Posted in theology

Sin from the tongue stains our witness and corrupts our ambassadorship

By Elizabeth Prata

Yesterday I was shocked to read a certain tweet from Beth Moore. She had obviously had some kind of interaction on Twitter with a man who was saying some things about her husband, which she did not like. I tried to find the conversation, but could not.

Her tweet stated,

 

“If you make one more remark about my husband, whom you know nothing about, I will reach through this screen and punch you in the nose.”

I have three points.

1. Threats.

After being shocked at the violent language that, Moore, a Bible teacher representing Christ employed, I was more shocked by the sheer numbers of people who came out of the woodwork to defend her statement.

It is never appropriate at any time to state that if someone does not desist you WILL punch them. I recognize that the statement is probably hyperbole. It’s not likely that Moore will go to where the man is and actually punch him. Conscious of safety, Moore herself employs or has in the past employed a bodyguard.

But in this day and age, who can tell? Maybe her followers will do it. I know of people who were angered at someone mentioning Moore in a slightly negatively way online, but in real life some of her followers stalked the person in retaliation. We read of doxxing, too (where personal information and documents are deliberately leaked online, leading to identity theft and worse.)

In this cultural climate, such threats even from a secular person are not appropriate. It’s not “just” hyperbole (as many stated to me) and it’s not “just” defending her husband. If you say such things at the office, you’ll likely be talking to HR and enrolled in an anger management class. Twitter has a block button. If you’re getting angry with someone online, push back from the computer and go your way.

2. Comportment as Ambassadors.

To comport yourself is to conduct yourself or behave in a certain way. Though I appreciate that the world wide web isn’t regulated and is sort of a Wild West, we ourselves are not free to behave in any way we choose. We are Ambassadors of Christ. Self-control is the rule of the day. (Titus 2:5). What does this mean?

An Ambassador is supposed to be a mirror likeness to the one he represents. The definition of an ambassador is: an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign country.

Regenerated people are Ambassadors for Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).

that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s trespasses against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ: Be reconciled to God.

Paul directly ties the ministry of reconciliation to our ambassadorship.

All believers should serve Christ as His ambassadors. Paul’s appeal was not a perfunctory pronouncement but an impassioned plea (“we try to persuade men” [v. 11]) addressed to the world on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God (cf. 1 Tim. 2:3–4). ~The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures.

What Beth Moore said was the opposite of a ministry of reconciliation. It was an extremely poor witness.

In the Roman Empire, there were two kinds of provinces: senatorial provinces and imperial provinces. The senatorial provinces were made up of people who were peaceful and not at war with Rome. They had surrendered and submitted. But the imperial provinces were not peaceful; they were dangerous because they would rebel against Rome if they could. It was necessary for Rome to send ambassadors to the imperial provinces to make sure that rebellion did not break out.

Since Christians in this world are the ambassadors of Christ, this means that the world is in rebellion against God. This world is an “imperial province” as far as God is concerned. He has sent His ambassadors into the world to declare peace, not war. “Be ye reconciled to God!” We represent Jesus Christ (John 20:21; 2 Cor. 4:5). If sinners reject us and our message, it is Jesus Christ who is actually rejected. What a great privilege it is to be heaven’s ambassadors to the rebellious sinners of this world! Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary

3. Scripture violation

The Bible, especially Proverbs, is rife with instructions about our language and the tongue. Here are just a few: Proverbs 15:4, James 1:26, Titus 2:5, Proverbs 21:23, Proverbs 15:1, and remember, teachers are judged MORE strictly- James 3:1.

Moore violated all of them, and there is no defense to that. Please understand ladies, this comment by Beth Moore is violent & doesn’t mirror behavior the Bible calls our women leaders & teachers to engage in as women of “noble character”. (Proverbs 31:10).

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26).

When we ourselves are tempted to say something like Moore did, and we all feel that way sometimes, please remember our Ambassadorship. We are not free agents. We are entrusted to carry a message of reconciliation to the world, in hopes that some will repent and believe.

Please remember our tongues are not our own, and take heed to follow the guides, instructions, and warnings about how we are to speak.

