Well, But It’s True!

June 23, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

The title of this post is one of my least favorite expressions that gets uttered at the Loften home. (Is “utter” an upgrade over the more common and accurate word “said?”  You bet it is!  Why?  I don’t know.)  Here is the context:  someone says something ugly to someone else.  Dad confronts the ugly-talker.  The response, “Well, but it’s true.”

99 times out of 100 (yes it probably has happened that often.  Not really…maybe…we’ll say 24 out of 25) the rebuke-worthy statement is true.  “Just because something is true, doesn’t mean it should be said,”  says the dad channelling TV sitcom dads.  Depending on the person you are saying this to, dad can get a look that suggests that their brain has just shut down (in the same way it would freeze your calculator when you would divide by zero.  Nothing to do but hit the AC button.  The C button simply can’t fix this problem.).

“Truth-tellers” is my name for these people.  Some like to call them people with the spiritual gift of prophecy or exhortation.

Question: When did not having any tact become a spiritual gift?

Let’s chase that rabbit.  Prophets did speak unpleasant truths.  However, it was at God’s direction, not at their own discretion.  Exhortation is encouraging someone to take right action.  If your words crush someone’s soul and demoralize them, then you have done something, but you have not exhorted anyone.  Let’s call it the gift of “getting something off your chest but framing it in a spiritual context, so if it has a bad result we can blame God or our nature.”

(Rabbit on the ropes now)  You can identify a spiritual gift not by whether or not the person “does it” or even “enjoys it.”  It is identified by whether or not the proper response or effect happens (Nerd).  You can be a teacher and enjoy teaching.  However, you can only have the gift if there is, in fact, learning going on.  There are lots of people out there claiming to be gifted teachers, but no one seems to have the corresponding gift of listening to them.  There are also lots of “leaders” hanging out by themselves.  There are also a lot of exhorters walking through a pile of bodies they have kicked to the curb.

(Good-bye rabbit)

The question is does everything that you think that is true need to be said? If so, does context matter?  When will I say it? Will it be publicly, semi-privately or privately?  What tone will I use?

Even bigger, why would I say it?


“It needs to be said”

“I need to get it off my chest.”

“Somebody needs to take them down a notch.”

“It’ll make me feel better.”

“What do you mean reason? It’s true”


“Because I believe saying it, in this way, at this time, in this place has a great chance of helping the person become better, and because I love them.”

There are a lot of pastors out there that don’t have a filter beyond, “is it true?” and there are plenty of (well-meaning?) friends and family member that lack that filter as well.

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

There are things that are true that aren’t pure or lovely or admirable.  Let’s dwell and think and say those things that are all of these.

It’s That Simple, But Not Really. Wait? What?

October 4, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

I am not by nature a highly critical person.  Hmmm. Let me rephrase, I am not by nature a publicly critical person.  I will neither affirm or deny the depths of the sin that goes on in my heart.  Suffice to say, I’m glad that we don’t live in a world with those “thought bubbles” that are in newspaper comics.

However, being a teacher/pastor, I can be highly critical of the way that God’s word is taught.  It is almost impossible for me to listen to sermons anymore.  People ask me all the time if I listed to podcasts of other pastors.  I don’t very often.  I find myself too often analyzing the presentation, looking for ways I can improve or things I should avoid.  (I know. I know. That’s not good.  Noted.)

There are two things that I see, read, hear a lot–the overcomplicating of the Bible and conversely the oversimplification.  We all know what overcomplicating sounds like.  You hear a pastor or read something and you find yourself very impressed with his vocabulary, knowledge of original languages and the depth of his understanding of Thomas Aquinas.  You walk out of there thinking two things. “Hmm. I didn’t understand any of that” and  “What’s for lunch?”  This is a rant for a different day.

Today’s is about oversimplification.  This is spurred by our community group discussion last night and an email I received from someone else not in our group on another topic.

I’ll start with the email.  The basic premise was that the reason that marriages struggle is that husbands need to love their wives like Christ loves the church (Eph. 5).  They don’t because of sin.  They sin because of Satan.  Solution: don’t focus on Satan, stop sinning, start loving your wives, marriages healed. (The email also mentioned wives submitting to husbands, but the mentioning of that would derail this blog post but good.)

