Yes & No

“But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No” be “No,” lest you fall into judgment.” (James 5:12)

Recently, William asked if I would be willing to play a board game with him but I was busy at the time so I gave him the canned “Dad” response—“We’ll see.”  This satisfied him for the moment and off he ran to find something else to do.  Then, I overheard him talking with Ben, telling him that I would be playing a game with him later and would he like to play as well.

“What did he actually say?”

“We’ll see.”

“That’s ‘Dad’ for no.”

Ultimately, we DID play the board game, but it appears that whether I intended it to be that way or not, the boys had learned to interpret my words in different ways.

The people we interact with learn our patterns of speech and behavior, and whether the two line up. It’s a natural part of human psychology, to find patterns in our environment and use them to predict future interactions. This means that if we desire to be known as a person that can be counted on, as a person of integrity, we must carefully choose our words and then follow through with our commitments. 

It is very easy to over-promise and under-perform, especially when we are feeling pressure to commit to something that we don’t really want to do in the first place. You feel guilty so you agree to something, and then procrastinate because you don’t want to do it.  Then you feel guilty for procrastinating, and you rush to get it done at the last minute.  That’s not how I want to live my life, but I’ve found myself in that situation so many times!

It would be much better if I just did as James instructed…Let my “Yes” be “Yes” and “No” be “No.”  What might that look like?

  • No — Sometimes we just need to say “No” and that can be very hard to do if we don’t want to upset someone.  In some cases, we must say “No” to something that is good and worthwhile so we can say “Yes” to something that is more important. To accomplish this, though, you must have a very clear understanding of your priorities, so you can evaluate between things.
  • Yes — If you do commit to something, follow through!  It doesn’t help if you say you will do something but then flake out on the person asking for your assistance, and it just makes you look bad. 
  • Maybe — There is nothing wrong with saying, “Let me get back to you later.”  This prevents you from making a commitment before you’ve had a chance to consider it.  But if you do this, make sure to follow up with the person and let them know your decision.

It is important that people be able to trust you and your word. It goes beyond social standing and responsibility. As a believer, each of us is a witness to Jesus Christ. Everything we do should point people to him.  If you have gained a reputation as someone who cannot be counted on with small things, how will they ever trust you with subjects of eternal consequence?

PRAYER: Father, thank you for being a God that can always be counted on.  Your word is faithful and your promises sure.  Help us to follow your example…to be trustworthy people of integrity.  In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen!

But I Don’t WANNA!

(1 Samuel 3: 11-18) 11 And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. 12 At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. 13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them. 14 Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’” 15 Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, 16 but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son.” Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 17 “What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes.”

Obedience is hard.  It just is!  Even when we’re grounded, and we’re fully committed, being obedient is difficult because it requires something substantial from us…humility.  For most people, humility is a personal sacrifice because to submit to someone else means that you have not only given up “ownership” of your life, but you have also said with your actions that you are not the one who matters most.

I’m sure it was more difficult than one could imagine for Samuel to share with Eli what God had shown him.  After all, it was harsh, and Eli had been Samuel’s surrogate father, his teacher, and his mentor for most of his life.  We know that Samuel laid awake until morning, seemingly in dread of having to be the bearer of such a “hard word” (as they say).  He didn’t want to do it.  His flesh resisted obedience, just like it all-too-often will.  However, when Eli demanded to know all, Samuel’s response was of the highest regard and the greatest humility…he held nothing back. 

Shouldn’t this be our response too, not only to God but also to those who have been given authority over us?  For in truth, if we are humble, then it’s not about ourselves anyway, and personal sacrifice then comes into play.  Fears are set aside, comfort is surrendered, we give our all, we tell the truth, we love by serving, and we OBEY. 

Sometimes part of serving God is submitting to the unpleasant.  We have to realize, like Eli, that the Lord is sovereign.  The Bible tells us that a man reaps what he sows, and unfortunately (even under the grace of Christ) the repercussions of sin must come to pass.  Consequences are absolutely unavoidable, but as God’s children we must recognize that He is the father and as such we must give to him the trust and respect he is owed.  In the words of Eli, “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes.”

1 Peter 5:6  tells us, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”  When we have been able to come to a place of humility and obedience, we become malleable in the hands of the Creator, who desires to make something marvelous and incomparable out of our lives…so that when He has completed the work within us, He is able to lift us up over His head as if to say, “Look at this masterpiece!”

(Psalm 25:9) He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.”

Prayer:  Father God, I realize that without you I am nothing.  I accept your will and I recognize your providence in my life, even when I am facing consequence and hardship.  Help me to be humble in all ways, submitting myself as a servant to your call on my life.  I know that this is what you require of me if I am to be shaped and taught by you, my Creator and Lord.  Amen.

I Am Ready

Then Paul replied, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Since he would not be persuaded, we said no more except, “The Lord’s will be done.”  (Acts 21)

Commitment is an odd concept for many of us.  On the one hand, we believe that it is a good thing to be committed and loyal, a person that can be counted on and trusted.  Yet, when it comes time to actually do the committing, we balk.  It could be that we are afraid of committing to the wrong thing. Or perhaps we just value our freedom so highly, that we don’t want to be held back in any way.

