Loophole for Lying Lips?

This past Sunday I was speaking on Ephesians 4:25-32 where Paul exhorts the Ephesian believers to put away lying and rather speak the truth. When I got home my wife and eldest son, Caleb, had been talking about the message, and Joannie tells me that Caleb had a question about the message. What was his question you asked?

My twelve-year old son wanted to know, “Is there ever a time where lying is acceptable?”

His question reveals what almost everyone on planet earth would like to know when it comes to lying lips. Is there a time or place where lying lips may be acceptable?

I think we have all been in that place where someone we love or like has asked us, “How does this make me look?” Or, husbands, has your wife asked you, “How did my casserole or pie turn out?” Or our boss asked us, “What did you think about the presentation?” In such instances and others, we are faced with whether or not we tell the truth, a version of the truth, or lie.

So, what do we do? Tell the truth. Not only do we read in Ephesians 4:25 that God would have us speak the truth and not lies. We also read in places like Proverbs 6:16–19 as well as Proverbs 12:22, that God hates a lying tongue. I think it is pretty clear from these passages and others that God would have us tell the truth—even if we think the other person(s) can’t handle the truth. Now, I’m not saying that you don’t cloak the truth, if it may hurt, in softness, grace, and (if need be) constructive feedback. I’m saying that God would have us be truthful people.

If those moments—where it would be easier to lie, stretch the truth, or be dishonest—are off limits, is there any other time where it may be acceptable to tell a lie? Biblical ethicists and scholars point to at least two examples in Scripture where people of faith chose to lie when faced with a life or death decision.

The first example is the midwives in Exodus 1. Pharaoh commanded the Hebrew midwives, if the woman gave birth to a boy, to kill the baby boy. But, rather than obeying Pharaoh’s command, they let the boys live. When asked about why they did this, they responded, “The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them” (Exodus 1:19). And then Moses pens the following, “So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied and became very numerous.”

The second example is Rahab in Joshua 2. Rahab had been enlightened that there was no stopping the Jews from taking over what we know as the Promised Land because the God of the Jews fought for them. Thus, dread came upon the inhabitants. But as Rahab gave aid to the spies sent by Joshua, the king of Jericho sent some men to Rahab’s house to inquire about the men and asked her to hand them over. Rahab responded, “Yes, the men did come to me, but I didn’t know where they were from. At nightfall, when the city gate was about to close, the men went out, and I don’t know where they were going” (Joshua 2:4–5). If you know the story, you know that God was gracious and showed favor to Rahab and all her household, as they were the only inhabitants saved from Jericho—not to mention that Rahab found herself in the lineage of Jesus.

These are two instances where people chose to lie rather than tell the truth.

It seems, from both accounts, that God did not condemn their false lips but blessed their faith-filled lives.

Why is that? Keep in mind that my answer to this question is just my projection.

To answer the question, let me first set up two particular things that summarize all that God hates. God hates idolatry and injustice. Both idolatry and injustice are the opposite of the two greatest commandments. You know the first, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” What was the second? “To love your neighbor as yourself.” Therefore, when God does not hold primacy in one’s life—He is angry. When an image-bearer of His is not treated with love, dignity, respect, etc., God is also angry. In sum, He hates when His glory is robbed and His reflected glory of within an (or a group of) image-bearer(s) is threatened or damaged.

With that said—in both accounts mentioned—people’s lives hung in the balance. In Exodus, the lives of innocent baby boys were being threatened. In Joshua, the lives of the spies were being threatened. Given that lives were on the line, both the midwives and Rahab chose to lie. They lied to protect life. And in both instances, it seems that God worked through those lying lips to not only protect lives but also bless the lives the lying lips sought to protect.

In conclusion, we know Scripture teaches that God hates lying lips—lying lips that seek to cover up, hide, divide, demean, deconstruct, destroy, damage, etc. We also know that believers, according to Scripture, should be people of truth. But, on the other hand, people of truth might be faced with a situation where lying—to protect the glory (and mission) of God or an image-bearer of God—may be acceptably used by God to accomplish His purposes in the world. Thus, if there was a loophole to lying lips, that would be it. Would love to hear what you think!

