Wednesday, November 23, 2005


“9 The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
10 “I the Lord search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward a man according to his conduct,
according to what his deeds deserve.”

(Jeremiah 17:9-10 NIV)

“12-Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret (hidden) faults (sins).
13-Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.
14-Let the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.”

(Psalm 19:12-14)

q What does Jeremiah 17:9 and Psalm 19:12 tell us about the condition of the human heart?

I’ve often said, “It’s not the known sins and struggles within me that concern me the most, rather it’s the sins and struggles within that I’m not aware of that scare me. It’s the things that are at work influencing and perhaps ruling me that I don’t even know about – this is of greater concern.

q What do you think are the connections between Psalm 19:12 and 19:13?

Before God can deliver us from ourselves, we must undeceive ourselves. St. Augustine

It was reported recently that an enormous pine tree in the mountains of Colorado had fallen victim to a pine beetle and died. According to locals, up to that point the tree was thought to be indestructible. It had survived fourteen lightning strikes and many years of Colorado winters, including avalanches and fires. But it was eventually brought down from within by a tiny insect that did its work silently. (Today in the Word, October 1997, p. 28.)

Could it be that hidden or secret sins lead to presumptuous sins, which left unattended will have dominion over us? Could this be why David asked God to not just deal with the surface issues, rather he asked God to dig deep, even into that which he was not aware of? The end result, said David, would be innocent of great transgression.

Hidden sins have to do with subtle mind-sets and heart-sets that we may not even be aware of, but are nonetheless influencing decisions and actions. If these mind-sets (thought patterns) and heart-sets (ways of feeling) are permitted to continue they become embedded ways of thinking and feeling. The Bible describes this as a stronghold. The result will be the formation of habits which will begin to set the course of our daily lives. If they are rooted in sin, the Bible says they will have dominion over us. The outworking of this is our thought-filled and willful disobedience i.e. great transgression.

How does a worm get inside an apple? Perhaps you think the worm burrows in from the outside. No, scientists have discovered that the worm comes from inside. But how does he get in there? Simple! An insect lays an egg in the apple blossom. Sometime later, the worm hatches in the heart of the apple, then eats his way out. Sin, like the worrn, begins in the heart and works out through a person’s thoughts, words and actions.[i]

q Why does David ask God to let the words of his mouth and meditation of his heart be acceptable in God’s sight?

q What role do our words and heart meditations play into the previous verses? (look back at Psalm 19:12-13 and Jeremiah 17:9-10)

q How does changing our inward meditations and speech change the course of hidden/secret sins and sins of presumption?

Prayerfully meditate through Psalm 19:12-14

“12-Who can understand his errors?

(This involves being in a posture of humility before God, acknowledging that our default mode is self-dependence. This awareness or lack of awareness produces gratefulness for God’s unconditional love and grace.)
Cleanse me from secret (hidden) faults (sins).

(Part of the cleansing process is personal and spiritual awareness – God bringing revelation to the things that are working deep within. Pray for this type of understanding.)

13-Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous (willful) sins;

(Humility recognizes that our hearts are utterly deceitful, even beyond cure, at least outside of God’s transforming love and grace. Keep back is simply a plea for God to keep us from us. Often the greatest enemy that we face isn’t lurking in the realm of darkness with demonic forces, rather it’s the Enemy-in-a-Me – the enemy within. Keep back is a appeal to the grace of God to continue to convict us, keep us in check, restrain, and help us to hold back. It’s a statement of – God, I don’t want to be ruled by this, but know that left to my own vices, I will be…I’m willing to enter the process of transformation… It is only by your Spirit convicting me, making me aware, and keeping me in check can I begin to be transformed in the areas of my mind, emotions and will. CHANGE MY “WANTER”. Sometimes the best prayer we can pray is: God, I want to want what you want! Give me the desire to desire to change.)

Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.

(I shall be innocent of great transgression. This verse shows us the process of sin if left unattended. In the process of transformation, this goal is one of the key motivating factors in our continuance and perseverance, not to mention a safeguard against discouragement. I shall be innocent of great transgression. In other words, I shall walk in purity and wholeness. It’s also a declaration of thanksgiving and appreciation of the One who has made a way for this purity and wholeness i.e. redemption. Along with verse fourteen we say, O, LORD, You are my strength and my Redeemer.)

14-Let the words of my mouth and
the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight,

(God… I can never expect to become more like You, unless that which sets the course of my life is pleasing in You. Therefore, I need you to help me govern the meditations of my heart and that which makes it to my mouth. Show me the mind-sets and heart-sets which are currently directing my footsteps that need to be transformed, even repented of…)

O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.”