This attitude towards commitment has had a devastating effect on many of the institutions that we once held dear. From civic groups and social clubs to sports teams and even marriages, our communities are struggling to find people willing to commit. Trying to plan a get-together for a group of friends can be an exercise in frustration, as people neglect to RSVP and even if they do, they may or may not show up!

Sadly, this tendency has infected the church as well. Research shows that even “regular” church-goers are attending less frequently than in the past. Those who do attend are not as likely to volunteer to help, and when they do it is a short term of service. Please, understand that this is not an indictment, but an honest look at where we are as a people and as a church. I think that this is something that warrants some close attention and self-examination.

I am so grateful that we live in a country where our rights to worship God according to our conscience and the dictates of our religion are protected. However, because our faith is “safe,” we lack the clarifying urgency that believers in other countries and cultures possess.  We can afford to be less attentive to matters of faith and observance because the stakes do not feel as high. We do not have to fear physical harm or criminal/political repercussions. 

However, there IS danger involved when we allow our spiritual lives to take a back-burner.  When we fail to set aside time for daily prayer and worship, our spiritual growth is stunted.  When we do not study the Word in the context of community, we run the risk of mis-interpreting what God is saying, or simply read our own biases into Scripture. When we fail to gather with other believers, we cannot be encouraged and supported and miss out on opportunities to be the encourager! 

Someday, when we stand before our Creator, we will have to give an account for our stewardship of the spiritual gifts that he places within each of us.  The book of Revelation makes clear of the terrible consequence of “luke-warm” commitment. I pray that none of us suffer that fate!

When faced with the prospect of imprisonment, suffering and even death, Paul was unwavering. He had seen the risen Lord.  He had witnessed signs, miracles, and wonders. When others tried to dissuade him from preaching the gospel, Paul was relentless because he knew the importance of the Great Commission and he knew his role in it.  We need that kind of clarity and commitment today!

What is your role in the community of believers?  Do you have one? What spiritual gifts do you possess and how are you exercising them? Have you allowed worldly distractions to take your focus off of Christ and his church? When you are faced with adversity, are you able to say, as Paul did, “I am ready?”

PRAYER: Father, thank you that we live in a context where we are not persecuted for our faith, and we are able to worship you without fear. Help us to fix our eyes on you, on what is truly important. Help us to discipline ourselves, to embrace commitment rather than run from it. We desire to be a part of what you are doing…in our families, in our communities, in our nation, and in the world.  In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen!

Do What You Can!

(1 Kings 15:11-15 ESV) 11 And Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as David his father had done. 12 He put away the male cult prostitutes out of the land and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. 13 He also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother because she had made an abominable image for Asherah. And Asa cut down her image and burned it at the brook Kidron. 14 But the high places were not taken away. Nevertheless, the heart of Asa was wholly true to the LORD all his days. 15 And he brought into the house of the LORD the sacred gifts of his father and his own sacred gifts, silver, and gold, and vessels.

I’m terribly hard on myself. I doesn’t seem to matter if what I did was good or not; I just seem to think I could have done a better job; I could have done it differently. As much as I tell myself to rest in the fact that I gave it my best effort, I wrestle with feelings of inadequacy.

As I was reading the scripture passage for today, I couldn’t help but notice that Asa was a very productive King. “Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” That’s pretty strong affirmation! And, it gets better…

  • He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord
  • He put away the male cult prostitutes
  • He removed his own mother from being queen because she crafted an idol
  • He even cut down her image and burned it
  • He brought into the house of the Lord the sacred gifts of silver, gold, and vessels

That’s a HUGE list of victories! However, right in the middle of the victories is a big BUT. Even though Asa had accomplished so many wonderful things, there was one very important thing that he simply could not get done. “The high places were not taken away.” (Verse 14) The high places was where the people would go to engage in idol worship. And, even though he had made significant progress, he fell short of the ideal.

Does this mean that Asa failed? Could he have done things differently? Was it possible for him to have had TOTAL victory instead of PARTIAL victory? Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows? Who cares?

I say that because the “BUT” was followed by a “NEVERTHELESS!” Nevertheless, the heart of Asa was wholly true to the LORD all his days.” (Verse 14) Nevertheless means “in spite of; notwithstanding.” Even though Asa could not get the high places removed, his heart remained wholly (completely) true! The implication is that he remained faithful to the task for as long as he lived.

In my short life, there have been things that I wanted so desperately to accomplish; so many people I’ve wanted to help. I’ve counseled people and felt confident that they could overcome their obstacles if only they would respond to the Word of God. And yet, they refused the counsel and remained in their trouble.

The truth is, there will be things that just won’t get done; people that won’t get saved, or healed, or delivered. NEVERTHELESS! My heart will stay wholly true to the Lord forever! How about you?

PRAYER: Lord, regardless of what the scorecard reveals, I’m determined to keep my heart true to You and Your purposes in my life. Help me to trust you for the best result in every situation. Amen.

%d bloggers like this: