Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Voice of an Angel

 

8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

—The words from Luke 2:8-14

 

In the Scripture passage above, I have always wondered what that chorus of angels sounded like. In my imagination, I hear a sound so sweet, so perfect, so powerful, yet so gentle, that my mind can barely conceive of it.

Every once in a while, I hear a human voice that seems transcendent. Such is the case with the soloist in this video. Will you please take a moment to watch it. Then, I will share with you the rest of the story.

The soloist is Evangelyna Etienne, a student at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. In this video, recorded December, 2010, she is accompanied on the organ by my dear friend, Nathan Skinner. Even though I did not have the privilege of knowing her personally, as I watch this video, Evangelyna has one of those voices that triggers a response deep in my imagination. She has the voice of an angel.

And now, Evangelyna has joined the heavenly choir. For on September 11, 2011, she lost a two-year battle with cancer. One day past her 21st birthday, Jesus welcomed Evangelyna to her heavenly home.

To her many, many friends, God has given them the gift of knowing her and of having her magnificent, vivacious, enthusiastic life touch their lives. In mourning their loss of her presence with them, I pray that they will remember the sound of her angelic voice. For some great day, we will all hear her voice once more, when we reach the heavenly shore.

You can read more about Evangelyna here and also here.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. Thank You for giving us the gift of music. And, thank you for allowing us the privilege of still hearing the voice of one of your precious and dearly loved children through this video.

Please grant comfort to Evangelyna’s family and friends. Speak through the power of Your Holy Spirit, that all who watch this video may hear Your voice through her powerful singing. Even as she gave You her talent and ability, give to her eternal rest in the arms of her Savior. We pray in the Name of Jesus who always comforts us in our hour of sorrow and need. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Perfect Peace

 

3 You will keep in perfect peace
    him whose mind is steadfast,
    because he trusts in you.
4 Trust in the LORD forever,
    for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.

—The words of the Prophet Isaiah from Isaiah 26:3-4

 

As a small boy, I would often hear my mother hum a very winsome tune as she worked around our home. The melodic line of this song had an ethereal quality that always made me have a sense of well-being. One day I asked her what that tune was. She told me that the tune came from a song based on the Scripture text at the beginning of this blog post.

The original version of this song used the language style of the King James Version of the Bible:

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on Thee.
When the shadows come and darkness falls,
He giveth inward peace.
O, He is the only perfect resting place,
He giveth perfect peace.
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on Thee.
—Vivian Kretz. All Rights Reserved.

Today, if your heart is heavy with a weight of care, I urge you to turn to God through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will lift the burden of your care and give you His inward peace. If you look for the evidence of His loving care in your life, you will surely find it.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. Thank You for giving us Your Holy Spirit to supply the inward peace that we need to face the trials of each day. Help us to keep our minds and hearts focused on You. Allow us to draw our inmost strength from the relationship we have with You. Please reveal Yourself to us today. We pray in the Matchless Name of Jesus. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Being Willing to Say, “I’m Sorry!”

 

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
    according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
    so that you are proved right when you speak
    and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
    you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
     and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
     or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

—The words of David from Psalm 51:1-12

 

When you make a mistake, do you willingly say, “I’m sorry”?

I vividly remember an incident from my first grade year at the Sixth Ward Elementary School in my hometown. The teacher, Miss Bradley, had set up six easels with four large glass jars of paint at each easel. The four jars contained, respectively, red, yellow, blue, and green paint. The easels held large sheets of newsprint.

Miss Bradley had placed the easels perpendicular to and against the row of steam radiators along the wide expanse of windows that overlooked South Kendall Avenue. Six at a time, the students took their turns at the easels. I’ve long ago forgotten what assignment Miss Bradley gave us. But, at the end of the day, she noticed that someone, who had worked at the fourth easel from the end, had splattered paint all over the radiator next to that easel.

“Who made this mess?” Miss Bradley demanded in a stern voice. “Come on!” she sputtered with anger. “Who made this mess?”

Sheepishly and trembling from fright, I raised my hand.

“Come over here and clean up this mess!” Miss Bradley ordered.

I walked over to where she held a damp rag. I took the rag from her hand and began to wipe the paint off the radiators. As I did so, I began to cry quietly.

