Speaking the Truth in Love: Lessons from a Loose Cannon


Historically, cannons have been a huge asset on the battlefield. Because of their power and range, they could do a tremendous amount of damage to the enemy. There were probably few sights more intimidating to an opposing soldier than a long row of bristling iron muzzles pointing at him from across the field.

To keep a cannon from becoming a liability to your own forces, however, you have to ensure that it keeps pointing in the right direction. The recoil from propelling heavy projectiles forward at a high rate of speed causes the cannon to lurch backward, and often slightly to one side or the other. If not corrected, this would obviously result in disastrous friendly-fire casualties. To minimize this risk, soldiers would sometimes stake down their cannons to keep them from getting too far off target.

Okay, so what does this have to do with Ephesians 4:15?

I think our mouths can be analogized to cannons. Properly aimed, my mouth can do a great deal of damage to the enemy. I can speak words of truth that demolish Satan's strongholds and reduce falsehood to rubble. I can also launch projectiles of love that batter down stoney defenses and open the way for the healing invasion of grace. But our mouths also have the potential to cause tremendous harm to our own side. To prevent friendly fire, they must be chained down with the twin restrains of a loving manner and adherence to biblical truth.

If I launch into battle with a fierce commitment to biblical accuracy, but without the restraint of a loving manner, not only am I not going to be very effective against the enemy, but just like a cannon that is carelessly tied down on only one side, and eventually works its way around until it is launching cannonballs at its own side, sooner or later I am going to start firing broadsides into the ranks of my fellow soldiers. Likewise, if my speech is carefully calculated to avoid offending anyone, but I cast off the restraint of biblical accuracy, I will also inevitably end up hurting my own side.

Friends, we're in a real battle; a life and death struggle over who God is, and what He's like. It's a battle for the hearts and minds of men, a battle of ideas and belief - and words are the ammunition. The words  we speak will make an impact - on one side or the other! Let's make sure the words that come out of our mouths are both truthful, and loving.



Recognizing and Choosing Treasure


This morning I read from Matthew 13, about the treasure hidden in the field, and about the pearl of great price. I was thinking about the characters in those stories - how each man recognized the import of the choice with which he was confronted, and each acted decisively in choosing the option of highest value. 

Earlier this week, our Duke Bible study group "storied" the account of the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17–27. I couldn't help drawing parallels between the stories. The young man was also confronted with a choice between holding onto his possessions--his earthly security--and letting go in order to grasp something of far greater value. Unlike the characters in the parables, the young man walked away without attaining the treasure, either because he failed to recognize the significance of the offer, or because he was unable to take the steps necessary to grasp it.

Considering these three stories, I began to pray that, if confronted with a similarly momentous choice, God would give me (1) the discernment to recognize its import, and (2) the fortitude to step out actually make the right choice. 

Then something occurred to me. Wait a minute--what was it that Naaman's servant said to him? "My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, 'Wash, and be clean?' " (2 Kings 5:13 KJV). Naaman almost missed a pearl of great price because he thought it was some little thing!

Or what about Luke 16:10: "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much"? (Note: Christ's Object Lessons pp. 356-58, and Messages to Young People, pp. 143-145 provide awesome commentary on this passage.) 

Maybe the choices I face every day--the little things: whether to keep eating after I'm comfortably full, whether to read that frivolous story on Wired, whether to go to bed early so I can wake up and spend sufficient time with God in the morning--maybe these little things are the biggest determinants of what I will do when confronted with a treasure-in-the-field choice...  

Remember the two required qualities to get it right when confronted with one of these choices: the discernment to recognize the significance of the decision, and the fortitude to actually choose the right option, even when it seems contradictory to conventional wisdom? 

Being faithful in little decisions develops both of these character qualities! 

Recognizing significant moral decisions requires that we develop a clear channel of communication with the Holy Spirit, and train our spiritual senses to be sensitive to moral choices. And actually making the right choice when it counts is conditioned by our habitual choices in simple, everyday situations.

"[W]e act on the principles to which [w]e have accustomed [ourselves]. Thus actions repeated form habits, habits form character, and by the character our destiny for time and for eternity is decided." COL 356

Lord, I want to be the kind of person who has the discernment to recognize the right course of action to take in difficult circumstances, and the courage to take that path. Please help me to see the importance of my simple, everyday choices in developing that kind of character.



Bountiful Blessings Part 1

I've already shared these blessings with many of you, but in case you haven't heard about the awesomely kind experiences God arranged for me in connection with my surprise trip to Belize over Christmas Break, this is for you. My hope is that you come away with a deeper sense of the loving character of our God!

In case you haven't heard, I've kind of adopted the MOVE Missionary Training Institute. I am currently in school, and while there are tremendous opportunities for outreach, my ability to do foreign missions is somewhat limited by that fact. So God, knowing how much I appreciate foreign mission experiences, and looking for ways to stretch a

nd teach me, has kindly connected me with a terrific group of missionaries in Belize. I've been to visit a couple of times in the past year to help out with various projects, and each has been the occasion of much growth, blessing, adventure, and divine appointments.