“May the inner and the outer person meet.”

The drunk husband snuck up the stairs quietly. He looked in the bathroom mirror and bandaged the bumps and bruises he’d received in a fight earlier that night. He then proceeded to climb into bed, smiling at the thought that he’d pulled one over on his wife.

When morning came,
he opened his eyes and there stood his wife. “You were drunk last night weren’t you!”

“No, honey.”
“Well, if you weren’t, then who put all the band-aids on the bathroom mirror?”[ii]

Areas of Greatest Challenge
A recent survey of Discipleship Journal readers ranked areas of greatest spiritual challenge to them:
1. Materialism
2. Pride
3. Self-centeredness
4. Laziness
5. (Tie) Anger/Bitterness
6. (Tie) Sexual lust
7. Envy
8. Gluttony
9. Lying
Survey respondents noted temptations were more potent when they had neglected their time with God (81 percent) and when they were physically tired (57 percent). Resisting temptation was accomplished by prayer (84 percent), avoiding compromising situations (76 percent), Bible study (66 percent), and being accountable to someone (52 percent).
(Discipleship Journal, 1992, p. 11-12.)

[i] Heaven and Home Hour Radio Bulletin.
[ii] Source unknown

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Forgiveness is Not...

”Never does the human soul appear so strong and noble as
when it foregoes revenge,
and dares to forgive an injury.”

Whenever the subject of forgiving others is brought up among a group of people, very often an intense and emotional discussion will soon follow. Many questions arise defending one’s position with reasons as to why not to forgive. We will look at some of these dynamics this week, but first to help us understand forgiveness as a whole, it will prove advantageous for us to understand what forgiveness is not. Lewis Smedes and John Ortberg offer some helpful parameters for defining what forgiveness is not.

What is it that we do, exactly, when we forgive? Lewis Smedes, who is the closet I know to an expert on forgiving, says we must start by understanding what forgiveness is not and then look at the three stages that are part of what forgiving is.

First, forgiving is not the same thing as excusing. Excusing is what we do when we consider extenuating circumstances for our behavior. We excuse expectant fathers for driving fast because they are taxiing a woman in labor. We excuse clumsy skiers for bumping into us when we find out they’re beginners. We excuse eight-year-old boys for making bodily noises because they’re eight-year-old boys.

People sometimes say that “to understand all is to forgive all,” but in a sense that’s exactly wrong. Forgiveness is what is required precisely when there is no good rationale to explain why someone did what they did. Forgiving does not mean tolerating bad behavior or pretending that what someone did was not so bad. As Smedes says, excusing is an end run around the crisis of forgiving. When an action is excusable, it doesn’t require forgiveness.

Forgiving is not forgetting. All that forgetting requires is a really bad memory. I forget where I parked my car or put my keys. This doesn’t mean I h

Monday, November 14, 2005

Only for the Asking?

“And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.”

(Matthew 6:12)

“When you forgive someone, you are dancing to the rhythm of the divine heartbeat… God invented forgiveness as the only way to keep his romance with the human race alive.”[i]
Lewis Smedes

“Community always involves a kind of promise, whether or not it ever is stated out loud. It is a promise of commitment and loyalty” writes John Ortberg. “In a world of uncertainty, you can count on me. When that promise gets broken, so does someone’s heart. No one can love us like someone we’ve given our heart to, but no one can wound us like that person either.”[ii] Ortberg continues:

This truth is the driving force behind country music. Just think of how many songs center around the pain of betrayal:

“If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too?”
“I Bought the Shoes That Just Walked Out on Me”
“How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?”

God created
human beings in his image so they can be friends – intimate, love-filled companions – with him and one another. But soon they learn to live as enemies. To all the wonders that God has created, human beings add an invention of their own: revenge. You hurt me, and I’ll hurt you back. A kind of Newtonian law becomes an inevitable as the law of gravity: For every infliction of pain there must be an equal and opposite act of vengeance.

A character in the book of Genesis named Lamech takes this concept to its ultimate extreme. He kills a man for wounding him; he says he will seek revenge seventy-seven times over against anyone who hurts him.
“If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold,
Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold."
(Genesis 4:24)
This is the Law of Lamech: If anyone inflicts pain on me, I must make them pay. One of the most poignant statements in Scripture comes shortly after the episode of Lamech as God views the violence and corruption that has spread like an epidemic through the creatures he loves: “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.”[iii]

So God, who created the heavens and the earth in six days, has to create once more after the Fall. He invents a kind of spiritual surgery that can remove what is toxic to the heart and make dead relationships live again. This new creation is called forgiveness. It is in some ways his last, best gift to the human race. It is the only force strong enough to heal relationships damaged by hatred and betrayal.

