Saying “No”

by Ken Idleman

I love this Scripture passage in the Pastoral Epistles:  Titus 2:11-14.  It consists in a short declarative statement followed immediately by one of the longest recorded sentences in the entire New Testament.  Ready to focus? 

Here we go:

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

One of the first words we learn to say as toddlers is the word “no.”  You and I probably don’t remember saying it during our own childhoods, but those who have reared toddlers know very well that they have it down!

“Time to go to bed.”  “No!”

“Brush your teeth.”  “No!”

“Eat your carrots.”  “No!”

“Clean up your toys.”  “No!”

Of course, our job as parents is to teach our children the real meaning of “no” and the appropriate times to say it.  It can actually be a good word.  “No” can be used in a very positive way if it describes God-honoring boundaries for your life.  Learning to say “no” is a capacity that can and should be honed and directed; when it is, it’s a good thing.

To say “no” to some things is actually a virtue.  Saying “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions is a prelude to living a self-controlled, upright and godly life.  “No” helps to define your values.  It shapes your ethical and moral development.  It divides good from best.  It shapes your future.  It ensures your destiny.  

We all need more practice at saying “no.”

Agents of Joy

by Ken Idleman 

Hebrews 13:17 admonishes us as churchmen and churchwomen: “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.  Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you” (emphasis added).  Church leadership should be a joy!  Christians can inspire joy in their congregational leaders and they, in turn, will eagerly follow such leaders.  I have heard it said that, “People won’t follow negative leadership anywhere.”  I take it that the converse is true that, “People will follow positive leadership anywhere.”

It was back in 1994 that I was personally impacted by a new book, Happiness Is A Choice, co-authored by Christian psychologists Frank Minirth and Paul Meier.  I think I had always believed the assertion implied in the book title, but I had never read anything in print that actually documented and developed the idea.  John Ortberg writes, “We will not understand God until we understand this about him: God is the happiest being in the universe.”

Joy is foundational to God’s character.  Joy is God’s eternal destiny of choice for each of us.  Jesus told his friends that his aim was that they should be filled with joy, but not just any kind of joy: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11, emphasis added).  The problem with people, according to Jesus, is not that they are too happy, but that we are not happy enough, and that we are not happy as he would make us.

Lewis Smedes puts it this way: “To miss out on joy is to miss out on the reason for your existence.”  C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”  The apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4).  The Bible puts joy in the non-optional category.  Joy is a command.  Joylessness is a sin, one that professed religious people are particularly prone to indulge in.  It is the sin most tolerated in the church.

Church leaders: we lead by example.  Let’s set this example well.

Pray with me… Father God, Your Word speaks of a ‘joy that is inspired by the Holy Spirit.’  We pray for that joy to show itself in our lives, in the moments when we are front and center and the moments when we are backstage, in our shining moments and in our unguarded moments.  We pray for this grace of joy… the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives that will attract others to the Lord of Joy, Jesus… in His name we pray, amen.

Living, Leaving, a Legacy

by Ken Idleman
My father lived a very full life of 94 years.  He started out as the youngest of four boys – not an enviable place in the “pecking order.”  He grew up in a two bedroom, one bathroom, nine hundred square foot house just 30 yards from five sets of railroad tracks in the little village of Tolono, IL.  His father, my paternal grandfather Lee Idleman, was a section boss for the Illinois Central Railroad where my dad swung a pick alongside his older brothers – 8-10 hours a day for a dollar a day during the Great Depression … which wasn’t really “great.”  He learned Morse Code and applied for an operator’s license.  He succeeded and was later promoted to Train Dispatcher (air traffic control for trains).  He married my mother and they raised a daughter and three sons.  I’m the middle son.  His family and work were my dad’s world until he was introduced to Jesus as a 38-year-old.  The Lordship of Jesus changed my father from the inside out – and a good man became a great man, as God measures greatness.  Ken Idleman, Sr. became a Christ-follower, a local church elder, and as a result, an even better husband, father, grandfather and provider.

