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Posts Tagged ‘gospel’

change

Once upon a time there lived a man who wanted to change the world for the better.  He wanted to make clear statements about social injustice, the place of politics and government, and help all those who would care to listen and follow his lead on the road that leads to positive change and personal growth.

One by one, the man spoke to others.  He prayed for them.  He got to know them.  He helped them and healed them by simply doing what his father sent him out to do.  Sometimes, he had to correct them because all of them made poor choices and bad decisions at one point or another.

After some time, many began to follow him.  Others began to hate him.  Some were not sure and watched from the sidelines as he continued to amaze and overcome the entire world as they knew it.  Eventually, he was murdered out of jealousy by those he offered nothing more than love and friendship.

I am not one much for arguing politics, football, presidents, or protests.  I believe presenting and arguing for the truth of the gospel and applying it practically is where all battles are truly won.  Bringing clarity from the scriptures is the only way to rightly diagnose and treat the condition of sick, angry, erring human hearts.

The state our nation is in is shameful and not one of us can point the finger at another for our wretched condition.  It is time to stop complaining and blaming and start doing the simple things that lead to change.  If every single person that had an opinion about what football players were doing about the National Anthem yesterday was working to better their own community somehow, help their neighbors, and be a light in the world we wouldn’t be having this conversation.  You know why?  Because we would all be too busy doing good to care what a bunch of overpaid hypocrites did or didn’t do with their influence, their money, and their game playing.  Change starts with you.  It is does not start with the president, your boss, your kids, your church, your husband, your wife, your mother, your father, or a football team.  None of their decisions are your decisions.  Your decisions decide what kind of influence you will bring to the table of this world.  Focus on that.

As far as the actions of others, namely football players on September 24, 2017, say the truth.  Give your two cents and then work to be the kind of person you want others to be.  Truth be told, for most people watching this whole charade, the reason they are kneeling is largely unclear.  They claim to be standing up for social justice but all the world sees is grown men sitting down, hiding out in locker rooms, and refusing to participate in what most of the country still believes is a gesture of great importance, respect, and honor.  The last time I checked, standing up for what you believe did not involve staying hidden from view when you do so.  Not only that, but can a large group of multimillionaires not find anything more helpful and altruistic to do for those they claim to be kneeling down in support of than igniting outrage in people who just showed up to watch football?

I do not care which side of the debate you are on, cowardice is cowardice.  If you need to stand, stand.  If you need to kneel, kneel.  But there is no respect for a person or a group of people who claim to want to make a statement about unity, hide while making it, and, in so-doing knowingly divide their audience.

We live in a culture where abstaining from difficult conversation, debate, critical thinking, and honest reasoning together is obsolete and has even become taboo.  Avoidance, silent treatments, and the lack of accountability are the things that will ultimately destroy what is left of the solid foundation of this country.  Recognize that.  Change it in your own life and relationships.  Talk about hard things without shutting differing opinions out.  Debate important issues without becoming enemies.  Pray for those who fail to see what is true.  Serve everyone.  Live to love even when you are hated.  Read the gospel and then read it again.  Preach and teach the gospel.  Make disciples.  Jesus Christ showed us exactly what to do in the midst of this kind of hostility.  He was willing to shed his own blood so that others could be free.  Kind of sounds like the guys who fought for the symbol in question.  Stop bending your knee in protest and start laying down your life in love.  Go.

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My husband taught on Colossians 4 this past Sunday and there were a few things I wanted to study further and comment on because of their great importance.  After his discourse on interpersonal and familial relationships, Paul begins chapter four with a few last commands and then mentions quite a few people.  Being that most of them have weird names and most of us generally gloss right over the closing salutations of epistles, I want to look at those people specifically and glean some wisdom as to why he does this.

Firstly, Paul tells the Colossians to pray.  He instructs them to be both watchful and thankful in prayer.  He asks them to pray for he and his companions who are in prison for preaching the gospel, and especially that they would have opportunities to share the gospel.  He also asks that they would pray that he would be able to convey the message with clarity.

