Using Your Voice

Using YourVoice

I think we have all heard the adage:  “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”.  If we were too look into the Scriptures for something similar, look no further than Ephesians.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

The meaning is pretty clear, the talk that comes out of our mouths should be helpful for building up others, benefiting those who are listening to us.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that there are a lot of people who are not using their words to build others up.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Words are tearing people apart every day.  We read harsh criticisms through social media and newspapers, we hear it on the news and radio.  Some would argue that even though these criticisms are not building someone up, it is for the benefit of those would listen to learn to steer clear of that person, organization, business, etc.  I would argue back that the language in the criticisms are not always “wholesome”, not always researched facts, exaggerated truths, etc.  
I do believe it is possible to give honest constructive criticism without using demeaning words, without tearing down those who believe differently than we do, and keeping the criticism down to the actual facts without exaggeration and hyperbole.  There is a line that you can cross where your honest constructive criticism has become a personal (and sometimes vicious attack).
My grandmother would often use a simple phrase in relation to a lot of different topics.  She’d say “use it or lose it”.  It was a reminder that whatever tangible thing you hold in your hand, gift you have been given, opportunity you have been presented with has an expiration date.  If you wait to long to eat that ice cream, it will melt.  If you don’t use that gift certificate, you’re going to misplace it.  If you don’t jump at this opportunity, it will pass you.  If you stop learning, you will lose knowledge.  If you don’t keep practicing at a skill, you will lose your proficiency.  Use it, or you are going to lose it.
In the world of web articles, bloggers, and social media accounts it appears many of us have grasped the idea of use it or lose it.  We know that if we don’t take full advantage of this opportunity, we lose the chance of success.  If we don’t add to our platforms regularly, we will lose our audience.  This has resulted in writers who beat certain topics to death because they keep bringing it up regularly for content needs, or who will write about just about anything just to publish on schedule.  We find chaos there.  This has resulted in youtubers, and live videos on social media accounts vying to be “viral” so they will speak on some of the most controversial topics.  They know when something hits a hot button with people that they can ride on the coattails.  Look at what happened when artists Childish Gambino released his new video “This is America” (warning, the video is graphic).  It is purposely and intentionally controversial to get people talking, and within hours of it’s release there were hundreds of youtube videos of people sharing their reactions and interpretation of the video.  Praises, shaming, and outright lack of comprehending anything about the video’s message were abound. 
In the realm of Christian authors, speakers, musicians, and artists there is no short supply of online criticism.  I will say that the majority of what I observe is found on twitter.  I’m not really sure why, to be honest.  I’d also go so far as to say in some cases the criticism of believers by other believers can outweigh just about every other topic outside of politics.  Spend a little time watching the Christian accounts and you can’t miss it.  Egalitarians tearing down complementarians.  Criticisms of mega churches and their Pastors.  Criticism of female Bible teachers and church leaders.  Let’s not even begin on the public criticism of women who are Pastors.  Once you start peppering in the criticisms from those who have been hurt by the church, left the church, and non-believers… it is actually overwhelming and heartbreaking.
A Pastor once said, and I’m sure many others have as well, that we should be known for what we are for more than we are known for what we are against.  John 13:35 encourages us to be know for our love.  What is love?  1 Corinthians 4-8 says that love is patience, kindness, it is not jealous, nor is it proud. Love doesn’t dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it doesn’t keep track of wrongs.  Love protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.  And in verse 8 we are told that love never fails, even though prophecies, tongues, and knowledge will cease.  In other words LOVE doesn’t cease even when these other things do.
I’d like to take my grandmother’s phrase and make it a little more specific by saying:
Use it wisely, before you lose it.
One day our writings will stop, our words will not be read and our voices will not be heard.  One day our knowledge will end, we won’t be able to teach others any longer.  One day our gifts will pass away, but our LOVE will endure.
