"... a word spoken in due season, how good it is!" (from Proverbs 15:23 New King James Version)
I'm writing this in January of 2021. It's only January. And yet, in some respects it has been such a harsh year. Last year the hateful posts on the internet and the horrible condescending and patronizing messages from "friends" seemed like they couldn't get any worse. But they have. I've cut back on my Facebook posting and commenting. I took a verbal beating from "friends" a couple of weeks ago due to something I'd posted; and so in the words of G.P.S., I'm "recalibrating" my whole approach to the world.
I've found myself thinking about three guys named Bill who have been in my life and "stuff" I've learned from their examples. I didn't get permission from any of them to name them on the internet so I will use the the first initial of their last names. First, there's Bill L. Bill L. was a prominent person at the church I pastored in Framingham, Massachusetts for many years. Bill L. is a blue-collar worker who has amazing mechanical ability. He also has a lot of what is often called "street smarts". Bill L. served as a board member of the Framingham church during at least half of the years I ministered there. What stands out about Bill L. is that he doesn't say very much, but when he does say something it is usually something quite important and quite helpful. He doesn't waste a lot of time just rambling on about nonsense the way so many people do. Honestly, it could be said of me that I have a "big mouth". On the one hand, with strangers, I'm typically a very shy person. However, with people I know I can talk and talk and talk, often saying things that are at best not helpful and at worst hurtful. Years ago when the Framingham church was being closed and my ministry was on the rocks my wife Mary Ann told me that through the years I had hurt a lot of people by things I'd said. At the time I was defensive and rejected that observation. But during the past few years I've thought about that and I've painfully realized she was right. I was not careful about what I said or how I came across to people. I often took people for granted and I did not go out of my way to show appreciation to them. In life I've paid for that flaw. My friend Ron Sebastian says, "You can't get in trouble for things you don't say". More and more I'm learning that, and trying to learn to listen more and speak less. It might not surprise you that Bill L. isn't even on the internet. Pouring out his opinions and observations in post after post on Facebook would never interest him.
There's also Bill S. Bill S. was a board member and adult class teacher at Bread of Life Church in Westminster, Massachusetts where Mary Ann and I currently attend. Bill S. and his wife moved a couple of years ago, but he had a great impact on me in many ways. Bill S. taught what is usually known as the "New Converts Class" at Bread of Life Church. I'm sure right now somebody is thinking, "Wait a minute, you're a Bible College graduate, an Ordained minister, and you pastored for many years. Why would you possibly attend a New Converts Class?!" In my opinion, every Christian ought to attend a New Converts Class from time to time. As much as you know and as much as you've experienced, you'll be surprised how much you'll pick up in a New Converts Class and how much it will affect you. For instance, do you know what to do when you start having thoughts you just don't want to have but can't seem to stop them? Well, Bill S. taught on that in one powerful class. It had a radical positive affect on me, and helped me so much in that area! (I'm not going to write the answer about how to overcome that problem. If you really want to know it, you'll have to contact me!) Another time, and this is much more pertinent to this article, Bill S. said something that really convicted me. He said that "self promotion" has no place in a Christian's walk. He not only said that, he really underscored it. Why was I convicted? The reason is, I've been very guilty of self promotion, especially over the past twenty years. We all have "issues" that are hard to face and hard to talk about, and this is one for me. You may be surprised by this, but I've had low self-esteem for most of my life. In the ministry, I pastored a very small and "unsuccessful" church. Socially (with strangers) I can be very awkward. The word I often used about myself in the 1990s was "marginalized". I felt very marginalized as a minister and as a person. The way I tried to compensate for that was self promotion. I wrote guest columns for the local newspaper in Framingham, and I was proud of my columns. I began writing this blog in 2006. Many of the posts from the pre-2015 days are frankly very prideful and self promoting in one way or another. And even some of my Youtube videos, especially the earlier ones, were egotistical and self promoting. When Bill S. spoke about self promotion, it stung! That was probably seven years ago. I wish I could say that right after that my self promotion stopped, but it didn't. I'd do really well in that area for a few months, and I'd do not so well in that area for a few months. Right now, as far as self-promotion, I'd say I'm in "recovery" and it's "One Day at a Time"! Back to what I said at the beginning about all the hateful things people write on the internet- a lot of that is really their self promotion. They want to let everyone know how brilliant they are and how stupid others are. We could all learn a lot from Bill S.!
Finally there is Bill D. Bill D. is a lay leader at Bread of Life Church. Bill D. has walked through some deep valleys in life. He writes and posts inspirational pieces online mostly for our church people. (I wish more of them were "Shareable".) Bill never went to seminary or Bible college. Rather, he went through God's School of Hard Knocks. I have been so blessed and humbled by his writings. In my life I've written so many things that were silly and pointless. And, even many of my inspirational writings have really been self promoting. Bill D. probably has no idea how much of an affect he's had on me and what an example he is for me. I want my writing and my public speaking to be more and more of glorifying God and truly ministering to others. That's what Bill D's "stuff" does. I hope someday he'll put his inspirational writings into a book. I'd love to write the "Forward" to that book, if he'd let me.
What's the bottom line about the Three Bills? 1. Talk a lot less, and post a lot less on the internet. And realize you can say and write things that really hurt people, and God will hold you accountable for that. 2. It's not about you! We're not to be self promoting. We're to be God glorifying and truly encouraging to others. 3. Post things that are positive, inspirational, helpful, and encouraging. Nobody needs another post about what a stupid idiot Donald Trump is, or what a stupid idiot Joe Biden is. We need even less of posts like that which are peppered with the "F bomb"!
A number of years ago, we were bombarded with the message, "What Would Jesus Do?" Here, I'm suggesting that you start asking yourself, "What Would the Three Bills Say and Do?".