Next, he tells them to be wise – especially toward outsiders.  He is speaking of those outside the faith, also known as unbelievers.  He instructs them to always speak with grace, tastefully, if you will.  The reason he gives is so that they will know how to answer everyone.

Now, before he closes his letter, Paul begins to name names.  He mentions more than a few individuals and a couple groups of people.  It is quite important that we consider these people, who they were, and try to understand why he does this.  Why are these names included in the sacred scripture?  Let’s see.

The first person mentioned is Tychicus.  Paul said he was sending this man to tell the Colossians how he was – to give a report on Paul who was, of course, in prison for preaching the gospel.  He includes a man named Onesimus with Tychicus.  He calls Onesimus a faithful and beloved brother and adds that Onesimus is “one of you.”

Onesimus.  Now here’s a guy Paul devoted a whole book – Philemon – to.  The whole whopping one chapter of Philemon is a matter of Paul vouching for Onesimus.  Why does he do this?  He does it because Onesimus had been Philemon’s slave.  Onesimus had run away.  He had been a slave.  He’d done wrong in his past.  But he had been converted to Christ and Paul had discipled him.  He had ministered to Paul in prison and Paul knew first hand that Onesimus was a changed man, that he was trustworthy, and that he was a true brother in Christ.  Paul also knew that Philemon would not take well to Onesimus’s return.  He knew that it was very likely that he’d be looked down upon, excluded from fellowship, and thought ill of when he returned to Philemon.  Therefore Paul sends a letter to instruct Philemon to accept this man.  He does so once again here in Colossians.  Paul goes to great pains to include and honor Onesimus in the church, even after all the failure of his past.

It is very important that we get this.  It is important that we understand why Paul did this.  Why was this so incredibly important to Paul – so much so that he makes special mention of this man not once, but twice in the epistles?

Paul was once like Onesimus.  You and I were once like Onesimus.  Lost sinners do wrong things to others.  When we become Christians, people do not automatically believe that we are changed.  Church people, on many occasions, do not feel particularly inclined to include us after we have just come out of grievous sin and rolled on into their fellowship.   They’re scared.  They’re proud.  They’re self-protective.  Paul knew how people are – even Christian people.  Good leaders understand the difficulty diversity brings.  So, instead of excusing the suspicion and prejudice he knew his buddies were going to have against this man, he takes special time to honor and publicly vouch for him calling them all to grace, peace, acceptance, and inclusion of this particular brother in Christ.

Barnabas did as much for Paul in Acts 9.  Remember, Paul was a murderer, a Christian hater, an abusive religious leader.  Not many Christians were real anxious to trust and include him just because he said he knew Jesus now.  But Barnabas stood next to Paul.  He did what Paul is doing for Onesimus here.  Paul knew how it felt to be the one under a cloud of constant suspicion and mistrust.  Therefore, he instructs his church to include this man.  What a beautiful picture of grace.

Matthew Henry says this: “The meanest circumstance of life, and greatest wickedness of former life, make no difference in the spiritual relation among sincere Christians; they partake of the same privileges, and are entitled to the same regards.”

Next, we have Aristarchus.  Aristarchus was just mentioned as a fellow prisoner.

Then we have Mark, the cousin of Barnabas.  Remember, at one point Paul had big issues with Mark.  Mark had deserted while they were preaching the gospel and went home.  The next time when Mark wanted to go on a mission with Paul, Paul absolutely refused to take him.  Here, though, we see great evidence that Paul and Mark were completely reconciled.  By making mention of Mark here, and even giving great recommendation and honor to Mark in view of the churches, Paul proves his forgiving spirit and that reconciliation was full and final.

