Life-Giving Rebuke: an Oxymoron?

www.bible.com/1713/pro.15.31.csb

What?

What did this verse just say? Did this verse say that rebuke can give you life? If you’re like me, you hate to be called out and challenged in your facts. It’s embarrassing and humiliating to find out you are wrong. And not just wrong in your opinion, but in your carefully research facts. That’s when my adrenaline starts to pump and I get defensive, feeling trapped and desperate, trying to save scraps of my dignity. I really hate rebuke.

That’s why this verse is very important for me, because I have been wrong, and I needed to be called out on it. But this verse speaks of life-giving rebuke. It is a rare variety. Not many are willing to give it, willing instead to tear down and destroy rather than build up and encourage. It seems most critical discussion has no desire to work together to a solution, but to endlessly lambast and denigrate until one side gives up and goes home.

I hope I’ve learned something from the rebuke I’ve received. I have tried to discern constructive from destructive and learn to take good advice and improve. I still learn, and still fight the urge to become defensive. And sometimes I let my passive-aggressive side show a little bit. But I hope I’m better than I was.

Because if you want to be seated with the wise, you have to learn to take your licks. If you want to hang out with those that know, you have to be willing to learn.

That’s all I’ve got today. I hope you have a great Saturday. God’s blessing on you today and your work in the Lord.

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Grace and Peace to You

www.bible.com/1713/num.6.24-26.csb

One of Paul’s favorite greetings to the young churches was this familiar line offering grace and peace. We have grace through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for us at the cross, but peace also from the blood which satisfies the penalty of our sins.

So when we look back at this verse from Numbers, we ought to be surprised at what we find here. Before Jesus’s sacrifice at the cross, we see both grace and peace being offered as blessing in the form of hope. The blessing was offered and received by those in Israel long before Jesus came. But the reality of both are there. These things can only truly come from the God who offers both from within himself. For eternity, the grace and peace that matters most comes from God.

But to a lesser degree, it is important to remember that we have a role in this too. Just as Paul extended both to his readers, the Israelites were expected to extend this to one another. They were expended to be conduits of God’s grace and peace to one another.

So the question laid upon you this morning. Just as God have you grace and peace through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, will you extend that same grace and peace to others you meet in your travels? Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are expected to forgive others their sins against you.

That unkind word someone said to you. That offense that you took when they cut you off in traffic or stole that cashier from you at the store. That person that hurt you when you were down, or that parent who was drunk. That child that stole from you. That spouse or child that came out to you. That church that broke you. That wife that cursed you and took the kids, or that husband that hit you.

It doesn’t take much to find someone who sinned against us. Do you have grace and peace for them? Jesus warns us that if we cannot forgive, He will not forgive us either. Those are hard words. Honestly there are some people that if I meet them in heaven I may just punch them in the mouth.

We have the right to be angry when we feel wronged. But we don’t have the right to hold on to it. Be angry, but do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Breathe. Remember who you are in Christ. Remember the cost to forgive you.

Something to think about as we rise for worship this morning. God bless you and share a prayer below if you are dealing with something today.

Conflict Resolution

www.bible.com/1713/col.3.13.csb

When I come into a conflict, my sense get really hyped up and I have a significant stress response. I hate conflict. I get really nervous and anxious and it just messes me up. I’ve tried to get better at as I’ve gotten older, but conflict resolution is still challenging for me.

So this verse shows up in the feed this morning forcing me to address my fears. Conflict is the result of people in conflict. Often that conflict isn’t solved right away. The trap is to carry it with you as resentment or as a grudge. You may be carrying one right now against someone who offended you or wronged you years ago. STOP!

Don’t waste years of your life on someone who wronged you. Even if they never ask for forgiveness, never let that stuff poison your soul. But especially, as this verse instructs, never let that stuff happen in the body of Christ. Jesus died and forgave you both for far worse sins that what you’ve done to each other. You have no right to hold a grudge against a fellow believer, because if Jesus forgave them of their sins, you must.

Now I get it. There are some people you don’t like. There are some people you would just as soon not spend time with. That’s fine. But eternity is a long time. If you can’t get along now, heaven may not be so heavenly. Do yourself a favor and let go of the right to be upset at someone.

I relapse as I write this that there are some pretty awful things people can do to one another, especially in the church. I’ve had awful things done to me. And I cannot sit here and tel you I am completely over them. But with age I have perspective and understanding of why people do what they do. I still have scars, but they are healing. I hope and pray your scars are healing too. I think they make you wiser and more cautious, but don’t let them get in the way of true friendships.

God bless you today.

Love Covers

www.bible.com/1713/1pe.4.8.csb

Brother Peter calls us to love this morning. He reminds us of the great commandment Jesus gave us, love one another, by saying we should remain constant in our love for one another. He adds here from Proverbs 10:12 that love covers offenses, or as he says, a multitude of sins. This should say something to us believers today.

You ever been offended by a fellow believer? Does the sun rise? Do people get on your nerves? Peter subtly acknowledges that yes, Christians can step on each other’s toes. So he reminds us of what Jesus said. Jesus said this, not just anyone. Love one another. This is the core of our relationships, the primary rule that binds us together. Love one another as He has loved us. Does it sound like he’s trying to say something here?

As a human being, Peter, probably more than most, knows we are prone to argue. He had disagreements with Jesus and Paul. So he knows how important it is to love one another, and how love covers offenses. I am looking at you Christian who holds a grudge against your fellow believer. Who remembers that wrong they did years ago and now you are holding it against them when they suggest the church support a mission or engage in a new project. I am looking at you Christian who hates other Christians because they don’t believe in the same way you do, or, heaven forbid, they dare to use instruments in worship.

