Category Archives: speech

get wise

Hi. My name is Andrew and I am a recovering know-it-all. I’d like to think I have been in recovery all my life, but sometimes I am not sure. For a while during my teen years I was sure that my mom meant this as a term of endearment I heard it so much. But somewhere along the line I learned that being a know-it-all was not quite the same as having wisdom. I guess I had always thought that there was value to being the smartest guy in the room and so I sought out knowledge at a voracious rate. There was even a time in my pre-teen years where I read encyclopedias for the fun of it (this was before the internet folks). But as I matured, I came to see that knowledge in and of itself could be used more as a weapon than as a tool. I learned that sometimes being right came at the expense of someone else being wronged.

I came across a quote last night that struck me in a new way. One of our church’s district superintendents was quoting one of our general superintendents and posted this, “We (Christians) are notorious for making a point, but not a difference. (Borrowed from Dr. David Busic)”. Ouch. But how often has this been true? We have the moral knowledge and capabilities of defending our point only for that to be the only substance that there is. In his letter to the church at Colosse, the apostle Paul had this to say in regards to our message. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” – Colossians 4:5-6 I wonder if our conversations with those outside the church are characterized by grace. I wonder if we are truly making the most of every opportunity our just trying to be right.

The one thing that a recovering know-it-all has to do above all else is listen. This is a hard skill for someone who already has the answers. But one thing I have found in the midst of listening to people is that sometimes I actually don’t have all the answers. Sometimes I have to extend grace to someone because I have never experienced what they have experienced. Sometimes making the most of every opportunity doesn’t mean that I rush in with some Divine appointed answer, but that I am willing to enter into relationship with them to someone show them the way God would treat them. The illustration of salt in regards to these opportunities is key as well. What if our conversations were dynamic, flavorful, interesteing, captivating and full of grace? Do you think then that perhaps we might be better known for making a difference than a point? I for one would rather be known for these opportunities that go unwasted than for one who simply is a know-it-all.


death to cynicism

This morning as I was pouring over my Twitter feed I noticed something aside from all of the tweeted pleas of school cancellations. I have a lot of cynical voices pouring into my life. Granted, most days I will read a lot of these updates, resonate with them and go on with my day, but today was different. Often times I can get behind the cynicism of the people I follow because I find myself to be cynical as well. After all, I am part of the generation raised on X-Files…”Trust no one”. And I like to think of myself as part of the “mosaic” or “millennial” generation of the church that is seeking change for the good of the Kingdom. But it seems to me that often this “change” that is being spoken of is being ushered in all wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always like some of the main stream methods of doing church or interpreting the Bible or even how Christianity is depicted to the masses, but is cynicism the only way?

In his letter to the church in Ephesus the apostle Paul writes, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4:29. I have always loved this verse. And for the longest time I thought it referred to “coarse joking” or “harsh language”, but I think I have found that it really applies more to the disease of cynicism running rampant in some of the young leading voices in the world today. The word the writer uses for unwholesome is sapros. And it most commonly is defined as being rotten or putrid, but it can also mean corrupted by age or worn out. My problem with cynical talk is it is corrupted…worn out. Anyone can be cynical. Really! There is even a school of philosophy (and I know I am going to oversymplify this so forgive me all of my philosophical and theological brethren) called deconstructionism. And the gist of it is to tear down existing paradigms to get down to the root of what is being espoused. But the problem is they rarely have a better alternative.

And I think that is my problem with cynicism in general. It is very easy to tear down existing systems and paradigms. It takes a lot more creativity and work to provide a better alternative. But isn’t that what we are called to do. What comes out of our mouths is meant to be helpful and to build others up around us. Not alienate and destroy them. And that really is what the Kingdom of God is all about. Maybe if we learn to take on speech that is reflective of a hopeful eternal kingdom we would begin to see fruits in a new way. Jesus put it this way, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32) This is the fruit of Kingdom speech and life.