“Why are you crying?” Miss Bradley asked sharply. “First graders don’t cry! I think you should go back to Kindergarten!”

The next thing I knew, Miss Bradley was escorting me down the hall and down the stairs to the basement Kindergarten room.

“This student belongs in Kindergarten,” Miss Bradley told the Kindergarten teacher. “He hasn’t learned yet that first graders don’t cry!”

I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the corner of the Kindergarten room. At the end of the day, Miss Bradley came to collect me. She had already dismissed the other children. As we walked back into the first grade classroom, Miss Bradley ordered, “Sit!”

“Now,” she began, “why were you crying?”

“I didn’t know whether or not I made the mess.” I explained. “I did work at that easel. But, I don’t know whether or not I spilled the paint on the radiator. I don’t remember doing it. I suppose it could have been me.”

“Then, why did you raise your hand?” Miss Bradley asked, a slight softness creeping into her voice.

“I worked at the easel. So, I suppose I could have done it. None of the other children were admitting they did it. I guess I thought if no one else took credit, it must have been me.”

“Well, in the future,” Miss Bradley instructed, “don’t be so quick to admit you’ve done something wrong unless you know for sure.”

I tell you this story, from over 58 years ago, because I’m not so certain that Miss Bradley had it right. I’m not sure we should resist admitting we’ve done something wrong. In fact, I’m quite certain we should rather be very quick to admit whenever we might have made a mistake.

In the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, The Prophet Nathan has confronted King David with the sin that David had committed with Bathsheba, the wife of David’s faithful warrior, Uriah. This Psalm characterizes David’s response to Nathan’s call for a confession.

We can learn from David. Once he understood the sin he had committed, he obediently asked God to forgive him. In fact, David shows us a pattern that we should follow whenever we become aware of sin in our own lives: confession, repentance, restitution (if possible), and restoration.

Examine your own life. Have you sinned against God or against one of your fellow human beings? If so, ask God to forgive you. And, ask the one you have sinned against to forgive you. You must do so in order to keep your account clear. Do not let pride, or arrogance, or any other human trait keep you from quickly acknowledging your sin through confession. Then, repent of that sin—turn your back on the sin and walk in the other direction. Next, seek to provide restitution for the wrong you have done. Lastly, receive the warm welcome of restoration to fellowship with God and with the one you have harmed.

Be slow to sin and quick to confess. That’s an excellent watchword to follow in your life. Don’t let the “Miss Bradleys” of your pride or arrogance keep you from settling your account with God and with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. Thank You for Calling us to confess our sins, turn our backs on those sins, seek to bring restitution to those we’ve harmed, and receive Your restoration.

We ask You to lead us and guide us, by the indwelling power of Your Holy Spirit, into a pattern that will allow us to keep our accounts clear of any unconfessed sin. Cleanse us thoroughly with the precious blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We pray in His Matchless Name. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Wait for the Lord!

 

13 I am still confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the LORD
    in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the LORD;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.

—The words of David from Psalm 27:13-14

 

Do you have something you hope will happen in your life for which you have waited a long, long time? I ask, because most people yearn for an answer to some great need, the realization of some great hope, or the fulfillment of some great dream for which they have waited an extended period of time.

Maybe you have suffered with a long-term health problem. Perhaps you have a son or daughter who seems to have strayed far away from the principles you lovingly taught him or her during the early childhood years. Possibly you have always wanted to gain success or recognition or a promotion for your hard work and faithful service.

Whatever your particular need, hope, or dream, as you look back over the days, weeks, months, or even years, it just seems to you that you’ve waited a long time for something satisfactory to happen. It’s possible that you’ve even fervently prayed every day and asked God to intervene in your behalf. But sometimes, it seems as if He has stopped listening to your entreaties.

If what I’ve described applies in your life, let me offer you a word of encouragement from none other than King David. If you carefully read the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, you will hear King David’s voice speaking words of encouragement to himself. That’s right! David talks to himself in this Psalm. He has known great blessing in his life. But, David has also known periods of almost unbelievable persecution and despair.

Fortunately, this King—the one known as “A man after God’s own heart”—has learned that the greatest comfort and assurance he can obtain comes directly from the very God he so ardently serves. When David speaks words like these, and he does this quite often throughout the Psalms attributed to him, he reminds himself of the faithfulness and goodness of God. David knows that whatever God may plan to do in his behalf, it will prove very much worth the wait.

