Silence

Psalm 62:5-12  (NRSV)
For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us. Selah
Those of low estate are but a breath,
    those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
    they are together lighter than a breath.
Put no confidence in extortion,
    and set no vain hopes on robbery;
    if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.
Once God has spoken;
    twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
     and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.
For you repay to all
    according to their work.

Silence.  

It is possible to have silence during worship.  After hearing the joys and concerns of the congregation, I like to begin the pastoral prayer with silence.  There is something about a congregation quieting themselves before God.  When our week has been hectic and uncertain, waiting together to hear from the Lord is beneficial.

No matter whether we are of low or high estate, it is helpful to be silent before God.  To know the power and steadfast love that belongs to God, is for us to know that God is our rock and salvation.  We take a “Selah,” an interlude.  Humbling ourselves, examining our lives, or taking a moment to pause, are what can happen in the silence we have before the God.  Maybe in the silence, we can hear God, again.

God, we know you as our refuge.  The psalmist knew setting aside time in silence was good.  We are learning to be in silence.  As we turn to you, may we once again hear you speak to us.  Thank you for being our rock and salvation.  It is in the name of Jesus that we hope to be found when you repay all of us according to our work.  Amen.

‘Loves To Be the Leader’

By Chuck Griffin
Methodist Life Editor

3 John 9-10

I wrote to the church about this, but Diotrephes, who loves to be the leader, refuses to have anything to do with us. When I come, I will report some of the things he is doing and the evil accusations he is making against us. Not only does he refuse to welcome the traveling teachers, he also tells others not to help them. And when they do help, he puts them out of the church.


Even the early church had to watch out for people who wanted leadership roles for the wrong reasons. Because of this ongoing danger, healthy churches still need to understand the concept of servant leadership.

As the author of John 3 set pen to parchment, it’s unlikely he thought, “I am now going to write what will one day be Scripture.” The letter is personal, written by an experienced Christian to a friend named Gaius. This friend obviously was struggling with developments in his church in Asia Minor, located somewhere in what is now western Turkey.

The letter isn’t long—I would encourage you to take time to read it all. It has memorialized for all time the dangerous leadership of a man named Diotrephes.

Most of us have experienced a Diotrephes at some point. Certain people simply crave power for the sake of power, perhaps to bolster a bruised ego, gain personal glory or benefit materially in some way. They do not understand that leadership, particularly Christian leadership, requires a surrendering of self.

Diotrephes went so far as to drive away people he perceived as a threat to his power, particularly traveling teachers who moved about Asia Minor in a state of poverty. They depended on Christian communities to support them as they preached core truths about Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross. Diotrephes even threw out church members who supported these itinerant Christians.

Not only was Diotrephes proving to be a self-centered leader, he also was violating a basic rule of Christian living, the mandate to show love and hospitality to others.

Diotrephes reminds modern Christians that we should always have some sort of litmus test for potential leaders. It can be difficult to fully understand another person’s motives, but we do have scriptural guidance about qualifications for leaders,* and praying to God for discernment certainly helps.

Boiled down, this discernment could involve questions like, How well does this person seem to know Jesus and the word of God? Have we seen this person bear spiritual fruit? Does this potential leader seem overly eager? Will this person submit to some sort of accountability? Is this person’s call to leadership confirmed by others, and by a willingness to surrender some worldly advantages?

If we see a knowledgeable, committed Christian giving up a lot in order to lead, we can feel more confident we have found a leader with a servant’s heart. 

Only a true calling can make a person say, “I must become less so Jesus can become more.”

Lord, we find ourselves in a crisis of leadership in churches and in so many other institutions. Raise up more humble servant leaders so your work may be done. Amen.


*Regarding the 1 Timothy text linked above: Some denominations, citing the patriarchal language here and in other texts, restrict women’s leadership roles, while other denominations do not. I see this as an example of Paul being very context-specific about a situation very different from our present day. In other writings, Paul asserts the equality of men and women and even addresses some women as leaders and vocal bearers of the Good News.

Like a Child

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Matthew 18:1-5

About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”

Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

“And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.”


To see how we fit into the Kingdom of Heaven, it helps to look to our earliest days.

The above verses from Matthew have some important context. Just prior, Jesus and his disciples have been discussing worldly power, the temple and taxes. (A fish ends up covering what Jesus and Peter owe.)

The disciples’ question regarding who is greatest in Jesus’ promised kingdom is similar to questions they ask elsewhere in the gospels: Who will sit nearest Jesus when he is on his throne? And what kind of power will we have?

Jesus’ response forces any thoughtful reader to consider what we had as very small children, and what we have lost as we have grown.

Some words we can meditate upon: Trust. Dependence. Simplicity. Wonder. Innocence.

As we grow older, we find ourselves surrendering such notions to survive. Power structures are in place wherever we go, and they will consume us if we don’t learn to defend ourselves, gain some control, master the system’s complexity, and ideally, learn to run the part of it affecting us.

Blessed are those who don’t have to learn these hard lessons too early in life.

It’s pretty clear to me that Jesus understood the compromises we have to make in the here and now. Sin remains in the world, and it is very dangerous, leading to terrible events that consume even the most innocent of children.

Earlier in Matthew, in the 10th chapter, Jesus said, “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.”

This is a delicate balance for a Christian to maintain. We have to learn to navigate the world, but at the same time, we want to retain an adult version of what we had as small children.

Assuming we were blessed with good parenting, our feelings of trust and dependence flowed toward those who raised us. As adults, we can sense something similar in our relationship with God.

