World, shut your mouth.

Pastor Marty challenged Fellowship Church’s lead team to get re-focused on the things that come out of our mouths.

We’re trying to refrain from all of the following, between now and midnight, Friday:

Sarcasm
Negativity (that is not needed to express a valid point)
Bitterness about another person or a negative circumstance (like someone who does something “stupid” or an electronic device that wont do what you want it to)
Joking around and busting
Talking to someone with malicious intent about someone else

rolling of the eyes when someone’s name is mentioned

Will you join us?  If it’s nearly Friday, (June 18, 2009) maybe you want to set a deadline of 48 or 72 hours from the time you read this.

Personally, I’m discovering a couple interesting things…

First off, I’m learning that I don’t monitor my speech nearly as much as I should.  It’s amazing how many nonproductive things would come out of my mouth if I wasn’t filtering every thing I say.

Secondly, I’m learning that a demanding goal is achievable if I build in a short-term expiration date.  I don’t think this would really change my behavior if I was planning on doing it for a year.

(I realize that this doesn’t speak well of me: I ought to be motivated for all sorts of reasons.  I have this hope that once I find I can do it over a couple days,  I’ll try for a few more, and then a few more than that…)

Thirdly, I’m finding myself wondering, “What next?”

Because controlling the things that come out of my mouth, they are an important first step.  But we’re called more to do more than just bite our tongues and prevent ourselves from saying nasty things.   Jesus says that the content of the heart is important, too.  We’re told that we ought to do more than clean the outside of our metaphorical cups.  We’re taught that the pharisees are doing the wrong thing when they put on a holier-than-thou show.

I don’t know what’s next.  But I wonder if you’ll join us on those first steps.  Drop me a comment, and let me know that you’re trying it.   Or follow up and tell me how it went.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

7 thoughts on “World, shut your mouth.”

  1. All of your efforts will come to nothing in the end, unless you submit yourselves to the truth of God’s Word, which says, “What comes out of a man is taken what he puts inside himself.”

    Practical application: Rather than try to focus on and “cure” the symptoms, go for the root, and axe it. How do you do that? By filling up on the Word of God, not on television; on the Word of God, not on the internet; on the Word of God, not on computer games; on the Word of God, not on newspapers and magazines; on the Word of God, not on the contents of your iPod; on the Word of God, not on the latest Christian books; on the Word of God, not on rumors; on the Word of God, not on hanging out with your friends.

    Do you see a connecting idea in my example of practical application above?

    The downfall of the churches as assemblies of God’s people, and of the people themselves as individuals, comes from the utter lack of respect for and immersion in the Word of God, i.e., the Holy Bible.

    Read the Word of God every day, throughout the day, fill yourselves with it, rather than filling yourselves up on that which cannot last and which divides and slays the spirit.

    Remember, it is not just money that Jesus is talking about when He says, You cannot serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or love the one and treat the other with scorn. You cannot serve both God and Mammon. The bottom line on Mammon is that it is ANYTHING that diverts your attention, unlawfully, from the Word of God.

    Again I say to you, don’t just try to cure the symptoms, strike at the root of worldly attitudes in yourselves by using the axe of the Word of God. Christ has already used it to fell the world tree of death. Now He has given it to you to do the same in yourselves.

    “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees…”

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  2. Thanks, Romanós.
    You hit on one of the things I was alluding to. I think immersing ourselves in Scripture is a good practical step to getting beyond the surface.

    However, I think that it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg question, as to which comes first, the surface (words) or the inside (the content of the heart.)
    James 3 says, for example:
    “3When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

    7All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

    9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11Can both fresh water and salt[a] water flow from the same spring? 12My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

    His focus seems to be on focusing on the actual words we say.

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  3. Jeff, I don’t think it’s a chicken-or-egg, which came first, sort of question at all.

    What is going on here? Are you trying to be nice guys, or have you abandoned everything to become new men and women?

    Reality cannot be chunked into tiny splinters, as you guys seem to be doing, and worked on, one splinter at a time. The fact is, it is not we, or rather you, who are to work on it, the problem of too casual, snappish, disrespectful, swaggering attitudes among yourselves. If you try with this approach, you will fail, because at best you will be nice. That splinter of reality will have gotten so polished, it may blind you to the fact that the plank is still there, as horny and rough as ever.

    Do you know any people who live in the Word of God, who have made it their home, in such a manner that they don’t even have to carry the book around with them everywhere (though they often do), and who don’t think in terms of improving their behavior or self-image, because their trust in so unshakably in the truth of the Word, in Jesus, that they are content to just follow Him in everything, not looking at themselves or others (hence, not judging), but only at Jesus, who is the author and finisher?

    These people are around in the Body of Christ, but not always in church, that is, they may be church members but their real life is lived in that hidden place, where the Father alone sees them, and their actions, speaking louder than words, are sometimes overlooked by others, because they do not preach themselves, but Christ.

    When we are seeking Christ in everything, we notice these people, and little by little we join their number until we too “do good and disappear.”

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  4. So, I spent some time contemplating your response. Here’s the dynamic I see that’s going on here:
    As members of the body of Christ, we have certain obligations to each other. And so if you see that we’re engaged in something destructive you ought to speak out about it– as you’ve done here.
    However, if it seems to me that you’re wrong, I’m equally obliged to explain where I’m coming from. This seems like it is particularly true if there’s a public record of what we’re discussing, as it might influence others, or if I’m not merely defending my own position but actually believe that yours is wrong.

