Dismembered

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

1 Corinthians 12:26-27

I’ve been thinking a lot about bodies lately, specifically about one Body – the Body of Christ. Forgive me if I ramble, but it’s been a long week of migraine issues and this is the closest to coherency I can get my thoughts to be!

I suppose the topic is on my mind because of some teens I know and love. Though they have been raised in the Word of God and in the church, here at the very cusp of legal adulthood, these things have fallen out of their routines. Despite the fact this lack of Christian connection has leaked into their language, values, and worldview, at least some of them consider themselves to be Christian.

I find this disconcerting, and part of the reason all goes back to Paul’s most excellent analogy in 1 Corinthians 12. As I’ve thought over all the benefits of belonging to this great Body, I’ve realized how even the difficult parts of church are good.

Now when I say, “the difficult parts,” I really mean “the difficult people,” for it’s by having our feelings hurt that we learn to forgive; by being jealous that we learn our own selfish tendencies; by being overlooked or marginalized or mocked that we learn whether we serve God or ourselves, and so on.

If we are never hurt, how can we be healed? In the Body, interconnected as we are with the other parts, we all learn and are strengthened and heal together, just as a living body does.

But should we decide we love Christ, the Head, but don’t have any real use for His body and so we remove ourselves from it, I have to wonder… is it possible to be thus removed and be a healthy part of the body? Unlikely.

Oh I know church can hurt. I get that; truly I do.

I know people – even Christian people – can be mean and hateful and horrible. I’m as guilty as anyone – perhaps more so – but I also experience sorrow, regret, and repentance when I allow this ugly part of me to show. I’m ashamed when I misrepresent my Lord so.

However, if we remove ourselves from the Body of Christ because it isn’t “working” for us, we are really removing ourselves from the chance to grow or to heal (and don’t get me started on the “working” tangent…). 

I guess the way I am imagining the thing is as a sort of surgical excision. If my left arm were to be removed, could it still be considered a healthy part of my body? Would it continue to be nourished by my blood flow, heal when it is wounded, or be affected by my diet and exercise levels as the rest of my body does? Food for thought…

So while Lone Ranger Boulevard may be the place where you feel the most loving towards your fellow man, remember that Jesus loved the ones who flogged Him and the ones who clamored for His crucifixion. The church is His Body and it’s because He loves it that He doesn’t spare it from every little discomfort. Because not all things that feel bad are bad.

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

2 Timothy 2:3-4

Why not? Because it’s in sharing in suffering as a good soldier of Christ that we can learn some of the most Christ-like lessons of our lives. And that, my friends, is how we grow up and become mature.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:15-16

Lord God, I pray for my son and for all Believers who have chosen to become disconnected from the Body of Christ for whatever reason. Stir hearts to see the need for Christian community, even with all its flaws and failings. Keep us humble no matter where our place in Your Body is, and teach us to fulfill our given role wholeheartedly, not out of a sense of duty nor for what we get out of it, but out of sheer love and devotion to You, amen.

Hurt by Church? Me too. Let’s Chat.

My turn first.

It’s true. I have been hurt by church – even hurt by a church whose stated purpose is to provide a safe place to connect to God for those who have been hurt by church. A trifle ironic, you might say, and you’d be right.

However, I’m not here to drag the leadership of this church through the mud. There will be no character assassination attempts, no ranting or railing against the injustice of it all. In fact, there will be a shocking deficit of details about my experience.

What I want most to express is this: I am glad it happened.

No, you didn’t misread. I have a genuine, heartfelt, sincere sense of glee and relish because I have been  hurt by church. Sorry if that isn’t what you expected to hear. Yet bear with me and hear me out…

I admit I wasn’t always glad about it. To the contrary, there were years in which I was downright bitter about the thing. I was in pain. I was angry. I licked my wounds and sulked. I threw a huge pity party and invited me, myself, and I, and we sat around and placated one another’s tender little ol’ feelings.

Basically, I hopped on the crazy train without even looking at the itinerary first. And I have to say I didn’t really like where it left me when the time came to disembark.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11

Yeah, there I was, alone and lacking the proper attire in a wasteland echoing with the sounds of my  sniveling self-pity with naught to eat but the acrid fruit of my own sharp tongue.

“Today also my complaint is bitter; my hand is heavy on account of my groaning.
Job 23:2

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Proverbs 18:21

Not fun. Still, I am truthfully glad it happened. Not because it hurt, but because God uses all things – pain and pleasure alike – to shape His people for eternity. Maybe especially pain.

The thing is, God did not leave me to whine forever in that wasteland. Oh He let me endure it for a bit. Gave me my head, saw how far I would run astray from the Master I love. He allowed me the natural consequences of my sullen response to pain.

But He didn’t leave me because the wasteland was nothing more than a pit stop down the broad path which leads to destruction. And destruction was something I was embracing while I nursed my hurts as if they were dear, beloved friends.

Meanwhile, I was allowing something foolish like hurt feelings to build walls between me and my actual dear, beloved friends.

The stupid part is, I knew better.

In the logical part of my brain, I knew the decision which wounded me was made at a time when we were all worn thin, church leadership and laymen alike.

It was a difficult season in our church’s history, and each one of us was exerting an enormous amount of energy just to keep our heads above water and make each Sunday happen. And I also knew the decision had not been made as a personal slight.

I knew that. Yet for some reason, my pride still felt a sting and I allowed it grow. And fester.

But my Father is good. He knows when I have had enough of my own way, and He is faithful to bring me back to the narrow path by His side. And to be honest, that part hurt, too.

… He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:10-11

My God disciplined me for my own good, so I can share in something better than approval from man, or praise, or whatever it was I felt robbed of at the time. I can share in His holiness. 

Wow. Seriously, wow.

But I have to tell you, the discipline part hurt. Maybe even more than the original wound.

Because of my bitterness, I was forced to take an honest look at myself. I was compelled to assess the situation, what I knew to be true about it, and continue in God’s word.

Then once I had reconciled reality with my faulty perception, it was time to slay the monster. But it wouldn’t die.

Each time I believed it dead and moved on, the vile thing would pop its ugly head back up in a new location. Despite my best efforts at extraction, a root of bitterness coiled around my heart and continued to send new shoots piercing through my words at most inconvenient times.

It was humbling. It was horrible. And frankly, as a woman who spends so much time with her Father in His Word and in conversation throughout the days, it was embarrassing.

But it was also good.

You see, God used that one event, that one perceived slight to show me something I had overlooked. He used it to expose my selfish tendencies, my desire for approval, my propensity to “accidentally” allow my left hand a peek or two at what my right hand was doing.

He used it to expose my pride. My tendency to harbor bitterness. My inflated self-importance. And more.

But in exposing these things, He also began a long and painful work of removing them. And He prompted me to do something I can hope will be the proverbial stake through the monster’s heart.

He prompted me to confess my bitterness to two friends who in some ways represent the church I write of because they are the pastor and his wife. But as I said before, they are also my friends. And I confessed to them the bitterness I wanted gone from my life,  knowing they would accept my confession and pray for me.

It was humbling, sure, but it was also liberating. By confessing, the ugly monster no longer lurked in the depths of my heart but was brought out into the sunshine where it can wither and die. May this be the final nail in its coffin.

And so, in being hurt by church, I was able to discover and address my own junk.

There is no church on earth where people will not, from time to time, hurt one another. We are all selfish at heart. We can all be thoughtless. We respond to one another out of fatigue or pain or a myriad of other problems. And not a single one of us can read the minds and hearts of others, and so we never know if what we say or do might inflict some unintentional wound.

But my friends, that’s the inherent beauty in the church. It’s called sanctification, and it means dealing both with our own hideous monsters and with the hideous monsters of others. It’s how we learn to confess, to forgive, to grow in Christ. To become more like Him in His holiness and humility.

I am thankful for friends I can confess my sin to who will listen and hear my heart then pray for me. And I pray the stupid rift caused by bitterness will truly be healed.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
James 5:16a

And I’m even more thankful for a God who loves me enough to show me the nasty bits breeding beneath the surface of my soul, then rip them out before they squeeze the life from my heart and relationships.

So what has God wrought in you through times of being hurt, by church or otherwise?

Nothing Personal

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
(Romans 12:9-10)

All around me are relationships in crisis.

From common and trite forms of sibling contention to damaged marriages gasping out a final breath and everything in between, I have seen a great deal of contention.

But there are also marriages which are thriving. Siblings who truly adore one another. I know of marriages – my own included –  which have been salvaged only because the foundation is built on God even when every other part crumbled. Many of these are growing deeper in an active, genuine, and practical love day by day.

What’s the difference?

In several – though not all – cases, the conflict arises from a most intriguing dichotomy of human nature: our tendency to expect others to assume our best intentions in each of our actions while assuming the worst intentions of those who we believe have wronged us.

Often conflict arises because one or both parties have fallen for the oldest trick in the Book. Literally.

