Monday, December 19, 2016

Where There Is Obedience There Is Peace

Last night my family and I watched one of the Star Wars movies.  There was a scene in the movie where a young boy was following behind his master when suddenly there was danger about to overcome him.  His master shouted, "Anakin, drop!".  And the boy went instantly to his knees and was saved.   This scene is an excellent example of immediate compliance.  The negative consequences that would have arisen if the young boy had disobeyed or even delayed his obedience can be readily understood.  I loved it.

Paul and I have been parenting for twenty(+) years.  It's a good start, but we'd both admit that we have no claim to infallibility.  One thing we've done that we do not regret is to teach our children to comply immediately.  This happens very early in our children's lives.  And though they are not perfect, most of the time our children obey right away.  This world is simply too dangerous to allow a child to ask, "Why?"  before they comply with a command.  We both have great parents who were careful to teach this to us.  In fact, I can clearly remember my mother-in-law telling my first little one, "Slowness to obey is the same thing as disobedience.  Be quick to obey!".

Through the years we've been complimented about our children.  We've even heard people say, "How do you get your children to listen to you like that?"  There is no question about it, teaching our children to immediately obey has helped to make our children and our home very peaceful and enjoyable.  I feel the same could be the case within the church.  Just think of how peace and mutual edification would be the "normal" in a church that took Matt.22:36-39 seriously...Love the Lord and Love your neighbor.  Obedience is not legalism, it's Love.

Those who insist that their sin is not sin may either be unaware or perhaps too proud to ask for forgiveness.  They'd rather deny the need than be humble.  You can see it in our culture today, people seem to have a higher priority on their own personal "reality" than they do on acknowledging God's reality.  This becomes especially evident when a person like this is confronted with their sin.  Rather than apologizing for their sin and seeking restoration, they become vicious toward the one who called it out.  Pastors and ministry leaders are unfortunately quite vulnerable to such attacks, but this deflection tactic is not exclusively something that affects the one who fills the pulpit.  It can happen to anyone who dares to love deeply enough to be the iron that sharpens.

The last post I put up was titled "Something To Offer".  It is about forgiveness and the divorcing culture in which we currently live, where rather than being humbly restored to each other people tend to choose separation.  Satan's goal to divide and conquer is certainly working.  But Jesus said, "Be one as I and the Father are one."  This sounds like the opposite of our culture.  Jesus also said, "Be holy as I am holy" and He prayed, "Sanctify them(us) by Your Truth".

To be sanctified is to be set apart as holy.  We as a church are to be set apart unto God as holy, different from our sin loving, divorcing culture.  We are not to let pride rule us.  We as believers are given the power and the authority to overcome sin and be set free from it.  Through accountability and exhortation we help each other choose to do what is right and reject doing what is wrong.  Unfortunately we are all sinners.  This means that there will be people who sin against each other in the church.  And there will be those brave enough and loving enough to confront that sin.  If bitterness is too deep to accept correction graciously, we as holy and sanctified people may just have to love deeper while we wait for the wounded pride of another believer to settle, because love bears all, hopes for all, endures all and it never fails.

My parents and Paul's parents raised us with the expectation of immediate compliance.  We have done the same with our own children.  Maybe this is a reason why our children respond differently than the way others say their children do.  We know that our children will sin, but we don't want to just ignore it.  Our goal is to embrace truth and grace and mercy in our home.  We do not shy away from teaching obedience to God's word just to spare our children or ourselves conflict with each other.  Instead, we teach that God's desire is obedience and our own desire is the same.  We teach that when we do the wrong thing we will be held accountable and when we humble ourselves there is always mercy in the name of Christ.

The same should be true within our churches.  Pastors and elders alike should not shy away from teaching obedience to the truth just to spare their congregants from conflict.  Conflict will always arise when there is sin.  Though it requires carrying a heavy cross, my prayer is much like that of Jesus...that God's children would be sanctified, distinct from the rest of the world.  My prayer is that the unsaved would take notice and say to themselves, "These people are different.  They look different, they live differently and they love differently."  My prayer is that God's people would not be resigned or content to blend in with this world, but would enjoy the peace and freedom that comes from living in obedience to God's word.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Something To Offer

I have found myself asking the question lately, "Where can I find joy when there are so many non-joyful situations that continually assail believers?"  This question becomes even more earnest when the source of conflict in our lives is another individual.

Forgiving others is not an option for someone who desires to be forgiven.  I think I've mentioned that a few times throughout my years of writing.  Jesus said, "Forgive so that your heavenly Father can forgive you."  But forgiveness as I've learned does not always have the added perk of immediate restoration and joy attached to it.  It's a difficult and humbling endeavor to strive for restoration with another sin scarred individual.  And it is becoming more and more evident the longer I live that not many people are willing to love so deeply and be committed so faithfully to living out God's love.  It seems all too often that people would prefer to slink away with their records of wrongs rather than humble themselves so as to be restored to another.  The phrase "Fade to black" is running through my head right now.  Only it isn't a pleasant feeling when the story that is fading to black is a relationship that is falling apart.  It is ever so painful no matter what the cause.  But that is what happens when pride slips in and rules the hearts of men.  They cling to their wounded pride and coddle their hurt feelings licking their wounds till they grow to love the taste of them.  In the name of irreconcilable differences people frequently sacrifice the ones closest to them.   It's a shameful blood lust that has taken down many marriages and friendships throughout the span of time.  It is a viciously pervasive form of un-forgiveness, designed to kill our love for one another and eventually destroy our souls.

When a believer is faced with a situation where someone will not be restored to him/her what consolation is there? How can we live joyfully when there is such a lack of charity in the world?  I have yet to find a fully satisfactory answer to that.  But I do find nuggets of gold every so often that keep me believing that joy does not have to be so illusive just because there are unyielded souls that have a tendency to wound with proficiency.

One thing that I take comfort in is the fact that the Word of God is able to divide even between the soul and spirit of a man.  He sees me.  All of me....and He remains with me in spite of what He sees.  Though the love of most is growing cold, He sees me.  Though our current culture is a culture of divorce He sees me and remains faithful.

Sadly my life has seen an abundance of this divorcing culture.  I'm not just talking about husbands and wives I've known.  I'm also including friendships that have been lost, church members that have either abandoned the faith or forsaken our small gathering, and even family members who have disowned one another to varying degrees.  No matter what the case has been, I can see clearly that pride and unyielding hearts are the catalysts of disunity.  In all these circumstances, false assumptions and a lack of humility are what set that ball rolling in the direction of irreconcilable differences.  In my opinion there shouldn't be such a thing as "irreconcilable differences".  Instead of clinging to the right to feel wronged, it would be better to cling to the love God tells us to have for another.  Because as His word tells us, "Love covers over a multitude of sins".  Love.

As individuals we can not force others to live or love like they are supposed to.  I would say that it has been a tough enough job just getting my own heart to love like I am supposed to.  I know full well that I have insufficient love of my own to give.  But God, who sees me, continues to give me His love in spite of my failures.  In that I find joy- because I now have Something to offer.