So, dear one, I encourage you to follow David’s example and wait for the Lord. I promise you, on the very authority of God’s Word, He will not disappoint you.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. Thank You for teaching us through Your Word that You always remain faithful. No matter what problem or difficulty may assail us, no matter what hope or dream has produced a deep longing in our heart, You will grant us Your favor and bring to us exactly what we need.

Please help us, by the indwelling power of Your Holy Spirit, to stand firm as we wait for You to move in our behalf. Encourage us whenever we need encouragement. Strengthen us whenever we need strength. Speak peace to our hearts and minds whenever we need peace.

Then, on that great day when we experience a marvelous gift from You meeting our needs, our hopes, and our dreams, help us to remember to say, “Thank You.” We pray this prayer in and through the matchless Name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Four Questions, Plus One

 

17 Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise;
   apply your heart to what I teach,

18 for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart
   and have all of them ready on your lips.

19 So that your trust may be in the LORD,
   I teach you today, even you.

—The words from Proverbs 22:17-19

 

Do you take notes in church? No, I didn’t ask if you wrote notes to the person sitting next to you in church. I asked if you take notes during the church service you attend? Well, do you?

When I was a teenager, back in the early 1960s, we had two outward signs of the depth of our new-found “spirituality”: we carried our bright red Youth for Christ Bibles on top of our school books and we always, and I mean always, took notes in church.

Now this may seem very foreign to you. In fact, you may well be one of the countless thousands, if not tens of thousands, of believers who attend church each week and never bring your own Bibles to church with you. Instead, you gladly use the Bible provided in the pew rack in front of you, or the book rack beneath your chair. “Why bother to carry my own Bible when I can easily use the one provided?” you may reason.

I applaud your economy regarding what you carry with you to church. But, I could never do it. I have to have my own Bible. Why? Well, it has all my notes in it. Notes I have taken with great care over almost five decades of sermon listening.

You see, old habits die hard. Having learned as a kid that taking notes helps focus my attention on what the preacher says in his or her sermon, I simply can’t discard the practice.

But, in the last ten years or so, I’ve come up with a new note-taking procedure. I now take notes after the service. That’s right. About two o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, I spend a few moments jotting down the answer to five questions about the morning's sermon.

  1. Subject?


  2. Response?


  3. How To?


  4. How Long?


  5. And, then, just for good measure, I ask one more question:

  6. Key Sentence?

Let me explain a bit. A few hours after hearing a sermon, I ask myself, “What subject did the preacher preach about today?” Let me be clear. I’m not asking, “What Bible text did he or she preach about?” No. I’m asking what subject, topic, main thrust the preacher spoke about in his or her sermon?

I then ask, “What response did the preacher ask me to make as a result of hearing his or her sermon?” In other words, what am I supposed to do in response to the subject the preacher preached about today?

I next ask myself, “What suggestions did the preacher give me as to how to respond to his or her sermon?” Did he or she give me some concrete examples of steps to take in order to respond to the subject he or she preached about today?

For my fourth question, I ask, “How long did the preacher suggest it might take before I begin to see results from following his or her advice in today’s sermon?” If I do what the preacher suggests, will I see immediate results? Will I see results in one week, one month, within a year? This helps me know what to expect from my obedient response to the teaching I heard in today’s sermon.

Then, as I said before, “just for good measure,” I ask a fifth question, “Can I write in a single key sentence the main thrust of today’s sermon?” Can I extract and put into a sentence what the preacher tried to teach me today?

“So, what?” you may respond. “What possible difference do these questions make?”

Well, I decided long ago that, if I’m going to spend time in church listening to someone share from God’s Word, I had better remember what the preacher said. In order to remember, I have to have some “hooks” to hang that memory on during the week ahead. Without those “hooks,” I won’t possibly remember what he or she preached about.

The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:11:

11 I have hidden your word in my heart
   that I might not sin against you.

Reading this verse makes it seem important that I remember God’s Word and the teaching and preaching from God’s Word.

