Category Archives: Wisdom

Love, not answers

I am a “fixer” are you? My nature in nearly every situation is to try to help people “fix” whatever problem they’re facing. Perhaps it’s because I’m a dad or a pastor, or it might be from all of my years coaching various sports teams. Regardless of its origin, it is part of my nature to try to remedy broken situations.

That’s why it kills me when I can’t.

The most difficult situations for me are the ones that I can’t fix with wise words or encouragement. And that’s terribly problematic given my life vocation because in pastoral ministry I am constantly faced with both natural and spiritual problems that I’m not able to fix. I can hardly ever fix a spiritual problem on the spot. Sure, I can point people toward the ultimate answer, Jesus Christ, but that doesn’t always fix a problem in the moment. And quite frankly, people probably need my counsel far less than I think they do.

Fortunately, God is teaching me something in this season of my life that is freeing me from the pressure of being a self-perceived fixer. He is teaching me that sometimes love, not answers, is the best offering I can give. Yes, people need counsel. Yes, they need wise instruction, but sometimes they just need to step into a moment or an atmosphere of love.

Lately, when I leave a meeting or an interaction wishing that my prayer or counsel had changed everything in a moment, I am sensing the Spirit whisper to me, “Love-fueled listening and affirmation is never wasted.” It’s never a waste of time or effort to love and support a person. Even if we can’t immediately fix their problem or move them more quickly through their process, we can sustain them along the way. We can be a voice of faith, hope, and love that whispers in their ear, “You’re going to make it! You’re not alone in your struggle. I’m not the fixer but I know who is and someday you will see His remedying power again.”

If you have the answer for someone, great let them have it! But if you don’t, you still have what they need. Love.

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Teachers, watch your words

shhh“If you your lips would keep from slips, five things observe with care: Of whom you speak, to whom you speak, and how, and when, and where.”

This clever little rhyme, along with myriads of other pithy statements, underscores the need for us to carefully guard the words that come out of our mouths.

In WWII America propagandists would warn, “Loose lips sink ships” and in youth group settings pastors often remind their students that “a word is like toothpaste—once expelled you can never get it back in the tube.”

Despite these catchy reminders; however, it can still be so difficult for us humans to truly manage our speech.

I was once in a class with a respected, older pastor and he began his lecture by stating, “I never say anything I don’t mean exactly.” I accidentally laughed out loud when he made the statement because I thought he was trying to be funny—who never says anything that they don’t mean exactly? But he was serious. He knew firsthand how ruinous ill-timed or ill-placed words can be, and he also knew that the Bible gives a special warning to those of us who would presume to be teachers.

James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” James then goes on to advocate prudence in speech, making his emphasis clear: people whose ministry is words will be held more strictly accountable for their words.

We all need to watch our words because they always come back to haunt us. What gets whispered in the dark inevitably finds the light of day. Additionally none of us want our loved ones to bear scars from our regrettable speech—rather, we want to heal and build up, always leveraging the weight of our words well. This becomes even more important when we have been entrusted with a ministry of words.

If you are a teacher, pastor, counselor, writer, parent, or coach, please be careful with your words. They are weightier than you think. People will believe what you say, and your words will either produce life-giving, grace-infused fruit or poisoned fruit that only troubles your hearers.

What does it mean to be ‘wise as serpents’?

snakeBe wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” What do these words from Jesus mean? What does it mean to be as wise as a serpent? Are serpents cunning? Are they crafty? In what ways are serpents wise?

And while we’re at it, were there specific kinds of serpents that Jesus was referencing? Was He talking about snakes in general, or did He have a particular serpent in mind? Was He pointing back to the craftiness of the serpent in the Garden when it beguiled Adam and Eve?

I doubt it. The archenemy of humanity hardly seems like a potent role model for Christ’s followers.

Dallas Willard suggested something different. He proposed that the wisdom of the serpent lies in its timing. Although snakes can strike and bite from any position, the true accuracy and potency of their attack diminishes if they are uncoiled. It is when a snake is coiled and poised for assault that its accuracy and striking potential is fiercest.

Perhaps that’s some of what Jesus had in mind. Perhaps He was warning us about the damage that can be done when we get our sense of timing out of sync. I’ve been both premature and late in my timing too many times to count, and that faulty timing has repeatedly hurt me. It’s caused me to either mess up or miss potential opportunities, and it’s created messes and regrets that I would not have had to deal with if I had simply been more careful with my timing.

Timing is everything. A timely action or a word in season can make all the difference in our lives and relationships. Perhaps a good prayer for us today would be to ask God for a greater dose of true serpentine wisdom.

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)