It is possible that my writing and speaking could stop, because I have reached an age that I have nothing left to say or I don’t have the faculties to keep writing.  As a person with a chronic health condition, I do recognize that every day that I have to put pen to paper and move my cursor across this screen is a gift.  It could be that our abilities will gradually fade or could be suddenly taken away from us.  Someone close to me went to a doctors appointment yesterday only to find out she had a complication with her eyes and without warning could lose her vision.  Like instantly, snap of a finger.  She is being treated right now to prevent that from happening.  Our gifts and talents could literally be gone due to a tragic accident, a slowly debilitating disease.  Long will these blog posts be forgotten when we are navigating a new life, or when our presence fades into retirement.  What will be left?  The love I shared for those who knew me in life, those who I would lovingly encourage to go further than I ever did, and those people that I offered a shoulder to cry on.
It is possible that I might make a mistake that changes how people view me, damages my credibility, or sets me in opposition to others.  Or, that I may change my position on hot button issues that creates controversy.  We’ve seen authors who have done this, and it cost them dearly.  They were dropped from publishers, stores, speaking tours, endorsements, etc.  Not because of some illegal scandal, but simply stepping on the other side of an established line of belief.   Whether a mistake or an intentional shift, my audience may narrow even to the point where there is no one left.  I may have a lot more to say, but I will have lost the audience who was willing to listen.  If that happens?  What will be left?  My love for others.  That I served women well.  That I did my best to equip them in their leadership roles.  My genuine love and encouragement.  That will be left.
There is another consideration, which is that is possible that any one of use could begin to use our voice in a negative way, and it will cost us.  Where suddenly our writings take on a negative tone, tearing people down, accusatory and gossipy, without merit or evidence.  And this is where I lean into “use it wisely, before you lose it” as a warning.  I must use my voice, as a speaker and writer, wisely or I risk losing everything and everyone that I am trying to reach.  If everything I write is about how awful a person is, calling out false teachers, tearing down Pastors, ripping apart denominations, pitting one group against another, etc. then I become known not for my love but my hate and disdain.  I become known for my judgement, and I will begin to lose those who were once willing listeners.  What will be left?  A legacy of people whom I hurt, chastised, ran off, put down, labeled, and mistreated.  There will be no love there.  Just a wake of hurt.
If the Lord has trusted me with a platform, and I misuse that gift, I believe HE will take it from me.  If I am sinning, HE will expose that sin.  If I am not using it as HE wants, He will put me back on track or take it from me.  If I am to be known for my love, and yet all I write about is vile and accusation… I am not going to be known for my love.  The only people who are going to listen to me are going to be those who would use me to fit their narratives.  If I want to be known for my love, then I have to be intentional about how I approach everything.
I do not want to be known as the writer who tears others apart.   I do not want to be known as a woman who slings arrows from her mouth with wild abandon, careless and unrestrained.  I do not want to be known as the speaker who blasts out accusations without merit or evidence.  I do not want to be known as a person who can not be corrected, or unwilling to admit I was wrong.  I want to be known for my love.  Which bodes this question:
How do I speak or write about truth, if I can’t criticize when something or someone is in the wrong?
This is a great question, and I can only share my own methods.
1.  I would rather TEACH YOU how to use the Scripture to test that person for yourself vs. TELL YOU the answer and have you trust me at my word.  In other words, I recognize that I am a fallible person who is capable of being wrong.  I will point you to the scriptures to test the message of an author, speaker, teacher, Pastor, church, etc.  Every single time.  Not only is it good for you to come to those conclusions for yourself, but it teaches you a skill you can use in the future (when I’m not around to answer).
2.  I will never write (or speak) about a person/topic that have not at least attempted to speak to the person directly about.  Generally speaking I am not a fan of the “open letter” to specific people.  I think they can work really well when addressing an issue to the general public.  However, I’m not inclined to believe that an author of 30 books cares what I have to say about them in an open letter.  I will at least attempt to write the person directly, if I share the same level of influence a meeting could be possible.  If there is rejection, if the response is rude, or if the response affirms what I believe to be true… at that point I may consider sharing it.  Matthew 18 is pretty clear in it’s directions that first we go to the person. I will not skip that step.
