Sunday, November 28, 2010

Permission To Speak Freely




This message was originally published as a Facebook note.

I received a message from a new Facebook friend a few weeks ago. She noted that I seemed to do a lot of evangelism on Facebook and she had a question about it. She’d been posting things related to abortion on her page. Her position like most of us is against abortion. She received a lot of criticism from her mostly non-Christian friends over it. Her question was, “Am I wrong to post these things on my page?”

Before responding, I thought about whether I was someone she would listen to. Who was I to tell her what to post on her wall? And what qualified me an expert on abortion? I decided to respond based on two things; she approached me for advice. Something I’d done or said gave me credibility in her eyes. Secondly, God had been instructing me on how we communicate to one another. This was a communication issue and I felt I had something worthwhile to share.

I told her I wasn’t an expert on abortion and I didn’t really know God’s heart on the matter. Before we go any further, let me explain this statement. Many Christians hold the view that God hates abortion; many - but not all. Jesus didn’t teach on it, nor is it mentioned in the epistles. There are vague Old Testament references to it, but there are also times when God demanded the systematic annihilation of women and children. All this is to say, some would argue that God’s heart on abortion is not clearly articulated in scripture.

I explained to her that some people, like Kris Valloton have received personal revelation from the Lord on abortion. They have dreams and visions in which the Lord has revealed his heart to them, which according to Kris is strongly opposed to it. But at this time, God has not spoken to me even once about it. I fear being presumptuous if I were to speak on something the Lord has not spoken to me about.

It’s my belief that God gives all of us certain subjects to speak on. As we receive revelation from Him on those things, we’re given both his heart about them, and an audience to hear the message. My suggestion to her was that perhaps she has neither the revelation, nor the audience for this particular message. She replied and agreed that perhaps she’d been presumptuous.

There was much I didn’t tell her. I didn’t tell her that I seldom engage in Facebook evangelism. Nearly all of my friends on this profile are believers. Why would I evangelize them? I didn’t tell her that (in my opinion) posting abortion propaganda is a poor way to reach the lost. I’m not sure it’s wise to post an inflammatory message that condemns without pointing to the solution.

Then there’s the problem of evangelizing friends and family. Jesus said that a prophet is not honored by his friends and family. Reaching the people we’re close to is an incredibly difficult task. For those of you who don’t know, I created the Praying Medic profile partly so that my spiritual activities would not be a constant irritation to my friends and family who are not saved.

A thorny problem wouldn’t you agree?

My friends post things on my wall on a variety of subjects; abortion, persecution, the end times and the rapture, heresy, the spread of Islam, missions and many others. I know they mean well. I know these things are dear to them. But I seldom respond to most of them, because I never know what to say. I’ve received almost no revelation from the Lord on any of these subjects. I have a lot of opinions on them. What I don’t have is God’s heart on any of them. If I speak on these subjects without knowing God’s heart, I’m just another clanging cymbal in a noisy theater of debate. My opinions are no more useful than yours.

When Jesus walked the earth, he could have discussed anything he wanted. But he didn't. He said that the words he spoke were restricted; they were only the words the Father had given him. Jesus restrained his speech to the point that he only discussed the things He’d received from His Father. (John 14:10)

When Jesus explained the ministry of the Holy Spirit, He said that likewise, the Spirit would not speak on his own accord, but would take only the things given to him and declare them to us. (John 16:13) Neither the Spirit nor the Son exercised freedom to speak as they wanted. They restricted their conversations to only what was authorized by the Father.

I find that astounding. There is built into the kingdom of God a hierarchy of revelation. Have you ever noticed that in the book of Revelation, both men and angels are frequently receiving orders from the Lord about what to say, what to write and what was to be sealed up or left unspoken? What do you think would have happened if the messengers said whatever they felt like saying instead of obeying the Lord?

How much more should we, as children of God restrain our speech as they did?

The twelfth chapter of Romans is one of the most complete discussions on Christian behavior. Paul addresses the idea of different levels and areas of gifting in verses 3-8.

