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Monday, August 29, 2011

The Grand Scheme of Things

God's Plan is Always Coming into View Around the Bend
I've been writing a lot lately about the "grand scheme of things," that is, what is going on behind the day to day scenes we call life.  Every day is full of its own challenges, although some are much easier than others.  Sometimes it can be hard to see God's hand in everything, and I mean these posts to encourage those who are struggling to see that.

I've been reading 1 Peter these past two days, and the theme of that book has really stood out this time around.  Today I'm focusing on 1 Peter chapter 1.

Peter is talking about the grand scheme of things, and how present trials fit in to history.  He isn't minimizing pain; rather, he is putting it into a proper perspective.

Solomon concluded in Ecclesiastes that the only meaningful thing worth doing is spending life serving the Lord.  Peter takes it a logical step farther.  God and His plans and purposes are the only thing that gives history meaning and significance.  We aren't just talking about each individual life now; the whole scheme of life on planet earth, from the least important person to the greatest, is shaped by the Lord into something with a purpose!

If this task had been left to man, we would have failed long ago, likely out of disunity and war.  It is a comfort to know that God is making something out of our problems, even at times when we can't see a point to them all.

What is this unfolding purpose of history?  According to Peter, the whole point is to perfect (make complete) our faith, for the glory of God and the salvation of souls (1 Peter 1: 7,9).  Present-day trials are worth something in our individual lives, but they also tie in with this sweeping campaign for restored communion with humankind that spans history from Adam and Eve's fall to the present day, and continuing into the future.  The prophecy of the prophets, the suffering of the early church, and the individual ministry of each of our lives is all coming together as we move into the final parts of this redemption story.

At the end of all things, what God has started will be made complete, that is, holy and flawless, in each of or individual lives and in the whole scheme of things.  The project will be done, and the grace that has been given to us will bear eternal fruit (see 1 Peter 1: 13, 23-25).

We can find comfort in these two things: (1) God's hand in history is already visible, so we know that from the beginning of history, God thought of us and planned for us today (1 Peter 1: 18-20); (2) God is giving our lives purpose within His plan when we submit ourselves to Him and let Him speak through us (see 1 Peter 1: 22-25).

Something to think about this week.  Until next time, this is my reminder to stay savvy and hold on for that bright future the Lord is building!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Weekly Snippet: Nothing Else Matters

I just finished reading through Ecclesiastes in my personal Bible reading.  I know that many find the grim tone of Ecclesiastes too depressing, especially in hard times in their lives.  However, I do think it is healthy to read it and take it to heart.  As it says in Proverbs in multiple places (for example, Proverbs 27:6), it is better to be told the truth, however much it hurts, than to have our ears filled with pleasant sounding lies.

Solomon fills our ears with the apparent rule of the earth, which seems to be that life is random and without compassion, and all people come to the same end.  Solomon chronicles the fact that being good doesn't always win you fair or better treatment; being rich doesn't make you happier; working doesn't mean you will receive the kind of advancement you desire; power and influence doesn't assure you victory; and accomplishments today will be forgotten or torn down by others tomorrow.  I am summarizing here, but I would encourage you to read the whole thing for yourself.

If he had stopped there, I'd say Solomon was seriously depressed, and needed to spend some time talking to more cheerful people.  Yet, Solomon didn't stop there.  He issued a verdict:  The only purpose or thing of value in life is God, and the only thing we must do--the only thing worth doing--is serve and obey God (Ecclesiastes 12: 13).  In other words, all of this hopelessness comes from an error in our perception, when we place value in the things of this world, instead of on God and His eternal qualities.

I don't think Solomon was really depressed, but even if he was, we don't have to be.

The Only Thing That Matters

I got into a discussion with two friends Thursday night about life in what one of us dubbed "the gray areas of life," that is, the times when it seems nothing is working or coming to anything, and a whole lot of important things seem to be hanging by a thread.  One shared some counsel she had received from an older and wiser mentor, who encouraged her to face the "what ifs" that make these "gray areas" so hard to endure.  I'll ask my readers to do the same.  What if the thread that our hopes hang from, suddenly gave way? What then?