Peter comes to Jesus one day: “Someone’s hurt me. He’s done me wrong. Not just once. I know I’m supposed to forgive him; but it feels so unfair. Why should I always have to be the one to forgive? How often do I have to forgive him – seven times?”[iv]

Most likely Peter is expecting Jesus to say that such magnanimity would be beyond the call of duty. The rabbis used to say there was an obligation to forgive someone three times; Peter here is doubling it and throwing in a bonus round for good measure.

And it’s not just anyone who has hurt Peter. It’s his brother. Somebody he trusts. How can he keep setting himself up for heartbreak?

The concern behind Peter’s question has been felt by everyone who has ever been hurt. Why should I forgive? What if the other person doesn’t deserve it? I might get hurt again. Forgiveness looks like a pretty risky business. Forgiveness looks to Peter like one of those activities that Jesus is always talking about, and it is probably a spiritual thing to do, but it doesn’t always work out for those of us who live in the real world.

Imagine Peter’s response when, instead of commending him, Jesus tells him he still has seventy acts of forgiveness to go: “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”[v] Of course, Jesus doesn’t mean that on the seventy-eighth[vi] violation Peter can let the man have it. Jesus is reversing the Law of Lamech. He is making a point that there are two ways to live with hurt: the way of vengeance and the way of forgiveness. The first way leads to death, and the second to life.

I love how Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament captures the connection between Lamech’s vengeance and Christ’s redemption. “The unlimited revenge of primitive man has given place to the unlimited forgiveness of Christians”[vii]

“There is another reason, I think, that Jesus uses such large numbers. Forgiving is a little like breathing: If you try to keep track of every time you do it, you’ll go crazy. Even seventy-seven times is just a warm-up. Forgiving will have to be a way of life.” (John Ortberg)
Jesus’ teachings prescribe forgiveness as a way of life. Jesus said that things like hurt, betrayal, persecution and injustice will come in this life.[viii] If these things are a given, then the quality of life that we live will largely depend on our capacity to extend forgiveness to others, even those most undeserving. I think of what Dorthy Day once said, “We love God as much as the person we like least.” It could also be said that our depth of understanding of God’s forgiveness towards us is only as deep as our ability to grant that same forgiveness to those who have wronged us.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, f
orgiving one another,
even as God in Christ forgave you.”
(Ephesians 4:32)

“Bearing with one another,
and forgiving one another,
if anyone has a complaint against another;
even as Christ forgave you,
so you also must do.”
(Colossians 3:13)

“Every person should have a special cemetery lot in which
to bury the faults of friends and loved ones.”

q What do you think about Jesus’ response to Peter’s question about how many times he should forgive his brother? (“I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”)

We typically say things like, “I’ll forgive them if they ask me for forgiveness.” Or “I’ll forgive them a couple of times, but if they keep doing it over and over it’s obvious that they’re not ‘really sorry.’” The latter statement implies forgiveness will only be extended when they ask and when they are really sorry.

q Do you think Jesus was saying, “Forgive them this many times, but only if they ask. And, be sure that when they ask they are truly and sincerely sorry ?”

"I have discovered that most people
who tell me that they cannot forgive
a person who wronged them are handicapped
by a mistaken understanding of what forgiving is."
(Lewis B. Smedes - The Art of Forgiving: When You Need To Forgive And Don't Know How)

[i] Lewis Smedes, How Can It Be All Right When Everything’s All Wrong? San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1992, 43.
[ii] John Ortberg, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 151-152.
[iii] “The LORD was grieved.” (Genesis 6:6).
[iv] Peter: See Matthew 18:21ff.
[v] “Seventy-Seven Times.” Several translations render Jesus words as “seventy-times-seven.” Robertsson writes, Until seventy times seven (ἑως ἑβδομηκοντακις ἑπτα [heōs hebdomēkontakis hepta]). It is not clear whether this idiom means seventy-seven or as the Revised Version has it (490 times). If ἑπτακις [heptakis] were written it would clearly be 490 times. The same ambiguity is seen in Gen. 4:24, the LXX text by omitting και [kai]. In the Test. of the Twelve Patriarchs, Benj. vii. 4, it is used in the sense of seventy times seven. But it really makes little difference because Jesus clearly means unlimited forgiveness in either case. (Robertson, A. 1997. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Vol.V c1932, Vol.VI c1933 by Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Logos Research Systems: Oak Harbor.)
[vi] “seventy-eighth” violation, or the four-hundred-and-seventy-first, depending on which translation you’re reading.
[vii] Quoting McNeile: Robertson, A. 1997. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Vol.V c1932, Vol.VI c1933 by Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Logos Research Systems: Oak Harbor.
[viii] Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that  in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Friday, November 11, 2005

All in a Whisper

“A perverse man sows strife,
And a whisperer separates the best of friends.”