I spent the last 48 hours of his life beside his hospital bed.  Dad’s lungs and heart were worn out.  But he was lucid into his last moments of this life as he fell asleep – and awoke in the presence of our Lord.  He taught me three vital church leadership lessons in his last days and hours.

  1. Legacy matters.  It is the one thing you leave behind that will survive.  You will quickly be forgotten after you die.  Just as you cannot remember the names of your great-great grandparents, your posterity will not remember you.  But your influence will survive you – if it is a legacy of real and deep devotion to what is right and true in God’s sight. 
  2. Love until the very end.  I remember how my dad looked at my mother as she left the hospital room on the last night of his life.  My own eyes took a picture of the expression on his face. He knew it would be goodbye for a while.  He would have to go on alone, without her, after 77 years of being with her, nearly every day.  And I remember the look on his face as he turned up on his side, managed a weak smile and said, “Good night K.D.” (his nickname for me).   It was the unmistakable look of pure love.  
  3. Leave well.  I remember some of his last words to me: “I would like to live longer. … But if it is my time to cross over, I’m ready.  I am not afraid.  It is well with my soul.”  That testimony was absolutely the best gift my dad ever gave me. In his hospital room he wanted it quiet.  No TV, no cell phones, no laptops.  I tried to get some work done as he quietly rested.  But he said, “K.D. I am going to need you to turn that off.”  It was uncharacteristic for Dad to be so assertive.  He wanted the curtains open, the light on in the bathroom, the door open to the hallway.  When I asked him that last night , “Dad, don’t you want to take your [false] teeth out?” he replied, “Not tonight Son.”  He knew.  I pulled the sheet up and read part of Romans 8.  He labored for breath as he softly sang a verse and chorus of Great Is Thy Faithfulness.  I laid my hand on his and prayed.  He said good night and fell asleep.  As I reflect on it today I am thinking “what a way to go!” 
None of us can script our passing from this life into the greater life.  But as Christian leaders we can live a legacy, and leave a legacy of faith and faithfulness that will live long after us in our nuclear family and in our church family.  

Excellent Work

by Ken Idleman

I like the way the Good News Bible translates 1 Timothy 3:1:
 

If a man is eager to be a church leader [elder], he desires an excellent work.
 
A companion verse that also applies and has always impressed me as a lifelong church leader is Romans 12:11 (NIV):  
 
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
 
The New Living Translation is a little more common and confrontational in the way it translates this Romans text: Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 
 
As a church leader, I am both motivated and a little convicted by these verses.
 
I am grateful for the work ethic instilled in me by my parents.  They set the example with their post-Depression era “early to bed and early to rise” approach to daily life.  As a rule, my little brother and I were not allowed to stay up late, even on Friday nights.  We had chores to do the next day.  (That’s a word you don’t hear much anymore!)  We were not permitted to sleep in, even on Saturday mornings. When the basement flooded, which was basically every time it rained more than an inch, Dave and I were the “drop and mop” brigade.  When the green beans and strawberries were ripe, we were the two-man picking, snapping and stemming crew.  In the summers I could play Little League baseball … in the evenings … as long as I had worked during the day cutting corn out of the beans, and/or weeding the corn for a farmer in our church. 
 
But I have to say, as a result of the diligence and persistence of my parents, I got it.  Some might say I got it a little too well.  My problem has more often been achieving balance from the other direction.  I used to feel guilty for taking a day off.  I used to think I was a “shirker” when I would go on a vacation.  Through the years I have mellowed.  I now have no problem taking a Sabbath day at least once a week and a Sabbath week at least once a quarter every year. 
 
On the other hand, for me, serving the Lord has never felt arduous – not like “work.”  There is something that is regenerating in the process of working hard for God’s purposes.  And I am thankful that there is no mandatory retirement age for doing ministry.  I can do it voluntarily even after I have ceased to do it vocationally.  My 99-year old mother, Lois, is in a retirement facility, but daily she carries on a prayer ministry, a teaching ministry, a reading-to-the-visually-impaired ministry and an encouragement ministry that she discharges for the benefit of her neighbors.  I am still, to this day, challenged by her example of tireless, selfless service. 
 