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

The point here is the fact that we are called to do different things in the body. We have different assignments. We’re given different levels of faith and divine enablement (grace) for the things we’re called to. Along with our assignment comes individual revelation from God on how we’re to carry it out. This is what Jesus referred to when he said the Holy Spirit would declare things to us. Revelation from the Holy Spirit is customized information designed just for us. It contains the information we’re authorized to speak on. The Holy Spirit also gives us the authority and power to perform the duties we’re assigned to.

Paul said we shouldn't think too highly of ourselves, but to think soberly. What he's getting at is a realistic assessment of who we are, what we're called to do and say and what we're not called to do or say. Some of us are called to prophesy, some to leadership, some to giving, some to teaching, but no one does them all. We need to recognize the restrictions placed on each of us. It's when we believe we’re gifted in all things and have an answer for every question that troubles arise. We begin to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to.

For most of us, there are a handful of areas in which we are called to operate in and a vast number in which we aren’t. True humility is an honest recognition of what things you are and are not called by God to operate in or speak about.

If you read my notes and status updates, you’ll notice that my posts cover a narrow range of subjects - mostly healing, dreams and prophetic ministry. This is because 90% of my revelation from the Lord is on these subjects. He gives me the revelation and the audience for these messages. For some subjects the audience is only a few people. For some it’s much larger. God always decides who gets to hear the message. He’s also given me an amazing level of protection from criticism, when I speak what he’s given me to the right audience.

I know what would happen if I chose to speak on things I’m not authorized to speak on. I wouldn’t have a receptive audience. I’d regurgitate weak arguments that lack conviction. And I’d come under attack from people who oppose me. It’s possible that the reason the enemy doesn’t stir up attacks against me is because I’m under the safety umbrella provided by walking only in the areas I’m called to.

It’s tempting to weigh in on all the subjects being bantered around on Facebook. I have a lot of opinions and I’m an extrovert, by nature. But there is peace, safety and great grace on those who restrict their conversation to only what the Father has given them.

My encouragement is to consider your words carefully. When giving an opinion, ask yourself if it’s something you’ve heard from the Lord on, personally. Is it a subject God has given you grace to speak on? Ask yourself if the audience will be receptive to your words. Consider using restraint if none of these are true.
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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Speak The Truth In Love



Earlier this year, I had the following dream:

In the dream I was an observer. I watched as the Commander of the Lord’s army came to inspect His troops. He evaluated many things, then had a word with His leaders and left. There was a staff meeting afterward. The leaders discussed the only deficiency found by the Lord’s Commander – it was our conversation. We were giving away things to the enemy that they didn’t know, which was then used it against us. An order went out to reign in all conversations that weren’t beneficial or that were critical of others.

I wrote about the strategic implications of the dream previously. That message can be found here.

The dream left me confused and dismayed for a while. How could I have gotten things so wrong?

If I had to pick the things I wanted to see corrected in the church, I would have come up with a different list.

What about holiness?

What about prayer?

What about giving?

What about evangelism?

What about truth?

Didn’t any of these things matter to God?

How could the words we speak be of such great importance?

His ways are not our ways, nor are His thoughts our thoughts.

The apostle John said that he rejoiced when he found some of the brethren walking in the truth (2 John 1:4). Paul had words of correction for the churches of Corinth and Galatia. The epistles are a mixture of words affirming the positive and correcting the negative things found in the church. We don’t question whether the apostles had the authority to correct others.

Why not?
They were given their positions by God, being personally picked and discipled by Jesus. They were directed by the Holy Spirit how and where to build fellowships. They labored for years at great cost to themselves, suffering persecution and poverty for the sake of nurturing their fellowships. The revelation of truth they taught came directly from the Holy Spirit. And they developed personal relationships with the ones they instructed. Through all these things, the apostles earned the right to admonish the ones they saw in error. That’s the New Testament model for giving correction.

How many of us are following it today?

Correction in the modern church doesn’t resemble this model. Words of correction come from anyone on any subject. Nothing is off limits and no one needs to earn the right to speak a word of correction. We see ourselves as guardians of the truth; valiant soldiers of God wielding the sword against lies and deception. But something is terribly wrong here.