(Proverbs 16:28)

The Hebrew word for gossip and talebearer is closely associated with the word used for whisper. In fact, the New King James version interprets gossip as whisperer. A whisper seems so innocent and casual, yet it can destroy a person as it spreads like wildfire.
This word in both the Hebrew and Greek is quite intriguing and insightful as to why God categorizes it with things like murder. The word whisper was used in the context of “the magical murmuring of a charmer of snakes.”[i] It meant “to mumble a spell,”[ii] as was accustomed to someone involved in witchcraft.

Something else that happens when we enter into whispering about another is that something is actually released in the spirit towards that person. This may seem a little hyper-spiritual or hokey, but it is something that we must seriously consider. The writer of Proverbs says that,

“The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
(Proverbs 18:21 NIV)

Think about some of the words that have been spoken to you over your life. Our beliefs are formed based on the repetition and the impact of words that have been spoken over us. Out of the mouth, the Bible says, flows forth the power of blessing or cursing. James says that with our mouth we bless God and then turn around and curse our neighbor.

When Scripture says that the mouth carries the power to bless or to curse, it is not merely being poetic. Rather, literally with your mouth you can bless something or you can curse something. You can release life or you can release death. You can release vitality or you can release a stench that proceeds and begins to rot.

Words are containers.
They are containers that hold something that goes forth. When the message of those words hits the person or thing that it is talking about, it has the ability to explode. The power of that explosion will either constructively build up or destructively break down.

“There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword,
but the tongue of the wise promotes health.”
(Proverbs 12:18)

“Many a blunt word has a sharp edge.
Keep your words soft and sweet;
you never know when you may have to eat them.”
Author Unknown

There is a spiritual power attached to words, both words of edification and destruction, blessing and cursing. These degrading, fault-finding, blame-shifting words spoken, even in private, go forth and attach themselves to the person being discussed like a witch’s spell or incantation. It is witchcraft. It doesn’t matter whether the person that we’re referring to is physically there or not. This is one of the reasons Scripture speaks so directly regarding gossip, whispering, and tale-bearing. It is degrading, destructive, witchcraft, and demonic.

“You are snared by the words of your mouth;
You are taken by the words of your mouth.”
(Proverbs 6:2)

q The roots of the Biblical word for gossip carries with it the meaning of mumbling a spell, as in witchcraft. If this is the case (which it is), what are the possible ramifications of gossiping about another person?

Jesus gave us a spiritual promise that we typically apply to prayer and worship settings. He said,

"For where two or three are gathered together in My name,
I am there in the midst of them."

(Matthew 18:20)

q Could it be that this isn’t just a promise, but a spiritual principle, that in some way applies to all of humanity? Could it be, when two or three are gathered together in someone’s name, talking about them, that there is actually a power in the words being spoken, that something is released in the spirit that can essentially affect that person, thus they are in a sense, in the midst of them?

“It would be better to leave people wondering
why you didn't talk than why you did.
When all is said and done,
there's a lot more said than done.”
Author Unknown

“If someone paid you ten cents for
every kind word you said about people,
and collected five cents for every unkind word,
would you be rich or poor?”

Henry N. Ferguson

“Have you talked to [that person] about this?”

“Can I quote you on this?”

[i] New Testament Lexicon, psithurismos (psith-oo-ris-mos’ – ref. no. 5587).
[ii] Old Testament Lexicon, lachash (law-khash’ – ref no. 3907).

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Not Available Right Now…

I don’t know of anyone who looks forward to a soliciting call from a telemarketer. I know I don’t. If you’re ever in the company of a group of people and conversation gets a little dry, try proposing the following question: How do you respond when a telemarketer calls? What do you say? What do you do? I’m sure the responses will be varied, interesting and insightfully telling about each person.

Personally, I have a hard time hanging up on these people. They’re just honest folks trying to make a buck to pay the bills and put food on the table. Okay, I’ll admit, ‘honest’ in some cases may be debatable. Nevertheless, I often feel sorry for them. How would I feel if I were them? But, what’s one to do with these household intruders? Hang up? Listen to the whole sales spill? Fake an emergency? Begin speaking in some unknown tongue? Yell at the them? Do a reverse-lockup on them costing them up to $500? (If you want more information on the last option, I can educate you for a small fee).

