A reminder for difficult times

I needed to hear this today:

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:3-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Some thoughts today

A few Bible passages have been going through my mind this morning:

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭4:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.”
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭18:22‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:11-13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Over the past years, I’ve grown increasingly disenchanted with self-proclaimed prophets who seemed to act more and more like fortune-tellers. I’ve had a few “prophetic words” spoken over me that struck me as ear-ticking and ego-flattering rather than a message that would help equip me or accomplish anything in keeping with the Ephesians passage I just quoted. And there’s been at least one “prophecy” about me that seems quite false in retrospect.

False prophecies do great damage to the Church. Attempts to explain them away do great damage to our credibility and to our witness. Claiming they really did happen, only not in the literal sense in which they were prophesied — that just makes us look like crazy people. (I’m reminded of a prophesied earthquake that never took place, only to have the “prophet” claim it actually did “in the heavenlies”.)

“What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written: ‘So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.’”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭3:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Where do we go from here?

“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭141:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

May we walk in humble repentance.

Lord, have mercy.

A few thoughts on love

Inspired by 1 Corinthians 13

Love

Love is patient… even when people and circumstances try my patience… even when I am frustrated and exhausted.

and kind… even when treated with unkindness, harshness, resentment, and disrespect, even when maligned, even when made the object of gossip and ridicule. Love is kind in the face of rejection. Love is even kind to those who act as my enemies.

love does not envy or boast… nor does it engage in one-upmanship. It doesn’t attempt to make others recognize my achievements and worth, or brag about myself. Love doesn’t try to convince anyone that I’m unique or special. Love doesn’t launch private PR campaigns on my behalf.

it is not arrogant or rude… no matter how arrogant or rude others might be.

It does not insist on its own way… instead, love lays my hopes, dreams, and desires — no matter how long held, beautiful, and even noble — at the feet of Jesus… no matter how grievously painful this laying down might be.

it is not irritable or resentful… especially when others openly express their irritation and resentment towards me.

it does not rejoice at wrongdoing… but quickly repents, even over the “little things”, and even if I believe my snarky response was more than deserved, extremely clever, and showed great personal strength. Love sets a different standard.

but rejoices with the truth… Love refuses to believe lies, whether they are about me, someone else — or most importantly — about God. Love doesn’t just reject lies about my worth or my identity in Christ, but celebrates the truth of God’s Word and rejoices in the indescribable, immeasurable love of God.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love isn’t gullible or masochistic. Love is the greatest force in the universe, and it is unquenchable, even in the face of suffering and evil.

Love never ends.

I cannot love this way without God’s help.


Updated to add something I was apparently trying to avoid:

love does not envy... love stops comparing, stops focusing on what I don’t have… love is grateful… love recognizes that even when others seem to have everything my heart longs for, this is not about me and does not diminish me in any way. Love rejoices with those who rejoice.

Divisive “discerners”

I used to be one.

But I repented. It finally dawned on me that God had never appointed me to be a member of the doctrine police.

Just this morning I ran across a comment I posted on some blog two years ago. I’ve forgotten the particular blog or the discussion, but I’d saved my comment. Here it is, with slight edits:

In what has come to be called Jesus’ high priestly prayer, offered in the hours leading up to His crucifixion, He prayed, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

We cannot claim to love Jesus Christ if we do not share His heart for unity. Are we truly one with others in the Body of Christ or do we cause the world to sneer at our disunity, disagreements, bickering, and sniping at one another?

God forgive me for the times I have been divisive under the guise of “discernment”!

But, wait — doesn’t God require us to disassociate from brethren who teach what I am convinced are wrong things?

“But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler – not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)

Notice what’s missing on the list: teaching or believing theological error or false doctrine.

“But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (Titus 3:9-11)

We are also to avoid those who stir up division with controversies and quarreling over the Word of God, especially the law — because it is warped and sinful to do such a thing! Again, may God forgive me for the times when I was guilty of such terrible behavior, and so far from the mind of Christ that I actually thought I was protecting His Body, rather than attacking it.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:21-26)

Lest you think this applies only to local churches, please be aware that Christ has one Body — one Bride — and not multiple ones.

Although I disagree with a number of things I read on blogs or hear in sermons, it is not for me to judge the salvation of the authors and thus I cannot say, “I have no need of them.” Instead, I must honor them as Christ would have me do — even in the face of disagreements that are probably irreconcilable this side of Heaven.

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6)

What am I feeding? | Faith Friday

My Lectionary reading this morning included a passage from Galations, and one particular verse jumped out at me.

For the one who sows to his own flesh will from his own flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

I couldn’t help asking myself: am I indulging my flesh, feeding and catering to my selfish desires, nurturing those negative aspects of my nature — or am I doing all I can to strengthen my relationship with God and to make room for the Holy Spirit in my life?

What do I want to reap? Am I sowing the right seeds, planting and tending the right crop? I can’t scatter weed seeds, and spend my time tending them and watering them if what I really want to harvest is delicious fruit.

When I engage in selfishness, why am I surprised that I keep growing more selfish, more self-indulgent, and more full of an attitude of entitlement, rather than less?

My thoughts drifted to a sermon at a camp I attended in my teens, when the pastor described our internal battle, spirit versus flesh, as a struggle between a good dog and a bad dog. Which one would be stronger? He answered by saying, “It’s the one you keep feeding.”

Be careful what you feed.

I need that reminder today.