Bread – Speech

April 13, 2016


Psalm 15

“O Lord, who shall sojourn in Your tent?…He who … speaks truth in his heart; and who does not slander with his tongue…” Ps. 15:1-3

I called this Bread “Speech” because the Psalm says “speak truth” and “no slander,” both of which are speech and both of which come from the tongue and the mouth.

However, the Psalm does not talk about the person who speaks truth to others through his mouth, but who speaks truth “in his heart.”  How do you speak truth “in” your heart?

Nowadays we tend to think of the center of man to be his mind.  The mind calculates, orders the tongue to speak, and the intended speech flows out.  The mind calculates, orders the limbs to move, and the intended movement occurs.

Because we exalt reason, we focus on the mind as what separates us from beasts and what enables us to be fully human.

But, historically and probably more accurately, the mind is not considered to be the center of a man, but the heart.    From the heart comes love over logic, emotion over rationality, integrity over decision, belief over analysis, courage over assessment, wellbeing over wealth.

When a man speaks truth “in his heart,” his character is formed around that characteristic.  While the mind may use truth as a weapon, the heart uses it as a standard.  While the mind adapts the truth to the circumstances, the heart where the truth “is in” adapts truth to nothing, because truth is not adaptable.  For the person who speaks truth “in” his heart, it is natural and probably even necessary that he speak truth from his mouth.  Because a man speaks truth “in his heart,” in his centermost being, in his core, we know him as reliable, as trustworthy, as a wise counselor, and as honest.  We trust those who speak the truth (even though we may not like them because we don’t like what they have to say or how they say it) and we distrust those who don’t (even though we may like them because they are telling us what we want to hear).

Once the truth is spoken “in his heart,” the man of God will not slander with his tongue.  Slander is a type of lie which has the added quality of being intended to hurt the object of the slander.    It is a lie designed to harm.  It does not reflect love of neighbor but hate of neighbor.

Somebody may now come forward and say, well, what about so-called “white lies,” the little lies we all tell when it is socially advantageous to do so.    We all know them and we all do them.  For example, for men, when a woman asks you whether she looks good in the dress she loves and she doesn’t look so good in it, what do you say?  For women, when a man asks you on a date who you do not want to go out with, how many times do you have a non-existent appointment which interferes with the proposed date?

What I think is interesting about this Psalm is that it speaks to truth as character, of being trustworthy, but does not say that that truth has to come out of your mouth every time.  It only says that we should not use our tongue to harm, to slander.  Perhaps the difference between someone who speaks truth “in” his heart and someone who doesn’t is this – the trustworthy man knows when he has said a little lie and has deliberately done so in order to avoid hurting someone’s feelings; the untrustworthy man does not care whether he utters a lie or not as long as the objective is achieved.  The trustworthy man knows when he has told a white lie and wonders whether it was the right thing to do; the untrustworthy man never does that.  For a trustworthy man to speak a small lie, it hurts; an untrustworthy man doesn’t feel a thing.

We tend to think of all speech as external, but as this Psalm shows, it is not.  The man who can walk with God is the man who speaks God in his heart; the man who can obey God is the man who speaks obedience to God in his heart; the man who can speak truth in all circumstances where it needs to be spoken must first of all have spoken that truth in his heart.

What language do you speak to and in your heart?  Is it the language of fear and defeat, or the language of life?  Is it the language of truth or the language of lies?  Is it the language of Satan or the language of God?  Is it the language of the heavens or the language of the world?

Jesus said “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”  Matt. 12:34b-35

What treasure is deposited in your heart?

Don’t like the answer?  Then start speaking truth in your heart … the truth of Jesus Christ, the truth of the gospel, the truth of Scripture, the truth of God … and see what happens.

_________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

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Bread – Position

June 23, 2014


Readings for Monday, June 23, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Num. 16:1-19; Rom. 3:21-31; Matt. 19:13-22; Psalm 89

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In our reading today from Numbers, Moses is confronted with a rebellion. However, it is not a rebellion arising from poverty and low estate, it is a rebellion of those persons who had it best in Israel – the Levites themselves. They are angry because Moses and Aaron have “better” positions than they do; they are jealous and resentful.

Moses asks them this question: “Hear now , you sons of Levi: is it too small a thing that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them…?” Num. 16:8-9

Apparently it was too small a thing. Moses and Aaron were priests and, therefore, in the first religious position. The Levites were in the second position and didn’t like it. Rather than wait, however, to be appointed by God to the higher task, they decided to revolt and attain the top position by might.

Don’t we do much the same thing? We are chosen by God for salvation and then placed by Him into positions. There is the position of husband and wife, there is the position of student and teacher, there is the position of master and disciple, there is the position of boss and employee. There are many positions with many titles.