Knowing God should restore our sense of wonder, too. If we call him Creator, an examination of his creation should be enough to boggle any mind. And through Jesus Christ, we even can regain innocence, trusting that Christ on the cross cleanses us of our sins.

There also is much to anticipate. When the kingdom completely arrives—when we stand before God, seeing our savior, with the broken world behind us—I expect our childlike states will be fully restored.

Unlike children, we will comprehend everything, but innocence will remain, and God will call us great.

Lord, in the midst of our strategizing and surviving, may we be humble, seeking to live as much as possible in your kingdom now. May our way of living make the kingdom more real to us and those around us. Amen.

James: Single Mindedness

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

James 3:13-4:8

You’ve seen images of an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, each whispering in a person’s ear what to do. Often, these pictures are meant to be funny, but they also portray a very real internal battle we each face every day.

We fully engage in this battle when we accept Jesus Christ as Savior.  In doing so, we commit ourselves to join Christ in his ongoing work, pushing back against sin wherever we can.

Once we’ve made that leap of faith—once we’ve chosen to call ourselves Christian and really own the vision—the battle between God’s goodness and the evil within us is on. That most immediate expression of God, the Holy Spirit, begins to work inside of us, contending with the world to make us into what God would have us be.

God is going to win, so long as we allow God to win. God’s desire for us to be free beings is the only possible impediment to swift victory. He lets us choose to keep him out, but will rush in whenever we allow. The more we let God work, the more complete the victory within us becomes.

In time, we actually begin to experience another world, the one Christ represents, the kingdom that ultimately will consume and replace the broken world so obviously surrounding us right now.

James lays out a simple plan so we can better allow God to go to work. James says:

Humble yourselves before God. That’s fairly simple to understand. Know who you are relative to God. Know that God knows better. A lot of people find this hard to do, however. Their pride is so intense that they cannot imagine submitting to anything.

Resist the Devil. Don’t panic; we don’t have to do this alone. We could never win on our own, anyway. But God calls us to participate in the fight against evil, knowing God is with us throughout, strengthening us for the task.

Wash your hands, sinners. While it sounds like COVID-19 advice, James is calling us to set right, as much as humanly possible, the wrong we have done. Again, we have to trust God to make the ultimate, great fixes to the universe, but he wants us to involve ourselves in the process.

Purify your hearts. Don’t be what is sometimes translated as “double-minded,” agreeing with worldliness one minute and Christ the next. We have to stop reserving places in our emotions or our intellect for ideas or impulses that are not of God.

As God is more and more present in every aspect of our lives—as we become single-minded—the devil will flee. What is unholy cannot stand a strong dose of what is aligned with God.

Tomorrow, we’ll draw on James’ exhortation as we consider what it means to seek healing, believing we can see God’s dawning kingdom undeniably among us.

Lord, help us flick the demons away and listen only to your guidance. Amen.

Put in Place

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor
Psalm 131:1-3

Lord, my heart is not proud;
    my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
    or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
    like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
    Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord—
    now and always.

Scripture can be tough on free thinkers. The Bible reminds us from time to time that our thoughts must be kept in place.

If you’re an American, even a Christian American, there’s a good chance you’re already wriggling with discomfort. The idea of submission can sound very negative to us—it seems in conflict with favorite words like “freedom” and “independence.”

And yet, the notion of humility before God is a constant theme of the Bible. With no reference to the Garden of Eden or forbidden fruit, the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 1 about haughty, foolish thinking being the root of sin. Paul’s account does us a great service—he helps us see how we personally cause the cycle of sin to continue.

We also could categorize our problem as “overthinking.” We take our eyes off plain revelations about God to create notions of our own, a process that inevitably leads to idolatry. Our desire to be novel can quickly cut us off from what is eternal.

Real freedom, the psalmist tells us, is found when we humble ourselves, maintaining proper perspective about who we are in relationship to God. As Christians, we know we cannot grasp God in full, but we can cling to what God has shown us through Holy Spirit-inspired Scripture. 

God is the maker of all things, standing outside of creation and ruling over creation. God also is love, and because of love God keeps intervening to pull us back into a righteous relationship with our creator and with each other, despite our ongoing foolishness.

In particular, God has come among us as Jesus Christ, dying on the cross and demonstrating the defeat of death in the resurrection. We are restored to right relationships simply by believing Christ’s sacrifice is real.

Belief also should lead to enhanced creativity—it opens the door to the eternal mind of God. When we submit to the truth of the cross, the Spirit of God rushes into our lives, penetrating our souls and our minds. We become more than we ever could have been on our own, and we are freed to grow into the images of God we were intended to be.

These are broad concepts, but they have very current, specific applications. As a nation, we are embroiled by a serious, important debate, one that goes to how we best ensure that people have the same rights and opportunities regardless of skin color. The debate has been deeply complicated by a piling on of ideas and causes, some possibly holy, some likely foolish.

Is there any way we can take a step back and humble ourselves, putting our opinions and decisions in the context of who God is and what God has revealed? I cannot ask that of nonbelievers, but I certainly can ask it of people who claim the name “Christian.”

The ongoing debate is sometimes summarized in the question, “Should I take a knee?” Perhaps the Christian answer should be to get down on both knees, head bowed. That posture best prepares us for any conversation.

Lord, may we take time today to seek eternal wisdom, and may the Holy Spirit give us the strength we need to carry our understanding of your will to the places and people we affect. Amen.