This is what Christians are called to do even when disagreements are sharp and strong.  This is the gospel applied to our relationships.  Christians are not at liberty to stay at odds with one another no matter how severe the disagreement is.  We are called to reconcile – and reconcile to the point of previous peace or better.  This is a very important principle found in Paul’s mention of Mark here.

Next we have a man named Jesus who was called Justus of whom little is known and then Epaphras.  Epaphras is honored for his faithful prayers for the church.  He was actually the founder of the Colossian Church.  Then, we have Luke the doctor and Demas mentioned.  Demas later forsook Paul and in 2 Timothy 4:10. Paul calls Demas out by name for his sin.

Now this, remember is the same guy who just instructed his church to always make sure their conversations were seasoned with salt and full of grace – especially with outsiders/unbelievers – yet he writes his very public letter to Timothy that this particular guy forsook him and states his specific sin – loving the world.  The fact that Paul mentions Demas here with honor tells us that Paul had no personal issue with Demas before he called out his sin and his name individually for all to know.  There’s a lesson here.  It is not wrong to call out sin in leadership – even by name when necessary.  (See 1 Timothy 5:20)

Next we have Nympha.  Paul greets Nympha and describes her as one who has a church in her house.  Gasp!  A girl!  With a church!  In her house?!  What?!! Yep.  I think that greeting speaks for itself.

Finally, Paul mentions Archippus.  Here is an interesting instruction.  Paul tells the members of the Colossian Church to admonish this minister – their minister!  The people are called to admonish their leader and remind him to make certain he is working diligently for the gospel.  Imagine that.  Wow.  Kinda puts to rest some misconceptions of the religious rules we are indoctrinated with today, huh?

I don’t know about you but I am just amazed at the amount of wisdom found just in the listing of these names in this ending salutation.  There is great wisdom, instruction, and importance in understanding who these people were and why Paul takes the time to mention them.  They are thus:

  1. Your past should not dictate your future within God’s church.  You can do great things for God even if you were the worst kind of sinner in the lowest social position!  Good leaders will build up the lowly and call others to do the same.
  2. Your disputes with other believers, regardless of how sharp, can and should be fully reconciled.  Restoration among all believers is the gospel lived out.  
  3. Present good standing in the church does not excuse poor future behavior and sin.  There should be no good old boy system within God’s church!  Good leaders are never partial and they give honor and call out sin as needed no matter who is involved.
  4. Girls can have churches!  Churches can be in houses!  Hallelujah!
  5. Members can and should admonish their leaders. 

Lastly, Paul concludes with asking the Colossians to, “remember my chains.”  Think of me.  Pray for me.  Be faithful.  Remember my suffering for Christ.  Remember me and remember why I’m here.  We should all remember those who suffer and are persecuted for the sake of Jesus Christ as well.  Amen.

 

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leader

My husband mentioned he’d been listening to the book of Philemon the other night and he turned it on for our family to listen to yesterday.  It’s been some time since I have read this one chapter book of the Bible and there is a lot of great wisdom here.

Paul writes this book to Philemon.  He was a slave owner who also had a church meeting in his house.  The first thing Paul does is offer encouragement to Philemon.  He then proceeds to make a somewhat forceful request.  He tells Philemon that he could command him but he prefers to appeal.  What is Paul asking for?

Paul ran into a slave that had belonged to Philemon while he was in prison in Rome.  He became close to this man – like a father even.  His name was Onesimus.

Paul had been given the opportunity to share the gospel with Onesimus.  He had been converted to Christ through Paul’s preaching and become like a son to him.  This man was very dear to Paul and he had been helping and serving Paul as he was in prison for a time.

There was only one problem.  Onesimus was not a free man.  He was a runaway slave.  Though free in Christ, Onesimus had done wrong by leaving his master.

Consider this situation.

Philemon had been wronged.  Onesimus’ bad behavior had caused him to lose his worker and his wages.  The man who was under obligation to serve him had deserted.  Onesimus somehow runs into Paul in Rome when Paul is in prison.  Onesimus becomes a Christian through Paul’s ministry and serves him faithfully.  Take close note of what Paul does.

