Posted in discernment, gentle speech, rebuke

Gentle speech, curses and rebukes

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The Christian life is one of constant awareness. We are constantly aware that we are bought with a price, and that we we all to Him. Jesus has standards for His ransomed people in which He wants us to live. And because He is our Beloved King, we strive to follow His standards.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do when. We pray for everyone unceasingly (1 Thessalonians 5:17)…until we are told not to pray for such a one anymore. (1 John 5:16).

We must share the Gospel with all people (Matthew 28:19) … until we are to shake the dust off our feet (Mark 6:11)…and not give pearls to swine (Matthew 7:6).

I’m not saying the Christian life has contradictions, but I am saying that God knows best in situations what to do and we must stay repented up, prayed up, and studied up in order to discern what His will is when encountering situations that we find ourselves in.

Another situation that demands discernment is our speech. The Bible says a lot about our speech. It is supposed to be patient, gentle, and filled with love. And yet sometimes we read in the Bible that the Apostles were sharp, insulting, and berating.

Here are two essays which speak to the two different ways we’re called upon to speak His wisdom and truths.

Love is how we speak truth, not how we avoid it.

Anyone who spends any time at all in the Bible will soon realize there is a continuous emphasis placed on actively loving one another (i.e.: Leviticus 19:18, John 15:12, Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8, 1 John 4:21), even those who qualify as enemies (Matthew 5:44). First Corinthians 16:14 tells us to “do everything in love.” But many people struggle with this all-encompassing directive especially when they find themselves facing the difficult task of confronting sin in a family member or co-worker. Inevitable questions arise like, “Is it even possible to lovingly rebuke someone?” and if it is, “Does lovingly rebuking sin in someone else mean that we cannot be direct and forthright with the person we are confronting?” As Christians, do we have to sugarcoat what we say to others in order to fulfill God’s command to love them?

And yet there seems to be times when it is necessary to use sharp, cutting language.

Surprised by Scripture: Love and Spirit-inspired insults

Our expectation of the Spirit-filled person is that they would sincerely love people; that they would be manifestly gentle; that they would speak with kindness and patience in all circumstances. And those are good, biblical expectations. But the book of Acts shows us the Spirit-filled life is full of surprises. … Here’s where our expectations about the Spirit-filled life get upended:

But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?” (Acts 13:9–10)

…This doesn’t sound like what we would call kind or civil or gentle. These are biting words, pointed words, sharp words directed at a particular person. In this case, the fruit of the Spirit is name-calling, insults, and harsh words. In this case, Spirit-prompted boldness means not mincing words about the wickedness of this magician. When Spirit-Inspired Insults Are Necessary:

Read both essays to see the bookends of speech we are expected to think about when we are confronting a person in sin. These things are not contradictory, and they are not for all Christians all the time. Some people, usually leaders, can and do make Spirit-inspired insults…and yet sometimes the pointed confrontation is necessary to employ against the sinning one, even to the extent they are ushered from the church under discipline and handed over to satan. (1 Corinthians 5:5).

The idea is that we are always striving to walk in the center line of His ways, constantly seeking Him to determine the proper course of action in any given situation, so that His name is glorified.

Posted in gentle speech, jesus, proper speech, scripture

Editorial: Be vigilant about your comment section

Either through AOL chat, online newspapers, bulletin boards, blogs, Facebook, or Twitter I’ve been running online comment sections since 1999. I’ve had a lot of experience seeing how people choose to say things either openly or anonymously. I’ve also seen a steep decline in the quality of online (and real life) discourse.

By 2004 online newspapers and blogs became ubiquitous. That year was dubbed Year of the Blog. Anonymous commenting flourished. Prior to this, the only public discourse available was tightly controlled. Letters to the Editor had to be signed with your real name, and include a telephone number so the editor could call to verify. Journals and other publications demanded the same. The internet either wasn’t invented or it was so new, not everyone was online. Books went through an even tighter process, if you could even reach the front door of a publishing house. Handing out personal leaflets or pamphlets was looked upon with suspicion, especially if someone was handing them out while standing on a street corner. To use a microphone at a public meeting you had to sign your name and be called to the podium. If your discourse was too inflammatory, your mic would be shut off. If someone wanted to say something publicly either in oral or written form, it was very hard, and there was no such thing as anonymous commenting. (Benjamin Franklin’s penchant for pseudonymous commenting notwithstanding).