That approach to marriages made me think I made our Community Group lesson way too complicated.  In group, we talked about the Great Commandments.  Jesus said that the greatest commandments were loving God with all that you are, and to love others the way you love yourself.  He says that all of scripture fall under these two categories.  I could’ve shortened our discussion this way:  Whatever you’re struggling with, stop it and love God and people more.  We wouldn’t even have had to take prayer requests.  “God help us love you and others more. Amen.”

Is it really that simple? Could all marriages be saved if husbands loved more?  Are all of life’s problems solved by the Great Commandments?  Well, yes and no.  Jesus said this sums up all commands.  However, if this was all God needed to tell us, then why is the Bible so long?

Because easily stated is not the same as easily explained is not the same as easily understood is not the same as easily done.  When in reply to the Great Commandments, Jesus was asked “Who is my neighbor?” he didn’t reply by restating the two commands.  He told the parable of the Good Samaritan.  He actually spent a lot of time teaching and explaining the what and how of those two truths.

The simplest of truths are overwhelming profound and deep, and while they are easily understood on a surface level, they are limitless in their depth and application.  Teach them simply, attempt to understand and apply them deeply.

Stupid Things Christians Fight About #1

Can you follow up one successful series  with another one?  Is it possible?  Well of course it is.  George Lucas is clearly the poster-boy for that.  How does one guy come up with Star Wars and Indiana Jones?  (He does that and what do I do?  I make humorous, sometimes cynical observations about life and tell goofy, mildly-embellished stories about my kids.) 

Let’s be clear, Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying is no Star Wars and this series is no Indiana Jones.  I might could say that SCNTSS is Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street and STCFA could be Scream, but the metaphor there is too painful.  Anyway, let’s see what happens.

In this corner:  Conservative Evangelicals who believe that the key to being a Christ follower is what you believe.

In the other corner: Liberal Mainline Christians who believe that the key to being a Christ follower is what you do, namely being socially active.

My History: I feel like I should start with a confession.  I spent the entire decade of the 90’s square in the middle of this battle.  I went to college at Hendrix College in Conway, AR.  I was a student leader and ultimately a staff minister for a college ministry there.  I ended up being at Hendrix, one way or another for 10 years, essentially all of the 90’s, from the fall of 1990 to Spring 2000.  We were the champions of the “being a Christian is based on what you believe” camp.  People who thought that it was important to be socially active by helping needy people were soft on the truth and were trying to earn their way to heaven.

On the other side, were a group of people who wanted to live out their faith not based on what they believed but living in a way that they believed Jesus lived.  Being a Christ Follower is less about believing certain things about God and Jesus, but were about following what Jesus did and the way he lived his life.  We were the Bible-thumping, narrow-minded fundies.

The Verdict:  Ridiculous, all of it.  Who decided that there was a fight to be had here?  How did it come to this?  Nerd alert!  In part these are rhetorical questions, a study of Christianity in the 20th century will answer this question, with the shifting of focus of many mainline denominations and the rise of fundamentalism in the 50’s in response to that. End nerd alert!  How does a Christ Follower say that it doesn’t matter if you do what Jesus did?  What does follower even mean? Not Christ Follower but Christ Believe-the-same-as-er?  Similarly, how does a Christ Follower say that it doesn’t matter who Jesus was or who he believed God to be?  That is not a Christ Follower but Christ Be-somewhat-like-er.

Someone who wants to follow after Jesus needs to understand everything that Jesus came to do.  He came to give us new life, forgiveness of sins, if we would believe in him.  He also came to show us the heart and values of God, to show us how to live in right relationship with God.  One of my biggest regrets in life is my participation of in this battle.  (When I’m older and bolder, we can do a series on my 10 biggest regrets and what I’ve learned from them) I can only imagine what more God could have done through our ministry if we had shared God’s truth and lived it out in the lives of the poor and needy.  Let’s not make that same mistake and let’s make a commitment to be complete Christ Followers, believe as Jesus did and live as Jesus did.

To choose one to the exclusion of the other is something, but it is not following Jesus. 

(Suggestions for this series are greatly desired)