3.  I must look at myself and my intentions and ask “is this being done out of love”.  If I am writing purely from a place of malice to malign that person’s character or ministry, that is not love.   If I am writing in anger, words that are slanderous, that is not love.  If I am writing a laundry list of wrongs going back until the day they were born, that is not love.  If I am writing to dishonor another person, or to lift myself up above another person, that is not love.  If I am unwilling to discuss any contrasting perspectives or look at any evidence presented that counters my belief, then I am being prideful, and that is not love either.  A Pastor once shared that in order to speak “truth in love” you are required to love the person so much that you have no choice but to speak the truth.  When I read criticisms of others, I rarely see it being from a position of love.
Now you may ask:  What if I love God so much that I can’t let another person be a false teacher?  Or, I love God and His church so much that I can’t not call out this behavior?
Let me leave you by employing my first point, TEACH vs. TELL.
First, you need to hit the Word and make sure that you are correct. What does the Bible say about false teachers?  How can we identify them?  How are we to respond to them?
Ezekiel 13:9 says that the Lord will have His hand against them.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 says that the people will find teachers who will tell them what their ears want to hear, not truth but myth.
Acts 20:29-30 does tell us that there will be wolves who come in to destroy us, but also that there will be those that rise up from our flock who will distort truth.
2 Peter 1:20-21 clarifies that the Word from any prophet will not be their own interpretation but directly from God.
Titus 1:1-11 describes what an anointed overseer’s character looks like vs. the actions of the false teacher (rebellious, deceptive, destructive, for their own gain).
… I could keep going on, but I want you to dig for yourself!
Keep in mind that 1 John 4:1-6 is specifically about testing the spirits, and Matthew 7:15-20 is also about False Teachers and False Prophets and how you can identify them.
But I would be remiss if I didn’t include a piece of scripture that is often, in my opinion, overlooked in this topic:
Luke 9:49-50
“Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not accompany us.” 50“Do not stop him, Jesus replied, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”
In this particular instance, John is calling out someone who was acting in the spirit… specifically casting out demons.  He tells Jesus that they tried to stop him from doing it because this guy was not part of their particular group.  Jesus responds to John with the instruction to not stop the man.  This man was not a threat to the apostles, not a threat to the Kingdom.  And in fact, Jesus recognized the man as an ally. 
We need to be careful that we do bring accusation against someone that is not really a threat, where we are allowing doctrinal differences or our own personal interpretations cloud our ability to accurately test the person or belief against the Scripture.  It is really easy to find people who agree with us, to take Scripture out of context to support our views and opinions.  We can do the same when it comes to False Teachers.  We can examine everything about their life to find enough evidence (or twist evidences) to make ourselves feel justified in our accusation.  However, Proverbs 25:8 warns:
Do not hastily bring into court, for what will you do in the end, when your neighbor puts you to shame?
This is a warning to us that if we are too quick to toss out those accusations, and we are wrong… guess who ends up looking bad in the end?
So, I would ask the following of you…
Please do not hit share, repost, or retweet on an accusing article without verifying the facts for yourself.  Do not take another writer, speaker, or teacher’s opinion as gospel truth (even if you think they are more spiritually mature or educated than you).  This includes myself, please don’t share anything I write without vetting it.  Once you do, you become an accuser … and that is not where you want to be.
Please do not write or speak about others or topics that you have not fully and responsibly researched.  Don’t just look for materials that support your opinion, but look at those that disagree with you.  Don’t rely on just extra-biblical resources either, take it to the Word.
Pray before you say anything.  Whether you are speaking to a single person or writing for an audience of thousands, bathe your words in prayer.  Even if everything you believe is true and accurate… is God asking YOU to be the messenger of this truth, NOW and in this way?  If there is a seed of doubt, better to wait for confirmation that let your tongue loose.
Start with love.  If there is no love in your heart for this person, or about this topic, there will be no love in your words.  With out love, you are just a clanging symbol… water dripping… noise.  You are not uplifting or edifying.  You are not loving a person when you focus on tearing them down vs. encouraging them in a manner that builds them up.
If we are to be known for our love, we must use our voices wisely.  Or, we risk losing it.
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Movie Review: Holy Ghost

