The Gong Show–Or When We Christians Don’t Have Enough Sense to Stifle It


I don’t blog as much as I used to. Part of that is because life intrudes more than it once did and age is proving me less adequate to the task of addressing all those intrusions.

But there is another reason: I simply don’t have as much to say. Past posts have addressed—and sometimes even well—the thoughts I felt the Lord wanted me to share. Nowadays, I don’t have that same spiritual prompting to opine on the latest scandal, lack, or cultural sickness.

Most of this increased silence has come about through wisdom. I’ve been more chastened by the vicissitudes of life and by the Lord’s discipline. The angry, young prophet isn’t as angry as he once was. If anything, I feel more compassion for people. They really are, for the most part, sheep without a shepherd.

Still, the Godblogosphere is filled with the opinionated. Amplified YammeringIt’s a sad commentary on our age, but it’s the highly opinionated who get the most site hits. Some writers feel they must contribute their thoughts daily to keep faithful followers faithful and ensure the meager revenue stream keeps flowing. Recently, a well-known Christian blogger felt obligated to opine on the legacy of the not-quite-at-room-temperature-yet Chuck Colson.

I say “had to” because one got the sense that the blogger was struggling with the entire commentary. I suspect that was for a good reason. The resulting blowback wasn’t pretty.

Jesus says this:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”
—John 5:19 ESV

I’ve written in the past about the most neglected verses of the Bible (here, here, and probably elsewhere too),  but the above verse is certainly one of the most ignored, particularly in application in the lives of Christians.

The reality of Christianity that sets it apart from all other religions is the inner presence of the Holy Spirit. Christians are to be supernatural people led daily by God, who dwells inside of them, guiding, empowering, and sealing for Heaven.

What should then distinguish the Christian from all other people on earth is the Christian, when confronted with addressing a spiritual need, speaks only what the Spirit says and only when the Spirit says it.

If this is critical to walking in true faith and in proper practice, how is it then that so few Christians ever learn to listen to the Spirit?

As it applies to this topic of speaking/writing, is the Holy Spirit always asking us to comment on this or that? Or is He more often silent (in which case we should be silent as well)?

It is not by coincidence that the Spirit chose the following as the opening of a certain line of thinking by Paul:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
—1 Corinthians 13:1 ESV

I believe with my whole heart that the key to being a Christian in 2012 is to do only what the Holy Spirit reveals the Father is doing. This applies to our commentary on life as well. Then we can be assured that what we say is from God and is fittingly gracious.

The plague of the Western Church today is too much talk and not enough walk. We seem to lack even the common sense of pagans when it comes to shutting our traps for a moment. Instead, we feel driven to pontificate on this topic and that. Given how poor much of that pontificating is, I suspect the Holy Spirit has little to do with inspiring it and much more our own inflated sense of importance.

Words, and How Not to Use Them


I'm going to wash your vulgar mouth out with soap!

“Heh, heh, heh, heh, Beavis, John Piper said, ‘ass.'”

On the heels of my post yesterday about confronting the F-word comes my response to the hubbub about Pastor John Piper’s comment at a conference that sometimes “God kicks our ass.” Wayne Grudem felt led to jump into the fray concerning Pastor John’s potty mouth. And, of course, half the Godblogs in my sidebar links could not resist the compulsion to comment.

I guess I can’t, either. My reaction: yawn.

This is the kind of Evangelical rathole that makes Christians the laughingstock of the world. We’re not seen as a joke because we follow a risen Christ, but because we’re so obsessed with filtering out gnats while gorging on camels. When the lost can see it and we can’t, does that honor God at all?

The Bible says this:

And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
–James 3:6-9 ESV

Reread that italicized portion. Therein lies all you need to know about “those words.”

You see, real profanity is not contained in a word found in a dictionary. Words only have power when they possess intent and direction. The very fact that many Evangelicals equate cursing with saying a naughty word shows how we’ve lost all wisdom. A true curse has the intent of damaging another person. It’s a wish the sayer hopes to see come to fruition. In a way, it’s a kind of magical incantation designed to wound.

That we’ve so fully jettisoned that understanding is why people get upset about Piper’s comment.

Let me make myself clear. Piper saying that sometimes “God kicks our ass” isn’t profanity, by any means. On the contrary, if I need to hear that God’s going to kick my ass, then please tell me and use the strongest words possible! The word ass here doesn’t matter one way or another. What matters is whether we are cursing our brother. And Piper clearly was not doing so.

This is why many of the very people who get all flustered over a word like ass are the same people who are likely to say, “You’re a wicked heretic, and God is going to punish you.” No “bad words” uttered, but the direction and intent of the words are meant to attack another human being. If those words are true and inspired by the Holy Spirit who can see into the hearts of all men, then no foul. But if they are not, they bring destruction upon a person made in the likeness of God. They are a curse.

We Evangelicals simply do not grasp this. Any casual glance around the Godblogosphere every day shows one Christian cursing another. Comment sections in Godblogs are filled to the brim with accusations of heresy, cutting remarks, and snide assertions about other commenters’ eternal destination. In the vast majority of cases, those words are curses against a fellow brother or sister in Christ. Yet not one of George Carlin’s infamous “Word You Can’t Say on the Radio” is ever uttered.

