Don’t ever talk about anyone, ever.

“Don’t ever talk about anyone…because you never know who they might be related to.”

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I was given this piece of advice when I first arrived in this small town by a long time local and it was some of the best I have been given…because it has turned out to be so true. I mean, really, what is the likelihood of me knowing Mrs X was BLANK’S great Aunt without having been told? And that kind of thing happens every week.

Today I set out to get something from the church, a 3 minute walk from my study at home. Walk there, get my papers, walk back – 10 minutes tops. Right? Not in a small town. Over 2 hours later I make it back to my desk with the papers in hand, having had several parish excursions along the way. A cup of tea. A conversation. Slapping a newly married friend on the back (figuratively). Making plans to improve the community center. Stopping a leak the community center. Hearing the life story of a new friend and the present burdens of another.

It becomes more and more clear as I learn to love my neighbors that the act of loving them includes both listening to them and not speaking about what I’ve heard. Today, without giving too much away, I had another one of those, “Oh, you are related to so and so” moments. And while I have nothing bad to say about either, I am reminded about how knowing each other and being know in a small town provides a bit of an incentive to keep your mouth shut.

Really, we should know this already, but we don’t necessarily, do we? Adults, should know that you never speak about a person not present in a defamatory way without first having spoken to them. And always with the aim of reconciliation. But we forget, we all forget.

(Quick caveat, there must be an honest way to speak to another in such a way that aids the healing process. That means speaking to someone mutually respected, who can actually help, like a pastor).

The Bible speaks to this in such a way that truly brings a blessing, making the world a better place. In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the local church in the small town of Ephesus, he writes,

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.

This kind of speaking is consistent with the new life, the life that enjoys all the spiritual blessings in Christ, the life that has been re-created in righteousness, holiness and truth. Or, as Jesus puts it, “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Let us love our neighbors with action and in truth. Let us be quick to repent if the words of our mouth reveal darkness in our hearts. Let us be be just as quick to receive the forgiveness of Jesus, without whom all hearts are only evil, all the time. And let us…

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

What do you expect from church?

I’m sketching out a new writing project and could use a little help.

Would you share what you expect out o church when you go? That’s it, just a few words or a story if you would share one.

I won’t defend, respond or judge. I just want to hear what you expect.

Thanks and pass this link along so others might weigh in too.

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What I would have said if I had more time

 

Every Sunday I say too much. Every Sunday I speak too fast. And every Sunday I leave more unsaid than you can possibly imagine.

Last week we preached Genesis 1, the song of creation. We let God speak first and saw how the fundamental assumption that God exists is far better and creates far more beauty than assuming that there is no God. Sunday, we longed for that beauty to be present with us.

Last week we exalted in the divine rhythms of of the 7 paragraphs about 7 days. The multiples of 7: good 7x, day 14x, earth 21x and God 35x.

Last week we found our hearts and minds grounded in the substantial beauty of a personal God intimately involved in the creation of all things.

Last week we joined the song of our place as the moon and the snow, the cattle, the hills and the snowy white egrets called us to sing along to the glory of God.

Last week we entered into the purpose of our existence, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever in goodness, blessing and rest.

And yet…I said nothing about the seven days of creation. That was purposeful because I did not want us to lose the beauty of God’s purpose in creating the universe by devolving into an argument about details that, while important, are secondary.

So, what I didn’t say…the most obvious reading of the passage is that God created the heavens and the earth in 7 days, as we would know them. It does us no more good to try to move this song of creation into the language of materialistic naturalism so it can correspond to geologic ages than it does to pretend as if naturalism can answer metaphysical questions. 7 days is the plainest sense but we must refrain from hard dogma because the word “day” is used three different ways in the passage, as well as for other reasons.

I also did not say that we are speaking of the miracle of miracles. When we start with God speaking all things into existence from nothing by the word of His mouth, creating light (day 1) before the sun (day 4) is no big deal. Not to mention that light goes on after the sun in Rev. 22.

So, because many of you asked after Sunday. The days of creation seem to be normal days, miraculously formed and filled by God, not necessarily corresponding to anything in scientific language, which is far too limited for a healthy discussion of the origins, meaning and purpose of humanity, let alone the universe.

Preaching through your church

When we preach, we don’t just preach to our church but through our church. We preach in order to create conversations that follow in small groups, at dinner tables and in coffee shops. What we offer from the pulpit needs to be suitable to be served at the table as a palatable meal to our people. These are the people we walk with daily and the ones who will walk the good news we preach into every corner of our community while we are home recovering from the sermon.

Take a look at the rest of my article from Preaching Magazine May/ June issue

All the things I forgot to say

We’ve just finished a series of sermons on the book of 2 Timothy. Actually, we spent time in Ephesians, then 1 Timothy and now 2 Timothy. All 3 letters to the church in Ephesus.

We’ve joined Paul in the call to praise God for every spiritual blessing that is ours in Christ. We have adoption into the family of God the Father (thank you!). We have redemption from our transgressions through the sacrifice of Jesus the Son (thank you!). We have be told the mysteries of what God is doing the universe, that God is putting the pieces broken world back together in Jesus, and He is starting with the church (thank you!). He has given us to share in the inheritance that rightly belongs to Jesus, the big brother (thank you!). And He has given us the Spirit Himself as a guarantee of all that He promised (thank you!).

We have heard the charge to manage God’s household where we live. To uphold the pillar of these truths in our community, God has entrusted us with this task.

And now we have ended with the reminder that our call to carry out this trust depends absolutely upon God being trustworthy. He has been faithful with our pasts and will be faithful with our futures. He will make sure that our lives achieve more than we’ve ever dreamed, even if it is harder than we’ve ever imagined…because He is glorified by saving sinners. It makes Him look good. He has trusted you to walk a path that makes Him look good, not by living a praiseworthy life, but by your life of honest repentance that brings Him praise as the Savior of sinners.

Do you get it? He means it, church. He has left the good news (every spiritual blessing) and the good work (putting the broken pieces back together by bringing other sinners to a place of gracious freedom through salvation in Jesus) to us. You and I have to do it, because we trust Him. If He gave it to us, it must be for our good. It must actually make the world a better place. Do you trust Him? Then it is time to take another step, even a small one towards Christian maturity, towards actually accomplishing the task in our community.

Now, here is what I never really got to on Sunday…some practical wisdom (not divine command) for living it out here in community with us as SMCC. (This is not everything, of course, but it is the way we live it together in community).

Let corporate worship more consistently shape you and your relationship with others. If you never or irregularly worship with the people of God, you are not even believing Him, let alone doing your part to hand on the truth to others. This is a baby step, but a great place to start, you will quickly feel the rhythms of worship changing your heart and life.

Start getting together with others to talk about the Word that God has entrusted to us. Go to a Home Group, open your Bible and open your mouth. Make statements, ask questions. Grow with other. Maybe grab just one other person and use the guides for talking about the Bible that we make available. If most of the church is gathering this way weekly and you are not, they will be growing without you. Is this the step that will help you and help fulfill our mission right now.

Start serving somewhere. In the church or out of the church. Honestly, serving our kids is the easiest way to make a direct connection with the trust God had given us. But it could be anywhere: lead a Home Group, mentor another person in the life of faith, serve on a local committee for the school, library or Santa margarita beautiful. Just start doing something toward God’s end, because you love Him and your neighbors. Dream a little, risk a little, just do something. Don’t wait another day.

One more thing. Tell me what step you plan on taking. Let me walk with you and pray for you. I’m your Pastor. I’d love to help. Besides my job before God and you is to make sure you do it. I guess I’m saying that I will be checking up on you. That’s what I forgot to tell you.