Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"Let us not speak falsely now..." (Quiet Time Reflections)

The line above is from Bob Dylan's All Along the Watchtower, the fame of which was undoubtedly expanded by Jim Hendrix's driving cover of the tune.

"Let us not speak falsely now" crossed my mind after my quiet time with God this morning. In Quiet Time, I read a chapter from the Bible, asking God to show me the truth He wants to impress on me that morning. Today, I read Revelation 22 and was especially drawn to verses 14 and 15. (For more about Quiet Time and the "stop, look, listen, respond" format around which my daily encounters with God are built, see here.)

Here's an excerpt from my journal, some of what God told me today:
Look: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” (Revelation 22:14-15)

These verses are so freighted with meaning for me, I could write forever, I think, Lord. You speak somewhat crushing volumes to me through them.

Verse 14 says that we are blessed and “inside” God’s kingdom when we come to the river of life, the pure waters flowing from the throne on which You, God, and the Lamb, Jesus, sit, and wash ourselves.

This, I see, is about repentance, about “coming clean” with You and being “made clean” by You. Trusting repentance--sorrow for sin and faith in Christ--are the only way we gain entrance into the eternal kingdom. (This all reminds me of Jesus’ parable in Matthew 22:1-14, where a king throws people out of the wedding banquet because they aren’t wearing the wedding clothes.)

It shows how important genuine repentance and true trust are.

Verse 15 names a lot of clearly dark practices associated with those who are “outside.” But then there’s one that slams me in the jaw: “everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”

Listen: You know how I wrestle with this last one, Lord. I fall into falsehoods so easily, so thoughtlessly...

And, I think that, because I say so much, I sometimes lie to people without realizing it or intending it. This is especially seen in pledges I later think better of and walk back. Or ones I was unwise to make or incapable of making. [This has happened many times, as You know.]

Often, I think, I lie (I'm using that verb, lie, so as not to dodge responsibility, no matter how harmless the untruths I speak may be rationalized to be) to make unpleasant things palatable. I don’t want to be direct, so I take a passive-aggressive route or a route that makes me look like a victim of circumstance or seeks to obliterate the possibility of blame.

In Matthew, while telling disciples not to swear by anything to back up their statements, Jesus continues: “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37) Just yes or no...the simple truth.

And James 5:12 says: “Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ Otherwise you will be condemned.” Again, just yes or no...the simple truth.

More often than I like to me, especially for someone to whom words are so important, personally and vocationally, words are just words. But to You, Lord, words have power. Even my words. They aren't harmless. Neither is their misuse.

And when I use my mouth to speak falsely or to create false impressions or to artificially truncate unpleasant conversations that should happen, I create false worlds for my hearers, fantasy lands of expectations that I may or may not intend or, if I do intend, am unable to fulfill. I prove to be unreliable. I disappoint and hurt people who have trusted me. I tear down that trust. I harm relationships.

Respond: God, forgive me. Help me to speak the truth in love. Teach me to keep my mouth shut more often than not. Bathe me in the river of life and make me clean. Help me to be Your man, Lord. Help me to consistently speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). In Jesus’ name. "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer." Amen 
See also: Wrestling with a Lie (My Own).

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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