Loose Lips Sink Ships – by Pastor Greg

If anyone is a student of history, you probably have heard of this phrase. It was coined by the US Office of War Information during World War II in an attempt to keep people from sharing useful information to spies who would be listening to casual conversation. The idea was careless words, i.e. loose lips, would undermine the war effort, i.e. sinking of ships. The British version was “Careless Words Costs Lives”. There were enemy agents that gathered useful information from unsuspecting citizens who shared important details that was then used against the allies. Thus, the charge was to be careful what you talked about, especially in places that others may be listening. The things that you said could be used for nefarious purposes. 

The concept of those phrases still holds true to this day. Careless speech can have detrimental effects, in a myriad of circumstances. Many embarrassing situations have been created by a careless phrase, friendships have been impacted, children hurt by a word spoken in anger and the list could go on and on. Our speech is a gift from God. Of all the creatures made by God, only man has the ability to communicate in such detail through the spoken word. When God created man, He made him in His own image and that included the ability to communicate at a high level. This ability included the spoken word. When one looks at the various languages in the world, we see incredible complexity. Languages are varied and each one has its own unique system of communicating concepts, both concrete and abstract. Some of the most complex languages are spoken by the most technologically primitive people on the planet. Yet in each case, God desires the use of words to be that which builds others up rather than tearing down.

Ephesians 4:29 states, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Also, Ephesians 5:18-19: “And do not get drunk with wine, in which there is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your hearts to the Lord.” In both these passages the emphasis is on the spoken word. Each time a word passes our lips, it should be for the benefit of others and be guided by the Spirit of God. That’s a tall order! So, I have to ask myself a question: is what I’m about to say useful or destructive? What about when I just want to “get it off my chest” or I’m “just venting”? This is not to say we shouldn’t be able to talk with a close friend or our spouse, but even there we must control our tongue.

Recall the first part of the phrase previously quoted. “Loose lips” that is, words that are carelessly flung about without any thought to the consequences. How often do I speak before engaging my brain? Am I aware of what I’m saying and how it can be perceived or received? This means we must be aware of our speech and the context in which we speak. We are the ones who are responsible for what we say, and what we say can cause harm regardless of what the children’s rhyme may imply – “sticks and stones…”

Known for Giving – by Pastor John

…Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a bond-servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Philippians 2:5b-7

You perhaps have had occasion to clean out a residence due to a move or a passing. There is frequently a lot of interest and participation, because most of us are intrigued by looking at stuff. There’s often a sale and a dumpster brought in early on. I’ve noticed there can be a lot of sighs and shaking heads from the workers lugging out the stuff.

Do you have a lot of stuff? Comparatively speaking, we in North America are a people of accumulation. You may attest to shuffling boxes from residence to residence, and never even opening them in between moves. Sometimes the accumulation slips into hyper-drive, and tends more toward hoarding. Then, with an intervention and a few phone calls, you might get to be on TV.

Jesus, as we reflect on His first coming to earth in this season of light, was noted for laying down His “stuff” to be on mission here. Yes, He was fully man and yet fully God. He voluntarily set aside attributes and the heavenly abode, to come humbly to this planet to serve, suffer for, and save – us.

As I reflect on my Lord’s coming, I do so with profound awe. Because of His great love, He gave His very life to restore us in fellowship with God that we had destroyed because of our sin. It’s good to note that we remember particularly what Jesus gave; there is never any celebration over what He held on to and would not give.

I find a simple deep lesson in this passage to begin my Advent season in this 61st year of my sojourn here. I too want to be remembered for what I gave, not for what I clung to. No one will ever celebrate over my accumulation one day, but they may celebrate what I gave in Jesus’ Name.

Perhaps that would be a good thing for us all to reach for. Scriptures abound to this point, but my space is up. May the Lord highlight this truth for our lives as we observe life, and as we read from His Holy Word.

Tis the season of giving. Christ gave so we could be free to receive, and then to give, in Jesus’ Name.

Behind the Scenes: God in Esther & Nehemiah – by Pastor Greg

Just because you don’t see them, doesn’t mean they are not there. No, I’m not talking about spiders. I remember a trip years ago that I took with a family friend from Maine. We made the trek from northern Maine to Florida for a week. While in Florida we made the obligatory pilgrimage to Disney World. Now the part that really fascinated me was not the Small World exhibit nor Epcot, as cool as that is. What was fascinating was when we were given a tour by a friend of my friend’s dad who oversaw the mechanical workings of the park. We were privileged to go behind the scenes and see all that took place beyond the view of the general public. The systems and the myriad of people who worked to make the “magic” happen was stunning. For most people who visit these parks this world is hidden to them, yet they are the beneficiaries of the work and expertise of those behind the scenes. Of course, this concept can be applied to many areas of our life and experience. We notice the behind-the-scenes world most often when things don’t go as planned. A current example is the shortage of items at the stores we frequent. The supply chain is broken, the shipping container shortage, clogged ports and shortage of truck drivers all combine to limit what can be restocked at the local Meijer. When it works, we often don’t notice.

It’s the same with God. He is the One who is constantly caring for and directing the events of the universe moment by moment (Heb. 1:3, Psalm 121). There are many Psalms and other portions of scripture that speak to God’s sovereignty. But it is in the accounts of Esther and Nehemiah that one can see the quiet and hidden hand of God working. Ether is a familiar story to many. A Jewish queen in a foreign land, a plot by an evil man to wipe out the Jews and chance encounters throughout the narrative all make for a great story. Of course, as believers we know there is no such thing as chance and this is made clear from the statement Mordecai makes: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14. Esther was in the right place at the right time. Mordecai helps the king at the right time. The king reads the account and desires to reward Mordecai at the right time. All of these events were under the guiding hand of our sovereign God, working quietly behind the scenes. The story ends well for Esther, Mordecai, and the Jews. Not so well for Haman. 

In the account of Nehemiah, we see a court official, a cup bearer, who was one of the exiled Jews. He has stayed behind to serve the king of Persia after the initial returns under Zerubbabel and Ezra. Though he has not made the journey to Jerusalem, he is deeply concerned about the situation of the city as it is being reported to him, particularly the broken walls. Nehemiah is not a priest or of royal stock, he is a secular court official and yet is exactly where God wants him to be. Nehemiah’s skills as an administrator and builder will be used greatly by God but it is God who is working behind the scenes to make things happen. Upon hearing of the terrible conditions of the wall at Jerusalem, Nehemiah prays that God would give him favor with the king. Nehemiah 2:4-5a says, “then the king said to me ‘What would you request?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven. I said to the king….”  Nehemiah makes his request and the God of heaven, working in the heart of the King, grants his request and is moved to help Nehemiah. The wall is built against all opposition and God is glorified. 

This is how God works much of the time, in the background, using ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary results Just because you don’t see Him doesn’t mean He isn’t there, working, caring and guiding the entire universe and your life.