Recently I was given the opportunity to watch this movie for the purpose of reviewing it.   It made me very uncomfortable.  I’m going to break the movie down into 4 very specific sections, but first let me explain the purpose of the movie.

The concept of the movie, is the director wants to film a movie (documentary style) completely led by the Holy Spirit.  Going where the spirit leads him, encountering those whom the spirit wants them to encounter, and doing what the spirit leads them to do.

In essence, that is not necessarily a bad thing.

There are 4 sections in the movie’s progression:

Section 1:  2 Men head into a city which is predominantly Mormon.  They are claiming to heal people, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Section 2:  We head to an interview with Brian Head Welch from the band Korn, who became a Christian.  We get some personal testimonies of God healing people from addictions.  As part of this portion, they head into the crowds before a concert to perform healings, again through the Holy Spirit.

Section 3:   The team heads out of the country to Italy, where they are to have an adventure with a boat.  While there, there are are some prayers for healing (physical and emotional).

Section 4:  The team heads to India, to an incredibly dangerous area for Christians.  To share the gospel.  Healing prayers occur, but not as much of the main focus.  In fact, most of the focus here is simply that they are doing something dangerous and being protected by the Holy Spirit.

We are called to test the spirits, to discern false spirits.  We are told to test the word, to discern lies and misrepresentation.  I also need to acknowledge that I am a very skeptical, skeptical person.  It’s not that I don’t believe that divine healing is possible, or that God doesn’t still give us the gift of healing today.  However, I also don’t believe every instance we see proclaimed on television is real.  In part, because we have seen this exposed in the past.

In the end, after reflecting on the movie, doing some research, and prayer… I can NOT recommend this movie.  Let me explain why, section by section.

Section 1)  I am very suspect of the “healings” we see her, but rather lean toward these are tools of the power of suggestion.

  • There is no sharing of the Gospel in this portion.  In the scriptures, every healing was a tool to share the gospel.  Jesus revealed in the healing, and in ministry after Jesus final ascension into heaven… healings were a tool of the Gospel. Additionally there were instances were people were not healed, Peter, for the glory of God.
  • In their “prayers” for this healing they Command the Holy Spirit to heal, they are not asking.  In fact in one of their prayers, the person praying said “Holy Spirit, I give you permission to enter this man’s ministry.” – At what point do we as humans give the Holy Spirit PERMISSION to do anything?
  • In their prayers, only one did they ask for the healing in the name of Jesus.
  • In the actual acts of healing, the men are essentially having to convince the person they are being healed.  This is a power of persuasion.  In all but 1 account in the scriptures, was healing not instantaneous.  A woman was completely healed of her illness by touching the hem of his garment.  In this movie, the accounts of healing take repetitive suggestion.  Do you feel a difference?  No.   — pray again— How about now?  Do you notice any difference?  A little. — pray again— How about now?  A little bit?  — pray again — How about now?.      In scriptural healings it was that miraculous total healing that got the person’s attention.  Jesus and his disciples didn’t have to coax a healing.  Not one time.

Section 2)  Section two really started out well done.  We get an opportunity to hear the personal testimony of someone who was rescued (instantly) from a life of addiction.  Brian Head Welch’s testimony, and that of his bandmate, could have stood on it’s own.  It would have been a big redeeming from Section 1 of the movie. Unfortunately, the directors toss in another “healer” and they begin the same tactics as Section 1, but in the crowd of people at one of the concerts.

  • I question the legitimacy of the prayer healing tactic, because in the case of celebrity status… these are fans, and they’d say just about anything to be close to the two members of the band.
  • The “healing” tactic used on the atheist man’s is a well known deceptive technique.  He is positioned in such a way to give an illusion of healing (known as leg pulling).  Fact is, if the Holy Spirit wanted to heal this man… sitting was not required.
  • Again, the Gospel was not shown.  Instead we heal a bunch of people, and because you buy this… let’s accept Christ as your savior.   While I can hope that this illusion would at least plant a seed, to make any of these people dig deeper into belief.   I’m suspect.  And, when the atheist finds in a matter of days or weeks that he isn’t healed… this show did more harm than good toward leading him to Christ.  It becomes further evidence that we are just another bunk religion.
  • I also believe that this takes some of the creditability away from Brian Head Welch’s testimony, being associated with this production.

Section 3)  So, this big “boat adventure” is nothing, really.  They see the boat, they get on the boat, and then almost immediately leave the boat.  The rest of the section takes place elsewhere in the city. On the docks, in a restaurant, in a bar.  If the Holy Spirit tells you directly, that you are going to have an adventure on a boat, you have an adventure on a boat.   You don’t visit a boat.  The Holy Spirit didn’t tell them you will encounter someone with a boat.  Or, you will know them by their boat.  Their clear “divine” instructions were that they would have an adventure on a boat.

  • The boat, the whole inspiration for this trip, is totally inconsequential.
  • The boat owner, becomes their shift to explain the deviance from their original mission… is also really inconsequential.  I felt more like what I was seeing was a make shift therapy session & not a spiritual divine appointment.  People, have problems. It isn’t hard to find a person who doesn’t have some sort of struggle.
  • The other encounters (3) on this “adventure” were also inconsequential, and we are given no real explanation of how this was important to the Gospel.
  • There was no sharing of the Gospel message.

