Saturday, April 11, 2015

a kinder and gentler me????


Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise thee.
 
 
 
The mainstream media news programs, local and national, can be depressing. I think the media wonks are aware of that and they now try to make the news lighter much more entertaining by adding feel good stories, many more than in past years. Christians should not be depressed by even the most evil reports. We should not require feel good stories. If you are a Christian, when you die you go to heaven; there is no other place for you to go! THAT is a feel good and TRUE story!

 

I just turned 66. It seems God is impressing me, not to stop hating sin, and not to stop writing about the foolishness of sin, but to add a level of compassion for sinners that I have lacked, and forgiveness for them. A fool is one with no moral compass. All have sinned. All have been fools. Some continue to sin, some live as fools. Jesus came to forgive the sinful acts of fools and He accomplished that. He is the Savior of Israel and the gentiles who have faith in Him, who TRUST Him.

 

Now it is ALSO up to us fools to receive Him as Lord. That will mean we will repent. Jesus says to fools, Jew and gentile: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (ASV Matthew 11:28-30) From The Message paraphrase: "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly."

 

That rest, that “living freely and lightly” will not come if I continue to practice sin and/or if I continue to walk in unforgiveness toward anyone. Todd White, who was a drug dealer for many (20?) years got saved, gloriously saved. One day in his daily travels on his job he saw that he encountered no one whom Jesus did not die for. I think we ought to be so free that we also see that even those whose sins God abhors as the objects of His lamb who takes away their sins. If that is the goal that God accomplished for you and me by sending Jesus in the flesh, can I condemn any man or woman, neighbor, friend, lover, or enemy for any of their sins? Can I condemn my mate for picking me up late from work? My friend who still hasn’t returned my tools?  Can I condemn my neighbor who will place a “Hillary in 2016” sign on her front lawn? Can I condemn gays, or the gays who “marry?” Can I condemn muslims, or the muslims who behead my brethren in the Messiah?

 

“Vengeance is mine,” saith the Lord, “I will repay.”

 

I’m not saying that we should approve the wrongs people do. But if we agree with God that sin is wrong, and that your sin will find you out, and that those sowing sinful seeds will reap a harvest of rottenness, we should also agree with God that those who sin can be forgiven, received by God in saving faith and by God’s children as Brothers and Sisters in Jesus. We also must agree that with God (who “makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”) we must love our enemies. This love and forgiveness will not mean we always give sinners a pass. We need to understand that as we in faith are called to submit to chastening, so the unsaved will suffer punishments for their sins. God has appointed servants bearing the sword to be a terror to those who would do evil. We may easily injure ourselves by opposing the civil authorities God has installed for our own protection. (Today IS IT a frightening reality that the wall of protection God would keep raised for our safety is being torn down that we might receive the chastening we have refused in milder forms?)

 

 

Perhaps the heaviest thing a man or women ever carried is the burden of unforgiveness. When we don’t forgive offenses they become heavier and turn us bitter. I think we all have had that experience and Jesus wants us to be free of those burdens and from ALL bitterness. He doesn’t want us to be free by denying that we ourselves are sinners. We must confess our own offenses, the ones He carried to the cross and forgave us for before we were even born in our flesh! Nor does he want us stuck in self condemnation of our sins for that will also be a heavy bitter load to bear. But if we have the wisdom to forgive ourselves we ought to have the wisdom to let God change our hearts, and the wisdom to beseech Him to change them.

 

We must confess our sins and seek to walk in God’s Spirit as changed people, as holy people. It is not something we will be able to do by our own force of will. It must be something we seek out of a desperate desire to please and to love the One who loves us PERFECTLY and ETERNALLY. Becoming like Jesus is not a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” thing. We need the power of God the Holy Spirit and the Word of God Jesus. The Bible is enormously helpful for this. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The Holy Spirit is ESSENTIAL for this.  “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come.  He shall glorify me: for he shall take of mine, and shall declare it unto you.  All things whatsoever the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he taketh of mine, and shall declare it unto you.” John 16:13-15


 

Paul beseeched the Philippians to have the mind of Christ. He wanted them all to be like minded. In our time this is a message the church DESPERATELY needs to hear. So many of us for so many reasons suffer an identity crisis and it is revealed by our doctrinal divisions. Jesus has ONLY ONE church. If there was ever a religion that WAS hijacked it is Christianity. Some speak of “two” churches, the invisible church and the visible church. The invisible church is the one God sees, the visible is the one you and I see. Unfortunately to the human eye (especially to the unbelieving eye) the visible church is a hot mess of division, scandal, and the scandal of division!

 

I have been very critical of the division the visible church endures. Paul was very critical of it. In 1 Corinthians Paul upbraids the congregation for their sects. In Philippians Paul urges the people to think like Jesus thinks. In our human weakness, and pride is the greatest weakness of all, we seek to feel good, look good, and be right. If we trusted Jesus and walked in His Spirit that should be the result! But when we seek to accomplish this on our own the stumbling and falling is just plentiful and painful. Why? because we simply are broken things. Broken things don’t function. Broken people sin. There is a great advantage to knowing and admitting our brokenness, and confessing our sin… IF we will allow God to fix us. Get up into Dr. Jesus’ office for a check up. He will likely schedule surgery and send you to the Holy Spirit Operating Room. 

 

A very well regarded Bible teacher once prayed for me, but before he did he looked me in the eye and said: “You don’t know who you are, do you?” I didn’t. So vague was my identity as a child of God, I could not but mumble incoherently! And I was in my fifties! Now I find that I have to forgive the many people, especially the teachers who cling to the divisions of their doctrines instead of seeking the unity the Messiah offers, the unity He asked His Father, our Father to bestow those who would believe after He went back to heaven.

 

Pride produces an insidious child: Hypocrisy! I have found it very easy to excuse my carnality by condemning the visible churches carnal divisions, the same sort Paul condemned in the Corinthian congregation. I remember reading an author who had been a member of more than a few denominations over the course of his life. He knew who he was. He had no illusion hat he was any great person because he had “been around.” I, on the other hand, have gone AWOL from active fellowship, excusing that for the foolishness of those, who like I did,  do not know who they are! I know better whomI am these days, but still have a ways to go.

 

Agape love

  1. is patient
  2. is kind
  3. does not envy
  4. does not boast
  5. it is not arrogant
  6. it is not rude
  7. does not insist on its own way
  8. it is not irritable
  9. it is not resentful
  10. does not rejoice at wrongdoing
  11. rejoices with the truth
  12. bears all things
  13. believes all things
  14. hopes all things
  15. endures all things
  16. never ends

 

God is agape love and God has made me to be like Himself. That then is my identity. I’m to be grafted into the vine along with all it’s (His) branches. The visible church seems like a hot mess. But God sees the invisible.

Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12

 

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.  But now abideth faith, hope, love (agape), these three; and the greatest of these is love (agape). Follow after love (agape)… 1Corinthians 13: 11-13; 14:1a

 

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good. We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it—because it does  1Corinthians 13: 11-13; 14:1a The Message

 

So I’m going to love you. You who have with Peter and Paul have obtained like precious faith through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. Philippians 3:13-16 The Message

 

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Philippians 3:13-16

 

And I’m going to love my enemies. Someone recently said we have enemies because we make enemies. I love the one who said that, enough to tell them that Christians have enemies simply because Jesus the Christ has enemies. If asked to recant my faith that I might not make others my enemies, I will say: I love Jesus more than my closest friends. Because I do, Jesus teaches me how to love my closest and how to love you, my enemy!

 

“Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”, m m