The answer should be that it wouldn't change much about how we live our lives.  Solomon saw that everything else can be taken away in a heartbeat, except for God, so he declared that God is the only steady point in a shifting world.  In our own lives, that means we should follow suit and take our eyes off of our troubles and fix them firmly on God (Psalm 121: 1, 2).

It is hard to develop the mental attitude that says, "It doesn't matter what happens to me; God is still in control of my life."  I'm not saying it is easy.  Believe me, that's a huge problem I have struggled with today.  It isn't easy, but I know it is the truth.  The reality I see is not the reality of things--it's just temporary.  It gets better, because before, during, and after this life, there is God, and He loves me.  I can't hope in anything in this world, but I can hope in Jesus!
Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73: 25, 26 NIV 2011)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Using Social Media in Christian Ministry

It seems the wave of the future is social media, from blogging to social sharing sites like Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and others.  These places haven't been around very long, and Christians everywhere are still trying to figure out how to use them properly in the service of Christ.

I am always happy when I read about a useful application of social media in ministry.  I personally feel the most important place for Christians to stand is at the crossroads of society, wherever it is.  We shouldn't just wave at society as they go by, either.  This is a serious business of catching people, perhaps for the last time, and introducing them to a message that saves lives.

The three main qualities of social media are that they are instant, personalized, and constantly updating.  These can be challenging as well, because they tend to contribute to short attention spans and easy boredom.  So, on the upside, we get quick access to individual people, but on the other hand, we may have a hard time holding their attention.

The Wrong Approach to Social Media

I hear a lot of talk about how we should tailor the message of Christ to be friendly to people "where they are."  In other words, there is a common belief in the Christian community that if we come across as too confrontational or negative in one of these split-second opportunities, perhaps in the scrolling news feed on Twitter or Facebook, people will pass the Gospel by, never to listen again.

I think there is an error at the core of this thinking.  The Bible is profoundly confrontational, instantly personal, and always applicable--even in the case of modern problems.  It is the perfect counterpart for this instant gratification, bored and fickle society that social media sometimes creates.  Those looking for "new" or "challenging" things to break them out of their rut will find that the Bible can fill that absence in their consciousness.

There are things in the Bible that will offend and turn people away.  The problem, however, is not that the Bible is too hard on people; it's that people expect the truth to be less harsh than it is.  If they run away from something they know is true, that is their choice.  If they don't want to hear the truth, putting off telling them will most likely change nothing about that, and it might even make them believe we are trying to deceive, control, or manipulate their personal decisions.

Using the Platform to the Glory of God

The goal shouldn't be to try to make people feel comfortable.  We aren't selling shoes or vacuum cleaners.  In fact, we aren't selling anything (2 Corinthians 2: 16-17), but rather, we are delivering a message.  It's not even a message we have to invent, and our audience already wants it!  How simple is that?

In the "olden days" we delivered the message of the gospel from a pulpit, or a wooden crate on a street corner, or from flyers and letters.  Later, we delivered the message through a radio program, a song, or a television program.  The basic method has really not changed, though the avenue for ministry operates under stricter character and time limits now.