And through the years, I have become a huge admirer of local church elders for their work ethic.  They typically volunteer many hours of their time for monthly elder team meetings, planning retreats, hospital visits, pastoral searches, crisis management and problem solving.  Of course this does not even count the scriptural priorities of a church leader – the prayer and teaching ministry of God’s Word.  We all get 168 hours in a week, which, in the light of such leadership demands, evaporate pretty quickly. For this reason, Hebrews 13:17 admonishes us to Obey them [our spiritual leaders] so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

A Good Reputation

by Ken Idleman 

Paul’s first letter to Timothy details the character requirements of a local church elder.  1 Timothy 3:7 declares, “An elder must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”

AshleyMadison.com launched as a web site in 2001 as a place for people, in ostensibly committed relationships, to go if they wanted to cheat on their spouse or significant other.  Their marketing slogan: “Life is short.  Have an affair.”  The additional allure was the promise of anonymity/secrecy.  But alas, once again the things done in secret were shouted from the housetops!  The Ashley Madison database was hacked.  Their records were distributed in the public domain.  

But this time the national expose of secret sin did not result in the shaming of anyone who was particularly well known.  Rather, this time the dark shroud concealing immorality was stripped away exposing the sad lies and secret lives of a staggering 30,000,000 individuals, mostly regular folks.  The population of the United States is only 325,000,000!  This means almost one in ten people in our country were implicated in this scandal.  It means that no matter who you are, you probably know someone who has pursued this quest to experience marital or relational unfaithfulness.  For some it is just a fantasy you say?  They would never act on their fantasy you say?  Listen … if you shop, there is no guarantee you won’t buy.  If you flirt, there is no guarantee you won’t seduce or be seduced.  If you chase a fantasy, you will probably capture it – sooner or later.  And for many, their secret life of shame became common knowledge.  

Their good reputation with outsiders was at least temporarily damaged.

During the same week as the Ashley Madison hack, an Old Dominion University fraternity made the news by welcoming new female students and their fathers to the campus with garish black letters scrawled on white bed sheets hanging from frat house balconies: “Freshman daughter drop off!” and “Drop off mom too!”

It was an ominous harbinger of the very real danger faced by college girls, 25% of whom, according to a survey of graduating senior girls done by the University of Iowa, were subjected to sexual molestation, sexual abuse or date rape during their four years of college.  So, dads – entrusted with the protection of your daughters – what do you think of these odds?

I remember the late 60’s and the ‘free love’ movement in the culture.  It was dubbed the ‘sexual revolution.’  And Ed Stetzer is right: “A revolution means that a war is being fought.  In revolutions, bombs are dropped, attacks are launched and there are thousands of casualties.  Sadly, today the war is being waged against the way of Jesus … that marriage is between a man and a woman, becoming one flesh, in one marriage, in one sexual relationship, for one lifetime.”  And for those who have failed to follow the Jesus way, His cross stands in time and space as a tangible reminder that regardless of anything else, a way of rescue from sin and shame, guilt and judgment, still exists.

The Psalms gave us an infinitely better slogan than Ashley Madison’s to preserve a good reputation with outsiders: Psalm 90:12, “Teach us how short our life is, so that we may become wise.”

Trustworthy Leadership

by Ken Idleman

In the first eight chapters of Acts, Holy Spirit-inspired historian and physician, Dr. Luke, does two things.  First, he describes the birth of the Christian church on the Day of Pentecost.  Second, he exposes the strategy of the evil one, who sought to snuff out the life of the infant church.  In chapters 1 & 2 we see The Holy Spirit working.  By contrast, in Acts 3-8 we see the activity of Satan festering under the surface.  In these chapters, the three-fold strategy of the devil to smother the first century church is evident – persecutioncorruption, and division

These are the devil’s three exclusive weapons to blunt the impact of The Gospel and Church in every generation.  But he can never stop the impact of The Church.  Jesus created His Church, and she is invincible!  But if the enemy can trip up her leaders, the impact will be blunted.  Notice that all three of these types of assaults come against leaders/influencers. 