4. Sin spreads.

When sin goes unaddressed, it grows. Paul likened irreverent, empty chatter to gangrene. (2 Timothy 2:16-17). Gangrene spreads fast. Sin spreads fast, too. It is always crouching at the door, wanting to have you, but you must rule over it. (Genesis 4:7). Peter warns us in 1 Peter 5:8 to

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Hurling threats of punching is not being sober minded. Sin wants to devour and it must be addressed immediately.

In a congregation it also must be addressed immediately. Either an individual in his or her prayer closet of a pastor enacting church discipline, sin has to be dealt with or it will grow to proportions with tentacles spread far and wide, as it obviously has in Beth Moore. Undisciplined, coddled, and applauded, her witness has grown increasingly tarnished. Let her unacceptable comportment be a lesson to me and all of us. There is no such thing as stasis. There are only two directions for growth, more like Christ, or less like Christ. There is Cain, and there is Abel. Upward in sanctification, or downward into sin.

Moore is demonstrating the latter. Her life as an object lesson is hard to watch, but instructive for all of us. Deal with your sin. Right away.

Final Thoughts:

I truly believe that most people, Christians included, have no clue as to the depth and the power of our sin. God is sovereign, of course, but sin rules this world. Satan is the god of it (2 Corinthians 4:4).  Satan likes sin, incites sin, and doesn’t have to work too hard to get our flesh to sin. Sin’s power in us must be reigned in and mastered, and it begins with the mind and extends next to the tongue. I sin in this area as do we all.

Just because we live with it all around us, don’t become inured to the failings and corruptions of the tongue. Don’t excuse it. It’s easy to dismiss sinful behavior because we do it ourselves, or we’ve become the frog used to hot water, or any of a thousand reasons. Sin’s power was so great that God sent His Son to die in order to break it. (Romans 6:6). We are SAVED from the penalty of sin and the power of Sin, thanks to Christ’s death and resurrection and the indwelling Holy Spirit. We are heirs with Christ.

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 12-17)

Posted in encouragement, theology

Tug of War with the Tongue

By Elizabeth Prata

I am finding this book by Michael John Beasley called Internet Inferno a tremendously exciting, needed, and convicting book. It’s about our communication online.

Here is what the author wrote on page 55:

1. Whether you are aware of it or not, the world is engulfed in a spiritual war which rages on a daily basis. This war constitutes a battle between God’s true wisdom versus the lies and deceptions of men and satan.

2. Whether you are aware of it or not, whenever you speak, you are taking sides in this spiritual battle, for better or for worse.

3. An individual’s own ignorance of this spiritual battle offers absolutely no excuse when it comes to use of the tongue.

Of all people, the Christian should have a unique awareness of this battle, especially in relation to the potential dangers of the tongue. However, the attainment of this awareness can only come by means of a daily contest aganst sin.

Our school held our annual Field Day last week. One of the events for the kids was the Tug of War. I had taken this photo of the rope, about to be grabbed up by 40 small hands and let the game begin. As I read over Mr Beasley’s words and his use of the word ‘battle’, and I thought of the tug of war.

The tongue wants to give vent to fleshly words of all kinds that dishonor the Lord. We gossip, slander, accuse, puff up, emptily flatter, and more. Whenever we do, we’re, in Beasley’s words, being ‘co-belligerent with satan. When we allow satan to tug on our tongue and say things that ought not to be this way, we are indulging our sin.

It matters not that the person to whom we are communicating is a nameless, faceless person thousands of miles away on the other side of our keyboard. Co-belligerence is partnering with satan. Sin is sin.

When we sin in this way (not ‘if’) we turn to Jesus and ask forgiveness in repentance. We ask Him for the wisdom that comes from above, James 1:5, and it will be given. Pursue that wisdom, not the wisdom that comes from men and satan, the false wisdom lurking in our hearts that spews when we allow satan to tug on it. Bridle the tongue (James 3:2). We herald the Good News from our mouths, not as co-belligerents but as ambassadors.

 

Posted in discernment, theology

Taming the Tongue on Social Media

Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. (James 3:4).

Our boat circa 1995

I was watching my Twitter follow count the last few days. Surprisingly, I was nearing 1,000 followers. That isn’t a lot, but it’s a lot to me. 1,000 is a new and exciting level.