Paul allows some time to pass and doubtless personally disciples this runaway. Making sure his faith is real, he experiences first hand the love and obedience Onesimus’ conversion wrought.  Then, he does something that only a great man of integrity would even consider doing. Paul surrenders the personal help and comfort that this man is giving to him in prison and he sends him back to his rightful owner.

There was nothing in it for Paul except the satisfaction of Onesimus making right on his wrong and having the opportunity to watch Philemon accept him back not as a slave, but as a brother.  Paul gave up personal comfort and help and risked his friendship with Philemon and his church by forcefully appealing to him about what he ought to do with his former slave.

In other words, Paul is basically telling a man who has suffered wrong through no fault of his own to forgive – and not only to forgive, but to welcome this man as a brother rather than putting him back to work as a slave – something he could have done by justice.

Notice how Paul conveys his “suggestion.”

 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. ~Philemon 1:10

Firstly, Paul appeals on the basis of his own frailty.  He’s an old man sitting in prison.  Clearly, he is doing this for the good of all – for love’s sake, not self.

(Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) ~Philemon 1:11

Secondly, he appeals by making the point that Onesimus is of much more value and help now, as a brother in Christ, than he was as a trying to escape worker.

I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. ~Philemon 1:12

Finally, he appeals on the basis of love.  Paul makes his true love and concern for this former wrongdoer very clear.

 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. ~Philemon 1:13-14

Lastly, Paul makes the case that he is returning this man in order to prove Philemon faithful to the law of grace and mercy – not by force, but by giving him the opportunity to choose for himself to do what is right.

Paul is trusting.  He is trusting Onesimus to go back to the very situation he likely risked his own life to run away from.  Paul is trusting Philemon to forgive a man he has every right and reason to demand justice from.  Paul is trusting both men to do what is right for the sake of the gospel.  Then, he is taking his hands off of both men and allowing them each to decide for themselves whether they will do what is right in this mess.  He is asking both men to do something that would have been very difficult on both ends and that is to trust each other as well.  Paul is also trusting Philemon’s church and the members of his household to forgive and trust the runaway, too.  Ultimately, Paul is trusting God and giving men every opportunity to prove faithful.  Good leaders like Paul know that they must give responsibility to their children/followers/disciples in order to see them become responsible.

Notice what else Paul does to diffuse the situation and make it easier for both men to choose the right thing.  Paul says this:

So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. ~Philemon 1:17-20

Paul vouches for Onesimus.  He puts his proverbial arms around this rebel and he says, “This is my son; my guy; my friend; my help; my brother. Receive him as if he were me.”  This is so important!  Paul knows that this is what it is going to take to soften the hearts of those who were mad at Onesimus in this household.  Paul uses his authority to influence those under him to love one another sacrificially.  That is a leader we can follow.

Not only that, but how much confidence and love must Onesimus have felt knowing Paul was willing to stand next to him this way.  Paul knows what to do to encourage him because once upon a time he needed someone to vouch for his changed character, too.  Remember when the church was afraid of Paul because he was a murderer?  When he got converted Barnabas stood next to him and did what his is here doing for Onesimus.  Good leaders never forget where they came from.

Furthermore, Paul owns the rebel’s debt.  He tells the man who has been wronged (Philemon) that he will repay any and all debt or lost wages accrued on account of Onesimus’ departure.  He then reminds Philemon of the fact that even though he, too, owes Paul his very life for the salvation he’d brought to him, he is willing to overlook that fact and is more than willing to pay back any debt Onesimus owes Philemon.

In reality both men owe Paul their lives for the grace his gospel preaching had given to them.  Both were converted to Christ by Paul’s ministry.  Yet Paul says I won’t even mention that.  Tell me what I owe you and I’m more than willing to pay for Christ’s sake and the love and unity of his church.