All the way back to the first man and woman, the Adversary’s tactic was to make the woman doubt the intentions of her Creator.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say… ?”

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
(Genesis 3:1b, 4-5)

From the dawn of mankind, the Adversary has been tempting us to assume God does not have our best interests at heart. Centuries later, the habit is so ingrained in us that we not only assume God has it in for us, we assume everyone else does, too.

We want to be forgiven when we’ve done a wrong – if we even own up to doing wrong, that is. Yet we are reluctant to forgive, preferring to lick our wounds and seethe with resentment.

When we cut someone off during our morning commute, we trust they will know we are late for a meeting, or we’ve had the flu and are just spacey, or whatever. But woe to the one who cuts us off as we drive.

If we are rude, it is much the same. When we are wronged, how dare they? Yet when we wrong others, why oh why do they not see our wrongdoing was a simple mistake?

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given for parenting teens was not to take anything personally. The eyeroll, the death-glare, even the occasional exclamation of hatred – none of them are personal, even though they feel remarkably personal. Most of the time, the teen is just acting on their own hormonal sea of confusion. Their brains are not working.

But sometimes I do take it personally. And after that, I take it to God, who teaches me forgiveness and mercy.

Somehow, as I’ve prayed through this difficult aspect of parenting, God has been changing me. Not only are the horrible things my teens occasionally say or do not personal, the horrible things I occasionally say back are not, either.

My husband loves me. Thus, if he does something I find irritating or feel hurt by, I remind myself to assume his best intentions. Not his worst. In so doing, I have found it easy to appreciate him. And it just keeps getting better.

In fact, when I assume the best intentions of the driver who cuts me off or the rude grocery clerk and answer sour faces with a smile, I find my whole life is more pleasant.

How interesting that our God would encourage a behavior in us which only leads us to enjoy His peace and presence more and more…

After all, at a time when I rejected Him, He didn’t take it personally. Or rather, He took it intensely personally. So much so that He offered the blood of His Son and to lovingly discipline me until I was overwhelmed by His astonishing grace. For me. For all of humanity.

As a challenge – for myself as well as you – if someone rubs you wrong, try to remember a time you were a little prickly yourself. Feel a pang of sorrow for them because their day is clearly not going well. Recall the grace of a God who would be justified in eradicating each one of us, then smile and remind yourself, “It’s nothing personal.”

Let’s pray both that we can be a bit less delicate and for God to show us how and when we can outdo one another in showing honor.

Let love be genuine. Oh Lord, let it be!

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
(Romans 12:15-16)

 

 

In So Many Words…

Question:  How does this apply?  What does it look like? 

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.

Over at Inspiration with an Attitude (which, by the way, I highly recommend checking out), one of my blogging buddies recently asked the above question, specifically calling on her “panel of experts” for their input.

My blog appeared in her list, so I fear we must question her mental health (or perhaps we can chalk it up to the contrast between my scribblings and her daily bombardment of middle school angst…)

Nevertheless, the question is a good one and coincided nicely with some other tidbits I’ve been pondering, including a conversation between Yeshua and some religious leaders as recorded in Matthew 22:23-32.

These fellows had approached the Lord with what they probably considered an insoluble conundrum based on Deuteronomy 25:5-10 – a law which provided for the continuation of a man’s family line in the event of his untimely death. The scenario they postulated is quite foreign to today’s way of thinking, but basically their question was an attempt to apply eternal significance to a matter of temporary import (as we all tend to do).

I love the way David H. Stern translates the Lord’s response in the Complete Jewish Bible:

Yeshua answered them, “The reason you go astray is that you are ignorant both of the power of the Tanakh [Scriptures] and the power of God.”  Matthew 22:29

And there it is in a nutshell – the actual problem lurking within the doors of every church and snatching the joy of salvation from the unwary heart.

Too often, we understand the Scriptures theoretically but not practically; or temporarily and not eternally. We talk about the Bible but somehow fail to put His Word into action in specific, mundane ways.

But not always.

As many of you know, this old dog has been slowly and painfully trying to learn a new trick: I’ve been studying Hebrew, and a couple of years in, I can probably read about as well as your below-average 4-year-old Jewish child.

One thing I have learned is that Hebrew is primarily a verbal language. Now there is a lengthy grammatical explanation behind that which I will avoid here. Suffice to say the language is rooted in verbs rather than nouns.

I admit I may be so far off base that I’m on the swim team with this thought, but one idea which has stubbornly taken root in my mind is this: perhaps in a verb-based language, there is a greater emphasis on doing rather than abstract ideas.