It’s amazing to me that it’s been 11 years since the Year of the Blog and 16 years since the internet with its comment forums, bulletin boards and comment sections has become part of normal daily life. That short history lesson was needed, because 16 years is a long time and many of the younger brethren don’t know what it was like before we could easily and anonymously say anything, anytime, anywhere.

I’ve enjoyed the loosening of the forums available to the public in order to employ free speech and I am a great advocate of the internet as a freely available place to exchange ideas. However with great freedom comes great responsibility, Eleanor Roosevelt said. Many people fail to take their responsibility for measured speech responsibly, and the devil is having his heyday.

Just as we thrill to the idea that we can support international ministries like Grace to You which reaches a huge audience, and just as we can responsibly use social media and the Internet to get the message of Jesus across to a wider audience ourselves, so satan uses social media too. He captured Hollywood and then the networks and then cable. Now online Christian newspapers, blogs, forums and the like are bastions of false doctrine, angry rhetoric, and tarnished witness.

The bible has a lot to say about how a Christian should speak, and also what to do when speaking to and dealing with non-believers. Over 70 times in the bible we read proverbs, commands, and advice for proper speech.

I’d like to take a moment to discuss online Christian speech and to bring us back to the biblical standards for how to react to hateful speech, scornful speech, sarcastic speech, and mocking speech. The bible says a lot about how WE are supposed to conduct ourselves in discourse, but today I’d like to comment on how to proceed when faced with less than desirable comments online, AKA, moderating.

What do you do when faced with someone’s sarcastic, mocking comment, or seems to want only to argue?

The short answer is: delete them without a second thought. If necessary, block them. More on why in a moment.

Here is the lesson. I’ve noticed a marked upswing in scornful and hateful comments. In some examples it’s obvious that they should be deleted. The other night I received a comment responding to an essay that simply said, in all caps, “I HOPE YOU ALL DIE.” I actually laughed at that one, because we all do die. The sad or happy part is what comes after for each of us.

But satan is a subtle creature and he instills a sly menace in some comments, comments that on the surface seem like they should be engaged with but are only there to cause a hindrance to pursuit of God’s glory. Another commenter said the other night,

It consistently amazes me how you pick and choose bible verses that are applicable to your argument, yet call out “false prophets” for doing the exact same thing.

The clues in this comment are the word ‘consistently’ (he keeps reading this blog enough to think I do something consistently which in his opinion is stupid. My question is, why keep reading?), the scare quotes around the phrase “false prophet” (Scare quotes are often used to express skepticism, disapproval, or derision, says the journalism dictionary, and writers are advised to use them sparingly) and the ad hominem charge with no supporting data. An ad hominem attack is simply an attack on the writer’s character. Lacking data, reason, or logic, they usually just fall back to “you’re a big huge poopyhead.” They rarely if ever use a name.

I responded like this:

Can you show me an example of which verse I’ve used incorrectly, and show me how the verse should be understood? Anonymous, you have scare quotes around the phrase “false prophets”. Does this mean you believe there aren’t any? Or, do you believe the ones I’ve called out are not actually false? Please use scripture to help us understand your meaning.

I’m serious here. The Internet is a cold screen, and facial expressions and tone won’t come through. Maybe I misunderstood the person, and I’d like to give the person a chance to respond with scripture and facts in order to understand their intent and position.

Sometimes they respond positively, and we can go on in unity under the love of Christ, gaining a better understanding. However in this particular example, when I asked Anonymous to provide bible verses he said, “That’s a nice little trick there.” Then he simply made more ad hominem charges. I deleted the comment. Why?

1. If they are a non-believer, why allow them to co-opt the discussion and insert false doctrine or destroy the tone? Also, you can’t disciple a goat into a sheep.
2. If they are a believer, why allow them a forum to further dig themselves into a sin-hole?

Discernment lesson: Don’t let trolls online or people in real life sway you from a focus on Jesus with the bible as the basis. Scripture is the only truth, and the only means when discussing Him to arrive at a reasonable conclusion. (Isaiah 1:18, 2 Timothy 3:16). If they refuse, you know they aren’t genuinely striving to glorify Jesus or trying to help you (or me). In these cases, sadly, the bible says plenty about conversations like the one Anonymous wanted to have.

Since their conversation doesn’t emanate from above, but from within, “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11)

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (Prov 18:2). This goes both ways, for the commenter, but also for the Moderator. Once we stray from scripture, everything else is our own opinion and I would quickly become foolish too. That’s why I’m vigilant, I don’t want to provide a forum for a fool to increase his sin nor to provide a pit for me to fall into. I”m a sinner too.