I have two blogs, mirrored on two platforms, (Blogger and WordPress) so that means 4 blogs. The End Time which is this one, with Christian content, and The Quiet Life, about art, crafting, cooking, etc. I’ve got Twitter. I have an Instagram account with a minimal amount of followers. I have two Facebook pages, one called The End Time and the other is the personal one. I have a GoodReads account. I use email. I text to my GroupMe church and sundry church small groups. I have a Pinterest account. I have a Disqus commenting account.

I’ve learned modern terms like ‘reach’ and ‘impressions.’ I have ‘stats’.

Some years ago John MacArthur said that he has never worried about his reach (influence). He focused on the depth and knew the Spirit would take care of the reach.

I was concerned from the very beginning about the depth of my ministry, and I said if I take care of the depth of my ministry, I can leave the breadth of it to God. You know, if it’s something He can use, then He’ll take it where He wants it to go. So I’ve never done anything to take it anywhere.

I took his words to heart and I’ve never done anything overt to push any of my social media. I’ve had The End Time blog for 9 1/2 years and The Quiet Life for 12. I don’t do SEO, I don’t request friends to go look at it, I don’t concentrate on the statistics. I know that the Spirit will put whatever He wants of what I write in front of whom He wants to. I’ll write a little PS to this thought I’ll add at the bottom, though.

I listened to a good sermon this week, twice. We all have a God-given desire to communicate, said Chris Hamilton in his sermon Taming the Tongue on Social Media. We want to be heard.

He said that until recently the opinion making and influence reach was in the hands of a very few people. I remember that time before the internet distinctly. Prior to the internet the Average Joe or Jane remained obscure all his or her life. The only times someone would be guaranteed to get into the paper was when they were born, married, or died. Sometimes your name went into the paper if you went to jail, or were derelict in paying property taxes. That’s it. Opining on the culture wars of the day, publishing books or poetry, presenting your photography portfolio, announcing things on television, wase left to others, a very few others. Cut to today:

The agenda of public thought and discourse is no longer set by a few people in the news networks [and newspapers]. It’s set by just about anyone, such as wannabe celebrities, rap artists, actors, or minor journalists. There has been a rush of human beings to become a source of data, perspective, leadership, and influence with words…~Chris Hamilton

Now, billions of people every day say things on any social media that they want.

Before we’re saved, the desire to be heard is a sinful desire. Even when we have good intentions, our sin-nature means that the desire to communicate is always self-glorifying at some level. We can’t help it. The utter depravity of man is never more on display than when posted on social media. ~Chris Hamilton

The tongue is a restless evil and a poison.” (James 3:8b).

After salvation, the Bible is clear on right speech and wrong speech, giving over many verses to the subject. A major series of verses are in James 3. Here is Chris Hamilton with 12 ways the Bible says we are to use our tongue-

1.   Confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord. Romans 10:9
2.   Teach God’s word (we all teach in some capacity. Deuteronomy 11:19; Heb 13:7
3.   Speak of God. Psalm 71:8
4.   Preach the Gospel. Matthew 28:20, Romans 10:14, 1 Timothy 4:12
5.   Speak truth. Ephesians 4:25
6.   Building each other up. Ephesians 4:29, 1 Timothy 5:14
7.   Admonish one another (warning using the word of God, not our opinion). Colossians 3:16a
8.   Sing. Colossians 3:16b
9.   Expressing thankfulness. Colossians 3:16c, Ephesians 5:20
10. Pray. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
11. Confess sin. James 5:16
12. To make a defense and give a hope that is within us. 1 Peter 3:15

God gave us a tongue and told us how to use it, but we are unable to comply without the saving grace of God.

The tongue is a rudder. This is the rudder on our boat. The boat weighed 23,000 pounds. A small shaft running through the rudder and connected to the steering wheel was all that made the yacht go where we wanted.

the boat out of the water, exposing the rudder

As for participation on the internet and social media: it calls for WISDOM.

James 3 goes from a discussion of the tongue straight into wisdom. Think about why that might be for a minute…

This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (James 3:15-17)

Is our conduct on social media:
pure,
peaceable,
gentle,
reasonable
full of mercy ?

Or is our conduct on social media

earthly,
unspiritual,
demonic ?

At minimum we should be thinking about that before we press send.