So I say Death to Cynicism. May our speech, posts, tweets, texts, etc. reflect the hope to which we have been called. And may we speak life into those around us for the sake of Christ who gave his life for us!

a bit wordy

There is a scene in the 1998 animated feature “The Prince of Egypt” that I absolutely love. And I think it’s because its also a scene in scripture that I absolutely love. Moses stands before the burning bush i.e. the very presence of YHWH and starts to make excuses for going before pharaoh and the response of the Spirit of God dramatically comes out of the flame, “Who made man’s mouth? Who made the deaf, the mute, the seeing and the blind? Did not I?” Moses cowers under God’s declaration but is eventually comforted by his reassurance. (Seriously if you have never seen this movie you need to. Or at least check out this scene on YouTube: One of the most awesome parts about this movie is it’s Biblical accuracy. Here is the actual text taken from Exodus 4:11-12. “ The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” And Moses goes and according to the story never once struggles with what to say…except when it comes to hitting rocks.

But I am reminded that speech, our very ability to form words, comes from God. I even love that speech is what gives power to God’s actions throughout scripture. The following will be a paraphrase form the gospel according to Andrew…but hopefully you will get the gist. In the beginning God said light and there was light. God calls Samuel as a boy and the nation of Israel is forever changed. God’s still small voice comforts Elijah in the midst of his turmoil. God’s voice shakes the temple in Isaiah’s revelatory experience. Then the voice of God en-fleshed, Jesus himself, gives sight to the blind, chases out demons, stills storms, restores the broken and raises the dead. God’s voice, God’s speech, God’s very words are words of life giving action.

And so today I am reminded, “Who made man’s mouth?…Is it not I?” How am I honoring the creation of God in me? How am I honoring the Spirit that lives within me that is declared by the writer of John as “The Word”? May we honor God, the giver of speech, with what we say today and always as we walk the very earth he spoke into existence.

sound and words

This is far from my traditional post, but I thought it might be fun to share something. I recently decided to upload all of the sermons I have preached at Central Church of the Nazarene in “Big Church” (as I call it) to a SoundCloud account. And I know some of my family might enjoy this…not sure about the rest of you. But I thought it might be a fun thing to share. So enjoy…hopefully.

once divided

It comes around about every two years. And you would think I would see it coming. But all of a sudden I am blindsided by it. Sometimes it sneaks into conversations. Other times I am blasted by it over the airwaves. Lately it seems like Facebook has become the ultimate venue. I’m talking about a little thing called “political banter”. And I wish I could say that most of this banter was nice spirited and even tempered…but the internet is no place to lie. The truth is that the country in which we lived is thrown into a maelstrom of political rhetoric and all to often battle lines are drawn in the sand and people are demonized before we even think about the body count on the other side of the issues. And the scariest part about all of this…the church doesn’t seem to look any better than the world of mainstream media. I see cheap shots and insults levied against political candidates and people who are taking stances by those called Christians without any consideration of the fact the person at whom said comments are hurled at is indeed one of God’s children; created to live into His image.

In regards to a solution, I guess we should start by looking at the life of the early church and their struggle with differences in their midst. Paul writes to the Ephesian church, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (Ephesians 2:13-16) This specific text was written to Jews and Gentiles who were struggling through unification issues, but don’t we seem to create the same divisions in the church over stuff that in all honesty won’t carry a lot of weight into eternity. I am pretty sure there isn’t a sorting line in heaven for Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians. In fact…I hate to say it, but I am pretty sure the title American won’t exist there either.

So why do we let these conversations divide us? Why are we allowing hostility to creep into our midst? What if we, as the body of Christ, were discussing these “political” issues in a proactive way without relying on the “polls” to make the difference? I for one in my short life have come to the realization that placing hope in kings, kingdoms and governments will always fall short. Maybe we could come to the realization that spewing political word vomit on Facebook and the like really does make the Church look divided. And maybe then we could become creative instead as we seek to confront the evils of this world as One Body united through the blood of Christ with the mission to bring peace and make disciples of all nations. Now that sounds like a pretty good political campaign ;).