Lastly, Paul encourages Philemon by telling him that he believes in him.  He reminds him that he trusts him.  He reminds him also that he can’t wait to see him.

Wow.  What a leader.  Paul was a man who could look at a situation with a bird’s eye view and navigate it rightly.  In this short book we see just how important righting our wrongs and forgiving our debtors really is.  Paul makes it clear that neither is for the sake of self but both are for the sake of the gospel.

Go and do likewise.

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defense

Paul spends the better part of 2 Corinthians 11 and 12 “boasting.”  Why would he do that?  Why did he do that – even calling himself foolish and a madman as he did it?

False “brethren” – false “apostles” – more or less false “friends” had come into the Corinthian church.  They were not only maligning the gospel, but also pointedly maligning Paul himself.  Paul steps up to the plate to defend himself based on the facts of his own example.  He uses his hardship and weakness as his boast.  He speaks of all the right and reasons he had to be heard by his church.

The truth is, he never should have had to do this.  His church should have defended him when these false frenemies came to tear him (and them!) down.  If anyone was worthy of their loyalty, it was Paul.  No one loved them more than he did save Christ.  This man would have given his life for theirs.  How could they not see the truth?  How could they be so blind?

He begins by showing them that he has all the qualifications they use to disqualify people who do not.  He shares all the pain he personally had endured for the sake of the gospel and for them.  He talks about a persistent problem he deals with in his own life – his “thorn.”  These are his “boasts.”

In chapter 12 Paul tells his church that he has been a fool to elaborate on such things, but that it was they that “forced him to it.”  How so?

His reason for speaking so foolishly and boasting in his weaknesses was because his own church had forsaken him.  Consider that.

The Corinthian church knew Paul very well.  They knew he was qualified to lead them.  They knew what he had risked, endured, and lost for the sake of the gospel and for Christ.  They surely knew these facts well.  He feels particularly inclined to remind them because they surely should have loved him.  They should have listened to him.  They should have remembered him and his true words when false brothers came in and slandered him and the gospel itself.

Paul’s church did not defend him.  They listened instead to liars who they did not know from Adam.  They followed false men with a false gospel whose primary goal was to discredit Paul himself so that they could take control of the church.

Paul’s church did not defend him so he defends himself.  He’s talking crazy because their utter foolishness is making him crazy!  He’s saying, “Hey, guys!  Remember me?  The guy who taught you the gospel?  I am not inferior to these troublemaking false new best friends of yours.  I am noone special but, with God as my witness, I am a true friend to you and to God.  Did you see the signs he gave me?  I know you did.  I don’t want your money or your positions or whatever it is you think I’m going to take away from you.  I want your heart.  Show me your heart.”

“…for I seek not what is yours but you…” ~2 Corinthians 12:14

You guys think I’m here to take something away from you or hurt you.  I am not seeking what belongs to you.  I am seeking YOU!  Sounds like something Jesus would say…

“Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.” ~2 Corinthians 12:19

You think I am defending myself?  This foolish defense is for YOU!!! It is for your growth, church.  BELOVED church.  Please.  Please do not let me show up and see you unrepentant.  This is my third visit to you.  I warned you.  There are no more warnings.  Warning time is over.  Examine yourselves.  See if you are truly in the faith.  I want you to be restored.  Here is the only way that is going to happen:

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” ~2 Corinthians 13:11-14

Rejoice.  Restore.  Comfort each other.  Agree.  Live in peace.  Please.  Church, please.

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crutches

Two days ago my oldest daughter fell and sprained her ankle.  Enter: Mom.  I have never actually seen a woman who is nine months pregnant escorting a hopping child and two hyperactive rascals behind, but I can imagine that it is probably quite a sight to see.

