that we deserve to know it all. It’s our right to know, and to know everything. The problem with learning everything that we can know about everything that can be known is that we get our information from our own sources—newspapers, news reports on radio or television, not to mention the growing use of the Internet for not only news feed, but social networking. Opinions are running rampant, and everyone tells all that they know. Welcome to the Blogosphere!

Curiosity Killed the Cat

In the midst of all this information, we have also developed an oversized sense of curiosity. Maybe we don’t need to know, but we want to. Enter the church. We couch our requests for gossip in the disguise of wanting to “pray for” this person or that person. Do we really need to know the juicy story in order to pray for them? If someone suggests that one person or another needs the brothers and sisters to lift them up in prayer, that’s all we need to know.

The problem with that is that we are by nature inquisitive—and inquiring minds want to know. See? We want to know. But we’ve translated that in our minds to read we need to know. Our curiosity will not only kill the proverbial cat, but it will also severely damage or even maim our faith and our spirits in the process. And the difficulty is exacerbated by our lack of knowledge about just what gossip is.

What’s That You Say?

The reason that we deny being gossips is that we don’t really know what gossip is. We categorize our “sharing” in such a way that nothing we say, do, or hear can fall into the pit of gossip. So, why don’t I list a few things here that are gossip, whether we want to admit that they are gossip or not. (Hold on, this will probably hurt. You’ll probably disagree—and that’s okay. It’s even okay to disagree in the comment section, but remember to keep it nice, and keep it clean, I do monitor the comments.)

Prayer requests are often gossip in cognito. Do we need to pray for Sister Lu as she faces surgery? Yes. Do we need to know that the surgery is for a ruptured appendix? Probably not. Brother Joe’s son has been diagnosed with cancer and is facing chemotherapy. Pray. Don’t ask for the details.

A new person moves in down the street. We should stop by with a “welcome pie” or a list of local stores where essentials can be purchased. We should not rush over while the moving truck is unloading (with said pie or list as a cover) to snoop into what kind of things they have—furniture, books, children. It’s gossip. No, you say? Gossip is only words, you insist? I’d have to argue that everything that feeds our need for gossip is part and parcel of the process itself.

You see, gossip is more than simply repeating unsubstantiated rumors (even if it is that). It is more than just malicious talking (true or not true). It is spreading whatever it is not our business to spread—or listening to that which is none of our business to hear. With this in mind, telling (or listening to) that off-color—make that outright dirty—joke is gossip. Burning up the telephone wires with the latest “news” is gossip.

Make an Action Plan

So, how are we as Christians to act? Can we even open our mouths at all without gossip leaking out? (Probably not, but we can try.) Here are some suggestions that might help us to be more Christ-like in our interaction with one another.

  • Don’t Do This.

Stop looking for the juicy tidbits about everyone and everything.

Don’t believe everything your hear. I was once given the advice, “Don’t believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see.”

Please stop asking the preacher and the deacons for details about your brother or sister on the prayer list. Speaking from the point of the preacher, I’m glad you are concerned and want to pray. Please pray, he/she needs your prayers. I may even be at ease to tell you that they are having surgery in the next few days. However, I’m as susceptible (and as guilty) to telling more than needs to be told as the next guy. Don’t tempt me to gossip by asking all the details—first, I may need to keep a confidence and without my guard constantly up, may betray that confidence (then I build the reputation of being a loose-tongued wagamouth, and can’t be the pastor I need to be to you or our other church members). Secondly, I may not really know all the details—things may have changed since I heard, I may have missed some of the details, or I may even fill in the spaces with inaccurate details (preachers do that, too). If you ask me for details, I feel a need to tell them—known or unknown—then we get into a speculation match and begin to blow the situation into proportions that make it more of a caricature than the situation really is.

  • Do This Instead.

Pray. If you want to know the prayer request, listen to the prayer chain call. (Beware of prayer chains becoming juicy, gossip-filled grapevines, though.)

If you want to know what prayer requests have been made at prayer meeting—come to prayer meeting. This speaks also to those who attend such prayer meetings. It is not yours to tell just because you heard it in prayer meeting. If someone asks you what happened at prayer meeting, here’s a thought: Tell them to come to prayer meeting to find out. Sounds harsh, but this laziness and looking for others to get our information for us feeds the gossip mill.

If you really want to know the details beyond what’s on the prayer list or at prayer meeting, call the person involved. They can tell you what you may need to know, or that you don’t, and you don’t put your pastor or fellow church member in the position of spreading gossip.

If you must talk, here are a few of the things you should put on the top of your discussion list: the Gospel—tell people about Jesus, who He is, what He’s done, what He can and will do for anyone who trusts in Him. I was going to make a list of the things that we can talk about, but after having voiced this first thing, everything else pales, so let’s just leave it at that. To keep from making more gossip, make Jesus your topic—first, last, and everything in between.

This morning in my humming around the words to this old hymn popped into my head. Sometimes I wonder why we enjoy certain hymns and songs, but not others. I suppose it’s often the style/meter of the music. Maybe it has a catchy tune, or an infectious chorus. For me, another kicker is if the words really say something. In that case I like to peruse the old, old hymns for something that hits home. This song is probably not the greatest hymn ever written, nor will it find itself among the favorites of very many lists. But the questions it raises over and over again demand an answer.

“Let Jesus Come Into Your Heart” by Leila N. Morris (1898)

If you are tired of the load of your sin,
Let Jesus come into your heart;
If you desire a new life to begin,
Let Jesus come into your heart.

Refrain

Just now, your doubtings give o’er;
Just now, reject Him no more;
Just now, throw open the door;
Let Jesus come into your heart.

If ’tis for purity now that you sigh,
Let Jesus come into your heart;
Fountains for cleansing are flowing nearby,
Let Jesus come into your heart.

Refrain

If there’s a tempest your voice cannot still,
Let Jesus come into your heart;
If there’s a void this world never can fill,
Let Jesus come into your heart.

Refrain

If you would join the glad songs of the blest,
Let Jesus come into your heart;
If you would enter the mansions of rest,
Let Jesus come into your heart.

Refrain    

[1956 edition, Baptist Hymnal, Hymn #230, attributed to “Mrs. C.H. Morris, 1862-1929”]