But we can meet these timeless assaults as trustworthy leaders if we face them in the power of The Holy Spirit. 

When we face persecution, stay faithful.  In Acts 4 and 5, church leaders – Peter, John, and other apostles – were arrested but Providentially released.  Faithfully, they kept on speaking publicly about Jesus.  In Acts 7, Stephen kept faithfully speaking both to crowds and then to the Sanhedrin, and even through his death at the hands of a mob.  In Acts 8, Saul persecuted The Church and as they scattered (Acts 11), they kept faithfully speaking to people they met.  Faithfulness breaks the enemy’s power to persecute. 

When he tries to corrupt, keep your integrity.  In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira fell to the temptation to lie before God and The Church about how much they had received from their property sale.  The divine death sentence impressed on the young church the seriousness of that stewardship sin.  Even in the secular realm, honesty and integrity are ranking at the top of business surveys.  A USA Today survey of Fortune 500 recruiters put honesty/integrity at the top of what they look for in potential employees.  College degrees were 4th on the list.  In the last couple generations, the trustworthiness of professed spiritual leaders has taken hit after hit.  Satan scored big in bringing down the likes of televised Christian leaders like Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Robert Tilton and Ted Haggard, and more recently, Tullian Tchividjian and Mark Driscoll.  In one way or another, they fell prey to the lure of fame, money, and sex.  Literally hundreds of Roman Catholic priests and bishops have been indicted for sexual molestation and cover-ups.  J. Hunt once said, “If you lose your reputation / testimony, you’ll be fortunate if you live long enough to restore it.”  Ephesians 4:25: Therefore, each of you must put off all falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we’re all members of one body.  When the enemy attacks with corruption, walk in the truth. 

And when he sows division, ask for wisdom.  In chapter 6, the apostles released the solving of the problem to men “known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.”  They had solid reputations (known to be), already demonstrating spiritual maturity (full of the Holy Spirit), and wisdom.  This trait of wisdom is one I do not hear much about in Christian circles.  Just like Acts 6, James admonished us of the same in the opening of his letter, (1:5): If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  In the realm of knowing God’s will when we do not have the specific “book-chapter-verse,” what is best?  Good leaders have this gift of wisdom; James tells us it is the byproduct of a strong prayer life.  When the enemy attacks with division, seek wisdom. 

God will bless your church despite persecution, corruption, and division because of the faithfulness, integrity, and wisdom of trustworthy spiritual leadership – your leadership. 

Speaking Truth in Love

by Ken Idleman

3 John verses 9 & 10:
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us.  So, if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us.  Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers.  He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. 

In the content of the very personal letter of 3 John there is a warning about a man in the early church named Diotrephes.  He is described as someone who “loves to be first.”  He is described as someone who is standoffish and critical.  John says he “will have nothing to do with us” and that he is “gossiping maliciously about us.”  In fact, John said, Diotrephes “refuses to welcome any of the brothers… He also stops those who want to [be welcoming] and puts them out of the church!” 

Wow.  This guy, Diotrephes, had some major spiritual blind spots!  He was self-serving and self-projecting.  He loved to be preeminent, the center of attention, occupying a place of power.  He was what we might call “a control freak.”  He wanted to call the shots.  He expected people to defer to him.  He was aloof.  He was an armchair general.  He used verbal skills to manipulate and intimidate others.  He did not want the church to grow.  He was not a welcoming presence to say the least.  He even actively opposed those in the church who wanted to be welcoming of others.  He excommunicated people who were hospitable!  That is the furthest thing from a Spirit-filled disciple of Jesus – and he was wreaking havoc in the life of the early church. 

Thankfully, church people with attitudes like Diotrephes are few and far between.  They truly are the exception, and certainly not the rule.  However, when they do surface, they need to be firmly, but lovingly, confronted.  In five decades of ministry in local churches and our Bible colleges, I learned that if I get into necessary, loving confrontation early, we’re already halfway to solving the problem.  Situations like this never “just go away.”  If we think a problem “can’t get any worse,” it can. 