All of the above have been done.
When my compassion gift kicks in and I can’t bring myself to do any of the above, I simply respond, “I’m sorry, they’re not available right now.” (Note: I only say this if one of my kids or spouse is in the room. Therefore, I’m legitimately not lyingJ. After all, if you really don’t like them calling your house, simply go online to and register your number on the do not call list.)

Regardless of responses, I rarely, if ever listen to their whole sales pitch. And, even if I get sucked in early, I exit out of the one-way-conversation at the first available pause. I wonder what would happen if we responded to tale-a-marketers a.k.a. gossipers the same way that we respond to telemarketers?

q How do you typically respond to telemarketers?

q If you knew the telemarketer had access to your personal information, including your religious affiliation, as well as the name and address of the place of worship you attended, would you respond differently?

q What would happen if we responded to those sharing gossip the way we do to telemarketers when they call our house?

q What are some possible things we could say to the potential tale-a-marketer to get them to stop soliciting their gossip?

“If a ruler listens to lies,
all his officials become wicked.”

(Proverbs 29:12)

“Without wood a fire goes out;
without gossip a quarrel dies down.”
(Proverbs 26:20 NIV)

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool
than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."
Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


“Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy;
do you want junk like that in your belly?”

(Proverbs 26:22 Message)

“A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.”
(Proverbs 20:19)

“Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.”
(1 Timothy 5:13 NIV)

Yesterday, we saw that the word for gossip was the same word used to describe ancient merchants and peddlers. As a merchant would go about from place to place in order to peddle, traffic and trade his merchandize, so a gossiper or talebearer goes about from place to place to peddle, traffic and trade their information – be it information, slander or some secondhand fictitious tale.

When I envision an ancient market or village with its peddlers going from house to house and person to person, I can’t help but think, these were the original tell-a-marketers. Even, long before Alexander Graham Bell was born and ever had a chance to invent the telephone, there were those who made their living by calling on others with their slick and insistent sales pitch.
If the word for gossip was used in the same context as the peddlers and marketers, then a gossip likewise, was a tale-a-marketer. Their merchandise wasn’t some type of domestic service to be offered, it was a story to be shared.


It’s 6:00pm. You just got home from work and have sat down at the diner table. The phone rings…It rings again. You decide to pick it up, “Hello.” A long pause. Should I hang up or say ‘Hello’ again. Whenever there’s a pause it’s a telemarketer. “Heeellllloooo.” On the other end, “Hi….is this Mr. __________?”

q No doubt, an experience we can all relate to. How do you feel deep inside during these momentary exchanges with telemarketers?

q How often are you like a tale merchant or a tale-a-marketer, always looking for a place or person to share the information you have gathered or have heard about another?

q Often we are not aware of the extent that we participate in tale-a-marketing. You may want to ask two or three of your closest friends how you are doing in this area?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know Gods righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
(Romans 1:29-32 NIV)

The Apostle Paul, in the letter to those in Rome is describing a group of people who are classified as ungodly, unrighteous, and suppressers of the truth[i]. He uses descriptions like wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, murders, deceitful, and evil-mindedness. To say the least, these are intense adjectives. Interestingly, there is a word listed among these that seems almost out of place, at least out of category. He says, they are gossips. We dont typically place gossiping and murder as weighing in the same on the sin scale.

Gossip is placed in the same class as some pretty destructive forces. What is it about gossip that makes it so lethal and destructive? What is gossip?

The word gossip or talebearer, as used in ancient times meant,

scandal-monger (as traveling about),
one who carries tales, slander, informer.
a person who habitually reveals rumors or reports of an intimate nature,
personal or sensational facts,
informal conversation.

The word was used to describe the occupation of a merchant, trafficker, or trader.[iv]

Just as a merchant would go about from place to place in order to peddle, traffic and trade his merchandize, so a gossiper or talebearer goes about from place to place to peddle, traffic and trade their information be it information, slander or some secondhand fictitious tale. As the merchant, after making their solicitations among the people, leave with profit in hand, so the gossip finds a deep internal and emotional profit from their sharing and acquiring of information about others. Often, being the in the know with something new to share, allows for a means of perceived connection with others and a sense of self significance.

Three ministers went fishing one day, all friends who pastored different churches in the same town. While they were fishing they began confessing their sins to each other. The first pastor said, "Do you know what my big sin is? My big sin is drinking. I know it's wrong, but every Friday night I drive to a city where no one will recognize me, and I go to a saloon and get drunk. I know I shouldn't, but I can't help it, it's my big sin." The second pastor said, "Well fellas, to be honest with you, I've got a big sin too. My big sin is gambling. As a matter of fact, you know all the money I raised for that mission trip to India? I took it to Las Vegas instead and lost it all. I'm so ashamed, my big sin is gambling." Finally it was the third pastor's turn. He said, "Guys, I probably should have gone first, because my big sin is gossiping."