Bringing O.R.D.E.R. To Chaos

My wife has a phrase she uses to describe what she does as a mother (and as my wife). The phrase she shares with others is, “All I do is manage chaos.” With our three children’s educational, recreational, and relational schedules, along with her vocation, in addition to my duties and obligations as a lead pastor, our church commitments, and our pursuits to connect with other individuals and couples—we are constantly running. Thus, you could understand how my wife could utter the phrase, “All I do is manage chaos.” But, truth be known, she doesn’t just manage our familial chaos, she’s incredibly gifted in that God uses her to order our chaos.

I think many pastors and church leaders feel a lot like my wife when it comes to church matters—they are simply managing chaos. A simple definition of chaos is, “A lack of order; or, a state of extreme confusion and disorder.” Living in, or even feeling like you are managing, chaos is not fun. Chaos can be overwhelming and exhausting. Chaos can leave us frustrated and discouraged. Chaos can lead us spiraling further into a dark hole of hopelessness and despair.

What if I told you that not all chaos is bad? In fact, when we begin reading the very first chapter of the Bible, we learn that God started with chaos. In verse 2, after God created the heavens and the earth, we read “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths….” And we know what happened from there—God brought order to that which was in chaos. Therefore, not all chaos is bad chaos.

In fact, if God started with chaos to bring about order, then chaos is part of the process of any life, organization, or church on their journey to order, functionality, and flourishing. What does it look like to image God in bringing order to chaos? Think O.R.D.E.R.

  • Objective

To bring order to chaos you’ll need to know the overall objective. In other words, you need to know and be able to see the big picture. God was able to bring order to chaos because He knew what the finished product was supposed to look like. If churches are going to bring that which is chaotic into order, functionality, and flourishing, then they are going to have to understand what the complete picture is supposed to look like. If you don’t aim at anything you will hit nothing every time.

  • Reason

To bring order to chaos you’ll need reason. In other words, you will need discernment and judgment to know the kind of framework and environments you need for the objective—for the mission, life, and discipleship—to flourish. God brought order to chaos because He had thought through the kind of environments He needed to place the sun, moon, and stars; the kind of environments He needed to place birds and sea creatures; and the kind of environment He needed to place animals, bugs, and people. In short, God knew what He wanted to create and thus had analyzed the kind of environments that were needed in order for life to function and flourish.

  • Decisions

To bring order to chaos you’ll need to be able to make decisive decisions. Because God knew what the big picture looked like and had reasoned what He needed to do to accomplish the big picture, He was able to make decisions with clarity and decisiveness. One of the things I have seen, over the years, that holds back churches from bringing order, functionality, and flourishing is the ability to make decisive decisions and to stick with them. Keep in mind that the decisions you make today should be sustainable for tomorrow. In other words, decisions that bring order to chaos are ones that are based upon the overall objective and what is needed to accomplish it.

  • Empower

To bring order to chaos you’ll need to empower others. God enlisted humanity and empowered them to fulfill His objective. In verses 26–28 we see God’s overall objective being extended to mankind. He had created mankind in His image and tasked them with being fruitful, multiplying, and filling the earth as well as subduing the ground and exercising dominion. As man fulfilled what God had empowered them to do, they would have been used to fulfill God’s main objective—to create a people for Himself that reflected His glory throughout planet earth. To truly establish order, functionality, and flourishing, you’ll need to empower!

  • Rest

To bring order to chaos you’ll need to rest. On the seventh day God rested. And He was able to rest because He had brought order to that which—at one point–was in chaos. The clearest sign that you have brought order to chaos is the ability to rest, enjoy, and celebrate what has transpired.