As the apostle John promised, “If I come, I will call attention to what he is doing.”  Remember, John was formerly described by Jesus as a “son of thunder,” so I’m pretty sure he could handle it.  But, without an Apostolic presence in the contemporary church, this task of loving-and-firm confrontation falls on the elders/pastors.  It must be entered into with a spirit of humility, but it must be done. 

Pray with me… Father in heaven, we know that people seeing Christ in us and hearing about Christ from us is the hope of the world.  May we never have a down day or even a moment of weakness that would cause us to identify with the alien spirit of Diotrephes.  As Jesus was, may we be ‘full of grace and truth.’  In His Name, amen.

Cardinal Sin of a Leader

by Ken Idleman 

On many occasions in the Old Testament, the prophets served as God’s spokesmen to confront the shepherds of Israel for the cardinal sin of any recognized spiritual leader:  hypocrisy.  In the Gospel accounts, Jesus’ most scathing rebukes were directed at the religious leaders of the Jewish people for the same reason.  We recall His refrain through Matthew 23: Woe to you teachers of religious law and Pharisees – hypocrites!… (verses 13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29).
 
Generally, a hypocrite is an actor who practices the opposite of what he preaches.  His outward appearance does not match his inward condition.  We have been inundated in recent memory with graphic illustrations from the past lives and the present leadership of political leaders “on both sides of the aisle.”  But, really, we have been seeing this with regularity since the 1960s.  Politicians verbally persecute others, later to be caught in the same vices.  Pastors vigorously attack certain sins, only to be exposed for secretly indulging in them.  Humanitarians claim to stand with the poor, even though they themselves quietly live self-indulgent and lavish lifestyles. 
 
Now, of course, we know we are all fallen sinners, so we all have varying degrees of hypocrisy in us.  We can all identify with the words of Paul in Romans 7:15, I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Only Jesus was truly without hypocrisy.  Only He could challenge His enemies in John 8:46, Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?  
 
So let’s be honest.  Hypocrisy is a common tendency in us all.  And it is a pitfall especially pernicious for any leader that helps to maintain the moral compass: parents, pastors, teachers, judges, politicians…   
 
But here’s the thing:  God’s Word makes it clear that those who lead, who teach  anyin positions of influence  will be judged more strictly.  That is, leaders are held to a higher standard.  Look at James 3:1: Not many of you should become teachers [leaders], for we who teach will be judged more strictly.  Alongside this, remember Paul’s words about a higher standard in 1 Corinthians 9: Don’t we have the right to live in your homes and share your meals?  Don’t we have the right to bring a believing wife with us as the other apostles do?… Or is it only Barnabas and I who have to work to support ourselves?… We have never used this right.  We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ, (verses 4-6, 12, NLT).  Therefore, leaders are justifiablyexpected to be the private personification of the doctrines, values and behaviors that they represent publicly. 
 
With this in mind, no one should consent to wear the leadership mantle without embracing the personal implications of this trust!  We can’t be perfect, but we do have to commit to being perfected.  We don’t have to be completely consistent, but we do have to be worthy of imitation.  We must be able to say to those we lead, just like the imperfect Paul said (1 Corinthians 11:1): And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.

The All-In Elder

by Ken Idleman 

God has used elders to lead, guard and bless His people throughout history.  Examples abound in both the Old and New Testaments of those who exercised wisdom and discipline to equip God’s people to reflect His character and build His Kingdom.  While Jesus is the Head of The Church, elders oversee the health and growth of the church.  The qualifications for elder service are detailed in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3.  These passages paint a word picture of spiritual maturity in Christ to which all believers are called as they mutually encourage one another and are mutually accountable to one another. 
 