Several things happen when we allow ourselves to talk about other people in their absence. Stories often become twisted, personality flaws and personal failures typically become the highlight of discussion. One or both parties involved in the discussion become seriously affected in how they look at this particular person. Residual feelings, hurts, wounds, and opinions become validated, reinforced, and more deeply entrenched within. Many of these hurts, wounds, and opinions are skewed in their initial interpretation, with great need of clarification. The challenge is that clarification can only come from the person whom the perception is towards. This clarification will rarely if ever be gleaned from talking to another, it is best found in the presence of the person in question. This is precisely why Jesus instructs us to go directly to that person.[v]

q What is it inside us that has a tendency to feel a sense of significance by being in the know? (as it relates to other people)

A turtle lays thousands of eggs without anyone knowing,
but when the hen lays an egg, the whole country is informed.
Malayan proverb

I have never been hurt by anything I didn't say.
Calvin Coolidge

Talk is cheap because the supply always exceeds the demand.
One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do
and always a clever thing to say.

Will Durant

Blessed are they who have nothing to say,
and who cannot be persuaded to say it.

James Russell Lowell

[i] ungodly, unrigheous, and suppressers of truth. (Romans 1:18).
[ii] New Testament Lexicon, ref. no. 7400.
[iii] Merriam-Webster, I. 1996, c1993. Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary. Includes index. (10th ed.). Merriam-Webster: Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.
[iv] New Testament Lexicon, ref. no. 7402.
[v] Directly to that person: (Matthew 18:21).

Monday, November 07, 2005

Insert Foot

“When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.”

(Proverbs 10:19 NASB)

The writer of Proverbs makes an acute observation. Wisdom is demonstrated by the restraining of the lips and the guarding of the mouth. One with knowledge possesses information about something, but one with wisdom actually has the ability to make effective use of that information in their daily life. There are many who possess great knowledge about the ways of God, unfortunately there aren’t quite as many who possess the corresponding wisdom and are able to make effectual use of that knowledge. Wisdom is the necessary component outlined in this verse. No doubt, Solomon is speaking from personal experience and observation. He has seen the propensity within humans to fill silence with a multitude of words. His concluding observation is simply this – where there are many words, sin will also exist in unquenchable measures. He said, “transgression is unavoidable.” This phrase could have also been translated, “transgression is unstoppable.”

Meditate on the following thoughts and quotes:

“He who guards his lips guards his life,
but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.”
(Proverbs 13:3 NIV)
“A lying tongue hates those it hurts,
and a flattering mouth works ruin.”
(Proverbs 26:28 NIV)

He who answers a matter before he hears it,
It is folly and shame to him.”

(Proverbs 18:13)

“He who has a deceitful heart finds no good,
And he who has a perverse tongue falls into evil.”

(Proverbs 17:20)

“An evildoer gives heed to false lips;
A liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue.”

(Proverbs 17:4)

q Does your foot spend more time in your mouth or in your shoe?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Community Therapy

“9-Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. 10-For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. 11-Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? 12-Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
(Ecclesiastes 4:11)

The Picture is called The Rescuing Hug. The picture warms your heart simply upon looking at it, but it inspires you beyond a warm-fuzzy when you know the story. It is the picture of premature twins with one’s arm around the other. Here is the story of the first week in the life of this set of twins. Apparently, each twin was in her respective incubator, and one was not expected to live. A hospital nurse fought against the hospital rules and placed the babies in one incubator. When they were placed together, the healthier of the two threw an arm over her sister in an endearing embrace. The smaller baby’s heart rate stabilized, and her temperature rose to normal.[i]

This is a perfect picture of what the Body of Christ is meant to be – members of one another, embracing one another, releasing the life of Christ. Each of us is responsible to engage in personal transformation and spiritual development. God’s desire is that we expand into whole people. Full-Life development in Christ is impossible without full-life engagement in a community of Christ followers. From the beginning, we were designed for community.
We are called to be people, who like Velcro, connect ourselves intimately to others and allow others to connect themselves to us.

Most Important Words for Getting Along With People

The SIX most important words: “I admit I made a mistake.”
The FIVE most important words: “You did a good job.”
The FOUR most important words: “What do you think?”
The THREE most important words: “After you, please.”
The TWO most important words: “Thank you.”
The ONE most important word: “We” The LEAST important word: “I”[ii]

q How have you been challenged over the last month?

q What has God been teaching you through this process?

q What are the keep areas that you need to grow in as it relates to interpersonal-relational skills?

q Have you begun to connect with a Truth-Teller?

q Take some time and reflect, pray, and journal. (Perhaps it would be helpful to look back through this month’s devotional to see what key themes and topics stick out to you.)