Now, before I move on to the 4th section, I also want to point out that there was ZERO follow up with any of these people who they “healed”.  They showed us only their initial encounters with these people, but not any follow up with whether or not these healings lasted.  In the scope of a documentary, they had to get permission (legal contract) to show this… so, there is no reason for them to NOT have contact information to follow up with these people.

This creates a feeling of suspicion in me, because if you were trying to PROVE something… you need evidence.  There is NO evidence.  No interviews later to see if the person was still healed, no interviews with their doctors to see if the doctors could explain it, etc.  This calls us to get caught up in the emotions that sensationalism evokes.

We want miraculous healing.  We want to believe it to be true.  We HOPE that it is.  As, believers, we also KNOW it is possible.  And because of all of these wants, hopes and belief… we are susceptible to the power of suggestion.

Jesus and his disciples healings had hard evidential proof.  A man born blind, that the entire community knew, healed… instantly.  This was not some random stranger that everyone had to simply believe his word that he was healed.  They knew him, they knew him since childhood.  They knew he was blind, without a shadow of doubt.  And he was healed.   In this particular case, there is evidence that the healing stuck, because a week later he was questioned by the Jewish Leaders.

This movie offers not a SINGLE evidence of proof toward of their healings.

Section 4)  The trip to India… this could have been the ENTIRE MOVIE for me, and done much more toward evidencing the proof of the Holy Ghost than the rest of the movie.   Overall, I agree with the amount of protection this DIFFERENT team had in their trip.  I cannot explain how they were not harassed, or how they were allowed into some of the areas they accessed.  Even the on the ground missionaries were shocked and didn’t believe them until they noted they had video of it.

  • Healing prayers were a very small amount of this portion of the film.  Only once, was there even a claim of immediate healing.  The difference, between the previous healings… it was IMMEDIATE, the reaction of the man was total shock and surprise.  Of all the healings in the movie, this is the ONLY ONE, that had at least some credibility.  The man’s response seemed genuine and it got the attention of those around him.
  • There was SOME Gospel introduction here, a stark difference to the rest of the movie.
  • While they exalted some of the moments were an local temple high priest was singing along with their worship music… I can’t ignore my skeptical side that wondered … did he know what he was singing, or just repeating words?  There are plenty of songs in Spanish that I enjoy and sing along to… but I have no clue what they are saying.  (I should probably look into that, ha.)
  • There was one point, where the crowd grows pretty big & at least someone from the crowd gets a bit aggressive.  They leave.  I don’t know if this counters that they were “protected by the Holy Spirit” or part of the protection, knowing that it is time to leave. So I can’t really give a solid opinion on that scenario.

When I watched the movie… at first, I was caught up in the emotions of it.  Even a skeptic like me.  However, as time passed, and I was detached from the emotional response… reservations begin to settle in.

Even when I searched for the youtube trailer, I began to find a LOT of videos and articles that debunked the movie.  These were well documented, well researched, and biblical sound arguments against the claims and behaviors in the movie.

In my own research in the scriptures, what they do here is not in alignment with how healing occurs in the scriptures.  It is also not in alignment with WHY healing was used in the scriptures.

You may ask… was there ANYTHING redeeming in the movie?  A little bit, but it is outweighed by the things that concerned me.  Which is what concerns me the MOST about the movie.  A little bit of truth can make a lie, misrepresentation, con, or manipulation seem TRUE.

I actually think this is a very dangerous movie.

That said, if there is anything positive I can pull from it is this…. THESE PEOPLE WERE BOLD.  They may fully believe that they are doing these things under the spirit, they may not be intentionally trying to scam or manipulate people.  But, there tactics are easily debunked.  The gospel is excluded from their mission.  There is no part of what they are doing that is in full concert with the scriptures.

But, they were bold.  I was very convicted by my own lack of boldness.  When those who are doing things outside of the scriptures are THIS BOLD… we as Christians need to be BOLDER.  Jesus was not timid when it came to calling out false teachers, false prophets.

If you are person strong in your faith, I think you could watch this movie and not be persuaded by it.

However, if you are a new believer, weak in your faith, or a long time believer who is not well versed in the scripture… this could be very damaging to your walk.

* The movie Holy Ghost was given to me by Family Christian for the sake of the review.  The opinions in this review are entirely mine, and not influenced by Family Christian or those who are involved in the making/production of this movie.  I received no cash payment for this review.