Friday, July 31, 2015

The Ministry of Silence

 (by Kerry Patton)
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies! 
Psalm 141:3-4
Thumper, that single-toothed cotton tail rabbit in the 1942 animated Disney film “Bambi” finds himself being corrected by his mother after he makes a comical observation at Bambi’s expense: “Thumper, what did your father say only this morning?” To which Thumper makes his embarrassed reply: “If you can’t say something nice…d..don’t say nothing at all.”  He of course should have said: “…don’t say anything at all.”  The result is that we can savor the humorous double negative he expresses in which he effectively states: “If you can’t say something nice…say it anyhow!”  Silence…Not saying anything at all. 

Silence is a powerful tool for both good and evil.  Silence is good when the tongue is held rather than taking the easy shot and injuring with a hurtful word.  Silence is good when we are in the presence of a suffering, or grieving brother or sister, and the truth is – there are no words to say.  It is often in our silent presence, praying, holding the hand, grieving with, and interceding while another is hurting that we may administer the most help in a time of need.  It is wisdom to know if, and when silence is needed

Silence is a weapon of harm though when we withhold the encouraging word; when the word of correction or counsel is needed, but for reasons of pride, guilt, or frustration we do not speak.  Silence is not good when a word of forgiveness is due and we withhold it out of spite, or as a punishment of payback.  The discerning follower of Christ comes to know his or her own tendency toward silence, or away from it, and seek the wisdom of the Lord in dealing with it in life.

Spiritual silence can be, if unmonitored, very dangerous.  This week, we’ve explored the loudness of our spiritual life conversation.  We’ve talked about the importance of whispering, shouting, and conversing normally – as it were, in context of how we live our Christian witness, share our faith, and communicate the spiritual elements of the Christian faith; necessary for salvation from sin.  I’ve encouraged you to “speak” loudly at times, softly at others, and faithfully in normal tones as we go about the hours and days of our lives.  So where does silence fit in to our Christian witness?

Particularly in the realm of communicating our faith, evangelizing the lost, and rescuing the perishing, we are encouraged to speak…but to do so at the unction of the Holy Spirit.  From my Methodist roots I remember reading of Mr. John Wesley’s words on the seasons of the heart.  He suggested, and rightly so I believe, that there are seasons of the heart – times when we are receptive, and likewise times when we are not receptive to words of the Gospel…particularly when the lost are being counseled.  He encouraged the Christian evangelist/disciple to be watchful for those seasons in the lives of those to whom he or she desired to lead to Jesus.  To ignore those seasons would make no sense…just as it would make no sense to plant a crop during the harsh biting of winter, but to wait until spring. 

The ministry of silence is a wisdom; a self-control that is exerted upon the self that restrains our effort and speaking until we are released by the Spirit to do so.  We then, seeing the need arising, wait until the Lord’s timing is proven and then sow the seeds of his word into the soil of the heart that he has prepared. 

What is the danger of silence in this context?  Actually, and tragically, the condition of silence is what has become the normative existence of the average Christian.  Many live their entire lives never having led a single individual into relationship with Jesus.  Silence is perpetuated by a fear of failure or rejection; it is often rooted not in attentiveness to the timing of the Holy Spirit, but in a lack of preparation.  Effectively, even when we know something should be said, we have nothing to say, so we speak not.  We remain silent.  Silence then can become a major weapon Satan uses against the Kingdom of God when he hinders the believer from either properly exercising it, or convinces the believer that silence is to be his or her normal state of being. 


Almighty God, I pray that you teach me the discipline of silence.  Help me to learn how and when to speak, and how and when to not speak.  Create in my heart that ministering spirit that is content not to strike back when harmed, but is compelled to speak when the time is right.  Set me on fire that I might burn brightly for you when it is time to burn…to break silence and be your messenger or mouthpiece. And give me peace; grant me contentment to wait upon your signal when it is time to act.  Teach me about silence in life and living I pray.  Amen.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Just Speak Normally. Daily Living Our Faith

 (by Kerry Patton)

 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.  Acts 2:42-47

What a wonder it must have been to be a part of that early church fellowship.  Think about it…They weren’t merely followers of what they believed.  Many of those early Christians had actually KNOWN and spoken with Jesus.  Perhaps they had been touched by his ministry and been healed, delivered, or saved in no small fashion.  They had been through the trauma of his crucifixion, but then were set on fire by his resurrection!  

