Archive for November, 2011

With the Thanksgiving weekend observed by families and friends gathering together and the “Black Friday” sales in the past, we’re officially in the Christmas season. For the next four weeks, we will experience an advertising blitz from all points to try to get us to spend our dollars. From sparkling diamonds to iPads and the like, and from toys to the latest fashions, we have an endless array of choices.

However, when we spend our money on things, we need to remember that they will break, wear out, go out of style, and become outdated. May I suggest something that won’t do any of these things? Consider an investment in eternity through a generous gift through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are part of the task to fulfill the Great Commission. Paul wrote, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:27). Jesus has commissioned us to be His heart, His hands, and His voice. Through praying, giving, and going, Southern Baptists have fulfilled this legacy for more than 160 years. Yet billions remain lost and time may be running out for them. We must pray more intentionally and give more sacrificially than ever before. We must take direct responsibility for helping reach the nearly 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups (UUPGs) that missionaries may never be able to reach.

Almost five years ago, our congregation adopted one of the UUPGs in the world – the Z people in Nigeria. While that work has gone slowly, we have seen the Spirit of God move FZ and BZ, and a couple of churches have been established. We have partnered with a national Nigerian church to further that work. Please join me in praying for this work to prosper.

As we join other Southern Baptists in a week of prayer for International Missions beginning next Sunday, December 4, and continuing through Sunday, December 11, pray for the UUPGs in the world. Pray that churches in the United States will sense God’s calling them to adopt these people so that the gospel might be extended to them as well. Join me in praying for how the Lord might direct us to adopt another UUPG. Pray also for the almost 5,000 missionaries the Southern Baptists have deployed around the world. Pray that they will be effective in presenting the gospel.

We can also give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the annual emphasis which helps us extend the gospel in more than 150 countries in the world. We often take for granted the privilege we have to know Jesus in a personal way. Millions of people still have not heard the good news.

Demonstrate Integrity

Posted: November 17, 2011 in Bible, Church, Discipleship, Gossip, Stories

We do not work on our integrity every now and then. Rather, we must continually address the issue of integrity in our lives because of the insidious nature of dishonesty, which always presents us with small, seemingly insignificant openings. Few people actually decide to outright lie or cheat; instead, they find themselves taking shortcuts out of convenience. These shortcuts can actually lead to the eroding of our standards which eventually leads to making duplicity the norm.

Solomon provided a catalogue of negative actions and character traits that the Lord hates. There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers (Proverbs 6:16-19, ESV). Each of seven things in the list targeted its intended victim for ruin; however, they can also boomerang and ruin the troublemaker as well. Arranged for easy memorization, Solomon fleshed out a concise and vivid description of the troublemaker. The first five on the list moved from the head to the feet and concern general moral characteristics such as pride, deceitfulness, and a violent tendency. The last two describe troublemakers who break the bonds of confidence and loyalty between people by offering false testimony and stirring up trouble among brothers.

By using an idiomatic Hebrew expression, “six things…seven,” Solomon presented a representative list, rather than an exhaustive one, that sought to draw particular attention to the final item as the focus of God’s hatred. This literary device bridged the first six on the list to a heightened expression of what the Lord hates by escalating it to what He finds to be detestable or an abomination.

“Arrogant eyes” (literally, “rising pair of eyes”) head Solomon’s list and describe eyes lifted up in arrogance. Similar to the modern expression, “looking down one’s nose,” haughty eyes define the attitude of the heart. David warned that God would humble those with arrogant eyes who imagined themselves as above others (see Ps. 18:27). Such haughtiness assaults the equal honor of each individual; however, it reflects a heightened arrogance before God. Jesus offered the reverse attitude of arrogance for His followers when He called them to be “poor in spirit” (see Matt. 5:3). Practicing humility will keep Jesus’ followers from thinking too highly of themselves.

A lying tongue” signifies a person who refuses to submit to the norms of right and wrong. Furthermore, he has no regard for truth and displays aggressive deceit intended to harm others. A believer will highlight the value of honesty and will hold the truth in high regard.

The Lord hates “hands that shed innocent blood,” a phrase that defines the violent tendency of the troublemaker and implies a profound lack of control over anger. Such a person might brutalize or even kill another driven by his covetous greed or over a presumed insult, whereas authentic believers will even sacrifice themselves to defend the helpless.