Maybe, just maybe, the concept of walking in trust is not merely verbalizing our trust but actually trusting God enough to do the crazy things He commands us to do.

Crazy things like my friend who recently learned her husband has continued in multiple acts of infidelity over the span of five or more years. Yet instead of stringing his character up for public castigation and gloating over his fall, she is prayerfully working on a solution. In the midst of it, she actively forgives him every single day – not because he is worthy of forgiveness, but because she knows none of us are, and yet God has forgiven us anyway.

And there are many more examples…

God’s power looks like another couple I know whose pasts are both haunted with horrendous abuse – abuse which has infiltrated their health and their marriage. Yet they have not given up but cling closer to God. They have learned to submit to Him, address their own sin and forgive the sin of the other, and they are providing a beautiful and loving environment for their children… all by the power of God.

It looks like Rachel Saint, her young nephew Steve, and Elizabeth Elliot going to live among the Waodani people in order to teach them about the Lord AFTER the tribe’s warriors speared Rachel’s brother and Elizabeth’s husband to death. Steve went on to continue his father’s mission work  into the present day.

Interestingly, at the time of first contact, the vengeance-based culture of the Waodani did not even have a word for forgiveness. How do you share the forgiveness of God with a people who do not even conceptualize it in their language? You show them… by the power of God.

The power of God looks like Betsie Ten Boom thanking God for the fleas in Ravensbruck concentration camp…

It looks like cleaning a sick neighbor’s house or mowing their yard when you can’t even keep up with your own; or doing what is needed in your church, home, or workplace rather than what you prefer

It looks like doing all of this and more as acts of worship rather than for acknowledgement or personal gain.

In fact, it looks like doing them despite being taken for granted or even insulted because you are doing them for God.

It looks like Yeshua in the Garden of Gethsemane – prepared to pay the price of crimes He did not commit on behalf, even, of those who would torture Him – praying, “Nevertheless, not as I will but as You will…”

The power of God looks a whole lot like staying involved in church or in family or in any relationship even when it hurts because by putting up with the crazy of others, you begin to understand why it is God continues to put up with you.

Hmm… it seems the power of God looks an awful lot like humility…

Where have you seen God’s power at work in large ways or in small? 

 

Broken and Restored

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
(Psalms 51:4)

Ah, the tale of David and Bathsheba. This story from 2 Samuel 11 and 12 is certainly not rated G…

But if you’re wondering why I bring it up after opening with a verse from Psalm 51, it’s because this unseemly saga is actually the back story of the psalm.

Here’s the nickel version:

At some point during David’s reign over Israel, his troops were off to war. For some reason, he was not with them but instead was walking on his rooftop (think of a structure more like a balcony, not peaked roofs or shingles). From this vantage point, he saw a beautiful woman bathing.

Though he knew she was the wife of one of his soldiers – a man who was out fighting for his king – David sent for her. And impregnated her.

Attempting to cover his indiscretion up, he brought her husband home from battle, got him drunk, and tried to entice him to go home and sleep with his wife. When the honorable man refused because his fellow warriors were still out in the field, David instead conspired to have him killed and make it look like he was merely a casualty of war.

Lovely story, isn’t it?

Eventually, David was confronted with his sin and he did repent. But there were consequences. Many people suffered for this one selfish act of lust – including King David himself.

And this is what I wanted to share from my reading of Psalm 51 today. Notice in verse 4, David cries out to God, “Against you and you only have I sinned…”

I don’t know about you, but at first glance, this claim seems a trifle insensitive. After all, adultery was committed (and possibly rape, though we aren’t told whether or not she went willingly), a man was murdered, a child died, and much later, a kingdom was torn apart by a prince’s rebellion.

The collateral damage from the king’s evil choices was enormous.

Nevertheless, he did write truth. His sin was primarily against his Creator.

Without fail, sin and its consequences wreak destruction, often bringing pain and devastation to our own lives and the lives of others. Despite this fact, the offence is first and foremost against the One who gave us life.

No matter who suffers for it, sin is ultimately between each one of us and our Creator.

When I began to first understand this concept, it was both the most freeing and the most frightening thing I had learned.

Freeing because it means that whoever may hurt me, no matter how close they are to me or how grievous the wound they inflict, it really has little to do with me at all. Each person’s sin is a matter which will be addressed by God – in His time and in His way. And since I know He is a just Judge, I do not have to worry about vengeance. I only have to manage my response – including making sure I do not repay sin with more sin.