[ii] Source unknown .

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Lighten up

“A cheerful look brings joy to the heart,
and good news gives health to the bones. “

(Proverbs 15:30 NIV)

Recent studies have found that the contagion of joy is so powerful that when we see even a picture of someone smiling – a “cheerful look” – we tend to smile back. Smiling and laughter produce relief from stress by releasing pain-killing, euphoria-producing endorphins, enkephalins, dopamine, noradrenaline, and adrenaline. Proverbs turns out to be true at the most physiological level.

“A merry heart does good, like medicine.”
(Proverbs 17:22)

“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance,
But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.”
(Proverbs 15:13)

W. H. Audem wrote, “Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.”

A child laughs 400 times a day on average, while an adult laughs only 15 times a day.

The expression of authentic happiness is what researchers call a zygomatic smile. It takes its name from the zygomaticus muscles that produce it. The signs of a zygomatic smile are the lip corners turning upward and also crow’s-feet showing around the eyes. Here is where the connection between the human body and the human spirit is truly amazing. We can show a polite grin or a camera smile at will. In such cases, people make their lips go up, but no crow’s-fee are visible.

The polite smile can be manipulated; that is why the smiles that people put on their faces for photographs often look forced. But the zygomatic smile is hard to fake. It is a smile that goes all the way up to the eyes. This distinction begins early; five-month-old infants show the eye-muscle smile when the mother approaches, but a smile without the eye muscle when a stranger approaches.

People who don’t take themselves too seriously give a great gift to those around them. In contrast, joy-challenged people face a serious handicap in trying to live in community.
It’s an amazing truth: Being fully right rarely brings as much life to people as simply being human. Sometime ago a psychology journal published an article entitled “The Effect of a Pratfal on Increasing Interpersonal Attractiveness.” The surprising conclusion: “Seeing someone you admire do something stupid or clumsy will make you like him more.”[i] People are hungry for joy-bringers. We are about thirty times more likely to laugh when we are with other people than when we are alone. Research indicates that people in good spirits may laugh one hundred to four hundred times a day. (Go ahead and take a quick review of your day.) Other folks may go through a day without a single smile.[ii]

q On average, how many times a day do you laugh?

It is commonly quoted that it takes 17 muscles to smile and 43 to frown.

Meditate on,

“A cheerful look brings joy to the heart,
and good news gives health to the bones."

(Proverbs 15:30 NIV)

“A merry heart does good, like medicine.”
(Proverbs 17:22)

“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance,
But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.”
(Proverbs 15:13)

Action: Give random smiles to people at work and public. Go out of your way to release Life, Love & Laughter.

[i] “The Effect of Pratfall on Increasing Interpersonal Attractiveness”” Article by E. Aaronson, B. Willerman, and J. Floyd in Psychometric Science 4 (1966).
[ii] John Ortberg, Everybody’s Normal, 114, 116.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Small is the new Large

“1-Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. 2-During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, 3-Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, 4-got up from supper, and *laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. 5-Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6-So He *came to Simon Peter. He *said to Him, "Lord, do You wash my feet?" 7-Jesus answered and said to him, "What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter." 8-Peter said to Him, "Never shall You wash my feet!" Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." 9-Simon Peter *said to Him, "Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head." 10-Jesus *said to him, "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you." 11-For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, "Not all of you are clean." 12-So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? 13-"You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14-"If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15-"For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16-"Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17-"If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
(John 13:1-17)

We live in a self-centered culture. The majority of our thoughts and plans are driven from our own desires. Occupations, friendships, even church are often become deduced to “how does this benefit me?” or “what’s in it for me?” In order for us to move beyond levels of superficiality and enter into true and honest conversations, we must learn the art of kneeling before another with open hands and a servant’s heart.

q What example did Jesus give to us in John 13.

q What was Jesus’ instruction to the disciples?

q How can His instructions be implemented into your life today (this week)?

-It may help you to prayerfully make a list: at home, with my spouse, in my
neighborhood, at work, at church, etc.

“It is high time that the ideal of success should
be replaced by the ideal of service.”


“Only the hands that give away the flowers of their
plucking retain the fragrance thereof.”

Chinese Proverb

“The measure of a man is not the number of his servants,
but the number of people he serves.”

“There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord,
but few of us are willing to do little things.”


“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us.
What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Can You Hear Me Now?

“Now therefore, listen to me, my children;
Pay attention to the words of my mouth.”