Let me make a suggestion. Next Sunday afternoon—or Saturday afternoon, if you’re one who attends church on Saturday morning, or early Sunday morning, if you’re one who attends church on Saturday evening—take a few moments to see if you can answer those five questions. Let me review them for you:

  1. Subject?


  2. Response?


  3. How To?


  4. How Long?


  5. Key Sentence?

If you can, then you will have gone a long way toward remembering what your preacher preached about this weekend. If you can’t answer those questions, give serious thought as to whether you didn’t pay close enough attention to what your pastor said. Or, maybe—just maybe—he or she did not even share with you the answer to these five questions.

If the latter seems to be the case—and if your pastor is open to some help and you can offer that help without embarrassing him or her— suggest that he or she pay a visit to the Sermon-Coach.com website where your pastor will find help to create effective, life-transforming sermons.

Whether you share this tip with your pastor or not, please keep asking the five questions each week. And, more importantly, as the end of the week draws near, please take some time to pray for your pastor. Ask God to give your pastor liberty in preaching the truth that God has laid on your pastor’s heart. That, my friend, is one of the very best things you can do to help your pastor help you.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. Thank You for giving us the Holy Spirit to speak through our pastors and teach Your Word of Truth. Help us to approach every sermon with open ears and open hearts. Then, Loving Father, teach us what you want us to know, so we can serve you with all our hearts. We pray in the miraculous Name of Jesus our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, September 12, 2011

God Knows!

 

10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

—The words from Hebrews 6:10

 

“Why should I continue to go out of my way doing kind deeds for others? Nobody recognizes the sacrifice involved on my part. They just take what I do for granted!” declares one very frustrated child of God.

Ever feel that way? Or, how about this?

“Week after week, I go to choir practice and show up on Sunday morning to sing. Why I haven’t missed a rehearsal or service in over five years. That’s like 520 times I’ve arrived on time and ready to serve. I doubt if anyone would even miss me if I was gone.”

Or, perhaps you feel like this person:

“I guess I’m foolish to continue giving money the way I do. Because the business has done well, others ask for help as though I owed it to them. Why if I added up all I’ve given as a Christian during my life time, the total would stagger people. No, on second thought, it probably wouldn’t mean a thing to anybody, except me!”

Does this heart-cry resonate with you?

“Some of the best years of my life I gave to those people, but now that I’m older, they act as though I never existed. When I was younger I think we respected age more than they do now-a-days. I guess I feel as though the contribution I made in my time should entitle me to at least a sense of dignity during these, my closing years.”

Or, if you’ve ever volunteered in Christian Ed., maybe you will identify with this person’s lament:

“Because I do a good job teaching Sunday School, people just assume it comes easy for me. I wonder if they realize how many nights I’ve stayed up making sure my words would be clearly understood the next morning, or the numerous times my family has not gone somewhere on Saturdays to protect my lesson preparation, or the hours I’ve invested in prayer? But lately, I have a feeling the class is getting a lot more from me than I am from them, and their response makes me wonder if it’s really worth all the effort I put into it!”

Do you identify at all with the kind of things these dear folks are saying? Having invested a great deal in ministry of one kind or another, you’re now wondering if anyone even notices what you do.

Way back in October of 1978, when I lived in a suburb of Hartford, Connecticut, I attended a banquet sponsored by the local Christian radio station. The speaker for that event was Rev. Dr. David R. Mains, the host of a daily radio broadcast, The Chapel of the Air. That evening, Dr. Mains preached a sermon based on the passage of Scripture you will find at the beginning of this blog post. He gave example after example from Scripture of occasions when God reminded His people that He remained fully aware of all they did on His behalf.

I came away from that night greatly encouraged. I also came away from that night with the beginnings of a new friendship that, I am grateful to say, has continued over these intervening 33 years.

During his sermon, Dr. Mains told this story, which mirrored my own experience:

“Twice now I’ve read through J.R.R. Tolkien’s massive three-volume set, The Lord of the Rings. And, each time I’ve made it all right through the thousand-plus pages of excitement and adventure as little Frodo Baggins and his company perform superhuman exploits while saving Middle Earth from the dark cloud of the evil Lord Sauron. But, when Frodo returns home to the simple shire from which he came, and none of his fellow Hobbits appreciate, or are even aware, of his heroics, I have to confess, both times tears came to my eyes as I tried to read.