Because of this – and because of the enormity of forgiveness I have received – this fact makes forgiveness much easier for me.

For the same reasons, it is also frightening because it means whatever sin I commit is between me and the Almighty Creator. And once again, because He is a just Judge, He will see justice done.

However…

The most amazing part is, God actually exacted the penalty for my sin – for all our sins – from His Son. Justice has been done, and in place of my well-earned destruction, I am instead offered forgiveness and eternal life. We all are.

No matter how horrendous our crimes have been, we can receive forgiveness. This fact, too, makes forgiving others much easier.

But first, there must be a true heart change which begins with a truly broken heart. It is called repentance. 

To be honest, if we truly see the gravity of what it is the Lord Yeshua (Jesus) did on our behalf; if we truly feel the loathsomeness of our rebellion against the One who created and loves us, our hearts will break. Like David, we will find out the truth behind these words:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
(Psalms 51:17)

And once we feel honest sorrow and begin to despise our sin, longing to imitate our Father instead; once we understand the rift our crimes have created between us and the One who loves us so much, He offered Himself as ransom in order to purchase our freedom from sin –  well, David’s agonized plea pretty well sums up the appropriate result of this understanding:

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
(Psalms 51:9-12)

Not a bad prayer to start our year with, eh?

 

Plunge – An Invitation For the New Year and Beyond

It’s true that I am immersing you in water so that you might turn from sin to God; but the one coming after me is more powerful than I — I’m not worthy even to carry his sandals — and he will immerse you in the Ruach HaKodesh  (Holy Spirit) and in fire. Matthew 3:11, CJB

Before I begin, allow me a brief(ish) disclaimer: This post is absolutely not a critique on the various denominational methods of baptism, nor is it a statement about what I believe to be correct. It is simply an observation based on my recent study of the ancient Jewish practice of mikveh and the literal translation of the Greek word commonly translated baptize in English.

It is never my desire to create division but only to share the breathtaking glimpses of glory given me in my journey with the Lord.

In a recent reading of The Complete Jewish Study Bible, Matthew 3:11 captured my attention and prompted a little word study of my own along with additional reading (in the CJB and other Jewish sources) about the Jewish mikveh or ritual bath.

Both the Greek word and the ancient Jewish practice refer to dipping or submerging, cleansing by immersion or submerging, or possibly even (according to Thayer’s), “to overwhelm.”

A brief summary of the note on Leviticus 14:1-9 in the Complete Jewish Study Bible relates:

Ceremonial washings are as old as the Torah itself…. The Bible draws a distinction between the holy and the profane. The waters of the mikveh teach the Jewish people a great deal concerning these truths. One Jewish interpretation of the mikveh relates it to an experience of death and resurrection, and also to reentry into the womb and reemergence…  To this day, men still immerse in the mikveh as a sign of their inward cleansing as they spiritually prepare for the Holy Days.

Here, I see a profound kinship and a symbolism behind the practices of mikveh and Christian baptism. And John the Baptist, according to Mark 1:4, was “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

For the moment, I am asking you to lay aside any personal preferences or traditions you hold dear and just think about the implications of being fully immersed in the forgiveness and Presence of God. Cleansed by this immersion. Renewed.

My friends, enemies, and anyone else who may stumble across this post, this is precisely what I am praying for in the year to come. I am praying that we will be immersed in repentance and in the forgiveness of sins offered through the life and work of Yeshua Messiah – Christ the Lord.

And if I may be a trifle blunt, I do not care what your baptismal methodology is, nor do I care whether you are hostile to God or ambivalent, whether you follow Him closely or have strayed, whether you love or despise Him, whether you accept Him or deny Him; in fact no matter where you are in relation to the Almighty, this invitation is for you.

In short, it is an invitation to go deeper with the Lord. To be immersed in Him. To take leave of dabbling in the shallows and plunge fully in or to submerge yourself even deeper into the infinite, unceasing Fountain of Living Water.

This invitation is for today, for tomorrow, forever.

As I sit today and look across the unknown expanse of 2018 – or even the uncharted territory of tomorrow – I cannot help but feel excited at the prospect of venturing even deeper into the wonder and majesty of the Most High God.

Again, whoever you are, I invite you to join me. Let’s not be afraid, for there are no depths beyond His reach nor heights beyond His measure.

Let’s not be overwhelmed by fear nor consumed by anger nor anything other than our Lord. May His Spirit overwhelm us as a torrent of life-giving Water; may His will consume us as utterly as fire consumes paper.