The heart resides at the center of the human anatomy and gives rise to all of a person’s physical, mental, and spiritual life. As the center point of Solomon’s catalogue of character traits which God abhors, “a heart that plots wicked schemes” would drive the evil action of the person. Solomon laced together three words, plots wicked schemes, to heighten the nature of the human heart’s propensity toward for evil. These words synergistically combine to communicate the use of an agitator’s ingenuity and strength in order to devise sinister plans for personal gain at another’s expense. Such a person will bend the rules when necessary to accomplish his goals regardless of the casualties. However, a person fully committed to Christ will have a heart that seeks to bring glory to the Lord through loving actions and ministry.

A troublemaker has “feet eager to run to evil,” which emphasizes his zeal and enthusiasm to follow his inner compulsion as soon as possible. The evildoer concocts schemes with a sense of urgency with no step spared, no second wasted, and no base left uncovered in executing the evil plot. Because a believer’s heart seeks to glorify Christ, his good works follow him.

Abandoning his analysis of evil through metaphorical comparisons to body parts, Solomon returned to the theme of lying. Specifically, “a lying witness” refers to one who consciously communicates falsehoods. At the foundation of all truth lies God’s complete holiness. He drilled down to the fuller meaning of the lying witness by adding that he gives false testimony. Solomon made it clear that the lying witness aims to threaten the life and/or property of someone. However, a believer will not remain silent but will speak up to defend the cause of Christ and those who face false accusations.

The “one who stirs up trouble among brothers,” like the scoundrel who works to undermine social and personal relationships for his own benefit (see 6:12-15), deliberately attempts to destroy the fellowship that holds a family together. The word, brothers, stands in contrast to a foreigner and denotes the full range of relationships from blood brothers to extended family members to fellow countrymen. Therefore, the one who stirs up trouble among brothers trashes the relationships that will spin a community and/or church into chaos and conflict. However, mature believers proactively work to right the relationships within a congregation that may be damaged because of the actions and words of others.

God has called us to demonstrate integrity as we live for Him. Though many people that we know and with whom we work live according to the seven negatives traits, we can choose to live otherwise. When we avoid these seven actions and traits, people will take note when we live as people of integrity.

The headline read “Ashton Kutcher Apologizes for Slamming Penn State Officials for Joe Paterno Firing.” Apparently, Kutcher has learned a valuable life lesson after blasting Penn State officials on Twitter for firing legendary football coach Joe Paterno. Kutcher had sparked a frenzy among his more than eight million followers late Wednesday after he tweeted, “How do you fird Jo Pa? #insult #noclass as a hawkeye fan I find it in poor taste.” (By the way, # before a word is a way on Twitter to make sure you get more hits on your feed. It’s called a hashtag in Twitter lingo.)

However, the actor soon admitted mouthing off in ignorance on the ongoing child abuse scandal in State College. Kutcher expressed shock and issued an emphatic apology after he discovered why the  longtime coach was dismissed. He deleted the previous post and then tweeted, “Heard Joe was fired, fully recant previous tweet!”  he added, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Didn’t have full story.  #admitwhenYoumakemistakes.”

Kutcher later deleted the series of messages, before  issuing a frank apology. “As an advocate in the fight against child sexual  exploitation, I could not be more remorseful for all involved in the Penn St.  case,” he tweeted. “As of immediately I will stop tweeting until I find a way to  properly manage this feed. I feel awful about this error. Won’t happen again.”

When we attempt to draw conclusions without having all the facts and pass those conclusions on to someone else, it’s called gossip. All scuttlebutt subject matters — no matter who or what it involves — has the same fundamental two-pronged goal. First, it’s intended to hurt somone. Gossip never builds, and it never helps anyone. The second goal of gossip is selfish in that the one who dispenses it either actively or passively seeks to elevate his or her position. This may mean that the individual sharing it wants the listener to think he or she is the source of important or valuable information.

Consider these references to gossip:

  • A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends (Proverbs 16:28, NIV 1984).
  • A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much (Proverbs 20:19, NIV 1984).
  • Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down (Proverbs 26:20, NIV 1984).

Ashton Kutcher would have done well to have not spoken (tweeted) until he had the facts, because he spoke before he had all the facts. However, as believers we can actually go a step further. Before speaking (or posting on any social media), we should ask, “Is what I am about to say going to help or tear down?” If it will tear down someone’s character, it violates biblical guidelines. Consider what Paul wrote to the church at Rome, We must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another (Romans 14:19, HCSB).

Let’s promote peace and build up one another!