Here's my tips for using social media as an outreach:
  •  Tailor the message to the need. The Bible is full of answers to people's needs, so it's a matter of figuring out which things people need to hear right now.  See what people are talking about, and pray for God to reveal what need is most pressing today.
  • Speak to the perspective of the audience.  It was documented in the Bible that when Paul spoke to Greeks, he talked about their gods and how his message would meet their needs in a way their religion did not.  When Paul spoke to the Jews, he extensively quoted from the Old Testament to prove that his message was supported by what they already believed.  When he spoke to Christians, he talked about Jesus' life and ministry, and how it fit in with human history and prophecy.  He always used a two-fold approach for presenting the gospel: (1) He talked about what the audience knew, or explained what they could learn, (2) He started talking about things his audience found interesting, and related them to what he found important (the message).
  •  Be available to talk.  The difference between social media and older methods of ministry is that you can instantly speak one-on-one with your audience.  Respond to comments, tweets, Facebook chats and emails, etc.  Don't be afraid if the conversation gets off the original topic, because chances are, conversation will settle on this individual person's needs.  It is a unique discipleship opportunity, just like those days that Jesus hung out with His followers and talked about what they thought was interesting.  Social media starts as broad-scale ministry, and moves to small-group or friendship ministry.  This is the best kind!
  • Let the Bible do the talking.  The Bible offends; that has been established.  Still, the truth contained in the Bible is far more helpful and productive than anything we can try to add.  Share Scripture when it fits the topic, or base all advice and opinions on Scripture.  Never speak in these situations without trying to at least ground what you say in the Biblical truth, so that what you say can have a positive effect.  The Bible says,
"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55: 10-11 NIV 2011) 
To take this passage seriously in social media ministry, it is important to remember that all ministers are merely messengers and delivery men.  We speak, but God makes His words have an effect on the hearers (whether they listen to Him or not is their own choice).  If we make a concerted effort to deliver the truth consistently, rather than representing ourselves only, the ministry will be used by God.
  • Simple and straightforward is best.  With limited words (like 150 characters or less), get to the point quickly.  The message of the gospel is so simple, and that simplicity makes it intriguing.  People are used to being told to go somewhere, jump through some hoop, or master some skill in order to learn the secrets of a religion or the truth about something.  Web marketing and design cautions about this: The more times people have to click to get what they want, the more of them will walk away without getting it.  As I've said before, we aren't selling something, so people should just hear the message from us, without a lot of preliminaries.  If you have their ear today, tell them today.  They need the gospel now.  You may not get another chance to talk to them.
  • Update often.  Jesus preached everywhere He went, and often He was ministering all day.  Similarly, social media sites need to be updated frequently (how frequently is up to you).  Just remember that every new update may be another chance to reach out to someone who is watching.  Vary the topic and the approach, and keep new people coming in due to something that piqued their interest.  This is the whole point!
I grew up enjoying the after effects of a modern ministry revolution in music called "the Jesus Movement."  Some bold ministers reached out to hopeless, religiously directionless, addicted young adults, mostly based on the West Coast (California).  These people, in turn, reached out to their generation, talking about the things they knew were important to this crowd, and showing how the Bible met those needs.  They wrote simple music that pulled no punches about the truth of the Bible--you could even call it offensive and confrontational--and they released it to secular radio.  It piqued interest because it dared to challenge what was established, but it was heard because God was in it. The Jesus Movement reached many people through five minute radio sound bytes. Can we do the same for this generation?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Weekly Snippet: Greater than Magellan's Adventure

Magellan sought a name for himself when he set out on an adventure to sail around the world, and although I will never know, I suspect there was a curiosity in him about the people and sights on the other side of the world. I don't think he was merely wanting to put his name on a map or the pages of a history book; he was looking for a purpose.  Ultimately, however, Magellan never arrived at his destination. He died in an obscure place, and a few ships from his fleet limped home, destitute and maybe a little jaded. They had made it around the globe (which was of some value), but what had they really accomplished?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Finding the Best Words

As you probably already know if you've read my bio, I am a freelance writer.  Because I work with words on a daily basis, I'm constantly aware of their power, especially their eternal consequences.

Spoken and written words can continue to destroy or build people up for centuries after they are written.  It is a ripple effect, best measured over the course of centuries.  I can think of a few notable documents that have changed history forever.  Some had a good effect, like the Ninety-Five Theses, and some are much more destructive, like Mein Kampf or The Communist Manifesto.  Because of that, I see it as a matter of utmost importance that we weigh carefully all of our words.

A college friend once told me that she didn't think a sermon was properly-written unless it was heavily grounded in Scripture, rather than just using one or two verses as a launching-off point to spout the preacher's personal agenda.  That has stayed with me ever since, and I think it has had some effect on all of aspects of my life, from conversations to writing projects, in the years since.  It forced me to hold myself to a higher standard than what is generally called "acceptable."  If my words could not be backed by many Scriptures, perhaps I needed to search the Bible longer before expressing them.