‘Frodo dropped quietly out of all the doings of the Shire, and Sam Gamgee was pained to notice how little honor his master had in his own country. Few people knew or wanted to know about his deeds and adventures,’ writes Tolkien.
And, in those words, I’m afraid the author describes the experience of too many faithful, but unsung, Christian warriors.”

So, dear friend, if you can identify with those who feel that no one even notices what they do for Christ and His Kingdom, I encourage you to memorize Hebrews chapter 6, verse 10:

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”

By memorizing this verse, you will plant a seed in your mind and heart that God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can bring to your awareness whenever you’re tempted to feel unappreciated.

If I re-state in my own words what the writer of Hebrews has penned, it comes out like this—“Be reminded that God is aware of all your efforts on His behalf.”

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. Thank You for giving us the Holy Spirit to confirm, in the depths of our hearts, that You most certainly do remember every deed we have done for You.

We acknowledge with joy what You have said through Your prophet in Isaiah 45:14b:

“I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”
Please be so evidentally with us each day, that we will strongly sense Your Presence. We pray, with grateful hearts, in the Precious Name of Jesus. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Christ in you...

 

24 Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29 To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.

—The words of the Apostle Paul from Colossians 1:24-29

 

I hear lots of talk about “hope” these days. I imagine that’s because it seems as if we live in somewhat hopeless times. Quite often, hope seems very elusive. It’s almost as if hope has become a great mystery.

In the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, the Apostle Paul talks about “the glorious riches of this mystery.” I’ve noticed that Paul writes a lot about “mystery” in his letters to the fledgling churches of the first century A.D. In fact, one search through the text of the New Testament discloses no less than 15 references to the word “mystery” in Paul’s letters.

Notice, in the passage above, that the Apostle makes a clear explanation of the particular “mystery” he writes about to the church at Colosse. He describes the mystery as “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” In other words, our hope of spending eternity with God rests on the Presence of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, dwelling within us by the power of the Holy Spirit. That means the source of our hope, which seems like a great mystery, really isn’t so mysterious after all.

Every once in a while, some filmmaker captures an idea more succinctly than a writer could present in pages and pages of prose. A friend sent me a link to this video. As I watched it, I thought, “Here’s an example of one such case, where an audio-visual image portrays the ‘hard-to-describe’ with great clarity.” Please take a look:

 

 

Pretty neat. Don’t you agree?

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. We cling to the hope that You have given us through the power of Christ’s resurrection. Help us to let the Light of His Presence shine through us each day. May that shining Light from within us become a testimony of Your love to everyone who may cross our pathway. We pray in the blessed Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pass It On!

 

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

—The words of the Apostle Paul from 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

 

Does Louis Armstrong’s rendition of “Nobody Know the Trouble I've Seen’ resonate with you? Unless you are quite unusual you’ve known some trouble in your life.

Maybe you have suffered through the death of a spouse, or a child, or some other loved one. Maybe you have experienced a debilitating disease. Maybe your life’s partner has abandoned you for someone else. Maybe people you counted on and thought were your friends have turned their backs on you. Maybe you have seen your career tumble into shambles because someone at work decided to treat you unfairly. Maybe you have watched your financial security evaporate in a falling stock market, or a bad investment scheme of some kind.

I just don’t know what you have experienced in your life. But, I know this for sure: you’ve had afflictions in your life and you’ve had trials in your life. For what purpose does God allow troubles to come into our lives? Have you ever considered that He may allow these trials in order to teach us that we can rely on His grace to see us through?

Even more startling, have you considered that God may allow difficulties in our lives so we can receive His comfort and, thus, learn how to extend His comfort to others?

In the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, it seems as if the Apostle Paul shares this very concept with the Christians at Corinth. He writes,

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

Imagine that! When God comforts us in our trouble, He also teaches us how to extend His comfort to the people who cross the pathway of our lives and who need His comfort, too. This puts all kinds of difficulties into an entirely different perspective.

No one wants to have troubles assail his or her life. But, to experience the comfort from God and to learn how to pass that comfort on to others seems like something we should consider the next time we find some troubles busting into our lives.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your comfort when we experience trouble in our lives. Help us to learn from each of these experiences, so that we may extend Your comfort to those in our lives who also have difficulties. Guide us by Your Holy Spirit to display Your love in every one of our relationships. We rest in your unfailing love for us and lean wholly on Your grace. We pray in the Precious Name of Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Be Reconciled!