After a day’s worth of ice packs, doctors, x-rays, and picking up crutches, she is getting along pretty well.  I don’t think I could walk with sticks but she seems to have figured it out for the most part.  Still, her good sport spirit and adaptive nature is not what surprised me the most.  Her sisters are.  Remember those two little rascals I mentioned following in tow earlier?  They have become her “servants.”  The littlest one always says she is going to be a butler when she grows up.  I’m starting to think she’d make a good one.  Truly, my six and eight year-old have waited on their big sister hand and foot.  She even has a bell to ring when she needs something.

I say I’m surprised because I generally rely on the oldest for help.  She is my sidekick.  The little ones generally do not have much interest in anything besides playing ponies or bathing Barbie.  I suppose it is my fault for not asking as much of them.  It makes me happy to know they are willing to help when they are needed.

The helpful atmosphere in my home the past couple days got me to thinking about the hurting brothers and sisters we are facing right now.  The Syrian people are related to us by a bond called humanity.  They are injured, oppressed, and running for their and their families’ lives.  I may not be very well-versed in foreign affairs or political gains, but I know human need when I see it. I am a Christian, after all.  It is a call second only to sharing the gospel for me to recognize and respond to the needs of others.

I try to see the other side of this thing.  I understand why people are afraid.  But all I can I keep thinking of is how disappointed I would be in my children if they were not willing to help each other.   I keep thinking of how proud I am of them for taking care of their sister when she needs assistance.  And then I look up at the news and I see a staunch unwillingness to serve people in desperate need in the name of self-preservation.

Isn’t that just like us?  It is me-first in the not so united kingdom we call the United States of America.  In the kingdom of God, however, it is what I say five times a day to my now living it out children – others first.

Do others have the potential to hurt us deeply despite our kindness toward them?  They do.  Might they take great advantage of our generosity?  They may.  Can they even go so far as to return evil for good?  They can.  Is there any way to ensure appreciation and reciprocation of the good we do to others when they are in need?  Absolutely not.  But that is not even a relevant argument when loving and serving people comes out of a wellspring of gratitude one has for Christ.  Get this, Christians.  We are not called to help others only when it is safe, convenient, cheap, or easy.  As David said, “…I will not make a sacrifice to the Lord which costs me nothing…”  My Bible says to love your enemies, do good to them, and pray for those who persecute you.  I cannot do that from behind a bullet-proof barricade in my basement.

Isolation is about control.  They only people who try to control uncontrollable circumstances are the fearful; the insecure; the deceived; the anxiety-ridden.

I understand the issues.  Really, I do.  I know fear, insecurity, anxiety, and uncertainty are real factors in the refugee refusal rhetoric.  The problem I see for we Christians, though, is that neither fear, nor insecurity, nor uncertainty, nor anxiety is an acceptable excuse to forsake and forego loving and serving those broken and needy Syrian somebodies whom God has placed bare-faced in front of us.

Risk, courage, and personal sacrifice are the very fabric of Christianity, and, in days past, Americanism.  King Jesus is our example.  He, who wielded the most power of any man who ever lived on earth, forsook that advantage in order to save the lost, hurting, and dying.  My God was willing to die for me and, from what his book says, I believe he expects me to be willing, if need be, to lay down my life for his good purposes.  Self-preservation is not an option when Christ is our Lord.

Some will hate, terrorize, and kill us despite our love toward them, that much is true.  Our job isn’t to figure out who those ones might be.  Our job is to love people on behalf of Christ.  Who knows who might repent and receive the gospel as a result.  If it just so happens to be at our expense, the Bible says that is a blessing for us.  The question is, do we really believe it?

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. ~Matthew 5:10-16

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bush

After Moses approaches the burning bush, follows the command to remove his shoes, and hides his face for fear of God, God lays out his plan.  Again we are told of God’s great concern for his people enslaved in Egypt.  Moses is told by God himself that he sees their misery, he hears their cries, he knows their suffering, and that he is surely coming.