In these cases when the person persists in their opinion and becomes more heated, we shake the dust off and leave them be. (Mark 6:11). “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; ” (2 Timothy 2:23)


Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.” (Proverbs 26:4)

I say all this to let you know that if you run a blog, forum, or comment stream, like on Facebook, to not be hesitant to delete, refuse to engage, or leave people like this alone. In cases like these I delete and don’t think twice. No regrets. Sometimes I think we are so full of love and care for everyone to come to Christ we engage in conversations that are better left alone, which only end up damaging our own character as we sin by falling into sarcasm, anger, or “foolish controversies.” If you run an online forum or facilitate a real life group, don’t damage your own witness by over-extending into the fool’s sphere. To keep a clear head, it’s simple- always stay with scripture as the basis for any conversation. It is scripture that convinces, convicts, and saves. Not my opinion- or theirs.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (James 1:26)

The other important reason to be strict about not letting the conversation stray too far off scripture and off the point is that we don’t want to be a place where doctrinal confusion reigns. I refuse to allow this blog or any other forum I moderate to become a hindrance to the growth of a weaker brother or sister. I do not want to confuse anybody! Questions are fine, discussion is fine, but allowing people with an agenda to promote their false doctrines won’t happen here.

I can’t tell you how many people comment about the ‘fact’ that Darby invented the rapture, or how John MacArthur is a false teacher, or how Beth Moore must be a good teacher because she “helped” someone feel better about themselves. And don’t even get me started on how many people write to me with their dream or vision. Those comments will never see the light of day. Not. Gonna. Happen. I am responsible to Jesus for everything I say and everything I do. I won’t be part of helping to send a sister off in a wrong direction under the false notion of “fairness” or “love” to a person who may have mal-intent or is just plain wrong. I truly love my brethren too much for that.

So do not let anyone guilt you into publishing their comment, or worse, their essay as a guest writer, just because they have a misunderstanding of what censorship and free speech is. Not publishing a comment isn’t destroying their free speech. It’s called moderating. Free speech means any person can go start their own blog and they can comment all day and all night if they want, and here in America for the time being, people can still do that.

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.. (Proverbs 21:23)

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

Posted in gentle speech, lying, slander

Alistair Begg on "The Use and Abuse of Words" Right speech in a wrong world

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And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. (James 3:6)

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! (Psalm 141:3)

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:10)

This morning I listened to Alistair Begg’s sermon about words and their abuse. I have been thinking about words for a long time. You might be familiar with this adage:

“Before you speak, ask yourself: “Is It True? Is It Necessary? Is It Kind?”

The quote is often attributed to Buddha, or Guru Sai Baba, or the 1920 Quaker book The Children’s Story Garden or the 1835 poem “The Three Gates of Gold” by Beth Day”, or…

You get the idea. It’s a cultural parable. More to the point, the bible has much to say about tongue, lips, speech, lying, and truth.

My goal with this blog is three-fold, as stated in the menu on the right: encouragement, discernment,

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and prophecy. The work of discernment often means I expose a false teacher by name, or report on a false teaching. I report on negative trends in Christianity or church life. The flood of falsity is never ending and of one lets it, can taint one’s attitude into one that is overwhemlingly negative.

Satan’s flood of falsity began in the garden of Eden (actually it began in heaven when Lucifer declared himself above God and pride was found in his heart). It reentelssly continued int he Old testament. In the NT after Jesus ascended, satan immediately flooded into the church with all kinds of false teachers bringing false doctrines.

Paul was especially grieved by these men. he called out Alexander, Hymenaeus, Philetus, Jannes and Jambres, Phygelus and Hermogenes who deserted. Diotrephes plagued John…all these men brought with them false teachings to the first century churches, immediately. It’s never stopped.

Satan has never let up. We still fight the battle of truth against evil today. One thing we are called to do is:

“Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” Romans 16:17

The way we mark them is what is at issue here. And I’m not just talking about right speech solely in discernment issues but a Christian’s talk in general. It is very easy to get unnecessarily critical and to stay critical. After that comes sarcasm, mocking and then anger.

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15)

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When speaking of brethren or speaking of the lost, our speech is supposed to be gentle and kind. (1 Peter 2:1, Colossians 4:6). We are supposed to respect our leaders and give them double honor. On the other hand, Paul called false teachers’ talk “gangrene”, (2 Timothy 2:17) the teachers themselves “men of depraved mind” and “fools.” (2 Tim 3:8-9). He said “Their end will be what their actions deserve.” (2 Corinthians 11:15).