We often quote the phrase, “speak the truth in love”. Search your heart and you may realize that we seldom use it except when giving a word of correction. Often the only reason we use it is to show biblical grounds for correcting someone we think is in error. Something in our soul knows that correction done the wrong way is damaging, but something else in us loves correcting the wrong thinking of others. If we correct and throw in the required verse, it appears to justify our action.

Does it really?
A Facebook friend posted something to this effect after a recent heated disagreement: “This isn’t me talking, it’s the word of God. People should just read their bibles. There’s so much wrong teaching going on.”

This was posted by a believer who reads her bible. She was arguing with other believers who read the same bible. The argument was over different methods of healing. It’s typical of the kind of problem most of us deal with.

Many of our disagreements are over things of minor importance. Methods of healing may be important to some, but they’re not foundational to Christianity. It’s not worth losing a friend over nor is it worthy of heated debate. Yet we start blogs and groups for the purpose of debating and arguing trivial matters. Part of the problem is that we have things prioritized incorrectly. We yell what God whispers and whisper what He yells.

Another problem is pride.

There’s a need inside many of us to be publicly justified. Being right isn’t enough; we need to be right publicly. Give a man some knowledge and a gift and he’ll build an empire around them. One way for us to be seen as right is to prove our opponents wrong. Facebook, for example has become an ocean of self-appointed experts on religion; a watering hole for insecure souls in desperate need of public justification.

The believer who needs to correct employs diversions to keep a clear conscience. The most common is to cite scripture then claim the argument isn’t with them, but with God. As my friend did, we avoid taking personal responsibility for the damage by saying, “That’s not me, it’s the bible.”

This tactic leaves us thinking God is on our side. Unfortunately, our opponent usually has a handful of bible verses backing up their argument. All we’re doing is arguing our experiences and interpretations against theirs. We are responsible for the damage inflicted, though we pretend to be innocent. What the Lord pointed out in the dream was that our criticism of others gives the enemy information they don’t have. By correcting others in this way, we’re actually helping the enemy.

How then do we correct others?

In love
Speaking the truth in love is not sharing our understanding of the truth to a stranger, believing we are showing them love by telling them the truth. That’s how it looked to me before I had the dream.

Speaking the truth in love means that love is present in our heart before correction is given. Love must precede any correction of others. Like the apostles, having a heart of love qualifies us and insures that our words come from the right heart. You may have suffered persecution for the gospel. You may have given up all you possessed for the kingdom. But none of this earns you the right to correct another, unless you first demonstrate love toward them in a personal way.

If we love someone, we have their best interest in mind, always. If we love them we sacrifice for them; love does not seek its own. If we love others we’re willing to give up our pride and humble ourselves to win them as friends; love is not puffed up. If we love others we’ll take the time to build a relationship of trust before trying to correct them, even if it takes years; love suffers long.

If we meditate on what it is to love others, it may change how we do things. Pastors, apostles, prophets and all in church leadership may have a bit of soul searching to do, if we’re going to reign in speech that is damaging the flock of God.

How has this been worked out in my own life?

I’ve found myself overlooking a lot of conversations I would have commented on a year ago. I now realize I’m not the truth police. It isn’t my job to correct every weird opinion or erroneous statement someone makes. I see a lot of posts that seem to be a bit "off". Instead of reading and correcting, I ignore them. If I have no relationship with the one who wrote it, I usually let it go. If I want to help someone, I take a few weeks or months getting to know them before challenging or teaching them. That takes time and I'm a busy person. It's cut down on the time I would have wasted correcting someone who wouldn't hear me anyway.

There are exceptions. Some friends have read my posts for a while and learned enough about me to ask for advice on something. In most cases I had no idea that I was gaining trust with them until they sent me an e-mail. Sometimes we’re given the right to speak into a stranger's life by virtue of a position we have, but it’s always extended by the one seeking advice. Hard as this may be for some of us to swallow, our title doesn’t give us the right to correct someone we have no relationship with. It must always be earned.





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