This year, if you have not yet begun to think of God, challenge Him to reveal Himself to you – and then watch for it.

If you know Him, ask to know Him better and to love Him more.

If you feel you have had enough of Him, I ask Him to flood your heart and spirit with His goodness and astonish you with His love until His joy and peace are yours.

And if you reject this invitation today, it remains open until the day you draw your final breath.

But as an old preacher once cautioned: Be wary of putting off doing business with God until the eleventh hour, for you might die at 10:30.

My prayer is for you to find Him – or to return to Him – today, tomorrow, and always.

…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
(2 Chronicles 7:14)

If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
(Isaiah 58:8-11)

 

 

 

Intentions

Love…  is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Satan seems to be on a rampage, at least in my family.

My adolescent children go to battle daily against one another – these alien beings who once were the closest of friends. Just this morning, there were names and accusations flung without the slightest regard for sanity or the feelings of others.

Words flung like darts, drawing blood, stirring up wrath, and making me question the enormous cost of private school when I could at least be physically present to mediate arguments if they were still home schooled.

Either way, this afternoon I must attend to one of the more unpleasant parental duties. Lord, be my guide…

On a wider scale, there is ongoing conflict in my extended family. Once again, people who love one another now wound and are wounded with brutal words and fiery  perspectives.

And all around me, it seems I hear murmurs of anger seething in the undercurrent of society. Social media is engaged for antisocial purposes. Marriages crumble and children are ruined by the shrapnel. Wives mock their husbands. Husbands disparage their wives. Christians do not wait for the adversary’s fiery arrows but inflame one another with an unceasing barrage of “friendly fire” kindled in our hearts.

It is heartbreaking; truly, truly heartbreaking.

Yet through it all, my God speaks to me, reminding me that while I can grieve for the sins of my children or others, I can only repent of my own.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
(1 Corinthians 10:12)

In the midst of the wreckage, I must not fall  into the perilous rut of my own sinful tendencies, responding to anger with more anger.

Now more than ever, love is needed to quench the not only the fires of fury, but also the smoldering coals which lie beneath ready to burst into full flame at the slightest spark.

This morning as I spoke with my Lord about these things, He reminded me of Paul’s letter. I was struck by the very depths of our depravity.

We so rarely act in love.

I so rarely act in love.

I can be irritable. I have been resentful. In the midst of conflict, my tendency is to assume the worst possible motives of the other party.

And my friends, that assumption is nearly always a monstrous lie.

Why is it that we tend to paint our own actions and attitudes in glowing colors, justifying our every wrong by some fault of another, and yet we presume the most diabolical and vicious motives of those around us?

We take everything personally but do not mean anything personal when we are the speaker or doer. We expect mercy  for ourselves but are quick to lash out before questioning if our grievance is real or merely perceived.

We carefully store up every offense against us, keeping not only a record of wrong but preserving each complaint as diligently as we would a marvelous treasure, bringing it out from time to time as some twisted talisman of justification.

Church! Today is not the day to stand against our brothers and sisters! Today is the day to stand against evil; to rejoice with the truth; to refrain from bitterness or resentment; to bear all offenses; to believe the best in others; to hope for reconciliation in the Spirit of God; to endure all things – including the exquisite prick of conviction reminding us to purge our own hearts of the ghost of grievances past.

In love, let us assume the best of one another when we speak. Let us embrace forgiveness, remembering the Gracious Redeemer who has forgiven the massive accumulation of wrongs we have each committed against Him.

Where we are wronged, let us search for ways we have wronged others – and repent. Where there are past hurts, let us pray for the power to release them, asking God to heal the poisonous blight of bitterness in our hearts.

And above all else, let us love each other well, striving daily to fill our hearts with the love of the Most High God so our mouths will speak His goodness and praise.  Whether husband, wife, child, parent, sibling, or any other relationship, let those of us who are in Christ earnestly seek humble hearts, reserving our most critical judgement for ourselves and choosing to believe in the best intentions of others.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
(Philippians 2:3)

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
(Psalms 133:1)

120503_1423Lord, forgive us and guide us. How we need Your redeeming power in our relationships today! Help us to walk in the only perfect Love the world has ever known and reconcile us with our brothers. May Your grace shine in us and unify us in Christ, amen. 

 

 

 

 

**Before I go, I do want to jot a note that I will soon be offering my first ever book review and giveaway! Today, however, the need to cry out for Love to intervene in some ugly situations eclipsed my heart… Stay tuned!