As Mr Hamilton preached, And then there is the case of silence. Not speaking. Saying nothing. No words. Silence can be an expression of worship, humility, wisdom, chastening, etc. God did not give us a tongue in order to remain silent. Obviously. No command in scripture says to not use words. But consider our contribution to the internet and whether, in some cases, a response might not be necessary. Silence can reign supreme sometimes. It’s OK. (Ecclesiastes 3:7; Ecclesiastes 5:2; Revelation 8:1).

Silence also protects our own ignorance. Let us (me) not put our own ignorance on display. (Proverbs 10:19).

We can and should remain silent in response to the foolishness and sin of others. (1 Peter 2:21-22, referring to Christ’s trial, where He remained silent). And a case is made to remain silent in the face of conflict. (Proverbs 26:17).

Mr Hamilton was tough on Christian participation in social media. His stance was that using social media to promote the name of Jesus is good and fine, but if we do that, we are entering territory that is teaching. And the scripture says not many of you should become teachers. He is right. He said to his immediate audience, “some of you should stand down.” He is right again.

I thought about it for a long time, and as appropriate, applied the scriptures and the warning to myself. Should I stand down? How is my tongue? I meditated.

On the other hand, we do have this marvelous opportunity to, within our sphere, encourage, lift up, share verses, learn of others’ burdens so we can shoulder them, and so on. I do feel called to teach and I employ that online. (My foremost priority are the real people in my real church life though).

These are some of the stats of the most popular ‘Christian’ teachers online today. Their evil influence reaches millions.

PS: As for my own reach & influence, I am not concerned with the reach or the stats but I’m highly concerned with my content- that it’s accurate and edifying.

With all the false out there masquerading as truth, how can I NOT promote Jesus, share credible ministries, offer true interpretations of the Bible’s words, with every means possible? The world will always love its own. But as long as I have a tongue in my head or an online connection, here I speak, I can do no other.

With the Lord’s help and Chris Hamilton’s words and admonishments ringing in my ears, I pray that as I do speak, it’s pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy. I face a stricter judgment. And that does give one pause.

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

The Tongue is a Rudder: A Sailing Story

I lived on a sailboat and cruised up and down the eastern seaboard for two years. Just as there is with any lifestyle, there are niches within that lifestyle. The circumnavigators go around the world, traveling for weeks across the seas from one continent to another. These folks are serious, and they generally have sold all they own and permanently live on their boat.

Then there were people like us who lived aboard and cruised along the shoreline. Live-aboard cruisers don’t usually venture far out to sea, though we may be without sight of land for hours or a day or so on an overnight passage. We usually keep our houses and relationship attachments, live this way for a period of time, and then return to life on shore. This is called “swallowing the anchor”. For liveaboards like is cruising is more of an adventure than a way of live.

Then there are the folks who own a sailboat and dock it at a yacht club and sail for a few hours on the weekend. Many of these folks dream of living aboard or circumnavigating but haven’t been able to do so yet.

Though there are tiers of sailors with varying levels of commitment and skill, the Sea can be kind or cruel to each one of us. When an emergency happens while sailing on the ocean it’s just as life threatening whether you’re near shore or in the middle of the ocean.

Annie C. Maguire wreck. Portland ME. EPrata photo
photo Collections of ME Historical Society. FMI on the wreck- Source

My husband and I had sailed from Maine to Florida with a variety of passages that included motoring down the Intracoastal Waterway,sailing across huge Rivers and Sounds, and making some offshore overnight ocean passages. We’d finally arrived at Fort Lauderdale’s Las Olas anchorage, the traditional launching off point to cross the Gulf Stream to the nearby nation of The Bahamas. It’s 50 miles, but a tricky 50 miles.

The Gulf Stream is a fast moving river of water atop the ocean. The Gulf Stream is about 60 miles wide and runs at an average surface speed of 5.5 mph. Since the boat can sail at around 5 mph it means that the combined speed plus the Gulf Stream’s fast northward push means you have to make exact navigation maths and be on constant vigilance. You could get pushed to Ireland if you’re not careful. A worse disaster would be pushed a few miles, or even a few feet off course and wind up on the rocks, shipwrecked on the shores of a foreign nation or in hazardous waters.