The unbridled tongue that God hates isn’t the one that says, “God kicks our asses.” It’s the one that says, “The guy in the cubicle next to mine at work is a real ass.” There’s no cursing in saying, “I will die.” On the other hand, “I hope you die!” is a curse before God when said against another human being.

All this hoopla comes off as just another case of Evangelicals missing the point in their rush to appear holy. Do we think that 80 years of never uttering a “dirty word” is going to look good in heaven when every day we tear down another person with our supposedly clean words?

God forgive us for missing the point!



Death and life are in the power of the tongue….
—Proverbs 18:21a ESV

And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
—James 3:6-9 ESV

At a healing service about ten years ago or so, I was called upon by my church to help with prayer. As a prayer team leader, I was charged with making sure we met the prayer needs of the church while directing the trained volunteers who would pray for others after our meetings. That role was an uplifting ministry that I cherished.

The healing service began and all of us were praying with folks who came up front. After a time, the crowd thinned and I found myself alone. Only then did a small man dressed in a suit entirely in white approach me. He was timid, and with an Eastern European lilt he could only say, "Please pray for me."

When I laid my hands on him, I knew immediately that this man did not covet my prayers for a nice day. Asking God to reveal the man's true need, I couldn't avoid a word that kept coming back to me again and again: Curse. CurseSo I prayed that the blood of Christ would sever the power of all curses on this man's life. The instant I spoke this out loud, he began screaming and fell to the ground.

Being a prayer team leader, I swiftly summoned several others to come over and continue praying with me over this man. We prayed for about ten minutes and I witnessed his countenance utterly change from terror to peace. If ever I needed a video camera to record that kind of profound release in a tormented soul, that moment called for it more than almost any other I've witnessed in my life.

Talking with this man afterwards, he told me that back in his native country his mother had crossed the local sorceress, who responded by placing the entire family under a curse. The man's mother, pregnant at the time, later died in childbirth. The girl that was born was left profoundly retarded as a result of problems in delivery. The man's brother soon afterwards went insane and was institutionalized—until the country's asylums were dismantled in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union. The man's father went blind a few years after his wife died and now rarely spoke.

In my years as a Christian, I've prayed for a lot of people, but there have always been times when people I've prayed for embellish their stories. However, as much as I was beginning to think that this little man standing in front of me now was perhaps adding to his tale, he silenced my doubts by leading me to the back of the church where his blind father, deranged brother, and mentally disabled sister sat as quietly as could be expected, the brother only occasionally muttering something unintelligible.

I was shocked.

I was also called away for another prayer need. Telling the man I wanted to talk with him more, I went back up front, prayed for the new need that had arisen, then immediately walked back to that broken family, discovering they had left quietly in the sanctuary's semi-darkness, only one of them finding release.

Too much "Evil Eye" for you? Not the kind of thing you've ever encountered? Well let me share a more personal story.

I got a call from a friend one night who was truly suffering. He'd come to the decision that he could not be a Christian any longer, and as we talked he confessed that the reason he was abandoning the faith was me.

No Christian ever wants to be the stumbling block for another person's faith, and I was taken aback by the comment, searching through every conversation, every encounter I'd had with this friend for as long as we'd known each other. Nothing I'd said or done to him was coming back to me.

Then my friend confessed that the reason he'd come to this decision was from noting all the rotten things that had happened to me in the years since he'd known me. I won't go into that list here, but my friend recalled every item on that list in excruciating detail, some of which I had never told him, but he must have gotten from other sources. He summed up his comments by saying that he could not reconcile how a Christian like myself, who had given everything up to follow Christ, could possibly go on considering what I'd experienced. If "God" truly existed, what kind of god could he be if he treated his own servants so badly, returning faithfulness with pain? My friend also wondered if I was merely deluded for pressing on in faith with a smile on my face and hope still in my heart. It was for these reasons that he could no longer believe anything in the Christian faith was true. I was the example that proved his deduction.

We continued to talk for hours after. Only later did I learn that our conversation had probably saved his life. But what I didn't know was what was going on in spiritual places because of what he said to me one humid summer evening long ago.

I think it was just today that I came to grips with his pronouncement. In some of my darkest times, what he said to me that night haunted me, and only now do I recognize it for the curse that it was. Only now do I feel like the black power of that comment has been rendered inert in the light of Christ.

How many of us are laboring under a curse someone glibly tossed out a decade or more ago? What words carelessly spoken—or even spoken with intent—have pinned us to the ground or left us flailing?

Many of you reading this are not charismatics; I understand that. But this isn't pew-jumping, bark-like-a-dog charismania, folks. Curses are a dark demonic oppression that gets called into use to destroy, undermine, hamper, and diminish the work of God in our lives. If we do not take curses before Him and let His Strong Right Hand shatter them, they can persist and wreak havoc.

Ask God today to expose curses that have been pronounced over you in your life. Some of you may have had parents that said things to you that have bound you in chains for years. Get those before God. Or you may have said things with a fire on your tongue that has burned people so fiercely that they can't get over it. Pray that out and let God show you who you need to approach in forgiveness. Too many of us speak carelessly and unleash things that can damage many.

Life and Death are in the power of the tongue. Therefore, speak life and not death. Our witness for the Lord depends on it.