Curiously, the text records that God tells Moses that he has “come down” to deliver them, and that his plan is to “bring them up.”  This particular choice of words is symbolic of the future, final deliverer and what he was to do.  This is precisely what Christ did for the people of God.  Surely we serve an unchanging God.

Finally, a third reference to the keen notice God has taken of his people is given.  Verse 9 says, “…the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them…”  Make no mistake, the message of God is clear: he sees, hears, knows, and cares deeply for the pain and needs of his people.  His plan, however, is not to instantaneously airlift them out of earthly suffering and into heaven.  No.  His plan includes the sending of a man – Moses, and ultimately, Christ.

Here,  we find God commissioning Moses to speak to Pharaoh and bring his people out of Egypt.  Moses responds with a humility that says, “Who am I?”  Clearly, he counts himself neither capable nor worthy to do such a task for the Lord.  Before he begins to make excuses, God assures him that he would be given a sign – after he obeys.

Likewise, God’s plan of salvation and deliverance from the enemy involves the sending of a man, Christ, to save us.  It also involves the sending of human men like Moses to preach to us.  Christ has “come down” to “bring us up” and he has commissioned each of us to go on his behalf preaching the gospel to those still enslaved by the enemy.  The proper response is that which Moses gave: “Who am I?”

Not one of us is worthy to do God’s bidding, yet he send the likes of us for his own glory.  The confirmation of our commission comes not until after we have obeyed in faith.

Moses, like us, has some fears and objections about his calling.  Fortunately, God patiently answers all of his faithlessness with fatherly wisdom.  More on that later.  For today, know that God sees; he hears; he knows; he responds to our pain and prayers.  He has come down to, eventually, bring us up to himself.  He sent a man to deliver us and commissions us to tell others who are still enslaved how to escape.  We are not worthy of this task, but using us is his plan for his own glory.  Let us cease from excuse making and go out with the gospel to set the captives free.

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star

“Mooooommmm!!! Addie’s on her ipod and she won’t take the dog out!  I took (the other dog) out and she’s just sitting there doing nothing!”

“Addie, did you take the dog out?”

Silence.

“Addie, are you allowed to play games before you get ready for school?”

“I’m not playing gaaaaaames.  I’m looking something up.”

“You know you’re not allowed to use your ipod unless you are dressed and ready for school, you’ve already eaten breakfast, and taken your dog out.  Give me your ipod.”

Said child runs away screaming and avoiding any and all responsibility for as long as humanly possible.  Tattle tale child gloats and reminds me of the contrast between her “goodness” and her sister’s “badness” including a sales pitch to take her shopping later.  Youngest child watches the drama unfold with concerned face but waits until later on when her compliance level is very high to ask once again, “Mommy, what percentage am I being good right now?”

Unfortunately this is not an unfamiliar or outstanding scenario in my home.  I have two who dabble in the art of manipulation through obedience and one all out rebel.  I guess it should be no surprise that two sinners managed to breed three more sinners.

Teaching my children at home affords me a commodity other parents do not usually have an abundance of – time.  I have lots of time to spend correcting, encouraging, punishing, rewarding, and teaching them how to be a respectable, responsible, literate member of society.  Well, those are my three main goals on this joyride anyway.

Still, more oft than not I find myself at a total loss for how to get there.  I’m realizing that it may be because I personally don’t always know how to get there.  I’m a sinner, too, after all, and why I ever expected to clone myself and end up with a better version is beyond me.  All I got were three, going on four, carbon copies.  Drat.  If I want to help them and retain my sanity, I have to figure out how exactly it is that God changes me.

We began a group study on the book of Proverbs.  Proverbs offers wisdom for life and godliness.  It got me to thinking, more or less, evaluating, what wisdom is practically in my life.   What does wisdom look like day in and day out in my relationships, my demeanor, and, especially, my parenting?  All I could think of was star charts and how much I hate them.  So I left Bible study scratching my head asking myself why do I hate star charts so much anyway?