This isn’t just about Christians in the same fellowship, though that’s bad enough. But it’s also also Christians of different *gasp* denominations. Christians have proved to the world over how important it is to be right. Let’s try also to prove how we love one another. If I recall, Jesus did not make the great commandment, be right at all costs, even if it costs Fellowship.

Now you may complain at this point and say, “I can’t fellowship with those who say gay is okay.” (As an example). If gay behavior is a sin (and I believe it is), how can I fellowship with Christians who don’t believe gay behavior is a sin? (Note: gay behavior is a sin in Scripture. Gay list would also be sinful, but to simply to be attracted to same sex people is a temptation, not a sin.) if they cannot be convinced of what the Bible plainly says, even at that, are be better of as Christians being hateful or being compassionate? Even Paul advocates separating from believers living in open sin, for a time, to give them time to repent, so that the sin would not taint the community.

I know these issues can be sharply divisive, but do we deal with each other according to the law or according to grace? In truth or in love? We are to speak the truth in love. We are to maintain love for one another, but not at the cost of truth. Even then, love should govern us, even if it means a temporary separation. Too long, and grudges set in, and they set harder than concrete.

A brother offended us harder to win than a strong city.

Just some thoughts today. Welcome your comments on this one.

Gifted to Serve

www.bible.com/72/1pe.4.10.hcsb

Getting an unexpected gift always puts a smile on my face. It’s amazing to me that someone else would take the time out of their schedule and devote it to me, which is why I want to thank all of you for reading these posts, even if you only read occasionally.

Peter talks about gifts as a responsibility. What we have received in grace, we also ought to give to others just as freely. It’s like the old hymn, “freely, freely you have received; freely, freely give.” Grace is something you can never run out of, so you can freely give it to others.

One of the hardest lessons I have to learn is that God watches how well we forgive. “For if you do not forgive others their trespasses, your God will not forgive you.” Ouch! This follows the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. God takes this subject seriously. And I think He knows better than we do the power resentment has over our lives, when we hold grudges long after their expiration date. An unforgiving heart is an evil heart, especially when it belongs to a Christian.

Grace is like a river. It flows to you, but it must also flow away from you to others. You cannot hoard it for yourself, because you have no dam strong enough to contain it. If you cannot extend grace to others, it will destroy whatever hoard you have created for yourself. No one likes bitterness. No one likes a bitter Christian.

As I’ve been going through Acts, I find Paul as someone with every right to be disenchanted by his own upbringing, people he thought he could trust, his fellow Jews, men he probably grew up with and trained with, turning on him and calling for his death. Paul has every right to be angry with them. But you never see Paul angry. He fears for his life, but he is never angry with them, continuing to call them brothers, wishing even his own life forfeit for their salvation. He extended the profound grace he’d been given to others. Wow.

My encouragement to you this morning is to first consider how much you have been forgiven by God. And then consider the sins of others against you. Remember how much you have been forgiven, that wonderful free gift of grace, and extend that gift to others.

God bless!

Dependent Forgiveness

www.bible.com/72/mat.6.14.hcsb

This is a difficult passage to process. It’s easy enough to understand. It’s just difficult to execute.

Jesus offers here forgiveness of sin. That is an amazing offer. For the price of asking, involving no animal sacrifice whatsoever, Jesus says we can ask God to forgive our sins, and He will. That is a revolutionary idea. But here’s the kicker. You must also be willing to pass along that same extraordinary forgiveness to others. “Freely you have received, freely give.” This is a theme that Jesus repeats in the parable of the unjust servant, who is forgiven a great debt, but cannot forgive a much smaller one from a fellow servant. The unjust servant is punished by the master for failure to forgive.

It turns out this forgiveness comes at a price. It’s no Faustian bargain, but it feels like it. Faust traded his soul for worldly riches and honors. We trade our “right” to be bitter at others sleights against us for eternity in Heaven. We can no longer hold grudges. We can’t keep a record of wrongs. Though we may be angry, we do not sin in our anger. Can we give these things up?

That’s the price of eternal forgiveness. It’s easy to understand, but difficult to carry out. I hope that today, if you are working through anger and resentment, God give you the grace to do so. I’d hate that you missed heaven because you treasured your grudges more.

God bless!

Pages of Hope

www.bible.com/72/rom.15.4.hcsb

The Old Testament Scriptures anticipated Jesus Christ and were fulfilled in Him. Romans 15:3 quotes from Psalm 69:9. There David speaks of his alienation from his own people. Why? Because “the zeal of Thy House consumes me”, the first part of the verse, and then, “the insults of those who insult you has fallen on me”. You might remember that the first part of this verse is quoted on John when the disciples remember after the fact Jesus’ zeal for the Temple after he drove out the money-changers. Now Paul quotes the second half of the verse to illustrate a truth that Christians ought to experience as well. We ought to be insulted because we receive the insults of a fallen world upon their Creator. David was so insulted, Jesus was, and so ought we to be. But as Paul reminds us here, our encouragement doesn’t come from the world, it comes from the Lord through the pages of Scripture. If Jesus was so insulted, wasn’t He also glorified? If He was condemned, wasn’t He also raised?

The predictable reaction of the world to Christians notwithstanding, we ought never to fear the insults hurled at our faith. Whether they be crass and crude, or reasoned and philosophized, we stand among giants of faith when those insults fall upon us. For these pages tell us that a greater reward awaits us. If we are failed upon, Will we not be exalted? What is our hope? Do we not hope to see the One who received insults at the cross and was raised again? Do we not look forward to see One humiliated beyond measure for our peace?

Don’t look to the pages of Facebook to find your encouragement. Find your hope within the verses of Scripture.

I know, ironically you are probably reading this one Facebook. “Forget the bird, follow the river”. Only nerds will get that reference. God bless you today and may you find your peace in Him.