In contrast, I recall a parting jab concerning a devotional I had just shared.  These words still echo through my mind in those weaker moments when I'm struggling with writer's block on a project: "Nothing you've ever said, nothing you've ever written had any meaning.  All of it is worthless to me."  Such comments strike deep at the heart of an author, especially, and I think that was the intention.

The words spoken over us yesterday have a lasting effect on us today.  No doubt you have your own memories of things that corrected you and built you up, as well as things that tore you down (and if aimed well, still have the power to do damage).  Yesterday's teaching can burn our whole world down, if it is evil (James 3: 5,6), or it can instruct us with everything we need to succeed in our lives (2 Timothy 3: 14-17).

My words flow through the keys or roll off my tongue and have an immediate effect.  Is that effect desirable?  As a Christian, I want my words to help people and point them toward God and His ways.  Anything else seems like a waste of everyone's time, and no one knows how much time we have left.

The Bible says, "The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit," (Proverbs 15:4 NIV 2011).  In the 1984 version of the NIV, it doesn't say "soothing" and "perverse," it says "the tongue that brings healing," and "deceitful."  In either version, we understand that good, constructive talk is capable of bringing back life, not unlike that tree in the Garden of Eden that Adam and Eve were barred from approaching again.  Meanwhile, evil speech goes farther than just offending a person--it has the ability to deal out a crushing blow to the spirit, not merely the body.

So what kind of talk is good and constructive?  Another proverb reads, "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing," (Proverbs 12: 18 NIV).  We aren't talking about positive affirmation mantras or anything that we can throw out there without much thought, nor are we talking about words spoken out of rage and frustration, without a thought to their consequences.  We are talking about wise words, which have been around since the beginning (Proverbs 8: 22-36), "the first of [God's] works."  Not only have they been around awhile, but also they will last until the end of time.  They are an eternal foundation, which we need in our own lives, and should sow into other people's lives as well.

Over time, food can poison the body or nourish it, but as we see in Scripture, words have a much more lasting power.  I have spoken of the eternal source of our words, and a little about their eternal effects, but no verse makes it more clear than Proverbs 18: 21: "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit," (NIV 2011).

We know that a king has the power to pronounce judgement over another, or that our wicked words have the power to crush someone to the point that they give up on God.  Words are terribly powerful things, even destructive weapons, when used without wisdom or love.  However, as the verse also points out, those who use them will reap their consequences.  If you build people up, God will reward you, but if you use your words to destroy others, God will turn your own words against you.  Therefore, the most destructive thing in our own lives can be our own words.

Perhaps the most frightening image of the future is the day we will all have to take credit for every word and deed in this life:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.   The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. (Revelation 20: 11-13 NIV 2011)
 As we read later in that passage, those that Christ redeemed (whose names were in the book of life) were given eternal life (Revelation 21: 1-8), but those who were not redeemed were thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).  Never does this passage, or any other, say that Christians will not have to explain and own up to everything they have ever done, in front of an audience of all who have ever lived; it only says that they will be spared the death that was coming to them!

So today, I am asking you, even Christians, to give some thought to your words.  If everything you said was paraded before the whole world, would you be ashamed?  Would anything you said be counted as deficient, lacking in wisdom, or bristling with rashness and deception?  If so, I am calling you to repent today, so that tomorrow will be better for you, and so that your words can go out and reap a good harvest throughout future generations.

This is God's example, that we should aspire to follow:

 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55: 10, 11 NIV)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Weekly Snippet: Don't Forget the Face of the Enemy

"Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand," (Ephesians 6: 11-13 NIV 2011)

Sometimes it seems that the enemy is people.  While it is true that people can be motivated to do evil things, in essence, making themselves an enemy of God and believers, the true enemy is Satan.  He is the motivator for evil, and people are merely his pawns.  People can be changed, won over, or swept out of the way by the superior power of God, and the defeat of Satan began at the Resurrection and is already assured.  Therefore, we should not be afraid to stand our ground for what is right, even when it seems like a fruitless struggle at the time.  The Lord will defend our case, and the reward for a tenacious faith is worth the trouble!

