Blooming poppy at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it

The truth can be hard to take sometimes. It’s hard to tell the truth too, but if you don’t, you can get into a world of hurt. Honesty really is the best policy, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to say or hear.

We get used to thinking that we’re right about everything. Our choices. Our lifestyle. Our beliefs. But we aren’t right because we think we are. We’re right because we agree with God and what the Bible says, and it’s frighteningly easy to get off that path. That’s when we need someone to come alongside us and help us find the right way again.

But depending on how that person “helps” us, we may get straightened out or we may twist off even further.

Blooming poppy at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Blooming poppy at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Ephesians 4:15.

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

Have you ever been in a situation where you know the person you’re talking to is messing up their life but you’re too scared to say anything about it? I’ve been there many many times, and only a handful of times have I had the courage to speak up about it. It’s not easy.

But whenever you end up in those situations, you should never hesitate to speak the truth. The truth being what God says in the Bible. But you need to take care in how you speak it.

You know you have control over your voice, right? You know you can control your tone and your volume? Maybe some people don’t realize that and they think they just have to sound angry all the time.  Or maybe they think people won’t take them seriously if they don’t sound angry.

Have you ever seen comments on Facebook or on news pages? Which comments do you take more seriously? The vicious, biting angry ones? Or the calm, rational ones? Honestly, the angrier someone sounds, the less likely I am to listen to them.

And if you take the truth and bludgeon people into submission, I’m not sure how effective that is either. Sure, maybe it works for a little while. You might be able to convince someone to do what’s right by using the truth like a hammer, but from what I’ve learned, that creates a temporary change in behavior. Not a permanent change of heart.

Truth is powerful enough to change people’s hearts on its own. It doesn’t need our help. There’s no strategy or plan of attack when you’re telling the truth. We just need to let Truth do the work, and we just need to get out of the way.

All we need to do is to remember why we’re intervening. Are you getting involved in someone else’s business because you feel responsible or obligated? Or are you doing it because you love them? If you love them, make sure they know it. If you love them, your tone and your voice and your words will express it. If you love them, you aren’t going to beat them down with your words. You’ll build them up.

No, the truth isn’t easy to speak, but you can speak it in love if you love the person you’re talking to.

So do it. Tell them the Truth. Tell them you love them. And then let it go. If they are going to listen, they will. If they won’t, they’ll do their own thing, and that is their choice. But one day, down the road when they come to their senses, they’ll remember.

But they probably won’t remember what you said. They’ll just remember how you said it.

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Let me sum up.

So where did spring go? It was just here and now it’s gone again, and I let myself get used to warmer weather. Now I’m freezing . . . . Oh, well. I should have known. Kansas has the strangest weather on the planet. In one week last week we had a temperature differential of 95 degrees. We were around -20 on day and then seven days later we were at nearly 80. It’s ridiculous. But it’s not cold enough for my fingers to be numb, so I’m a happy camper.

I love the movie The Princess Bride, and I love the character Inigo Montoya (of “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” fame). And every time I have too much to say in too short a time, I always try to let loose the famous: “No, is too much. Let me sum up.”

I feel kind of like that’s what Paul is saying in the verse of the day this morning.

Romans 13:9-10

9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.”[a] These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.

God gave us the Ten Commandments for a number of reasons, but it was mainly to prove to us that we were unable to keep them. That we needed Someone perfect to take our punishment in our place. Through the years, there have been people who say that they have kept all the Ten Commandments, but it’s not possible. It’s good to strive toward something, and they are good moral commandments to follow. But they don’t exist to make us perfect; they exist to show us our need of a Savior.

But since people are always asking for an easy way to understand things, I like how Paul (and before him, Jesus) sum up the Ten Commandments. Actually, why don’t I list the Ten Commandments so we’re all on the same page?  You can find them in Exodus 20 (and elsewhere, but Exodus 20 is generally the book used to refer to them).

Exodus 20:1-17

 1 Then God gave the people all these instructions[a]:

 2 “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.
 3 “You must not have any other god but me.
 4You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. 6 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those[b] who love me and obey my commands.
 7You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.
 8Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
 12Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
 13You must not murder.
 14You must not commit adultery.
 15You must not steal.
 16You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
 17You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”

Ten commandments. Ten rules for living. They’re very specific, and even though some of them may be obvious, they are only obvious because most of us Americans have grown up in a culture shaped by Christian thought. Adultery, theft, lying and even murder in some cases is looked on favorably in other cultures.

But if you look at the Ten Commandments and really get down into what they mean, you can sum up the last six of them by what Paul said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love your parents. Love your spouse. Love your neighbors. Love your cooworkers. Love the people you go to school with. Love the people you go to church with.  Love them as much as you love yourself, and you will abide by the Ten Commandments automatically.

The first four commandments can be summed up by saying Love God, like Jesus did in Matthew 22:37-40.

 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[e] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[f] 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Like I’ve said before, love God and love people. That’s how a Christian should live.

Composed from the Holiday Inn in Tampa

Good morning again from Tampa, FL! Again, this little devotional this morning will be brief, but I think my salesman friend’s complaint at the main desk improved my internet service just a tad. Nevertheless, we have a long day planned and it starts in mere moments.

The verse today is a hard one to remember at times.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5

4 “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.[a] 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.

God is God alone. Only Him. No one like Him in the universe. There never has been and there never will be. I think we forget that sometimes.

In our quest to understand Him or make Him fit in a box or make Him relevant to the world, I think sometimes Christians forget that God is so enormous that we can’t comprehend Him. I know I take Him for granted. I know I don’t understand just how mighty He is. He loves us so much, sometimes I forget how righteous He is — or maybe I forget on purpose because I know I can never measure up to His standards.  I’m so thankful for Jesus because thanks to His sacrifice we don’t have to.

But we are to love God with everything we are. All our heart, all our souls, all our strength. Everything we have.

That’s hard.

It’s hard to love someone you’ve never seen.

This is a terrible analogy, but it makes me think of a penpal. Have you ever had a penpal? I did. Many moons ago. His name was Tafirenyika Chifamuna, and he lived in Zimbabwe. It’s a long story how we were introduced, but we wrote letters to each other for about four or five years before we finally lost track of each other. I was very sad because I loved writing to him. Honestly, he was one of my very close friends and I had no idea what he looked like.

Sometimes I think of God as my penpal, which is probably blasphemous. But I’ve never seen Him and He wrote me letters (the Bible). And I love Him in spite of never seeing Him or having a “real” conversation with Him. And I am totally looking forward to the day when I can meet Him face to face.

Loving God with everything I am is hard because so many things vie for my attention, but I need to remember what is really important, what will still be standing at the end of the day. Because when everything else falls apart, God is still there. He is all that matters, and no one who has ever devoted their life to Him has regretted it. Not truly.