The Cheap Seats: Controlling Our Opinions

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24

The “cheap seats” is a simple term to describe a location in a stadium, in particular, older stadiums. In this day and age, most areas are built with nothing cheap and with the attender in mind. But back in the day, the “cheap seats” were economical for a reason. They were far from the action, many times your view was inhibited by a pillar or by distance, yet you got to have full participation in the moment without the cost others paid.

Today I write from a place of brokenness; a heart of humility. Psalm 139:23-24 is what I pray almost daily. Before I start my day, write a message, type of blog, meet with an individual, post on social media, or…whatever, I whisper those words of the Psalmist.

Search me, O God…show me any grievous way within me…”

Why do I do that? Because without that heart, I end up buying tickets in the “cheap seats.”

What are the “cheap seats” I speak of? They are the places in life that many of us like to live life. They are places where we like to hurl our opinions over someone (or a situation) even though (1) we are far from the action, (2) have limited insight to the situation, and (3) get to have full participation with little to no personal cost.

The cheap seats are great for keeping your distance so you’re not “associated with a person” while making a seemingly righteous stance. This feeble and destructive response has image of Godliness but has nothing to do with Jesus. Why? It’s all about exalting self. Without bringing my heart into check, I make myself look better by publicly (or in my circle of friends) shaming or taking a stab at someone else.

Christians friends, in the words of James, “…this should not be” (James 3:10). We have to be better; we must do better.

Do you want to stand for righteousness? Me too.
Do you want to see holiness in people lives? Me too.
Do you want to see those of influence have a greater impact in the opportunities they’re given? Me too.

Can you do better with your gossip? Me too.
Can you use better self-control with your social media? Me too.
Can you be a better listener? Me too.
Can you do better at treating people with kindness? Me too

Can we be better at halting our immediate response to any situation by starting with a moment of personal repentance (Psalm 139)?

Me too.

Maybe it’s time we stop being season ticket owners in the cheap seats. We all like to sit in them. You can find the “cheap seats” in the church halls, at coffee shops, or on social media. They’re easy to find.

These past couple weeks, seeing the amount of people buying their “cheap seat” tickets to Lauren Daigle’s interview has been astounding. Lauren responded to a question in a way many Christ-followers are not happy with. Personally, I wish she gave a better answer. But then again, that’s my “cheap seat” response. Armed with my 20/20 hindsight and my “cheap seat” location, it’s painless to dissect her and others of influence and affluence. It’s easy to say we’d do better (at least we’d like to think we would) if we had the opportunity.

But I’ve wondered over this past week? What has been more damaging to the body of Christ? A singer’s answer or our responses? A moment missed (in many people’s opinions) or an example we’ve made to the world of how we handle people in our ranks that we don’t agree with?

Do people do the same thing to me as a preacher? Probably. Honestly, I do it to myself. Most Sundays, I walk away from the pulpit thinking that about my sermons. “I wish I had said something better. I could have done better with the moment/opportunity I was given.

What should our response have been with Lauren’s statement (and others to come)? I believe it starts here:

Search me, O God…show me any grievous way within me...”

Before we pick up a rock to throw and a judgement to hurt, can we start with ourselves? Can we check out motives first? Can we exercise Matthew 18 of shutting our slander and dealing with offense with others in a healthy personal way? Please note: Loving others and exercising self-control isn’t a stamp of approval for someone’s decisions or lifestyle. It’s a display of the Fruit of the Spirit. Reactionary posts to make yourself look better only mar our lives with pride and self-righteousness.

The more I start with me first, the less rocks I have to throw at others. The more I begin with my own heart, the better I handle someone else’s heart.

We can do better as the Body of Christ. We must do better.  For if Jesus was a friend of sinners, why can’t that be said of us too?

So Lord, before I ask a reader to this blog to respond to this challenge of personal repentance, please start with me.

Search me, O God…show me any grievous way within me…”

 

Love you all. Praying for you today.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Use your inside voice: 5 Thoughts on Your Marital Tone

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18

“Use your inside voice” has been a parenting tactic for years. For some parents, it’s an attempt at telling a child to “quiet down” but in a nicer way. Randomly, I hear parents tell this to their kids in the grocery store and, every once in a while, I hear a kid say back, “this is my inside voice.”  For other parents, there is a greater lesson they are trying to teach: tone stewardship.

Let me explain.

In most of the pastoral counseling I do, I can trace most issues back to communication. It’s why I talk constantly about the 3 “Ts” of communication (time, tone, and technique). But of the three, tone seems like one that is the “game-changer.”

I’ve heard it said that “10% of conflicts is due to difference in opinion, and 90% is due to wrong tone of voice.” (Na Mariz) Your tone can create urgency or foster peace. It can bring passion or it can communicate displeasure. A forceful tone can speak of a lack of sensitivity just as much as sarcastic tone can miscommunicate indifference. Just a change in the fluctuation of your voice can make or break what needs to be said. What if, what you are trying to say, is getting lost in your tone?