You need to stay on your toes regarding weather. You’ll be traveling in open ocean, the islands are low, some anchorages will be exposed on one or more sides, and there will be potentially rough passages through reefs and cuts between islands. Source

The warm waters of the Gulf Stream (red). FL is at bottom,
the topmost island left side is town of West End, Grand Bahama Island.

So you start off from Ft. Lauderdale and let the Gulf Stream push you north and your sails push you east toward the intended harbor. The biggest danger is a wind that flows from the north tot he south, and meets the Gulf Stream waters moving from the south heading north. The collisions of southerly flowing air and northerly flowing fast water makes for a steep waves. Steep waves are rough because the front part of the boat (the bow) goes up and then down fast. At least with a rolling wave the boat can roll with it. A steep chop makes the boat pound. Pounding is hard on everyone and is hard on the boat.

Because crossing over the Gulf Stream is a bit dangerous and not for the fainthearted, mariners usually take off from the anchorage in little groups. Safety in numbers. Not that if anything happens we can go from one boat to another to troubleshoot the problem, but if the worst happens we can rescue a person from the water or call for the Coast Guard for help and stand by.

So our little clutch set off in the dark hours, so we would arrive at a time when the rising sun would be over our shoulders and not in our eyes. The weather report was for gentle winds flowing north, which would actually help flatten the Gulf Stream waters.

All was well … sailing over the bounding main … for a while.

The wind unexpectedly shifted from the south to the north, creating that dreaded sharp, steep chop. The boats took a pounding. Then the rain and thunder and lighting started. It was dark and it was rough.Then…one of the boats’ rudders broke.

I think you know how important a rudder is. It is a tiny thing, relatively speaking, a small part of the boat. Not heavy like the motor, not showy like the sails. However it’s the most critical part, since it steers the boat. Without the rudder, our friend’s yacht was drifting helplessly in the storm, in the Gulf Stream, toward the reefs. They were at the mercy of waves, rocks, and winds. They had no control and it was terrifying.

When we put bits into the mouths of the horses to make them obey us, we can guide the whole animal. Consider ships as well. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot is inclined. In the same way, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it boasts of great things! James 3:3-5

A small rudder can guide the whole boat. A small muscle like the tongue can guide the whole body. With the rudder not guiding the boat, it was at the mercy of other more destructive things than the pilot’s inclination. Just like the tongue. The ‘pilot’ must be in control of the tongue so it does not become subjugated to other, more destructive things like slander, gossip, tale-bearing, and criticism. These are the rocks and reefs of relationships, as Jude describes in Jude 1:12-13, using the same sailing metaphors of waves, reefs, and winds.

I was busy handling our boat and my husband was on the VHF radio in contact with the stricken vessel. We all had slowed down and were kind of trying to circle around them and stay close. It was hard to do so in the storm. Eventually the other men talked him through and somehow he got his rudder fixed.

We were off course by then so we had to regroup and figure out how to get back on track. The winds were still high and we were in the hump of the Gulf Stream, the current was flowing fast. Entering West End Grand Bahama was a tricky maneuver of sliding between reefs through a narrow channel. We were off by a few feet. However you can see the destruction ready for the unwary in the Annie C. Maguire vintage photo above. They were only off by a few feet also.

Providentially, there was a Good Samaritan who happened to be carrying a VHF radio who happened to be walking the beach who guided us in. If he had not been there we would have ended up on the rocks. It’s another example of how the Lord protected me until the appointed time for salvation, 13 years later.

I’ll never forget the terror of our friends losing their rudder. Even though the James verse about taming the tongue by using marine metaphors is vividly alive for me, I still failed in this last week. I’ve repented. After listening to a lecture by Justin Peters on the importance of wholesome talk and the destructive inclinations of the tongue by gossip I will do better this week. I do not want to end up on the rocks for correction. I am the pilot. I am in charge of my boat. With the Holy Spirit to guide me safely to port, I know I have all the help I need.

EPrata photo

The dark blob in the foreground is a coral head. Their sharpness can rip the keel or underside of your boat like a razor. The boat with two men on it is grounded. The water gets shallow very fast in The Bahamas. In the middle horizon, those brown humps are the land, which is just a few feet above sea level. Now picture trying to find the right channel, in the dark, in a storm, on 0 sleep in the last 24 hours.