    Just for the record, I’m replying because this is a public record, and it could influence others. I’m not calling you out believing that most of what you said was wrong, or mean-spirited; I’m explaining myself.

    On a practical level, of course, the liklihood that somebody will make their way through these comments is minimal… But anyway, here goes:

    #1) I’m not sure how this isn’t a chicken-and-egg question for you. It seems like your position is that immersing ourselves in a relationship with Christ through activities like prayer and reading scripture comes prior to a renewing of our minds. It seems like your position is if we do these things first, then loving, kind words simply flow out of this renewed spirit.
    If I’m wrong on this, then I guess I’ll have to ask you to explain again: it seems like you’re saying the renewed spirit comes first, the use of the tongue comes second.

    #2) What is going on here? Well, there is a Pastor whose leadership I submit myself to, because I believe he submits himself to God. He noticed a tendency in his team, and I think he was right. There’s no point at which anybody decided to do this so we could seem like nice guys. There’s no point at which anybody said we were going to stop doing other things, such as trying to live out a relationship with Jesus Christ, which are clearly more important. There’s no point at which anybody decided we wouldn’t speak the truth in love.

    #3) I think what is at the core of this is that a symptom has been diagnosed. A symptom is what is being focused on. A symptom is what is being monitored. I don’t see that this is necessarily a bad thing.
    When we run a fever, the fever is not the problem. The fever is a symptom. Yet the fever is what we monitor in order to see whether our medical interventions are working. Nobody would look at a nurse with a thermometer and say, “You’re ignoring the infection!”
    On the other hand, if the patient was supplied only with aspirin, which essentially does nothing beyond lower discomfort and the fever, it would be appropriate to say, “All you’re doing is treating the symptom. Doing this won’t work in the long run, and in fact if it does, it’ll mask the severity of the problem.”

    I think you’re accusing us of masking the problem with aspirin. I think you’re making that assumption based on the fact that I blogged about the monitoring of the symptoms, not of the treatment.
    And in fact, Pastor Marty didn’t prescribe a specific treatment. He enpowered us to come up with this on our own. I don’t think a single one of us would have disagreed with your suggestions, though the specific ways we carried it out might vary a little.

    I guess I have a very blunt question for you: Is your concern here that if we truly were doing the things we were suppposed to be doing, we wouldn’t be experiencing this “symptom” at all?

    #4) Yes, I am quite blessed to have several people in my life who live out the characteristics you mention.
    It so happens I am involved with a church. I’ll happily grant you the idea that there are people who are doing God’s work who are easy to miss.
    But I think there is a danger here in two different directions. On the one hand, we can make an idol of others, or the church as a whole. But on the other hand, scripture is pretty clear that the church is the bride of Christ. We ignore it at our peril.

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  5. Thanks for taking the time to examine the discussion and my responses in detail and putting them down here, for public record. Perhaps you have not read my response to your comment on my blog, but that might clarify things a bit more.

    You wrote above, “I guess I have a very blunt question for you: Is your concern here that if we truly were doing the things we were suppposed to be doing, we wouldn’t be experiencing this “symptom” at all?”

    The short answer to this is YES, but that also runs the risk of my sitting in judgment on you, whereas that is not the reality.

    You wrote, “I think you’re accusing us of masking the problem with aspirin.”

    Coupled with my response to your previous ‘blunt’ question, I respond that, NO, I am not accusing you of anything. It’s not my place to accuse the brethren. You know whose place that is.

    What I am trying to do in any and all of my comments, now and before, is to encourage you to reach back to the defining moment of your spiritual tradition’s beginning, that point at which men knew for sure what salvation is, what mission is, what the Bible is, who Jesus is, and even what the Church is.

    You wrote, “It seems like your position is that immersing ourselves in a relationship with Christ through activities like prayer and reading scripture comes prior to a renewing of our minds. It seems like your position is if we do these things first, then loving, kind words simply flow out of this renewed spirit. If I’m wrong on this, then I guess I’ll have to ask you to explain again: it seems like you’re saying the renewed spirit comes first, the use of the tongue comes second.”

    “The renewed spirit comes first, the use of the tongue comes second.” Yes, this is approximately what I am saying, but really, brother, what I am saying is better expressed using the Lord’s actual words. On a practical level, though, it is by making the Bible your number one pre-occupation, filling yourself with it because you love it, living in it as a fish lives in water, it is this kind of life which then, by God’s grace, reveals Christ in you, because you are thinking, speaking and doing what Christ thinks, speaks and does. It is not you living anymore, it is Christ in you.

    Sorry to have caused you, personally, any grief, as I may have, but this is a small price to pay if you understand what I have been trying to get across, and I hope you will. It is very important.

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  6. Thanks. The following comment is identical to the one at your blog. I’m sure you’ll see it there but thought that I’d put it here in case someone is following along here but hasn’t yet had the pleasure of clicking over to The Cost of Discipleship.
    “Thank you, for your ongoing medley of challenge and support– both are necessary, and appreciated. There are differences between our expressions of Christianity, you, also have inspired a goodly number of posts from me, and given me cause to look at what I am doing, who I am, and what I believe.

    The cool thing about building up a small bit of history with somebody is that it’s easier to hear them speaking into your life. As I read your words, it occurred to, much to my shame, that I might have written you off as a jerk if these posts had not come in the context of a relationship where you’d established yourself to be loving and fair-minded. This causes me to wonder if I haven’t written folks off (online or in the real world) simply because I didn’t give them the benefit of the doubt, simply because the relationship hadn’t happened yet.”

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