Thursday, June 17, 2010

Elvis is IN the Building

One of my favorite rumors about Elvis is that he is alive and well and has been spotted in a laundry mat in Kalamazoo Michigan. Thirty years ago a couple overheard a conversation I was having with friends about a new pool that Becki and I were enjoying. We suddenly became their best friends. I couldn’t figure out why they were rushing us until they started asking about our new pool and when we were going to have friends over.

I have to say that I laughed in their face I realized that the only reason they were interested in us was our “new pool.” You should have seen their fallen faces when they found out we were talking about a kiddy pool that was a foot deep. It had been so hot that week that both my wife and I had at times “laid out in the pool” and that is what these “new friends” had heard.

Rumors can run rampant and people can be hurt by unfounded rumors. So what are rumors? Webster defines a rumor as currently circulating story or report of unverified or doubtful truth. [1] One of the synonyms for rumor is gossip and another is innuendo. Rumors spread like wildfire, for fallen human beings love to savor discreditable information about each other, and denials of rumors are not always if ever believed. What then can one do if one finds, like Nehemiah, that malicious rumors are circulating about oneself?[2]

Nehemiah did a number of things. First he strongly denied the rumor and second he asked God to give him the strength to ignore the rumors and stay focused on the task God had given them. He prayed that God would free him and the people he led from the fear that paralyzed from doing the work that God had ordained for them to accomplish. Finally he purposed to leave his reputation in the Lord’s hands. You can check out the story in Nehemiah chapter 6.

I’ve seen the wreckage that unsubstantiated rumors can do to a church and how it can split congregations and destroy lifetime friendships.

What does God’s Word have to say about gossipmongers and rumorers?

13 A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.
Proverbs 11:13 (NIV)

28 A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.
Proverbs 16:28 (NIV)

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

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

22 The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.
Proverbs 26:22 (NIV)

29 They 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,
Romans 1:29 (NIV)

20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.
2 Corinthians 12:20 (NIV)

11 In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
1 Timothy 3:11 (NIV)

13 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)

3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,
2 Timothy 3:3 (NIV)

3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.
Titus 2:3 (NIV)

10 So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.
3 John 1:10 (NIV)

God hates gossip and slander. Now he still loves the sinner but He wants them to STOP what they are doing and repent.

So what should you do if you hear something that bothers you? Go to the source and check to see if there is any truth in the rumor. A simple conversation can stop rumors on their tracks. Unsubstantiated rumors can prove to be not only untrue but also dangerous. You remember what they say about what assumptions make you…

I assume you know that one!

Pastor Val

[1] Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[2] Packer, J. I. (1995). A passion for faithfulness : Wisdom from the book of Nehemiah. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Weeds In Our Lawn

When I was a kid I was paid by my grandparents to dig up dandelions out of their yard. In the beginning I was very young and I would pull the tops off. As I got older I learned that you needed to pull out the roots, too or the weeds came back. Grandpa had tool that looked like a long goofy screwdriver with a forked blade on the end that he wanted me to use. I have to admit that even with the “professional” tool I rarely got all of the root so the dandelions just grew back.

Today’s church is a lot like my grandparents yard. Sometimes the weeds just keep growing back because we rarely get to the root of the issues. These weeds sometimes aren’t even sins they are just divisive attitudes that… Oh wait, those are sins, too! Hummm…

Often the problem is that we can quote lots of verses of Scripture (or we have a pretty good topical Bible) but we have a hard time applying the truth or even recognizing that the passages we quote are often pointed back at us more then others.

The question for today is: Does the Bible have a strangle hold on the truth? In other words can truth (or at least portions of truth) be found outside of the Bible or is the Bible the only repository of truth?

The short answer (much to the chagrin of some ultra conservative Christians) is Truth can be found outside the Bible – but the Bible is fully true and Jesus is the Living Truth.

For example the entire story of Jesus, his words and deeds are not contained in the Bible (nor for that fact are they contained in any other book) The writer of the fourth book of the New Testament in his self titled book the Gospel of John says that

25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
John 21:25 (NIV)

Other instances of truth are the scientific laws of the universe that are not found in Scripture but are still equally true. The writer of one of the smallest books of the New Testament is Jude. In his book aptly named Jude he quotes from Enoch an apocryphal book written during the 400 silent years between the two testaments. Is the quote true? Yes! Another instance is that the author of a major portion of the New Testament is Paul. Paul quotes writers of his day in the Scripture because the information is true.

A great way of establishing a dialog with someone who is not a follower of Jesus is to find an area of common interest where you can establish a dialogue as Paul did when he was in Athens and he conversed with them about an altar that they had to an unknown god. Paul used this altar to present the claims of Jesus and the Gospel of His Kingdom.

A final thought in truth finding is that one needs to realize that all people still carry the marks of divine creation in them. Oh to be sure we are all broken, but in our brokenness we care shards of God’s original intent. Just like a broken and cracked mirror can still reflect an image. It just can’t reflect every part of it accurately. Even now followers of Jesus and non-followers reflect broken disjointed images of the creator. Occasionally we will stumble on a great truth that just for a moment gives us a fleeting glance of the Truth of God and His image reflected in a fallen creation.

Instead of frightening us or reflecting poorly on us – it helps to remind us of Imago Dei and that one day He will restore all of creation back to His original intent.

Here’s hoping that one day we will do a better job reflecting the true nature of our Savior!

With God’s help

Pastor Val