Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Pastor's Corner - May 8th, 2020

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Pastor's Corner - May 8th, 2020

Between here and Bend, Oregon is a stretch of forest that burned back in 2003 as a part of the B&B complex fire. The stretch is between Lost Lake and Suttle Lake along Highway 126 on the right side. Shannon and I were coming home from what must have been extended session after Camp Davidson in 2003 and drove through that area late in the night  as the fires had raged, and it was eerie–beautiful, but eerie–to see the hillside on fire.

That area has finally begun to grow back, and with reseeding efforts and years of fire protection measures, it will continue to grow, showing barely a trace that there was a fire through that stretch.

Fire is fascinating stuff. It’s a rapid oxidation of a material, giving off energy in the form of light and heat, as a result of the combustion process. Like most things - it requires certain things to occur. These things are called the fire triangle. The fire triangle consists of fuel, oxygen, and a spark. For fire to occur - these things must be present. Without them, the fire cannot start, and if the fire HAS started and it is deprived of one of these things - the fire will starve and will go out. But with all of those things present - even the smallest of sparks can become a full blown conflagration.

Firefighting efforts, particularly wild land firefighting efforts, have a two prong attack. The strategy consists of preventing fuel load by clearing underbrush, and digging fire lines to slow the fire and prevent its spread to other areas, and then blanketing the fire in fire retardant to starve it of oxygen. The goal being to remove two of the three parts of the fire triangle in order to prevent it from occurring. 

Without the fuel source, without the oxygen, and without the spark - the fire cannot spread.

Interestingly, scripture discusses this concept. In Proverbs 26:20 Proverbs 26:20Where no wood is, there the fire goes out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceases.
American King James Version×
, this is discussed and an analogy is established.

        Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. (Proverbs 26:20 Proverbs 26:20Where no wood is, there the fire goes out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceases.
American King James Version×

Similar as wood being fuel to a fire - is talebearing, or gossip to strife. Without wood, the fire goes out. Without the presence of gossip and talebearing–strife ceases

The Hebrew word that is translated ‘talebearer’, or in some translations, ‘gossip’. This word, “NIRGAN” as it is transliterated, can be translated as gossip, talebearer, slanderer, or whisperer. Sometimes it has the context of complaining or grumbling.

The Septuagint translation chooses to translate it using G2270, “HESUCHAZO”, which means to refrain from meddlesome speech, to be still, quiet or to hold one’s peace. The word is a verb which describes the action of the word it is taken from, G2272, “HESUCHIOS”, which means to remain in ones seat, to be undisturbed, or hold ones peace.

Interestingly - the word HESUCHIOS is used in two places in scripture. One of those places is in 1st Peter 3:4, where it describes the chaste and humble behavior of a woman of the Lord, how she is to be submissive to her husband, not allowing the adornment of her life to be outward, (wearing nice clothes, gold jewelry, etc.. or merely outwardly appearing) but instead, allowing that adornment to be inward, the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet (HESUCHIOS) spirit, which the passage states, is precious in the sight of God. 

The other place it is found in scripture, notably, is in 1 Timothy 2.

        Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,            for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable (HESUCHIOS) life in all godliness            and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved              and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Paul instructed Timothy to be certain to pray, and intercede on the behalf of the governing authorities, giving thanks for all men and kings, and all who were in authority - that we all, as Christians, might lead a quiet and peaceable life… not a life of jumping out of our seats, speaking gossip, slander, or of stirring people up with our words. 

Gossip is defined as, “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.”

Slander is defined as, “making false and damaging statements about someone.”

I will be the first to admit that this whole situation with COVID-19 has been challenging.

It has been difficult for us to deal with the quarantine, it has been frustrating to have restrictions placed upon us. In the United States, we are used to being mostly free to do as we please, and this taste of the restrictions that much around the world have experienced over the years have us chafing at the experience. It has us questioning a lot of things we’re hearing, and quite frankly - has a number (through statements on social media, through sharing various stories, videos, ideas, and even conspiracy theories) attributing unknown (and unproven) motives to people that we cannot possibly confirm as true. We can observe from afar, we can draw our own opinions, we can draw our own conclusions, but at the end of the day - can what you are claiming be proven without a shadow of a doubt? Would there be enough evidence to convict in a court of law? Or only in the court of public opinion?

If it can’t be proven as true, and has the potential to be a false and potentially damaging statement about someone–and we chose to share it, that is literally the textbook definition of gossip and slander.

Gossip and slander is a sin. It is something that must be repented of, equal in God’s eyes to murder, adultery, idolatry, theft, and the like. God takes it seriously. 

Romans 1:28-32 Romans 1:28-32 [28] And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; [29] Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, [30] Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, [31] Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: [32] Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
American King James Version×
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers (Gossips), backbiters (Slanderers), haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Slander and Gossip is something that tears people apart. It divides and puts people in camps. It does not edify, it doesn’t strengthen a body, it pits one group against another. 

Our words must be carefully measured, filtered and sifted bringing every thought into captivity before we share things with others. We need to consider what the outcome might be. It doesn’t mean we shy away from bringing necessary things to people’s attention, but we do it with care, because what we say (and by extension, what we share) matters.

Matthew 12:36 Matthew 12:36But I say to you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
American King James Version×
But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment

Every statement, every careless - all will have to be given account during the day of judgment. I don’t know if you’ve considered it or not, but for us, as the people of God, that day of judgment is now. (1 Peter 4:17 1 Peter 4:17For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
American King James Version×

These things take off like wildfire on social media. They are like tasty trifles. It happens all the time, things that are not proven as true, and can’t be proven as true - are shared as fact. Insults are hurled at this government official, that government official, people question their decisions, grumble about the restrictions, rebelling against what is put in place. Just like a wildfire, the only way to stop it is to remove the fuel and oxygen from the fire. 

Don’t let it spread through you. Don’t be the person that deceives someone else by sharing something which cannot be shown to be true. Riling them up over something that may be completely false. By saying something that cannot be proven true - by attributing unknown or false motives to someone because you disagree with their opinion. 

Where there is no wood, the fire goes out, and where there is no slanderer, gossip, talebearer, whisperer, etc… strife ceases. 

Be peacemakers. Be a calm and settling force, don’t let yourself be disturbed from your seat to shout along with everyone else. Be peaceable, meek, humble, striving to live a quiet life, as it brings out in 1st Thessalonians 4:11.

I’ll leave you with one last passage this Sabbath, before I sign off for the night. Paul wrote these words to Titus in the mid 60’s AD, and they are just as applicable to us nearly 2000 years later.

Titus 3:1-8 Titus 3:1-8 [1] Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, [2] To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness to all men. [3] For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. [4] But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, [5] Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; [6] Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; [7] That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [8] This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that you affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
American King James Version×

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. 

Happy Sabbath!