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.

Becoming Ecclesiastical


I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted. I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind. For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
—Ecclesiastes 1:14-18 ESV

Wisdom in old ageBack in the summer of 1988, at the young age of twenty-five, I was working at a Christian camp in Wisconsin. While walking back to my residence, one of the young women on summer staff noticed me singing a hymn to myself, walked up to me and said, “What makes you so happy? You’re the happiest person I know.”

Yesterday, I was sitting down with my young son reading some passages out of an old Good News Bible—the one with the stylized line drawings in it. After we were done, I was flipping through and found a passage out of Ecclesiastes that made me laugh, especially since I have blogged here many times about the Church and work issues:

Only someone too stupid to find his way home would wear himself out with work.
—Ecclesiastes 10:15 GNB

That got me thinking about the rest of Ecclesiastes. At the time of my being told I was the happiest person that young woman knew, Ecclesiastes was my favorite book in the Old Testament. Considering the somber and almost regretful tone of the book, it doesn’t quite seem to work with my state of mind at the that time. Truthfully, I’m not sure the whole of the book rang true for me. Sure, I loved passages like

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
—Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
—Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV

but I never truly pondered the rest of Ecclesiastes because, frankly, I was too young to see.

Now I am forty-two, a husband, and a father. On reading through Ecclesiastes again in the Good News I was struck by how the rest of the book now spoke to me in a way that it didn’t seventeen years ago. There’s a bittersweet longing for youth, yet with the understanding that to be youthful is to be largely ignorant of the world, much like I was at twenty-five.

If I ran into that same young woman who pronounced me to be the happiest person she knew, I don’t believe that she would say the same thing of me today. However, I don’t consider this a step backward in my faith. Instead, I acknowledge it’s a part of “becoming Ecclesiastical,” seeing life with older eyes and noticing now the vanities you never considered before. To be twenty-five is to be invulnerable, but to be older means you’ll sooner than you imagine be attending funerals for friends you once thought would always be there. It is to know that the world we leave our children will not be as idyllic as the world we inherited. It is to see how striving after riches and glory is nothing more than wind. It is to understand that perhaps a nice meal with people you love is more important than power and fame.

There is a sadness in becoming Ecclesiastical. It is the sadness of accumulated wisdom, a wisdom despised by the young who must painfully learn the lessons of Ecclesiastes only through their own aging. The world says otherwise, but those who become Ecclesiastical understand that

… under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.
—Ecclesiastes 9:11 ESV

It’s the wisdom of God that He’s made us to learn hard truths in time. There’s no shame in acknowledging that life is difficult and eventually leads to the grave. Yet too often we praise the fools who pretend that this simply isn’t the case.

The tough wisdom of Ecclesiastes shouldn’t be written off by those who always want to think happy thoughts. This book exists in the Bible for a reason. Life isn’t always happy and there would be no rejoicing if sorrow didn’t exist. To the older and wiser, becoming Ecclesiastical renders both the sorrow and the joy our friends, even if the rest of the world around us cannot understand.