(Proverbs 7:24)

Experts tell us that when we’re communicating with someone else, communication has to go through at least six different levels or layers. There is what you mean to say, what you actually say, what the other person hears, what the other person thinks he hears, what the other person says about what you said, and what you think the other person said about what you said. All of that! It’s no wonder we are confused when we talk to each other!

Recently, I came across actual label instructions on some consumer goods that show how ridiculous our communication can be. For instance, on a Sears hair dryer, it read: “Do not use while sleeping.” (I didn’t know that was a problem!)
And that’s the only time I have to work on my hair? On a bar of Dial soap, it read:
“Directions: Use like regular soap.”
On some Swanson frozen dinners, it reads:
“Serving suggestion: defrost.” (But it’s only a suggestion!)
On the packaging for an iron, it said:
“Do not iron clothes while on body.”
Yeah, but it saves all kinds of time!
On Nytol sleep aid, it reads:
“Warning: May cause drowsiness.” (And I’m taking this because...???) On a bag of peanuts, it reads:
“Warning: contains nuts.”
Now, there’s a news flash! But maybe the classic was on a child’s Superman costume:
“Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.”
No kidding!

Haven’t you found it’s so easy to think you’re saying something when you’re not being understood? If I’m going to demonstrate truthfulness in a relationship, I have to speak with caution and with clarity. Often this requires simply saying less and actually listening for a change.

Henri Nouwen tells how when Abba Arsenius, a wealthy Roman senator who abandoned his social prominence to become a monk, prayed, “Lord, lead me into the way of salvation,” he heard a voice saying, “Be silent.”[i]

“When we practice silence” writes John Ortberg, “we begin to learn amazing things.” He continues,

We can live without getting the last word. We can live without trying to make sure we control how other people are thinking about us. We can live without winning every argument, without powering up over every decision, without always drawing attention to ourselves.

One last observation here: Use wisdom in using silence.

If you’re a husband arriving home from work, and your wife wants to connect soul-to-soul and asks how your day went, you might not want to say, “When words are many, sin is not absent” (Proverbs 10:19).

If the wife is wise, she may reply with Proverbs 15:11: “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Which means, “Start talking or I’m going to go buy jewelry.”

When we stop talking, we also have the opportunity to engage in the most important intimacy-building skill in the world: listening.

The New Testament writer James says, in one of the most often violated commands in all of Scripture, that every one should be

“quick to listen, slow to speak.”
(James 1:19)

Listening, writes Daniel Goleman, is the single most important relational skill a person can develop. “Asking astute questions, being open-minded and understanding, not interrupting, seeking suggestions”[ii] are all ways of communicating to other human beings that they matter.

People are starving for attention. The results of a study of teenage prostitutes in San Francisco are recounted in the book Am I Making Myself Clear?[iii] When they asked what they lacked at home that caused them to run away, the girl’s answers came down almost universally to three words: “Someone to listen.”

Consider the famous story about British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and his great political rival, William Gladstone. Legend has it that a lady was taken to dinner one evening by Gladstone and the next by Disraeli. When asked her impression of the two men, she replied, "When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest woman in England."[iv]

An engaging aspect of Jesus’ life is that although he was the greatest teacher who ever lived, he spent an enormous amount of time simply listening to people. He especially listened to people whom no one else bothered with, such as Zacchaeus the tax collector and the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda.

Isn’t it ironic that we try to impress people by saying clever or funny things, yet nothing binds one human being to another more than the sense that they have been deeply, carefully listened to. It is no accident that we speak of paying attention to people; attention is the most valuable currency we have.[v]

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force.
The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward.
When we are listened to, it creates us,
makes us unfold and expand.”


q Who is the best listener you know?

q What is it in them that makes them an effective listener?

q How do you feel when you are conversing with them?

q Why is it so hard to really listen to someone?

Action: This week be very conscious of your level of attentiveness and listening to others. Be very intentional about giving them your full attention of heart and ear.

“So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it.”
Jiddu Krishnamuriti

“You seldom listen to me, and when you do you don’t hear, and when you do hear you hear wrong, and even when you hear right you change it so fast that it’s never the same.”
Marjorie Kellogg

“To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation.”
Chinese Proverb

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”
Ernest Hemingway

Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again.”

Andre Gide

[i] Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry, New York: HarperCollins, 1991, 43.
[ii] Daniel Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books, 1995, 176.
[iii] Terry, Felber, Am I Making Myself Clear? Secrets of the World’s Greatest Communicators, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2002, 56.
[iv] Roxanne Roberts, “The Rich Resonance of Small Talk,” Washington Post, October 19, 2004; Page C09.
[v] John Ortberg, Everybody’s Normal, 112-113.