Monday, June 8, 2015

6:00 a.m. in the Evening

(submitted by Kerry Patton)  
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”  James 3:9-12

Didn’t You Just Say That?
As an individual who writes scripts and reads for our weekly worship radio broadcast here in Weatherford, I’m attentive to what we might call “the economy of words”…being able to say the most in the least amount of time, and with the fewest words.  For our Sunday morning radio broadcast intro, I generally use somewhere in the area of 180 words (which including the bumper music comes to just under two minutes) to welcome the listener, thank the sponsor, introduce the worship leader and pastor, and set up the sermon.

In an effort to keep that word count down, I’m sensitive to redundancies…such as making sure that I don’t announce a service time as “11:00 a.m. in the morning.” Perhaps you missed it…but saying BOTH “a.m.” and “in the morning” is unnecessary.  Right?  Either is fine. Using both however wastes valuable time in getting the listener to the substance of our worship service.  And when I have only about 180 words to get my point across, well…as they say, time is money, and superfluous syllables can add up to my introduction running longer than necessary.  No kidding!

What Did He Just Say?
Something else I have to keep an eye on…not only in preparing for radio, but also in sermon preparation, is paying attention to the continuity of what I am saying.  It makes no sense to make a point with one sentence and then contradict it by saying the exact opposite with my next breath.  It’s confusing and provides the listener with no useful information.  Imagine me inviting you to an event at my house at 6:00 a.m. in the evening… 6:00 a.m. …in the evening.  So, when would you come?  Which did I mean…morning or evening?  Surely I didn’t mean both…you really don’t know do you?  You may be very confused.  You might even become frustrated.  In truth, you might not even come…no matter which it is!  Ha!

The larger issue here is the reality of much more significant contradictions that can occur in my speech and my actions.  If you observe me for example, a man of the cloth (as it were) on Sunday morning proclaiming the Gospel of Christ and the pursuit of personal holiness, and then witness me using profanity, or telling the off color joke among my buddies Sunday afternoon, then we have a problem don’t we?  We effectively have a spring attempting to bring forth both fresh AND salt water…just as James 3:9-12 described above.  If this is my witness, I have become the fig tree attempting to bring forth olives, or the grapevine bearing figs.  I have become a contradiction within myself, and a confusion to the testimony of the saving, transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Do not misunderstand!  This devotion is not a proclamation against particular behaviors, but a call to personal examination.  I never want to be a distraction from the Cross of Christ, nor a black eye to the body of Christ…particularly within the gaze of the lost.  And I desperately don’t want to be a discouragement to my family…who not only hears my sermons and songs, but also are witness to who I am away from the church.  Am I a spring of pure water for them or of salt?  Am I directing my wife and children to strive for olives while the figs fall from my lips, fingers and pockets? I find myself frequently praying that prayer of King David: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; 24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

The road to pure gold passes through the refiner’s fire doesn’t it.  It is a process, and often a painful one at that.  And yet, it is where we aim ourselves.  It is where our lives must go.  I press on toward the high mark of Christ Jesus.  Not that I have obtained it…as Paul said of himself, but seeking to lay a hold of that for which I was laid hold of.  (see Philippians 3:14)


Almighty God, like so many of us walking in your light, I am prone to fail in my own humanity.  How my heart cries out to become more and more like my Lord Jesus!  And yet, the way of the flesh runs so deeply in these bones. Please Father, work your will in me, and in the lives of these my brothers and sisters.  Continue to refine us in your fire and form your likeness in us.  Purify our words, our actions, and our attitudes.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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