Blessed are the Blameless

www.bible.com/1713/psa.119.2.csb

Would you know if you were blameless? Would you know if anyone has anything to say about you? I remember reading somewhere in the Old Testament (the reference escapes me) about a person who was in trouble if they had done something that someone else didn’t like, and complained to God about it. Now the first person may not even be aware of their trespass, but since the second person took offence, the first person is liable. Have you ever done that?

Having been in ministry, I have stepped in it more than once. I have managed to offend people without even intending to, simply because I used the wrong illustration or didn’t pay enough attention when another thought it should have been paid to them. It reminds me of something Captain Picard once said along the lines of “you can do everything right and still be wrong.”

A few years ago, I had a young woman in my office who was seeking my services to officiate her marriage. I asked some pertinent questions about her living situation, and she admitted she was currently living with her boyfriend (who was also the son of one of our church members). I said I had no problem conducting the service, but I asked that she and her boyfriend refrain from physical relations until the ceremony. Apparently, this was too much to ask, as I had a phone call from the boy’s mother asking why I upset the woman so much. I didn’t feel I needed to explain myself, since as a minister I feel it is important for marriage to be pure. I know we live in a fallen world, and people sin, but I also feel that if a couple desires to be married in a church (as opposed to a courthouse or out on the lawn) and to have their service officiated by a minister (as opposed to a judge or a celebrant) then there are certain requirements of both groom and bride, certain expectations. Its no secret what God expects from His people. If people choose to have their marriage recognized in the eyes of God, God’s nature and holiness calls for certain behavior. I assumed too much. I didn’t end up doing the service because I am cold and heartless.

You can do everything right and still be wrong. That’s why it’s so hard to be blameless. So my prayer today is that the Lord forgive me for being offensive, especially when I don’t realize it. May the Lord smooth the way of others around me, so that in whatever way I have offended others, the Lord may forgive me, make me aware of how I have offended others, and convict me when I am wrong. Lord help me if I have caused someone to stumble because of something I said or done. Though I may stumble often in things I know I’ve done, Lord forgive me for those things I don’t know anything about.

Lord in Heaven, I don’t know enough about this world and her people to know whether I am blameless. Though I try to be and work to be better everyday, I can’t know if I’ve never offended anyone. I know there are times I have offended and caused others pain by my actions and words, and Lord I beg for forgiveness for those. But Father please forgive me for those things I have done that I don’t know how they have hurt people, people who I don’t even know, that because of me have taken a path away from You. Lord please forgive if I have ever caused one of these little ones to stumble. I pray that their hearts may be softened and prepared again for the grace of Jesus Christ. Please Lord guide them back, through some other voice, so that I may ask their forgiveness too. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

With One Another

www.bible.com/1713/rom.15.5.csb

Have you tried living as a Christian all on your own? Actually, I’ve heard many try this, saying that they can worship God anywhere. Some prefer especially during deer season, to take their New Testament up into the deer stand with them. There they have solitude and quiet in their peaceful worship of God. Sounds great, doesn’t it? I don’t know why more people don’t do that?

Others prefer to stay home, watching church on TV. For some, I’ll agree this is a necessity, as they are physically unable to go anymore. Many are unable to leave home for health reasons. But many of these same people will find a way to the doctor’s office, the Walmart and whatever else. I have waited in the doctor’s office longer than I’ve been in church.

But what’s so wrong about people wanting to experience God on their own terms or in the comfort of their home? I would hope that people are seeking God in their own home. But that isn’t Christianity. It’s a part of their work as Christians, their personal work in seeking His face and in prayer. That is a private work, but it not the whole.

The main work of Christianity is body life. We exist as part of a body of Christians. None of us exists to himself. Going to the deer stand on Sunday morning or sitting in your living room watching TV church does not qualify as going to church. Why is going to church so important? Because that is where the body is. You encourage others and are encouraged in return. You support others and are supported in return. The primary intent of attending church is being the church to one another. It is finding our connections in flesh and blood people who believe and serve the same God. We need social interaction and support. (And we need to be mindful of that for our elderly population).

We not only need it, but we are commanded to it, even by the verse quoted above. It isn’t just our own voice lifted up in praise to the King of Heaven that He wants to wants to hear. He wants a concert of voices. He wants to hear our song combined into one multi-layered sound. If it is not good for “man to be alone” it is certainly not good for a Christian to worship alone, to be alone, to be faithful alone.

I know this will hit some of you in the wrong place, because you’ve tried it. You’ve tried to be that encouraging voice in the church. You’ve tried to be a peacemaker, and you’ve received the sharp stick of Christian discouragement. You’ve tried going to church, and you’ve only received pain. That is not a church God wants you to attend. Find another one. As Hebrews 10:25 says, “don’t give up meeting together.” Don’t give up. Part of your Christian walk and faith is the harmony and synchronicity you find with other believers. You can’t do that on your own. Going to a church is not a suggestion. Staying home and watching it online or on TV is not a solution. You need interaction with real people. You need others to fellowship with, to study with, to share ideas with and struggles with. Is it a sin not to go to church? Is disobedience to a clear and direct command from God a sin? Then yes, and heaping sin upon yourself in wilful refusal with not help your walk or your prayer life. GO TO CHURCH!

God bless you today.

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.

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!