No sin can stand against the blinding light of the truth.  Though trouble might knock us flat seven times over, the Lord will lift us up if we are faithful to Him (Proverbs 24: 15, 16).  When we have done everything else, we can still stand, grounded in the Word of Truth and strengthened by the Spirit of God.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Pearl of Great Price

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it" (Matthew 13: 45, 46 NKJV).

I woke up thinking about this parable, and I knew it was something God wanted me to write about today.  Though it is only two verses long (one of the shortest parables of Jesus), we have an image here of Christ's heart and His mission.

Forsaking All Others

This merchant cherished many things.  He started out seeking pearls, not just one but many.  His life was full, but it was not singularly directed at any one goal.  Then, suddenly, he learned of this one pearl and did what appears to be a foolish thing--he threw away all that he had and went after this one thing with total abandon.  What prompted the change?

I believe he saw something in that pearl that nothing else could equal--in other words, a quality that made everything else in his life seem silly in comparison.  It wasn't foolishness to him to go after it with such abandon, because it was a chance of a lifetime, and he couldn't pass it up.

Yet, Christ wasn't talking about merchants and pearls.  He said very clearly that this is a quality of "the kingdom of heaven."  We are talking about deep spiritual things, specifically, the kind of love that Christ has for us, and the kind of love He wants to see in us.

No Greater Love

We all have things that we deeply love and desire, above all other things.  It could be advancement, fame, fortune, or that one secret dream (whatever form it takes), and if we get the opportunity to go after it, we will abandon everything else.  If you don't think you have such a deep desire for something, then examine your life, focusing on the big decisions you have made.  What did you go after?  What was left behind?

Jesus examined Himself, I believe, in the garden of Gethsemane.  He had a choice to make, between ultimate and unlimited power as God on earth, or the lives and love of His friends.  On that night, Jesus revealed what He really loved.  As He said (long before this crisis came), "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends," (John 15: 12, 13 NIV 2011).  Jesus chose the cross and terrible suffering, counting it as nothing, for the sake of the greatest love of His life--that is, believers.  As Paul summarized Christ's decision:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2: 5-8 NIV 2011)
 Adam loved himself more than God or others (even his wife and his children), and so he sought equality with God, to the loss of all other things (Genesis 3: 4-6Romans 5: 12-15).  Jesus was already equal, and deserved to be treated and respected as God, yet He chose to be a servant, despised and rejected, and ultimately thrown out with the trash.  Why?

Love, as Christ revealed, is a humble and self-sacrificing emotion. It isn't after something for itself; it puts all value on the object of that emotion, to the death of self. "Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned," (Song of Solomon 8:7 NIV 2011), the wisest man on earth wrote.  Love cannot be obscured or quenched by anything in this world, because it comes from a source above all this.  It is a fruit of the Spirit of God (Galatians 5: 22-25).

Loving as Christ Loved the Church

Jesus held this great love in His heart for us.  Though we will never be as perfect as He is, He has called us to this kind of love.  Jesus doesn't want us to love Him partially, still holding on to other loves that could draw us away from Him from time to time.  He doesn't want us to make Him the pearl of great price in our lives, only to value another pearl greater than Him, and cast Him aside.

He doesn't want us to treat our friends that way, either.  He even went so far as to say that someone who didn't love his brother was not a believer (1 John 3: 11-24) and anyone that didn't care for his own family was worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8).  We are called to love with this sacrificial intensity, even if that love is scorned (Ephesians 5: 25), and we have condemned ourselves if we don't see the need for this humble servant's love in the lives of those around us.

Let us love like we have been commanded--not for what we can get, but rather, for what we can give.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (2 Philippians 2: 1-4).

Friday, August 5, 2011

Weekly Snippet: Plow Your Own Field

"Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense," (Proverbs 12: 11 NIV 2011).
I have to admit that today, I don't feel strong enough to do the work that needs to be done in my life.  If each day is like plowing a furrow on a field, today's was full of rocks.  Tomorrow looks just as promising.  Just the same, I see that God didn't design my life to always be ideal and easy.  Sometimes life is hard, cruel, unrewarding.  There are seasons in life when it seems trouble is as unrelenting as the summer sun.