I said it a few days ago and I’ll say it again. It is a delicate balancing act, to properly discern, to speak rightly in all the different situations, and to remain holy in life and speech. When does one speak with righteous anger? When can one use biblical sarcasm? When should we be gentle? No one is perfect, but we can strive toward the persistent tendency to do right, and that includes our speech.

I’ve noticed that courteous speech on Facebook declines immediately when doctrine is brought up and opinions on it vary. Disagreements among Christians on Twitter turn nasty in a heartbeat. Personal attacks, sarcasm, mocking, and anger are the go-to replies of the day. Slander abounds! I don’t like that. I try hard to reign in my own sarcasm, though there is a biblical place for it. I’m not wise enough always to know when I’m correctly walking the line of loving, sarcastic admonishment, and sarcasm that intentionally (or unintentionally) hurts, so I try not to be sarcastic at all.

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Foolish talk is strongly discouraged in the bible. We will be called to account for every careless word we speak. (Matthew 12:36). The bible is clear about what the LORD hates. HATES. There are seven things in particular that He hates, and two, maybe three, involve the tongue!!

There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.
(Proverbs 6:16-19).

A lying tongue and false witness are two kinds of speech the LORD hates. A person sowing discord could also be related back to the former two because lying and slander bring discord. This is serious. When the God of the Universe, Ancient of Days, Holy Judge of all Mankind, tells us He hates lying, slander, and careless words, we must pay attention.

When I was in journalism we were told that the public will always fill in a gap with a negative. If we weave a story loosely, the public’s mind will fill in the holes with scurrilous thoughts. Therefore we needed to be as tight as possible. Even hinting at something is just about the same as libel, because of the implications one can make by using our words as a springboard.

Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, (2 Timothy 2:25)

Another kind of loose, damaging speech is whisper campaigns. Whisper slander campaigns are the most successful kind of negative campaigns, because they ruin reputations and darken the mind against the person slandered. Satan was successful in his whisper campaign against God in heaven and turned a third of the angels against Him!

Here is a famous and well-used parable to illustrate the damage of words, and how fast they travel. If you listen to Pastor Begg’s sermon on the Abuse of Words, you will hear this at the end.

Let’s mind our speech, and say edifying and kind things. If we have to make a person as a false teacher or a threat to the brethren, let’s speak the truth in love.

Alistair Begg: The Use and Abuse of Words


Parable of the Feathers

Once upon a time a certain man went to the town pastor.

“Pastor, he confessed, “I’ve been slandering my neighbors. I am truly sorry for what I’ve said and how I’ve treated them. I want to take back all the bad words I’ve said and then be done with it. How can I do this?”

The pastor said: “Go pluck 3 chickens. Stuff a bag with the feathers, then go put one feather on every doorstep in town. Return to me when you have finished.”

“Pastor, I have obeyed your instruction. What should I do now?”

“Now,” said the pastor, “go pick up every feather.”

“But, but,” spluttered the villager, “they’ve been there all night! The wind has already blown them all around!”

The pastor nods in agreement. He said, “You may turn from your sin and be forgiven, but the wind has blown your words everywhere, and the spent word, like the fired arrow, isn’t coming back.”

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Further Reading:

Gary Alan Fine has done extensive work on the social impact of rumors and legends. In his interesting book Rumor Mills, he wrote,

“Telling stories enables one to slip into the role of a transmitter who can refer to his or her sources for testimony and claim to transmit facts without being criticized.”

He also wrote, Difficult Reputations: Collective Memories of the Evil, Inept, and Controversial
which examines the lasting effect of rumors upon a reputation.

Todd Pruitt at Reformation21 advises pastors to do their part in ceasing to perpetuate rumors and hoaxes by consulting Snopes once in a while before including that cute story into their sermons. Snopes is a website that de-bunks rumors that have quickly taken on a life of their own in email or social media. Facebook’s Hoax Slayer also does a good job.

Preachers – Spend some time with St. Snopes this week

Posted in cooking competition, gentle speech, slander

Talkin’ smack aboutcha

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” (1 Peter 2:1).

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:31)

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)

The concept of slander or a lying tongue comes up a LOT in the bible. I tried to find a definitive number of how many times we read about lying, false witness, slander, or hateful speech, but I couldn’t. The number of mentions I did find ranged from 60 to 140, and I know there’s more. God is serious about slander.