What if the tone you’ve chosen isn’t as effective as you think it is? What if your tone is destroying everything your trying to communicate? So I thought I’d give you some “tone” thoughts.

You possess more than one tone.
It almost sounds overly simple. Yet I see so many marriages that do not adjust or manage their tone with each other. I hear statements like, “This is who I am” or “This is how my family talks to each other.” You you may be correct from one point of view, those statements are either ignorance of what your tones are doing to your spouse or you are giving yourself permission to not work personally on something. Tones can make or break a symphony. Your tone can add to the harmony of good communication or completely disrupt it.

Be a better listener. 
Many issues I come across are misguided reactions to misunderstood information. Listening isn’t waiting for your turn to talk. It’s engaging in someone’s context (their situation) and request (what are they really asking for). I often wonder if we seek to understand, rather than be understood, we’d have a better tone to our communication.  Your tone signifies what you are really listening to. For example, your spouse may be trying to tell you how hurt they are. If you don’t listen, your tone can be defensive over assuming you are the cause to the hurt. Where you’re busy defending yourself, you spouse may have needed a softer tone of understanding than a reactionary tone of defensiveness.

Learn to hear what people hear. 
I don’t like what I sound like. It’s one of the reasons why I struggle listening to my sermons the next day for evaluation. I’ll sit back and say, “Is that what I really sound like?” What you may hear coming out of your mouth may not be what people hear. Ever had a “fight within a fight”? This is one of those moments. You’re fighting over something, then a tone comes in, and now you’re fighting over the tone you used that your spouse took the “wrong way.”  If the people in your life are hearing what you are not hearing, it’s time to step back and realize: If I am the common denominator, then I may have a common problem. Self evaluation is more than the identification of issues. It’s a an understanding that you have more to grow in.

Stop giving yourself permission to be offensive. 
I grow weary of hearing the excuse “If people get offended by the truth, well, that’s their fault.” I partially agree with the statement. As a preacher, I have no problem confronting people with God’s Word but I don’t have to be a jerk about it. Being “truthful” has become the excuse to blast people all in the name of Jesus. Don’t leave a wake of mess behind you. Your mouth and it’s tone are gifts for you bless not curse; a vessel to be managed not to be enslaved by.

Keep conversations that demand tone offline.
I tire of messages from people who’ve decided to engage in conversations online that have blown up because it was a dialogue that demanded tone. For example, you type a message of apology to help convey your heartfelt request for forgiveness but also want to help the person understand why you reacted in the way they did. The person on the other side of the message reads: “I’m sorry. But my reaction was your fault but I’m going to be the bigger person and apologize first.” I’ve learned that I can emoji the crap out of a message in an attempt to develop some “tone,” but it does not replace the inflection of a voice and the gentleness of a humble heart that can only be conveyed in an audible tone.

I go back to my opening scripture,

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18

How often are we to point the finger requesting that your spouse step up first? How often to we demand him/her to change before we’ll offer any more change? This simple scripture points to our hearts and says, “Stop blaming others for not being the source of peace. Go after peace as if it all depends upon you.”

Your tone is your responsibility. And your tone can make or break your communication.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

2 Minute Devo: What are you thinking Day 16

We’re focusing on what the Bible says about the “mind” and how that affects us.  Spend time on the devo and take a minute or two to ponder what the Word is challenging you to do.

Matthew 12:33-34

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

You may already know that October is Breast Cancer awareness month. There is a group doing a special event auctioning three unique pieces of furniture. All the proceeds of the sale will go towards Breast Cancer awareness charities.
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2 Minute Devo Series: Book of Matthew Day 13

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Welcome to our 2 Minute Devos.  This month we’re going through the Book of Matthew.  Take the time to read through the passage of the day and listen to the 2 Minute Devo.

Matthew 12

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

12 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them,“Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you,something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

A Man with a Withered Hand

He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

God’s Chosen Servant

15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all16 and ordered them not to make him known. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
    my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
    and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
    nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
21     and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them,“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either inthis age or in the age to come.

A Tree Is Known by Its Fruit

33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil?For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 forby your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

The Sign of Jonah

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

Return of an Unclean Spirit

43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers

46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.[a] 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

2 Minute Devo: “Joyful actions” Psalm 98

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September is our journey through the 2 minute series called “Restoring Joy”.  I want to invite you to join me as we. It’s as simple as viewing  the vlog and reading the passage for the day.  Today’s passage is Psalm 98:

Psalm 98

Oh sing to the Lord a new song,

    for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made known his salvation;
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together
before the Lord, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.

2 Minute Devo: “Whatever you do” 1 Cor. 10:31

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August is our journey through the 2 minute series called “Watch Your Mouth”.  I want to invite you to join me as we. It’s as simple as viewing  the vlog and reading the passage for the day.  Today’s passage is

1 Corinthians 10:31

31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

2 Minute Devo: “Create” Genesis 1:3

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August is our journey through the 2 minute series called “Watch Your Mouth”.  I want to invite you to join me as we. It’s as simple as viewing  the vlog and reading the passage for the day.  Today’s passage is Genesis 1:3:

Genesis 1:3

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.