 

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

—The words of Jesus from Matthew 5:21-26

 

“How does a believer handle a situation where he or she has become an adversary of another brother or sister in Christ?” Mostly we ignore this question. It’s just too painful, or too embarrassing, or too annoying. And, most of us think this question doesn’t really apply to us.

But, hold on for a moment. Think about the span of your own life. How many enemies do you have?

“Now wait just a minute,” you may respond. “I don’t have any enemies! I get along with everybody!”

If you really believe that, you’re just kidding yourself. Everybody has enemies.

Oh, I will grant you that you may not choose to use a term as harsh as “enemy.” But, over the course of your life as a Christian, you have certainly had run-ins with particular other Christians. You may describe your relationship with them in terms like, “I don’t really get along with ______________.” Or, you may say, “____________ does things I don’t particularly like, so I avoid (him or her).”

No matter how genteel your language, let’s face it, you have enemies. And, if you don’t acknowledge that you have enemies, I imagine that out there in the Christian world there exist some people who think of you as their enemy.

No longer can the body of believers—the church—ignore the fact that virtually every person who claims to belong to Jesus has at least one person that he or she can label as an “enemy.” Instead, it’s time to choose to become obedient to what Jesus has instructed His followers to do when they find themselves at odds with fellow Christians.

In the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, Jesus tells His disciples—in that marvelous passage we call “The Sermon on the Mount”—to always work toward reconciliation. Let me state that again, so you have no chance of misunderstanding my point. Jesus expects His followers to always work toward reconciliation.

Right now, I am sitting on the sidelines watching the church I have attended for ten years destroy itself. I won’t presume to waste your time with a long recitation of what’s going on. Because I know that somewhere, in the sphere of your own world at one time or another, you are having—or have had—to deal with the similar issues in your life. Let me simply say that a significant church split looms on the horizon. Only one process can turn the tide: complete and absolute obedience to the instruction of Jesus to reconcile.

Now, most naturally, I have my own very strong opinion on what has brought about the conditions that have led to this soon-to-occur disaster. And, I take no comfort in the fact that, repeatedly over the last three years, I have issued warnings of what would happen if no one took early and decisive action. Nevertheless, the solution today remains: obedient reconciliation.

To effect reconciliation, both parties will have to come humbly to the foot of the cross and lay every issue at Jesus’ feet. Individuals will have to acknowledge and confess their sins, ask for forgiveness, provide restitution, and begin the process of reconciliation.

Will it happen? Frankly, I don’t know. Looking at the track record across the horizon of God’s people in most churches today, I would say that the chance for reconciliation seems slim. Fortunately, God remains the “God of the Great Surprise.” He has the power, through the intervention of the Holy Spirit, to bring about reconciliation. He, and He alone, can melt hardened hearts. He can convict of sin and promote forgiveness. He can move those who have sinned to make restitution. He can bring about reconciliation.

A very significant reason for church discipline is to promote reconciliation. That’s right. Church and denominational judicial processes do not exist to punish. To the contrary, they exist to bring parties together, expose all the hidden facts in a situation, help identify where some may have committed sins, and provide a structured forum for confession, forgiveness, restitution, and reconciliation. In the situation at the church I attend, a judicial process moves toward that end.

But, truthfully, it remains far better to head off such sinful disagreements by following the process that Jesus outlines in Matthew 18:15-17. I have recently written about that process and you may click here if you wish to read that particular blog post. Similarly, if you serve in a leadership role in your church and you face conflict, I have shared some key steps that you may read by clicking here.

So, what about you? Do you have someone in your life with whom you need to begin the process of reconciliation? If so, please, do so. You will reap tremendous benefit in your own spiritual life if you do. And, most importantly, God will make it clear to you how very pleased He is with what you have chosen to do.

Just one more time: Jesus expects His followers to always work toward reconciliation.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for teaching us through your Word how you expect us to live our lives of obedience before You. We implore You to help us, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, to become reconciled with all those with whom we have disagreement. Give us the humility we need to bow before You and draw on Your grace. We pray all these things in the magnificent Name of Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.