So when I heard that MOVE was going to be hosting a Missions Congress in December, I definitely wanted to participate if God opened the doors. However, when several friends from MOVE contacted me at the beginning of November to ask me if I was coming, I had to admit that it didn't look like I was going to be able to come. First of all, the conference was scheduled for December 19–22, and my exam period didn't end until December 20. Second, the price of roundtrip tickets to Belize is normally around $700, but since it was right around Christmas, the price was even higher. I don't currently have a job, and I didn't feel like I could afford to spend that much money from my savings.

I regretfully replied that it didn't look like I would be able to come, but I would keep praying about it. I then proceeded to plan my Christmas Break without a trip to Belize. Towards the end of December, while dreaming about visiting MOVE during Spring Break, I happened to see an ad on Google for cheap tickets to Belize. I never click on those ads. (I am mystified that anybody does, but also thankful that whole world doesn't have my philosophy, because then there wouldn't be any Gmail, or Blogger, or Voice, etc.) Anyway, I saw an ad that listed a flight for Belize for $400. I clicked on it, just for information's sake, with very low expectations, and discovered that it was referring to a flight in December! From Charlotte, NC (about two hours from where I live)!

Let me explain. I have looked for tickets from the US to Belize many times over the past year, and I have never seen any for below $650–$700, at least from my general area. Now, less than a month before the busiest time of the year for Belize tourism (I think that's a safe assumption), a ticket opens up for half of what it had been just three weeks earlier, and substantially cheaper than I had ever previously (or since) seen it! Wow! God is amazing!

There was just one other problem. To get a seat for the price, I would have to leave early in the morning on Wednesday, December 18. But I had one final scheduled for Wednesday the 18th, one on Thursday the 19th, and a paper due Friday the 20th. :(

But wait! Just a few days before, the professor administering the exam on Thursday had decided to switch the exam format from a three hour in-class exam to an eight hour take-home exam, available any day of exam period! I immediately (at 10:00 pm) wrote to the professor in charge of my Wednesday exam and asked if there was any way I could take the exam the day before. Long story short, by the next morning, he had worked out a unique arrangement with the Registrar to allow students in his class to take the exam either on Tuesday or Wednesday! The next day, after some serious prayer, counsel with my parents, and not much sleep, I purchased the tickets.

That was when the real miracle began. Because I had committed to flying to Belize on Wednesday the 18th, that meant that I had to make do with an exam period 33% shorter that of my classmates. I had just three and a half weeks to finish my classes, write a paper about constitutional interpretation, and study for and take three eight-hour exams (Religious Liberty, Intellectual Property, and Nonprofit Organizations). Needless to say, I lived a pretty concentrated life for that period of time, but God is faithful! Thanks especially to the prayers and encouragement of my family and some dedicated friends, I endured, and at 3:30 am Wednesday, December 19, I was in my car, on my way to catch a plane to Belize!

(to be continued)


Getting an Education in Babylon: Seven Principles for Success


This is a study I put together for our ACF group at the beginning of the school year. I ran across it recently, and thought I would share it. Many of us are starting a new semester, and sometimes it's always good to be reminded of God's principles for academic success.

These ideas are based on Daniel 1; 2:20-30; 6:1-10
  1.  Trials are going to come. Knowing this,  purpose ahead of time not to dishonor God.
  2.  Be mindful of the link between physical and mental health.
  3. Understand the ultimate source of academic success - as well as its purpose.
  4. Be friendly. You don't know how God will use your relationships with others to be a blessing to them and to you!
  5. Make it a habit to be honest. It's the little things that determine character.
  6. Complete your responsibilities with diligence. It will distinguish you, honor God, and give you an opportunity to witness.
  7. Set aside time for regular prayer and bible study.  Be faithful, even in stressful situations!



Righteous before Men?

"Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." Matthew 6:1 (NIV)

Today during devotions God put his finger right on one of my sore spots. Matthew 6 makes the same point in several different ways: don't give to the needy publicly; don't pray publicly, don't fast publicly; i.e., seek approbation from God for your spiritual good works, not from men.

I am a chronic men's-approval-seeker. Ever seen a dog rolling in something nasty? That's what it's like - I revel in the thought that others think well of me. I justify it with a million reasons, but in reality, it's as disgusting to God as a dog rolling in filth is to me. 


I'm doing at least two things when I seek man's applause: the things that I make believe I'm giving to God, I'm actually sacrificing to idols; and I'm mentally (even if not outwardly) expropriating glory/recognition that belongs to God.


Lord, please forgive me for being a chronic men's-approval-seeker! Now that you've given me my accurate diagnosis, would you give me your complete cure? Help me to fear God, and not man. Amen.