I Peter 5:1-4 is our charge: “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder… Be shepherds of the flock of God that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be… not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” 
 
So, Jesus is the Great Shepherd and we elders are His under-shepherds involved in teaching God’s Word, exhorting believers to live godly lives, praying for the sick, disciplining those who are unrepentant, protecting the church from false doctrine and distributing its resources for God’s purpose.
 
One of my favorite “all-in” elders is Caleb, whom we read about in Joshua 14:10-11:  “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years…while Israel moved about in the wilderness.  So here I am today, eighty-five years old!  I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out: I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.”
 
I have to admit, I really like this.  I’ve always liked how Ashley Montegue said it: “I want to die young at a ripe old age!”  Caleb is a young man in an 85-year-old body, but what makes this profoundly amazing is the connective preposition here; the word ‘as’ meansidentical in the Hebrew language.  Translation: He could bench press as much at 85 as he could at 40.  He was as strong at 85 as he was at 40.  Awesome!  This is an 85-year-old man you don’t want to mess with!  Just try to imagine the conviction in his voice when he said this.  I wish we had the audiotape so we could do it justice.  This is a Braveheart moment!  This is a Gladiator moment!
 
“Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day.”  Doesn’t that send a chill down your spine?  Caleb was all in.  He wasn’t looking to retire at 65, settle down at 70, or take up shuffleboard at 75.  If he had the opportunities available to him that we have today, my guess is that he would be skydiving at 80, climbing Everest at 81, hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim at 82, running the Ironman Triathlon at 83, taking up cage fighting at 84, and at 85 he’s saying, “Let’s go after that hill country!  Let’s pick a fight with God’s enemies!” 
 
I love the spirit of Caleb.  The simple reason that he was as vigorous at 85 as he was at 40 is because his faith never diminished.  In fact, his faith grew stronger over time and it was his faith that animated him and energized him in a way that I pray we all experience.  I pray that God would give us as elders and our wives the same spirit of Caleb.
 
I have met a few “Calebs” in my life – and I want to be like Caleb when I grow up!

The Impact of a Leader’s Words

by Ken Idleman 

As I write, I’m reflecting on one of the big leadership lessons of our presidential campaign last fall.  One of the take-aways for me has been a fresh conviction about the importance of a leader’s spoken words.  Now, I know there are times when a leader’s words are intentionally taken out of context to unjustly indict him/her – and that is just not right, besides unfair.  But at other times, in our off-script, backstage or private conversations, unguarded speech can become self-indicting.  Our words can come back around to haunt us.  How many times have you and I heard actual recordings of thoughtless words, spoken by a leader that would, in the future, undermine credibility?
 
As a local church pastor, I remember an incident in which I learned, the hard way, the importance of “be[ing] quick to hear, slow to speak,” (James 1:19).  In a conversation with a middle-aged man, whose wife was exhibiting some extreme behavioral instability and threatening him with divorce, I sympathized, describing her as “occasionally being high maintenance.”  Well, he leveraged that intended privately-supportive comment, using my name, in an attempt to shame and humble her.  Needless to say, it did not produce the desired outcome.  Instead, we were both on the receiving end of her resentment.  As I have reflected, what was far worse from my standpoint, as her pastor, was the loss of my opportunity to lead her spiritually.  She closed-up and adopted a defensive posture.  And although the couple did not divorce, when the husband died recently, he and his wife were still separated.  
 
There is a sobering truth laced into the words of Jesus in Luke 12:3, “Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!”  
 
Of course, the one thing we can do to protect our speech, ensuring that it builds up and does not tear down, is to work “upstream” of our speech, disciplining our inner life.  How or what we think/feel about any subject will be exactly what’s reflected in our speech.  Again, Jesus said in Matthew 15:18, “… the words you speak come from the heart – that’s what defiles you.” 
 
But our Creator has posted two sentries on either side of your mouth and mine.  They are called ears.  And, given the speed of sound, the first person to hear what you say will almost always be you.  So let’s listen to ourselves, especially when “off-platform.”  Let’s take careful spiritual inventory as we speak.  If we do, we’ll have nothing for which to apologize and nothing of which to be ashamed in the days ahead.