Last night I found the verse I put at the beginning of this post, and it was an encouragement to me.  It spoke to me that just because life is tough, we don't have to believe that our labor today is useless, or that reward never comes.  It also encourages me to do my work, make my plans, and fulfill my obligations as if nothing will ever get better, rather than cry for things that may not ever be--like the perfect, easy life.

My motto for today is, "When there is nothing else you can do, do what is in front of you."  God made today, and He arranged it this way for a reason.  Hard or easy, today is a lesson.  May I learn my lessons and be diligent in my work, so in time, I can be satisfied with the abundance my Heavenly Father gave me as a reward.

"A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied," (Proverbs 13:4 NIV 2011)

Monday, August 1, 2011

What I Tell You in the Dark: God and Secrets

"What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs" (Matthew 10:27 NIV 2011).

God and Secrets

When I read this verse, I see a clear statement that God has nothing that He wants to hide.  God has told us all about Himself and His past, present, and future intentions toward mankind in His written Word.  In fact, God didn't just tell us once; He had people write it down for posterity, so that what He had said in the past could be compared to what He is still doing.

In that area, the Bible isn't a private letter; it's more like a public, legally-binding document.

On the other hand, there are secrets that God knows, and chooses to reveal only to specific people at specific times, for His own purposes.  For instance, God chose to privately reveal to Mary and Joseph the truth about the boy they hadn't yet welcomed into the world.  He did this to comfort them, and to take away doubt and fear that Satan could put into their minds without this reassurance.  As far as I understand it, these private messages were just between them and God until they chose to share the story with Christians, years later, after Jesus was raised from the dead (Luke 2: 19).

So we see here the precedent that God makes and keeps confidences, but even those, when revealed later, are without sin or shame.  God has no "dirty little secrets," and He doesn't share things He would be embarrassed about, should they be revealed, even when He does take someone into His confidence (Matthew 12: 15-21; 16: 15-23).

People and Secrets

Meanwhile, most people have plenty of secrets that would destroy them, should they be brought out into the open.  I can remember, at one point in my life, how the words "I'm telling!" were possibly the most frightening words in the English language.  The fear originated from a clear understanding that I had something to be ashamed about, or something that made me eligible for punishment.

The problem with human secrets is that too often they are just that kind--shameful and punishable.  If all of our secrets were the kind that God demonstrated for us by His own example, we wouldn't have a thing to fear!  Instead, we choose a fear that we can't outgrow; the secrets just get bigger and uglier, and so do the repercussions. We give gossips an almost godlike power to destroy us, when they could be silenced by a pure and godly secret--because of course purity is not juicy enough for gossip.

The verse just prior to the one at the start of this post reads, "So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known" (Matthew 10: 26 NIV 2011).  No one is afraid of having a pure, good secret revealed, and those without ugly secrets are not afraid of a gossip.  I gather from this that Matthew 10: 26 is a warning that God does not protect ugly secrets, nor will He allow gossips to hold power for eternity.  The fact is, the days of evil are numbered, and one day the security that evil feels will be wrenched away by God's sense of justice.

If we have an evil secret, it is time to get rid of it, and conform our secret lives to the pattern of God.  He knows all of the truth already, and it's only a matter of time before He reveals the truth to others.  This is why the Bible advises us, "Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy" (Proverbs 28: 13 NIV 2011).

If we have evil secrets today, it is important to get rid of them before they cause us harm, as they are promised to do.  God is merciful to the repentant, and even gossips move on to better targets.  This is one thing God has told us "in the dark," but that we should "proclaim ...from the roofs": We don't have to live in fear, and we don't have to bear the burden of an ugly secret forever.  There is healing for a repentant heart.

So today I am sharing with you that great "secret" of Christianity.  Find mercy and safety from fear in Jesus' sacrifice.  Run from ugly secrets and follow His pattern of living, so that you will always be secure.  Be savvy!