Now, post-Pentecost, and filled with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, they were taking their world by storm! The passage above from Acts gives us a window into their day-to-day activities.  They weren’t thinking about faith because it was Sunday…or in the study of the Word because they were teaching this week…nor giving what they had because there were bills to be paid and a ministry to support… No, they were different!  Nothing else mattered.  Their entire lives revolved around what had happened, and what had become their reasons for living.  Jesus had touched their hearts, and because of his love, they were compelled to love others in like fashion.  Sharing their faith certainly involved Whispering and Shouting, but it also formed the framework of their Normal Conversation…spiritually speaking.  Their normal lives…were a conversation of faith with all they encountered.  They lived the love of Jesus.

This is the lion’s share of where we are also.  Just as our conversational lives involve only periodic whispering and shouting, so also do we spend most of our time talking with others, doing so in a normal tone of voice.  What would that percentage be...85…90…95 percent?  MOST of our communication is spent just speaking normally with others around us.  So also is most of our faith life and Christian example spent just living and being a person of faith around those in our world.  It is here that the validity…the proof of Christ-in-us is evident.  It is who we are when no one is looking; or who we are when we are at home alone with only our spouse and/or children, and we are out of the context of weekly worship that our true relationship with Christ Jesus is displayed.  

I am pleased to represent Christ and testify of his wonderful love when I stand before the congregation Shouting in sermon or teaching.  I am likewise privileged and thankful for those opportunities and times when I am aside with an individual or small group whispering the matters of the kingdom in intimate discipleship.  But the measuring stick of my discipleship is not merely who I am in the pulpit, nor the classroom as a Christian, but who I am when I am away from those contexts; who I am when I am relaxed at home, or shopping at the store, or alone with my computer, or anonymous in my car or other public place…in the normal contexts of life and daily living.  

It is here in our normal conversations of living that our faith is proven authentic to the spiritually lost of our world.  If we fail the litmus test of daily walking and living as Christ outside of our Whispering and Shouting of faith, then we will have no credibility, no authenticity, no authority, and no effectivity in the Whispering and Shouting either.  Normal conversation…our daily walk with Jesus.  Speak it.


Father God, this is the whole of my existence…unless I am genuinely yours and pursue the life of Christ in my every step, then I have no real meaning, no real purpose, and no real future.  Continue to shape me, correct me, purify me, and make me into the image of my Lord Jesus.  Crucify me daily that Jesus might live resurrected in me.  Make me a living conversation of faith I pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Power of the Shout

(by Kerry Patton)
“He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Luke 3:7-9

John the Baptist was shouting to the crowds.  No, I speak not to how LOUD he was speaking, but to the manner in which he was speaking.  His words were pointed.  I mean, “You brood of vipers…” That’s rather sharp wouldn’t you say?  So why was he addressing them so seemingly harshly?  Why was John “shouting” to the crowds?

We know when and why most people shout.  When they are angry, right?  We generally shout when we are excited by anger, frustration, or fear.  So, shouting gets a bit of a black eye doesn’t it.  In that context, nobody likes to be shouted at.  But there are other times we shout aren’t there?  When your friend is on the other end of the football field and you need to let them know to meet you at the car in fifteen minutes. Whispering isn’t going to cut it is it?  Neither is speaking normally.  You’re going to need to shout to help them out.  We also shout warnings don’t we?  “Hey!  Watch OUT!!”  So some shouting is important. 

We also find many references to shouting in the context of celebration in the scriptures.  Luke 17:15 tells of one such instance: Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice…”  Isaiah 26:12 is another as it pronounces: “Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” 

I have memories of the old-timers referring to this person or that being a shoutin’ Methodist, Baptist, or Pentecostal.  There was an element of faith and expression that may have become lost across the years.  I might agree with them.  Our God is Awesome, and somethings are just worth shouting about.  Amen?

Spiritually speaking, why do we sometimes shout?  Well, because the message of the moment may merit it.  Sometimes, spiritual intervention is just necessary.  This may have been the case as John the Baptist was addressing his audience.  It occurs to me that either:
1.    John was just being mean and was chewing them out real good (unlikely, knowing something of John’s character and faith), or
2.    (Most likely) John was shouting at/to them in frustrated love and concern.
If he really didn’t care, he could have just left them alone to perish in their own self-righteousness.  But he didn’t.  John’s scolding was a stern warning.  He was shouting for the welfare of their very souls.  Effectively saying: “Can’t you see how crazy this is??  You know better than this!  Get it together!!” 