hard things

One of my favorite shows on TV right now has to be Parks and Recreation. Not necessarily because of the content, but because of the exaggerated characters it brings together. Andy Dwyer is probably the best representation of the exaggeration. He is basically a seven-year old in an adult body. In an episode featuring Andy helping the Parks and Rec department out with an Opossum problem the following exchange takes place:                                                                                                                                  Andy: When you’re in a situation, you don’t have time to think. So I thought to myself, “Don’t think, Andy. Act.”
Tom: So you weren’t thinking.
Andy: Not at all. I cannot emphasize enough how little I was thinking.                                                                                                                                                                  It’s quotes like this that typify his character and just make him a joy to watch. It really is like watching a kid in adult shoes who refuses to engage society with any sense of discernment or intelligibility. The scary revelation that I come to through the character of Andy Dwyer is that all to often this can even describe those of us who claim to belong to the Way.

I guess what I am trying to say is this. There are a lot of things about our faith and doctrine that are hard to understand, much less communicate to others. But does that mean we should give up and just talk without giving thought to them? Does this mean that we don’t wrestle with concepts like The Trinity, The fully divine/mortal revelation of Christ, the Atonement, free will, etc.? By no means. In fact, if we don’t wrestle with these things then how do we expect to be able to bring others into a full understanding of who Christ is and the forgiveness offered through the cross. And all the more, if this wrestling with doctrinal issues does not guide our speech/breaking of the Word before others, then are we being faithful to the Church?

1 Timothy 4:14-16 reads, “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” By watching our doctrine we save our hearers? If this is something we truly believe then we are accountable for the words we speak especially in regards to issues that communicate beliefs essential to who we are as Christ followers. This is especially true for those who stand in the pulpit (present company included) and for those who have been ordained in whatever tradition they belong to (present company also included :)).

And so what do I propose? Study to show yourself approved. We have been given two millennium of heritage and tradition handed down to us by some of the greatest minds ever who coincidentally enough belonged to the Church. Names like Clement, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Augustine, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Zwingli, Luther, Arminius and Wesley. These are all names we should at least be somewhat familiar with. Here are men who made it their lives’ work to wrestle with issues essential to our identity and can even help us struggle with them today.

So I guess it comes down to whether or not we choose to think about such things or not. But one way or another, eventually we will all be accountable for these hard things and how we treated them.

words words words

In Act 2, Scene II of Shakespeare’s Hamlet we find a conversation between the young prince and Polonius as Hamlet is on the verge of breaking down into madness (which may have actually been the only way to cope with the truth of his disintegrating world). But in the midst of this conversation Hamlet is asked about what he is reading and his response, “Words, Words, Words.” A simple response to what was happening, but loaded with depth. After all, one does simply read words. And when one is speaking they simply speak words. But aren’t words more than that?

One of the amazing things about getting to raise children is seeing their speech development take place. My twenty month old has been extremely entertaining to her older siblings as she masters one word at a time…milk, book, walk (she really likes the k sound). But as humans we are set apart by our ability to master speech and use it to communicate within our species (even as I type this I am in awe of the fact that I can hit symbols on a keyboard that translate into a message comprehended by the reader). But simply because we can master a certain ability does not give us free reign to use it in any way we see fit. Just because I can swing a baseball bat doesn’t mean I get to go around and swing it at anyone I want to. And the same is true with words.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Now I have heard this used as a proof-text to argue against cursing (cussing for all you southerners like me) or dirty jokes. Which I think could go without saying. But I think the crux of the verse is the question as to whether or not our words are edifying those around us. I would almost you rather cuss at me to help me realize where I am missing the mark with Christ than to go around and slander me behind my back. At least in confronting me with harsh language you aren’t involving a larger audience in your tear down words.

Speaking of, one of the things I think we fail to see is that most of the time (except for those padded room moments) when we speak we have an audience. Almost like Hamlet we are but actors in the world (actually from As You Like it, but go with me here) and we are performing out our lives before a multitude of audiences. Are we building up those audiences or would we get scathing reviews from our performances? After all, they aren’t just words, words, words. Shouldn’t we measure them before we utter them? Shouldn’t we take into account our audience, as any good actor would, and think about the outcome? And shouldn’t we, when the curtain eventually does fall, be proud of our performance and how we got our lines right? Just think about this as your little cue card…

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