And we always want the title or the position we don’t have. Why? Is not the Lord’s choice for us good enough? In Moses words, “Is it too small a thing that the God of Israel has separated you and made you a teacher … a musician … a president …. a dishwasher?”

Why does God place us into the positions He provides? In the quote from Numbers is the answer, “to bring you near to Himself.”

We “jockey for position” all the time. Why? Is God’s choice for us not good enough? Can we do nothing in our current position to let God bring us closer to Him?

The truth is that we do not seek higher position to honor God; we seek it to honor ourselves. The attainment of position becomes the objective, rather than the attainment of relationship with God.

Think about how our lives would be different if we waited for God to open the door rather than kicking the door open ourselves? Would we be poorer or richer in the things that matter? Would we have more or less peace? Would we be braver or more cowardly?

This last question has some punch. We think that the Levites in this story were brave, to confront Moses and Aaron. However, I think the braver person is the one who, in total dependence upon God, accepts their position and awaits God’s action. There is no bravery in us walking through the door which we have kicked open; but there is much bravery in walking through the door which God has opened for us and told us to walk through in faith. When we walk on the path we have created, there is little unknown because we are controlling it. When we walk on the path which God has created, it is a high wire act because we walk by faith and not by sight. We walk through God’s door into an unknown, relying upon the Holy Spirit and God’s truths to help us, protect us, and encourage us.

The Levites did not trust God even though He had put them into a special place in relationship to Him.

Are we going to be that way? Do we not trust Him even though He has saved us for eternity?

Embrace your current position, using it as a springboard for better relationship with God and your neighbor. And see what happens. You may not be able to put “Vice-President” on your door, but you can put “Christian” on your heart. And which position is better?

_______________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Help

May 5, 2014


Readings for Monday, May 5, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Exod. 18:13-27; 1 Pet. 5:1-14; Matt. 1:1-17, 3:1-6; Psalms 9,15,25

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We all need help, but how often are we willing to ask for it or, even if we have asked for it, take it? Somehow there is an element among us which whispers in our ear, “If you ask for help or take it, you are not a man…you are not competent…you are not strong enough…you are not a leader…you don’t know what you are doing.” You get the drift.

Not wanting to appear less a man, not wanting to appear incompetent, not wanting to appear weak, not wanting to show that we are not a leader, not wanting to show failure, we therefore not only reject the help which is offered, we never look for help or cultivate it in the first place. There is a name for this condition – pride. And there is a saying about how pride relates to success – “Pride goeth before a fall.”

In our reading from Exodus today, Moses has been made the chief go-to guy by God and so, as a result, he is sitting listening to all the people’s problems and disputes, judging between them. He is, to himself, merely doing what he has been told to do – answer inquiries about God, judge disputes (bring peace), and make known the statutes and commands of God. Moses’ father-in-law, however, tells him “What you are doing is not good” because he and the people will get worn out, and then Moses will be worthless. Moses is told the truth – he needs help. But not just any kind of help; he needs help from “able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe…” Exod. 18:21.

Moses needed help, but he needed it from the right kind of people. However, they all had common traits. They were people from all walks of life and representing “all” the people, and not just some particular tribe. In other words, they were people of diversity, from different backgrounds, training, education, and skills. They understood that there was a God and that they were not that God; in other words, they had a correct connection to the universe. They were all competent; what they did they did well, as an excellent offering unto the Lord. They were people who could be trusted – they could be expected to maintain confidences, not gossip; they could be expected to do what they said they would do. Finally, they were people of integrity – they could not be bought with money or with promises of special relationships or treatment.

We all need help. Our question for Monday is not whether you have surrounded yourself with help, because if you haven’t then you know you are getting worn out. The question is what kind of help have you surrounded yourself with? Have you surrounded yourself with people who fear God, or people who fear you? Have you surrounded yourself with people of integrity, who will say “no” to bribes of all kinds, including those from you, or have you surrounded yourselves with “yes,” people, who are guaranteed to reinforce your idyllic and idolic picture of yourself? Have you surrounded yourself with “able” people from diverse backgrounds, or does everyone look like you or have less skill than you?

What kind of help have you surrounded yourself with?

We have focused today on the advice which the father-in-law gave Moses, but not on the source of that advice. Did the advice really come from the father-in-law from nothing, or did it come through the father-in-law from God?

The truth is that our real helper in all times – need, plenty, failure, success – is God Himself, the Holy Spirit.

And the neat thing is that Holy Spirit-provided wisdom is but an “ask” away!

So ask for help, first from the One who provides all and second from those who the One points out to us to ask.

And the week will go a lot, lot, lot better.

________________

© 2014 GBF

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