I hate star charts because I am daughter number one and daughter number three.  I’m the recovering prideful obey-er who is ever tempted to manipulate Pharisaically.  My husband is more like daughter number two – the act first, think later out and out rebel.  Nevertheless, truth be told, we are both, both.

Therefore, I know star charts will only feed the already existing pride and arrogance of daughters one and three.  I also know that nothing short of prayer, fasting, daily Biblical instruction, and likely a few lost limbs and several nervous breakdowns will stop daughter two.  Ok, maybe none of that will stop her. But I have to try, folks.  God, help me.

Pastor says the way to avoid prideful, heartless obedience is to preach the gospel.  Everyday.  He says the way to avoid lawless rebellion is to preach the gospel.  Everyday.  Preach it to yourself.  Preach it to your children.  Yes and amen.  My question, and forgive me once again for my ignorance as an 18 year old Christ follower who should sure well know better by now, is still, how?    Practically, daily, how do I do that?

Because I do study the Bible daily.  (It’s a high ranking item on the star chart for me.)  I open “school” for the kids with “Bible class” and everyday we “talk” about what the gospel is, what it means, and the like.  We have Bible based history, science, reading, Bible study, Sunday school, Bible memorization, nighttime devotions, family prayer, individual prayer, etc.  I could go on.  Still, as five spoiled sinners we have a mind blowing capacity to learn and know without doing and living.

That’s why I no sooner begin reading the Bible lesson and a crayon fight breaks out.  It’s why I don’t finish the lesson for my anger over the said fight.  It’s why no one gets it even if I do finish.  My kids aren’t disobedient because they do not know the gospel.  They are disobedient because I am disobedient; because I am all too often not rightly applying the gospel I teach them in my own behavior.

I know what you’re thinking.  Someone needs a star chart.  Perhaps.  I think maybe the pastor is right, though.  In fact, I know he is.  But what kind of star chart follows the gospel?

I picture it looking something like this:

Love                  Hate

Joy                  Anger

Peace              Discord

Patience              Impatience

Kindness              Unkindness

Goodness               Evil

Faithfulness           Unfaithfulness

Self Control         Recklessness

Gentleness        Harshness

Now we have a usable chart.  I mean, maybe it’s ok to remember the good things we do.  Well, as long as we don’t tell our left hands. (See Matthew 6:3.)  Maybe the chart just needs another side.  It needs balance.  It needs a “bad things” side where we write those, too, so that we might remember, confess, and have to physically erase them afterward.  After all, wasn’t that the fault of the Pharisees?  They kept a record of rights they should have been forgetting and never considered their own sin they should have been remembering.  In so doing, they refused the gospel.  No one whose star chart is full on only the good side needs a Savior and no all out rebels care much about getting stars on either side anyway.

There must be hope for both kinds of sinners!  While the religious sinners are asking, “Why wouldn’t Jesus love me?  My star chart is full of good!” and the rebel sinners are asking, “Why would Jesus love me?  I don’t even have a chart and if I did it would be full of demerits!” we must be responding with grace rather than stars and demerits.  The answer to sinner number 1 is grace-filled correction and rebuke urging the consideration of personal failures, confession, and repentance until they realize how counterproductive and contemptible their good works are to their spiritual life.  The answer to sinner number 2 is grace-filled correction and rebuke urging the consideration of personal failures, confession, and repentance until they realize how counterproductive and contemptible their bad works are to their spiritual life.  Both types of sinners need the gospel, but giving it to them looks somewhat different practically because we sin differently.

Star charts don’t work but the gospel does.  Who knew?  Insert head into hands.

As I finish typing this little ditty ipod void Addie urges correction for her playing on her ipod before she got ready for school sister.  “I think she should get her ipod taken away like me because she’s doing the same thing I did.”  Rebel turned tattle; tattle turned rebel.  Can a girl even get some consistency around here??? Excuse me while I attempt to start preaching living the gospel again today.

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