Maybe you’re a church planter, a church leader, or a pastor, and things in your opinion are out of control and chaotic. And you feel as though the church is stalled and spinning its wheels. Let me encourage you—don’t fret! Take a deep breath and go to work just like God did and bring O.R.D.E.R. to chaos. And in the power of both the Logos and Spirit of God, you too can look back on God’s work and see that what He can do through you is very good! So, don’t manage chaos…O.R.D.E.R. it!

A Community of Spotters

I’m a disciplined person when it comes to working out. I joke around with my wife that I am a #ringcloser. While the bulk of my workouts mainly consist of cardio, I often lift weights to keep my muscles toned.

In the past, when I wanted to build muscle, I put more weights (and resistance) on the bar. But, when it came to chest presses and similar lifting, I dared not attempt to lift such weights without a spotter. I can’t tell you how many times I laid down on the bench, lifted up to grab the weights, taken a couple of deep breaths, and begun the bench set thinking to myself, “This is easy!” I’ve thought that until I reached the seventh or eighth rep where the weights feel heavier, my arms have lost their feeling, and I’m left straining to lift the bar. That’s where my spotter came to my aid. As I strained to lift the bar, my spotter would gently grab under the bar helping me lift it back to its station. There have been many times where the bar would have crushed my chest if it were not for my spotter.

In Exodus 17:8–6, we come across two spotters that helped Moses lift the staff of God so that the people of God would be victorious over the enemy of God. Having been delivered from bondage in Egypt, the freed Israelites—on their way to the Promised Land—are attacked by the Amalekites, lifelong foes of Israel. At this point in Israel’s life, they have never had to fight a battle. Thus, they aren’t battle-ready—nor can they watch a YouTube video on war tactics.

Moses, however, knew the key to victory; it was the staff of God. Remember the history of the staff? It was used to confirm Moses’ call; to bring the plagues on Egypt; to part the Red Sea; to return the Red Sea to its normal state, crushing the Egyptian army; and it was used to strike the rock to bring water to the grumbling Israelites. Now, it would be used to fight and win a battle. Thus, if Moses could hold up the staff of God—representing the presence, power, provision, promises, and judgements of God—he knew Israel would win, for the staff (as we learn at the end of the passage) connected the people of God to the very throne of God.

Church leader, we are caught up in a cosmic war where our battles are “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens” (Eph 6:12–13). These forces come against us to rob us of God’s blessings as well as attempt to thwart God’s mission and promises in our life. Thus, we must never forget, the key to victory is touching the throne of God—being connected to the very rule and reign of God where He showers us with His presence, power, provision, promises, and judgements. And the only way to connect to God’s throne today, is not by a staff, but by confessing, speaking, claiming, praying, obeying, and lifting high the name of Jesus.

As you lead your churches, I’m a huge proponent for vision, systems, structures, and strategies for how to wage battle on the enemy. But, a disconnect from God’s throne leaves one to fend off the enemy all alone.

While connecting to the throne of God was the means of Israel’s victory, a community of spotters was the mode of victory. Moses couldn’t keep the staff lifted for the amount of time needed, thus he needed Aaron and Hur to help raise his hands to keep the connection to the throne intact. It is my belief, having served churches for almost two decades, one of the biggest reasons why most churches are losing ground to the enemy is because of a lack of spotters to rally around God-sent, God-ordained, God-called leaders to raise the banner of Christ for the glory and mission of God. In fact, rather than rallying together to lift the banner, there’s typically disagreement and discouragement on how the banner is being raised. Thus, churches spend more time internally fighting one another over tertiary issues and not much time fighting the enemy.

In closing, churches that fail to have a community of spotters working alongside planters, pastors, and other church leaders to hold high the name of Jesus, will typically find themselves being crushed by the weights of pride and self-centeredness. But, churches that have a community of spotters helping planters, pastors, and other church leaders hold high the name of Jesus—thus being willing to do whatever it takes to engage in the mission of God—will find themselves victorious by savoring the blessings of Christ, soul-winning in the name of Christ, and pushing back darkness for the glory of Christ.