I like to watch cooking competitions. I mentioned that before, recently. Regular competition shows are awful, many of them. The goal seems not to be to encourage someone in their talent or help them to improve in a dignified way, but to put them down in the most cutting way possible so as to get laughs, ratings, and to humiliate the contestant.

And the competitions where the competitors talk smack about each other are just gross.

The cooking competitions are usually rated G, that’s why I like them. Each has its own flavor, ha ha, but there are a few that are just plain mean (Hell’s Kitchen) and others that are nice. I’ve enjoyed newcomer American Baking Competition and four-year old Masterchef particularly, because they are nice.

That’s because judges seem to be encouraging and the point seems to be genuinely about food, not drama. For example on Masterchef the contestants are offered cooking lessons on days off by the famous chefs who on other days are their judges! And the judges on Masterchef do not seek to cut the heart out of the person, but build them up and let them compete with dignity and to improve their skills while they are there. If they fail a challenge and are asked to leave, they are always encouraged to keep trying and given a compliment on the way out.

But last Wednesday night was a turning point for me on Masterchef. The judges were extremely cutting (OK, just Joe Bastianich) calling one contestant a “narcissist in full denial”, and said “thanks for nothing” when presented the food. The contestant had demonstrated that he wasn’t teachable, but it is up to the teacher to maintain self-control with all his students. The contestant was humiliated on national television.

Worse, the show has added twists to the competition this year that seem unnecessarily hurtful in that they are designed to force contestants to compete in a cold-hearted, hard-boiled way.

Worst of all was the glee with which one contestant gloated over the stumblings and failings of one fellow contestant who was eventually chopped. She said nasty things about him and chortled at him in all his stress.

Once the nastiness can is opened all the worms come out. Talking smack about the other contestants only goes down hill from there.

In previous years contestants would not say such cutting things about each other. They might say “I think I am a better cook” or “I wouldn’t have handled it that way” but not to say outright “the guy is an idiot and I want him out of here.” That’s why I enjoyed the shows in the first place.

I may have said this before, but with the advent of Netflix, and the ability to engage in binge watching, I notice that year three seems to be the year that a show takes a dark turn. This is holding true for Masterchef. The program is partway through season 4. Season 3 was a highlight because gentle and positive and dignified Christine Ha (Left, who eventually won) projected a high-road respectability that seemed to permeate the competition. The judges were encouraging instead of cutting, too.

I had already opted out of Top Chef, while Food Network Star seems to be headed downhill as well. The focus is now on the infighting between contestants instead of cooking and improving cooking. Nowadays with most even G-rated competition shows, it’s as Tony Soprano said, “Always with the drama, you!

I’ll watch Masterchef one more time, this week, because returning champion Christine Ha is making a guest appearance. After that, it’s American Baking Competition all the way. If the usual trend holds up, I’ve got two and a third years of that show before it takes its dark turn. 

If God doesn’t want us to slander and hates bitterness and malice, then we should not watch shows where the judges OR the contestants exhibit such traits. I’m careful about who to invite into my home. This includes television characters. I don’t like hate speech. God hates it. I don’t want to engage in it or encourage it by allowing its expression inside my home, because it pollutes me.

On last Wednesday’s episode of Masterchef, the fellow contestant’s gleeful hatred and persistent vocalization of a man who by all accounts seemed loyal and kind and skilled and a good dad was too gross to watch any more. This is not entertainment. It’s rebellion.

Be wary of slander. It’s bad not just when we do it. It’s bad when we listen to it in others. It’s bad when we know it will be present in a situation or a TV program but we seek it out anyway. Maybe we even laugh at the insults when they’re talkin’ smack about someone, forgetting that they are still real people even if they are on TV.

Jim Nix Photography, Creative Commons use

“A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4)

This standard is getting harder and harder to apply but we know we are supposed to be having speech that builds up:

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

Is the speech you’re listening to (and thereby accepting into your soul) on movies and TV competition shows good for building up?

Proverbs 18:21 says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

Sobering advice. I know this dramatically shrinks the pool of available entertainment, but… Jesus comes first. Personally, I’ve been slipping. I’ll have to more carefully monitor what I take in via entertainment by using this standard, in addition to working on making sure that I am not talking smack about anyone else!

Some days it seem as though there is SO MUCH room for improvement! Fortunately we have the Holy Spirit who helps us grow into holiness.

“And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:27)