Sometimes, faith compels us to shout.  And I want to reiterate what I hope has been implicit: By shouting, I am not necessarily speaking of yelling loudly, but of becoming impassioned about the subject matter of faith, and the reality that there really, really are persons that we know and love who will burn eternally in Hell’s fire…unless someone shouts loudly: “PLEASE, STOP!!!” And then leads them gently back to safety through careful, compassionate teaching, and Christian example.  Who among us would not shout if we saw a stranger, or even an enemy headed for certain peril?  None.  We would shout…every one of us.  Will we not also for the soul stumbling toward eternal destruction?  Shout.

The fine art of communicating our faith sometimes requires a good shout.  We must be careful though, because just as it is in conversation – if you shout out of reasonable context, or only shout to/at people, they won’t listen very long, will they.  They will discount you and simply move along.  The shout of faith is powerful, and important.  But mustn’t be overused or it becomes utterly ineffective.

Almighty God, may we re-learn the art of Shouting to God with a voice of triumph and praise!  And may we also, by your compassion and grace, learn the art of the urgent shout of faith.  Move us in the moment, O God, when the impassioned shout is desperately needed.  And fill us with your Word and your Holy Spirit that we may be discerning of what to say…and how.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

With A Whisper, We Speak

(by Kerry Patton)
“The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.”
Matthew 13:10-11
There is no aspect of “the secret society” to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  As we discussed yesterday, the instructions of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 were to go into all the world and and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” So, if the Gospel is to be proclaimed to “all the world”, then what do we make of this ‘whispering’ that was effectively going on in the teaching of Jesus through parables?  Why was Jesus lending the secrets of the kingdom of heaven to his disciples, but not to the others who had gathered?

We observe Jesus speaking through the gospel accounts.  We find him shouting…no not AT people, but speaking loudly to the masses, we find him living and loving, conversing normally with individuals – such as the woman at the well, and we find him pulling his disciples aside and communicating with them in almost hushed tones…a whisper…not because what was being shared was scandalous, or secret, but because it was meant just for them…for that moment, that stage in their spiritual growth.  Whispering.

We do this too.  Picture yourself at the city park with a group of friends.  You are having a good time on a warm summer evening and at some point the discussion turns to matters of religion.  Of the five or six persons you have gathered with, one individual has an interest in the discussion that differs from the others, and you sense this.  As the discussion continues, you realize that this individual is at a place where he or she is very open to the Gospel of Christ and is searching for a door into a relationship of faith.  So what do you do?  Accepting Christ can be a very personal thing.  Sins may be confessed, personal matters of faith are addressed, praying the prayer of salvation is a very personal thing; and the best place for this discussion is not in an open forum, but a private discussion.  So, you pull the friend aside and speak to him or her in private.  You effectively whisper. 

Whispering doesn’t stop there either.  If we were to say that evangelism could be viewed as a shouting, and the living of one’s faith to be normal conversation, if you will - discipleship is conducted in the place of whispering.  One proclaims to the many, another to but a few, and the latter an intimate heart conversation with an individual.  Whispering.  Discipleship…that is, you and I in continued association with persons we have led to Jesus, teaching them…leading them to Christian maturity; this is done as a whispering.  We would not address the matters of an individual’s daily struggles, failures, and personal spirituality in an open forum!  These are not matters to deal with openly in a crowded room.  No, we would pull the young disciple aside and speak to him or her privately.  Effectively, a whisper.

And while there may be other forms of whispering to address in this fashion, I will speak to one more: The whispering of prayer concerns.  It has been said that Christians do not gossip…but they do share in love…and sometimes to tragic ends.  It is a fine line that we walk between communicating the needs of the body of Christ, and passing on some juicy morsel of gossip that involves someone we know.  We take the opportunity to shout that which ought to be kept confidential…but we do so out of Christian love and concern. 

This is very dangerous, isn’t it…and destructive.  Jesus knew the hearts of his disciples.  He knew the struggles of Judas, the doubting of Thomas, the temper of John, but we find no public discussions concerning these…even in the relatively private forum of the rest of the disciples.  Jesus knew how to whisper, didn’t he.  He never used one of his disciples struggles to make a point or use as an example.  To those hearts, he whispered by pulling them aside and sharing a secret of the kingdom just to them.  So too must we know the fine art of whispering.


Lord Jesus, we have heard it said in your Word that the tongue is like the rudder of a great ship.  That we could properly control how we speak, and to whom, and when.  Teach us the art of whispering to hearts and lives, as you did.  Give us great discernment on when to pull aside and speak the Father’s truth, and when to hold what we know in quiet confidentiality.  Make us wise, O Lord.  Teach us to whisper.  In your name, and for your sake we pray.  Amen.

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